It is sad and extraordinary that in the year 1980 the infamous Ku Klux Klan has resurfaced to the point that both of America's main political parties have had to repudiate it. Individual Americans need to be sure their own attitudes are so firmly based on liberty and justice for all that they are not receptive to the wandering pollen of hate, prejudice, and violence from an organization that is small but growing.
The grim potential for Klan influence goes beyond its rise in membership from an estimated 6,500 to some 10,500 in the past five years. In June more than 32, 300 southern Californians voted for Klansman Tom Metzger, making him the Democratic nominee to represent the populous 43rd congressional district in Washington. It is not known how many voters actually intended to support Klan racism, for example, though Mr. Metzger campaigned for government priority to aid "white working people." At any rate, state and local Democratic party officials immediately renounced support for the nominee, as did the party's national chairman, who said Mr. Metzger "is against everything the Democratic Party stands for."
Next it was the Republicans' turn to try to avoid any guilt by association with the Ku Klux Klan. The problem arose when the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said to be the biggest and most militant Klan group, endorsed Ronald Reagan. Its newspaper editorialized that "the Republican platform reads as if it were written by a Klansman," citing such points as opposition to gun control, the Department of Education, and "forced busing." Obviously, one does not have to be a Klansman to accept such views, and Mr. Reagan rejected the endorsement, saying , "I have no tolerance with what the Klan represents, and I want nothing to do with it."
That is the appropriate position for all Americans devoted to their country's founding and constitutional principles. Yet somehow, despite all the years of progress toward widening the observance of those principles, the hooded figures and the cross burnings continue. In Greensboro, North Carolina, Klansmen are on trial for the murder of anti- Klan demonstrators. In Chattanooga the FBI was ordered to investigate the shootings of four black women after an all-white jury acquitted two of three accused Klansmen and convicted the third on reduced charges.
Is it really 1980 and not a throwback to the past? Americans as well as their parties will have to decide.