The noose is hot. It’s passed the Swastika as the go-to hate symbol for high-school kids and bozos from the Deep South to South Capitol Street. Don’t even try to use it to sell magazines, or to defend those who try to use it to sell magazines.
So, let’s take time to give credit for this phenomenon to the man who put the noose back in play in American pop culture: Former Virginia Senator George Allen.
When he was a lawyer and state lawmaker, Allen felt cozy hanging a noose in his office. During campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 2000, the rope wasn’t a major issue, and Allen was able to pass it off as, depending on the interview, a token of his law-and-order leanings or of his fondness for the ways of the Old West.
Then came the great “macaca” episode while Allen was running for re-election to the Senate in 2006, and Allen’s history on matters racial became the focus of the campaign and, because of his presidential ambitions and status as a frontrunner for the 2008 Republican nomination, part of the national conversation.
Turns out Allen had the sort of resume Spike Lee would fabricate were he to create a “Politician Who Hangs Noose in Office” character.
There was Allen’s opposition to the MLK Holiday in Virginia while he was in the state legislature, his proclamation for “Confederate Heritage Month” as governor to answer Black History Month, and his support for Trent Lott during the Strom Thurmond episode. And old acquaintances were running to microphones to recall Allen as a guy who would drop “the N-Word” into casual conversation.
By the end of his losing and most likely last campaign, the days when a hanging rope could be dismissed as “more of a lasso,” as Allen had tried doing not so long ago, were over.