Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What's the Matter with Repugs? They're All Neo-Confederates

Really.  The hero-worship of Traitors in Defense of Slavery explains everything about conservatives, especially the inexplicable popularity of their self-destructive jingoism.

Euan Hague at Politico:
So what makes this Confederate politics so attractive? To adherents, today’s Confederate ideology exposes falsehoods in mainstream accounts of U.S. history and offers to reveal “the truth,” which has supposedly been suppressed by “East Coast elites” and “liberal academics” pandering to ethnic minority pressure. According to this narrative, the Civil War was not fought over slavery but rather because the Union and President Abraham Lincoln acted without regard for the Constitution to accumulate power. Confederate sympathy offers an ideology that explains why life in America is not what one expected it to be, why Spanish is increasingly heard in towns across the country, why despite working hard one never seems to get ahead, why African Americans have recently occupied highly visible leadership positions as attorney general, secretary of state and, of course, president. It is a politics of victimization, a sentiment that political correctness and anti-discrimination laws constrain right-thinking and hard-working people, and that for 150 years America has strayed from its preordained and righteous path.

Beginning in the 1890s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the United Confederate Veterans and, since the start of the 20th century, the SCV have sought to keep the Confederate flame burning and flag flying. These organizations and others have promoted pro-Confederate histories, influenced school textbooks, hosted lectures and acted as tour guides, staffed and funded both public and private museums that celebrate the Confederacy, installed statues and Confederate flags along interstates, and overseen numerous other public displays of homage to the slave-holding Confederacy.

Nor is such veneration confined to the former Confederate states.


Central to these positions was an argument that the Confederate states followed the original intent of the Constitution in the face of Lincoln’s tyrannical abuse and expansion of federal power. This last contention justifies the reasoning that the Civil War was an illegal invasion of peaceable Confederate states by a malignant federal government. Within this logic, most, if not all, legislation passed since 1865 is by definition unconstitutional and Constitutional amendments, such as the 14th granting equal protection and citizenship to all born in the United States, were illegally enacted and coercively imposed in the aftermath of the War.

By the late 20th century, undisguised support for white supremacy was no longer politically viable; thus, arguing that your ancestors fought honorably for their homes and families against a dictatorial federal government that usurped the natural, constitutional, God-given order of things was considerably more palatable. Even so, racial differences, although rarely articulated directly, remain central to the task of rallying support for neo-Confederate organizations.


At the start of the 21st Century, therefore, through magazines, websites, and social media, in addition to books and radio shows, people can find a political platform and language through which to articulate their pro-Confederate views. It is a language that decries the “activist judges” who imposed affirmative action “quotas,” opposes “federal overreach,” claims that “Third World immigration” is causing “Southern demographic displacement,” and it all came with an effort to reclaim the meaning of the Confederacy’s most potent symbol, the Confederate battle flag, as “a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage,” as the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals summarized the SCV’s interpretation of the flag in the Texas license plate case.

In this way, the Confederate “heritage” movement has gone way beyond tending graves and cutting grass at Confederate cemeteries or reenacting battles. Indeed, the idea that groups like the SCV represent Confederate “heritage” is a misnomer: They are political organizations that aggressively promote their versions of the Confederacy behind a veneer of benign ancestral reverence. In 2015, the Confederate flag comes with a reactionary, anti-democratic, anti-federal politics, a politics that reverberates through social media, talk radio, and niche publishers.


A critical development of this modern Confederate movement has been to mobilize reactionary political positions as the essence of being Southern. Within this logic, if you are proud to be from the South, you cannot be liberal and are by definition opposed to the federal government, opposed to civil rights legislation, opposed to anti-discrimination policies, opposed to federal welfare and health care policies, and instead support Constitutional originalism (which, of course, counted each African American as three-fifths of a person). This ideology is animated through support for different structures of governance, namely a belief in the primacy of the States and localities over federal authority. If you believe that you are no longer represented by your representative government, one route to alternative governance is restructuring the state. In Europe, nationalism is on the upswing: in the United States, the model for nationalism and separatism is the Confederacy, and one way to demonstrate support for such beliefs is to wave the Confederate battle flag (or put it on your license plate).

Yet, bizarrely, as Confederate ideology seeks to undermine government authority, getting an governmental imprimatur for the Confederate flag is important to its supporters, as every success further legitimizes their argument that the Confederacy had nothing to do with white supremacy (after all, why would a USA that purports to support racial equality therefore sanction display of the Confederate flag if the meaning of the flag was racism?) The flag debate therefore cuts both ways–refusal by the state to display it proves once again that those with Confederate ancestors and sympathies are being victimized and discriminated against; yet if a state does display the flag, this demonstrates that the Confederate emblem is not racist and is, instead, indicative of regional and ancestral pride.

We have come a long way from 1865, when the federal government denied permission for Confederate soldiers to be buried in U.S. military cemeteries.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the SCV, then Texas would become the tenth state to allow the Confederate flag on its license plates. This will add to the political legitimation of the Confederacy that ranges from the SCV’s involvement with ROTC and the UDC’s eight annual awards given at U.S. service academies, to the U.S. president annually sending a wreath for placement at the Confederate memorial in Arlington. (Imagine the symbolism in 2009 when an African-American repeated this act of presidential veneration for the Confederate dead, the wreath lying beneath a sculpture that had been commissioned by the UDC a century before to include depictions of ‘faithful’ slaves and their masters?)

Next week the nation will mark another 150-year anniversary—the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865. Yet the persistence of these neo-Confederate views in America is evidence that even this terrible event is not universally condemned. A century and a half after the Civil War ended, the struggle to define America’s past is still going on—and it is also a struggle to shape America’s future.
And it's all a fucking lie, created, sold and promoted by slavery apologists and their racist followers.

Jamelle Bouie at Slate:
But while historians have rehabilitated Grant in academia—as a flawed president who nonetheless held a strong commitment to black rights—his standing still lags in public memory. The reverse is true of Lee. To many, he is what he’s been for almost 150 years: a decent man on the wrong side of history.
Whether this changes depends on where the country goes. Both men are eternally tied to Appomattox and everything it meant, from the end of the Confederate dream to the promise of emancipation. And in turn, their legacies are tied to what those things mean today, from the particular heritage celebrated by millions of white Southerners to the fight for full inclusion of black Americans to national life. Maybe, if full racial equality is in our future, Grant will rise higher as the man who helped move the country a step toward its destination, while Lee declines to the background of history. And if that isn’t our path? Then Lee might remain as an image of what we want our past to look like, and not what it was.

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