Rooting for ‘Hootie’

by Patrick J. Buchanan – November 20, 2002

Not one in 10 million Americans will ever be a member of Augusta National Golf Club. Not one in 100,000 will ever shoot a round of golf at the course Ike and Bobby Jones made famous.

Yet, millions are hoping Augusta chairman “Hootie” Johnson does not surrender to those demanding he admit women to his club.

Why are we rooting for Hootie? Are we all just reactionary bigots?

Nope. In this fight, Hootie Johnson is standing up for what America was all about – freedom. And though many cannot articulate why they are rooting for Hootie, he is fighting our fight.

Here is how the Battle of Augusta began. Last summer, Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations demanded that the all-male Augusta club invite women to join or face advertising boycotts of companies that sponsor the Masters. A classic case of feminist extortion.

But instead of capitulating, Hootie Johnson fired back: This issue will be decided by us here at Augusta. One day we may have women members, but “not at the point of a bayonet.”

Stunned, Burk went after the advertisers of the Masters – Citigroup, Coca-Cola and IBM. But Hootie quickly dismissed them, leaving Burk no leverage but a national media that have been hammering away at Augusta for months.

Even Tiger Woods was hauled before the inquisition. Would not he, as a black American, demand that Hootie open up Augusta to women, journalists asked. When Tiger sided with Augusta’s right as a private club to choose its own members, he, too, came in for a caning.

Last week, Hootie settled the issue. The Masters will be held in April, he told USA Today, and there will be no women members at Augusta at that time. “We will prevail because we’re right.”

Burk’s retort: “Is it legal? Probably. Is it morally right? No.”

Here we come to the heart of the matter. Martha Burk believes the very existence of all-male golf clubs is immoral, because all discriminate against women and all discrimination is morally wrong.

“This woman portrays us as being discriminatory and being bigots,” roared Hootie, “And we’re not. We’re a private club. And private organizations are good. The Boy Scouts. The Girl Scouts. Junior League. Sororities. Fraternities. Are these immoral? See, we are in good company as a single-gender organization.”

Actually, Hootie is both right and wrong. Augusta National does discriminate. There are only a hundred members, and all are male, rich, famous or powerful. And the Boy Scouts discriminate. No girls belong, no active homosexuals are permitted, no atheist who refuses to take the Scout oath need apply.

The point here is that not all discrimination is invidious. Not all discrimination is wrong. Not all discrimination is immoral.

Smith College, the women’s PGA, Theta sorority, the WNBA – all discriminate. All exclude men. Are they immoral? That is absurd. And the closer one studies the principle at issue, the more apparent it is that it is Hootie who is standing up for true diversity, and Martha Burk who is the intolerant bigot who disbelieves in freedom and demands conformity.

Hootie has not demanded that all golf clubs accept his rules. But Burk is demanding that all golf clubs accept her rule. No conservative would deny Burk the right to set up an all-women’s club. We don’t care what she does, because most people don’t care how other people live their lives. But freedom, and the diversity freedom brings, is unacceptable to Burk. She must have uniformity. All clubs must adhere to Burk’s rules or all will be badgered, boycotted and brought down.

This is true intolerance – the intolerance of modernity that masquerades as social justice.

Having interviewed Burk, I know her to be a pleasant lady. But she is a textbook example of totalitarian liberalism. It is not enough for these people that they be free to live as they choose. They also must have the power to dictate to us how we shall live our lives.

Martha Burk is an example of a civil-rights movement that has gone corrupt. First, it was about freedom. Now, it is about force, about coercion, about breaking any institution or individual that refuses to bend the knee. In no way are any of us hurt by the fact Augusta has an all-male membership policy. Burk is not hurt by that.

It is her ideology that is offended. She and her press poodles will not cease yapping until they break Hootie and Augusta. Thus, we all have a stake in Hootie telling Martha Burk to get lost and get a life.