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“The Hard, Cold Politics Of Neo-Confederacy”: Now Fly Under The Flag Of “Constitutional Conservatism” With Tricorner Hat Of The Tea Party

Even as a lot of conservatives advanced dumb revisionist histories whereby no Republican had ever expressed sympathy for the Confederacy and its symbols, RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende offered a clear-eyed analysis of the politics of the matter in recent decades, and while I don’t agree with all his conclusions, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Long story short: Trende argues that the “flag” controversy became a big deal during a relatively brief period when the older downscale rural white southerners who care about it were up for grabs (at least in non-presidential contests) between the two parties, and is now coming to an end because Democrats have lost them and Republicans can now take them for granted.

Because Democrats no longer see any electoral payoff in talking to guys with Confederate flags in the back of their pickup trucks, they no longer have any incentive to make even weak gestures toward keeping the flag around. Progressives are freed from their need to keep up their awkward dance with rural Southerners for the sake of maintaining some degree of power in the South (a dance that dates back at least to FDR’s reluctance to endorse anti-lynching laws). Polarization has forced them – and freed them – to explore new paths to power.

At the same time, it’s important to realize that most prominent Southern Republican politicians have roots in either the suburban or old establishment Democrat wings of the party. I doubt if Nikki Haley or Bobby Jindal grew up with much affection for the Confederate flag. The same goes for Mitch McConnell – who entered politics in Jefferson County (Louisville), an old Union town whose Republicanism was strong enough that it almost voted for Herbert Hoover in 1932.

The examples Trende offers of this dynamic include one with which I am very familiar: Zell Miller coming out for a “flag” change in 1993 and then losing badly among white rural voters in 1994. Cause and effect are not easy to untangle here, however. Miller was already going to lose a lot of support in rural North Georgia in 1994 because in 1990 he benefited enormously from a “native son” effect–North Georgia had rarely produced governors in a state long dominated politically by South Georgia “black belt” pols–that would not appear a second time. He also had an alternative strategy for a majority, based on his education initiatives, and in fact, he won in 1994 because some of his rural losses were offset by suburban gains. All of this is consistent with Trende’s theory that “polarization” eventually took the “flag” off the table, but real politicians had real risks and decisions to make.

As for Trende’s idea that neither party has had any interest in defending the Confederate heritage once Battle-flag-loving rural whites died off or became part of the GOP “base,” I think he misses the broader resonance of neo-Confederate ideology, which isn’t just about battle flags and whistling Dixie. As I argued at TPMCafe earlier this week, all sorts of notions associated with the Confederacy, from absolute state sovereignty and absolute private property rights to a hostile/paternalistic attitude towards African-Americans, remain active elements of hard-core conservative ideology. That they may now fly under the different, red-white-and-blue flag of “constitutional conservatism”–complete with the tricorner hat of the Tea Party–doesn’t change that.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 25, 2015

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Confederate Flag, Racism, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why This Part Of Your Culture?”: A Question About Southern Culture And The Confederate Flag

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Michael Boggs, a conservative Georgia state judge whom President Obama nominated for a federal judgeship as part of a deal to get Republicans to allow votes on some of his other nominees. (Lesson: Obstructionism works, so keep doing it!) Boggs got grilled by Democrats over some of the votes he took as a state legislator, including one to keep the Confederate stars and bars as part of the Georgia state flag. Which gives me the opportunity to get something off my chest.

Before I do though, it should be noted that there are plenty of white Southerners who wish that their states had long ago put the Confederate flag issue behind them, and agree with us Yankees that it’s a symbol of treason and white supremacy, and not the kind of thing you want to fly over your state house or put on a license plate, as you can in Georgia.

Boggs claimed in his hearing that he was offended by the Confederate flag, but voted for it because that’s what his constituents wanted. In other words, he’s not a racist, just a coward. Fair enough. But to Southerners who say, as some inevitably do, that the Confederate flag in particular, and Confederate fetishism more generally, reflect not support for slavery or white supremacy but merely an honoring of southern “culture,” my question is this: Why this part of your culture?

Because there are a lot of great things about Southern culture. There’s music, and food, and literature, and a hundred other things you can honor and uphold and celebrate. Why spend so much time and effort upholding the one part of your cultural heritage that is about slavery?

Couldn’t you just let that one thing go? To say, we love our culture, and we’re going to continue it and share it with you. But the slavery thing, and the treason against the United States thing? Let’s just put that where it belongs and get on with building a future. We can talk about the Civil War, and seek to understand it in all its complexity. We can teach our kids about it. But we’re not going to put the Confederate flag on our license plates anymore. Would that be so hard?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 13, 2014

 

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Confederacy, Racism, Slavery | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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