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“Never Patriotic”: The Real Meaning Of The Confederate Flag

In the intensifying national debate over the Confederate flag, important clues about the seditious symbol’s true meaning are staring us in the face. Dozens of those clues were posted by an angry, glaring Dylann Storm Roof on the “Last Rhodesian,” website, where the alleged Charleston killer pays homage to certain flags – notably those of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, as well as the old Confederacy – while he enthusiastically desecrates another.

Pictures of Roof burning, stomping, and spitting on the Stars and Stripes are interspersed among the photos of him grasping and waving the Confederate battle flag, sometimes while holding a gun. “I hate the sight of the American flag,” he raged in a long screed on the site. “Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke.”

What this racial terrorist meant to express, in crude prose and pictures, is a lesson that the diehard defenders of the Confederate flag should no longer ignore: To uphold the banner of secession is to reject patriotism – and has never meant anything else.

For many years after the Civil War, the symbols of the Confederacy were not much seen outside local museums and burial grounds. The late general Robert E. Lee, a reluctant but justly revered war hero, rejected any post-war fetishizing of the Stars and Bars, which had actually originated as the battle flag of his Army of Northern Virginia. Lee believed it “wiser…not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”But such admonishments were cast aside by the exponents of white supremacy, whose own patriotism was certainly suspect. When the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camelia were revived as racial terror organizations in the 1930s and 1940s, carrying out a spree of cowardly lynchings, their grand wizards found natural allies among the leaders of the German-American Bund — whose funding and fealty were eventually traced to Nazi headquarters in Berlin. Indeed, the Klansmen burned their towering crosses alongside swastika banners at rallies sponsored by the Bund to attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In the years following the Second World War, the Dixiecrats led by South Carolina politician Strom Thurmond – and the “uptown Klan” known as the White Citizens Councils that supported Thurmond’s movement – appropriated the Confederate flag as their own standard. Among its greatest enthusiasts was a young radio reporter (and future U.S. senator) named Jesse Helms, whose fawning coverage of Thurmond’s 1948 third-party presidential bid marked him as a rising star of the segregationist right.

As for the White Citizens Councils, those local groups were ultimately reconstituted into chapters of the Council of Conservative Citizens – a notorious hate group that has embarrassed many Republican politicians caught fraternizing with its leaders, and that ultimately inspired Roof with its inflammatory propaganda about black crime and the endangered white race. Headquartered in St. Louis, MO, the CCC festoons itself and its works with the Dixie flag, as does the neo-Confederate League of the South, which still openly advocates secession.

Meanwhile, racist, anti-Semitic agitators such as David Duke and Don Black — both Southerners prominent in Klan and neo-Nazi organizations for decades — have never ceased to manifest their reverence for the Confederacy. Stormfront, the notorious neo-Nazi website founded by Black, continues to promote the mythology and symbolism of the Southern cause, declaring in a June 23 podcast that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery — and that “the attack on southern symbols and heritage such as the Confederate Flag are actually part of an overall Jewish-led attack on European Americans.” Owing to Duke’s influence, in fact, the Confederate flag has served as a substitute for Nazi banners in demonstrations, often violent, by “white nationalists” in Europe — where the symbols of the Third Reich are widely outlawed.

Obviously, not every American who has displayed the Dixie flag endorses the treason and bigotry that it now represents to so many other Americans. There are sincere patriots, like former senator James Webb of Virginia, who still insist that it is only a remembrance of the valor of their ancestors. But over the decades, its appropriation by traitors and bigots has provoked little noticeable protest from the more innocent exponents of respect for Southern heritage. Today, the Charleston massacre has left it standing irrevocably for the most brutal and criminal aspects of that heritage – and it is more deeply irreconcilable with American patriotism than ever.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, June 26, 2015

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Domestic Terrorism, Hate Crimes, Patriotism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Wink, A Smile And A Voice Vote”: The House GOP’s Down-Low, Backhanded Endorsement Of Obamacare

It’s not all that often that the lead piece on the Drudge Report attacks Republicans, so it’s worth a little savoring when it happens, and this one is especially delectable. The link was to an AP story reporting that two weeks ago, House Republicans stealthily voted for a measure that changed an aspect of the Affordable Care Act.

What? I know. In other words, Congress amends bill it passed a few years ago. In a normal moral universe, this would scarcely qualify as news. But when we speak of the House of Representatives, we are in the modern Republican Party’s moral universe, and there, the rules are different.

You see, by agreeing to amend Obamacare, Republicans are acknowledging the law’s existence and legitimacy. The only things they’re supposed to be doing with Obamacare are burning copies of it on the Capitol steps and voting to repeal it. But here they’ve done the exact opposite. And what made it even worse was the way they did it. The change was very quietly tucked into a larger bill, the Medicare “doc fix,” which helps payments to doctors who serve Medicare patients keep pace with inflation. Only House majority leadership—the Republicans—can do that. And then, to make matters still worse, the yellow-bellied quislings passed the thing by voice vote, so no one had to be on the record.

The change, by the way, removes deductible caps from certain plans small businesses can offer their employees. This allows the employers, according to the AP, to offer cheaper plans to individuals who also have health savings accounts, which conservatives have been pushing for 15 or 20 years. Only around 30 percent of American businesses offer HSAs, and large employers are more likely to include them than small ones. Hence, the target of opportunity for HSA partisans. So the change accomplished a GOP policy goal. But funny thing: apparently not a single Republican member of the House trumpeted the change or even said a word about it when the vote took place March 27.

It hardly matters what the change was. It could have been that the purchase of armor-piercing bullets was now covered under Obamacare and it wouldn’t help: The fact that Republicans used the ACA as the vehicle with which to make this change was the crime. Oh, did I have a jolly afternoon reading through the comment thread at Free Republic:

“The uniparty at work!”

“Appeasement Weasels.”

“Voice vote.”

“And I’ll say it right now: The Republican Party does not want Obamacare to be repealed and will not support candidates who do. I’d love to have someone come back around November 1, 2016 and show me that this prediction was wrong.”

“The G.O.P. (GAVE OBAMA POWER) is the party that created RomneyCARE/ObamaCARE
and imposed it FOR ALL, FOR ROMNEY, FOREVER.”

“Bastards!”

You get the picture. So what do we take away from this?

I think we take away from it that some of these “Freepers,” as they’re called on that site, are on to something. Republicans don’t really want to repeal Obamacare. Or no: they almost certainly want to, but they know they probably can’t. So even while they froth away for the cameras and town-hall meetings, there’s another, smaller, darker part of them that knows the truth, or the likely truth, which is that Hillary Clinton appears likely to be the next president, the Democrats will recapture the Senate in 2016 or vastly increase their majority if they didn’t lose it in 2014, and by the end of the next President Clinton’s first term, Obamacare will be nailed to the floor.

Remember, this happened on March 27: four days before the ACA’s enrollment deadline arrived, and therefore well before anyone knew the number would hit the target of seven million. So they were out there, on Fox and on all those acidic radio shows they do, talking about what a world-historical failure Obamacare was going to prove to be in just a matter of days, while meanwhile, with no one recording the roll call, they were buying shares of it.

This brings to mind some things I’ve read about civil rights and the Dixiecrats. The liberal Northern senators used to chat among themselves in the early and mid-1960s, wondering which of their Southern colleagues really and truly believed the racist pollution that poured out of their mouths. The consensus at the time was that Strom Thurmond really did. Richard Russell. Most of them, however, sorta-kinda believed it but just said it, because they knew that as long as they were 110 percenters on what they called “the n——-r question,” they could get reelected ‘til the end of time provided they weren’t caught with the proverbial live boy or dead girl.

There’s a story in Phil Hart’s biography—Hart, of Michigan, was one of the Senate’s most liberal members, and one of the key movers of the Voting Rights Act—about an encounter he had with Mississippi’s James Eastland. Eastland was as hard-shell as they came. But somehow, he and Hart became friends anyway. And so one day on the Senate floor, after delivering himself of a hideous racial tirade, as he walked back toward his desk, Eastland caught his friend Hart’s eye and winked.

Who knows how much of that kind of winking is taking place on the House floor now? “Hey, Steny, I don’t really mean everything I say ’bout y’all, but old so-and-so from the next district over just gave one helluva stemwinder about health care the other day, and I can’t let myself be out-Obamacared, know’ut I mean?” Oh, of course some Republicans are fire-breathers and diehards. But others seem to understand that if you’re going to try to have actual policy impact in the real world, you have to play ball in the real world. And the real world is Obamacare.

The latter group is probably a minority now. But I’m betting that one day they’ll be the majority, and that that day is going to come sooner than most people think. Maybe even—although they sure won’t admit it—before November.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 7, 2014

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, House Republicans, Obamacare | , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dixiecrat Solution”: The Only Way Out Of This Republican Mess

So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume.

Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog.

And now you understand the current state of budget negotiations.

Stocks surged last Friday in the belief that House Republicans were getting ready to back down on their ransom demands over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. But what Republicans were actually offering, it seems, was the “compromise” Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article: rolling back some of the “sequester” budget cuts — which both parties dislike; cuts in Medicare, but with no quid pro quo in the form of higher revenue; and only a temporary fix on the debt ceiling, so that we would soon find ourselves in crisis again.

I do not think that word “compromise” means what Mr. Ryan thinks it means. Above all, he failed to offer the one thing the White House won’t, can’t bend on: an end to extortion over the debt ceiling. Yet even this ludicrously unbalanced offer was too much for conservative activists, who lambasted Mr. Ryan for basically leaving health reform intact.

Does this mean that we’re going to hit the debt ceiling? Quite possibly; nobody really knows, but careful observers are giving no better than even odds that any kind of deal will be reached before the money runs out. Beyond that, however, our current state of dysfunction looks like a chronic condition, not a one-time event. Even if the debt ceiling is raised enough to avoid immediate default, even if the government shutdown is somehow brought to an end, it will only be a temporary reprieve. Conservative activists are simply not willing to give up on the idea of ruling through extortion, and the Obama administration has decided, wisely, that it will not give in to extortion.

So how does this end? How does America become governable again?

One answer might be that we somehow stumble through the next 13 months, and voters punish Republican tactics by returning the House to Democratic control. Recent polls do show a large Democratic advantage on the generic House ballot. But remember, Democratic House candidates already “won” in 2012, in the sense that they received more votes in total than Republicans. Yet the vagaries of district boundaries — partly, but not entirely, the result of gerrymandering — meant that the Republican majority in seats remained, and it would probably take a really huge Democratic sweep to dislodge G.O.P. control.

There is, however, another solution, and everyone knows what it is. Call it Dixiecrats in reverse.

Here’s the precedent: For a long time, starting as early as 1938, Democrats generally controlled Congress on paper, but actual control often rested with an alliance between Republicans and conservative Southerners who were Democrats in name only. You may not like what this alliance did — among other things, it killed universal health insurance, which we might otherwise have had 65 years ago. But at least America had a functioning government, untroubled by the kind of craziness that now afflicts us.

And right now we have all the necessary ingredients for a comparable alliance, with roles reversed. Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.

The problem is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, won’t allow such votes, because he’s afraid of the backlash from his party’s radicals. Which points to a broader conclusion: The biggest problem we as a nation face right now is not the extremism of Republican radicals, which is a given, but the cowardice of Republican non-extremists (it would be stretching to call them moderates).

The question for the next few days is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the non-extremists’ spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I See The Problem”: Martin Luther King vs. Today’s Conservatives

Yes, I know you hate the fact that the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is (1) being treated as a civic, rather than a factional, event and (2) that the speakers at the anniversary rally, and the accompanying news coverage, stressed liberal themes such as voting rights and health care.

Well, as the guy being guillotined said, I think I see your problem. Since MLK is now officially a hero, you’d like him to be a civic hero rather than a hero of the faction opposed to yours. But while he was alive, and for some time after his death, your faction hated him, and everything he stood for, and tried to defame him. No prominent conservative or libertarian politician, writer, or thinker supported the civil rights movement he led.

The factional split was not identical to the partisan split. There were (mostly Southern) Democratic racists who opposed the civil rights movement; they were known as Dixiecrats or “conservative Democrats,” and their heirs followed Strom Thurmond into the Republican Party, which they now dominate. There were also Republican supporters of civil rights; they were called “liberal Republicans” (I voted for a few of them) and your faction now calls people like them RINOs and has successfully purged them from the Republican Party.

Your faction was, adamantly and unanimously, on the wrong side of history, as spectacularly as the small share of progressives who supported the Soviet dictatorship. Even today, I have failed to find a single libertarian or conservative prepared to speak out against gutting the Voting Rights Act.

Martin Luther King died while on a campaign to support a public-sector labor union. You’re entitled to say that he was a bad man and a Communist, as your faction did while he was alive, and that his assassination was the natural result of his use of civil disobedience, which is what Ronald Reagan said at the time. You’re entitled to say that he was a great man but that his thoughts are no longer applicable to the current political situation. But what you’re not entitled to do is to pretend that, if he were alive today, MLK would not be fighting against you and everything you stand for. He would.

 

By: Mark Kleiman, Washington Monthly Ten Miles Square, August 28, 2013

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Martin Luther King Jr | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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