The NAACP vows to campaign against every senator who voted to confirm John Ashcroft as attorney general. Oh, how we ought to hope so! Get out there, guys! Show us what dopes you’re capable of being when you try hard!

Ideologues—e.g., the folk who run the NAACP these days—don’t normally receive the attention they deserve. They deserve lots. Ideologues, for one thing, see life through a drinking straw: They want the rest of us to admire the same view.

If you salute or throw yourself prostrate on the ground in humble acquiescence to the NAACP’s grand design, fine; if not, you’re evil—wicked—racist (in the NAACP’s grotesque formulation). Founded in 1909 to campaign for the equality of Negroes and whites, the NAACP today is an ideological money machine. That is, it exists seemingly for the purpose of scaring or outraging so thoroughly that Americans reach for their checkbooks, scrawl “NAACP” after “Pay to the Order of,” drop this sacred communication in the mail, and thereby gladden the heart of NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, whose business it is—daily it seems —to invent new causes of fright and outrage.

Pretty unedifying. The NAACP itself has become unedifying in the extreme, about as much in tune with real life as the Anti-Saloon League.

Ashcroft as devil figure—even Ted Kennedy couldn’t get away with that one. though he tried hard. The Ashcroft vote as “close to a litmus test” on civil rights—it staggers credulity. It likewise speaks volumes about the present quality of civic discourse, if you can call it “discourse.”

Wherein did Ashcroft fail the NMCP? You know the answer. He voted against “hate crimes” legislation. As attorney general of Missouri, he argued against the use of state funds for a court-ordered school desegregation plan in St. Louis. He opposed affirmative action. He shot down Judge Ronnie White’s nomination to the federal bench. He declined, given the chance in a Southern Partisan interview, to calumniate rather than salute Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. He earned a grade of “F” overall on the NAACP’s legislative report card.

And rightly so. “Hate crimes” laws enshrine the baseless liberal conviction that white male homophobes are gunning for the rest of the country. In the St. Louis case, Ashcroft tried to keep Missouri taxpayers at large from being dragged into one city’s court-ordered plight. “Affirmative action” is a synonym for state-sponsored discrimination against—well, back to those white male homophobes. Ronnie White may not have been the worst judge nominated by Bill Clinton to the federal bench, but a number of his calls in favor of criminals were at the very least open to question. (Of course, it was fine for the NAACP to rant against Clarence Thomas!) What’s wrong with Confederate officers who, if transported miraculously to the age of the Clintons, would likely pass out cold? “F” on the NAACP report card? Who, pray, seated Kweisi Mfume at the principal’s desk?

Ah—he seated himself there, you say? Now you’re catching on. The NAACP doesn’t wait to be invited to judge our nation’s deliberations; it jumps in and informs us how bad things are. (An unsavory habit shared by many on the left, from Kate Miehelman’s National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League to Ralph G. Neas’ People for the American Way.)

What Sen. Cotton Ed Smith of South Carolina called “dewlapped effrontery” is a specialty of the American left. You shut up while we talk—that sort of thing. The effrontery of the NAACP attack on John Ashcroft is about as new as side whiskers. The troubling aspect of it all is our tendency—the tendency of Americans in general—to let such folk get by with what they get by with. Failing to call the NAACP to account is an ingrained habit by now: partial payment, many seem to believe, for Our Country’s Racial Sins (sniff, sniff).

That’s why we should welcome an NAACP frontal attack on senators who voted for Ashcroft—Democrats included. What childish nonsense, this tactic. Anyone who has raised children knows about such nonsense, which flourishes when ignored and disappears when rebuked firmly. Childish ideologues—how’s that for a governing class?