The decision this week of the Congressional Black Caucus to repudiate any formal ties with Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan comes as no surprise to those who have followed the fortunes of the fiery separatist leader. Mr. Farrakhan has made a career of bashing mainstream civil rights figures as racial Quislings and Uncle Toms. He is also a virulent anti-Semite whose views have more in common with neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan than with Martin Luther King.
Although Mr. Farrakhan dismissed a top aide Thursday for making anti-Semitic remarks, he coupled the rebuke with vitriolic attacks on the Anti-Defamation League and Vice President Al Gore. He charged a conspiracy between Jews and the government to keep blacks down, and produced a pamphlet published by his group that could have been taken almost verbatim from the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a turn-of-the-century anti-Semitic tract used to justify the murder of millions of European Jews.
The Black Caucus and especially its chairman, Baltimore Rep. Kweisi Mfume, the NAACP's Benjamin Chavis, Jesse Jackson and others who tried to make peace with Mr. Farrakhan last year hoped that by according him recognition he might be persuaded to moderate his views. Privately, some caucus members now say they had misgivings about the arrangement from the beginning. Why didn't they speak out earlier?
Apparently pressure from their own constituents to present a unified front against crime and violence in the black community -- an issue on which the Nation of Islam can claim some success -- led many caucus members to tacitly accept what they regarded as a Faustian bargain. Mr. Farrakhan responded by ratcheting up the level of bigotry and intolerance espoused by his followers, thereby forcing his new allies to either share his obloquy or denounce it.
Mr. Farrakhan likes to paint those who have distanced themselves from him as unwitting pawns in a Jewish conspiracy to destroy his movement. That is his obsession, and by now it is clear that his views are impervious to reason. He is incapable of imagining other blacks might find his ideas repugnant based on principle and the dictates of conscience. That moral blindness is itself sufficient to disqualify him as a responsible partner in the post-civil rights struggle.