Internet message boards have been hot this month with Anonymous’ alleged hacking of the Ku Klux Klan’s Twitter account. As befits an Internet phenomenon, much of what has been published so far is unsubstantiated, but several prominent public figures have been accused of secret membership in the KKK, including several pro-civil rights mayors and Representative John Cornyn (R-TX), the current House Whip. Needless to say, everybody who has commented on the outing so far has denied being affiliated with the KKK, which you’d expect from politicians with something to lose.
In the context of American politics, however, the fact that membership in the KKK is now considered a career-ending liability is a relatively new phenomenon. Just a few generations ago, membership in the 5 million-strong KKK brought aspiring politicians money, legitimacy, and easy electoral victories. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that so many American public figures have been members of the secret empire of the Klan: