As Katy and I drove down to the Ohio River on Friday night, we plugged in the Ipod and fired up a This American Life podcast. We listened to Episode 376: Wrong Side of History. The episode concluded with the tragedy of Bernie Epton; a once respected moderate Jewish Republican consumed by a hateful campaign for Mayor.
Bernie Epton was a state representative and insurance lawyer from Illinois who went from long shot mayoral candidate (Republicans in Chicago politics aren’t known for winning) to the great white hope in the 1983 Chicago Mayoral campaign. The Democratic candidate was Harold Washington, an African American congressman. Once Washington won the primary, the national GOP saw an opening–race and racism might be enough to win the election. Overnight, Epton went from moderate with civil rights creditentials to the bigot’s candidate. He even changed his campaign slogan to “Before its too late.”
It was tight, but Harold Washington–uniting Latinos, African Americans, and white progressives–won the election. Epton did recieve 81% of the white vote but never recovered as his life and health was forever altered by the sheer hatred of the campaign.
As a church or as a political movement, I think its clear. Hatred and exclusionary policies are on the wrong side of history. But, that hatred has the also effect of tearing apart those who harbor it.