Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Bob McDonnell Loves Treason--So Long As It's To Enslave Black People

Being so busy, I've been a little late to the game of slamming Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell openly supporting Treason in Defense of Slavery by restarting the state's Confederate History month in April. I've always thought we should talk about April as Treason in Defense of Slavery Month. No one has furthered this more than McDonnell. The flack he's taken has been outstanding. And somewhat surprising I guess. But he's taken heat from everywhere, making an embarrassment of himself and his state.

Regardless of what McDonnell actually thinks about these issues, and actually he probably does believe this but whatever, it's clearly a cynical political maneuver. His Attorney General, who puts the "nut" in wingnut, has been getting ton of love on conservative circuits for leading the lawsuits against the health care bill. So McDonnell wanted to get attention of his own.

This is really pretty stupid because it alienates Virginia moderates. Virginia is such a swing state now that this kind of racist culture war stuff might play to the base, but it's going to be a disaster in general elections. I don't think the suburban Washington voters went for McDonnell because they love the Confederacy. Rather, it's this kind of foolishness that will help Obama win Virginia in 2012 and help doom Republicans in the state as demographics keep changing. I'm sure this will always be popular in the rural southwestern area of the state. In Alexandria, not so much.

The responses have been fantastic. Dave Noon, my long time compadre in Treason in Defense of Slavery discussions, quoted the South Carolina fireeater John Preston's speech at the Virginia secession convention in 1861, reminding us all what secession was about:

You may, as you are at this moment doing, centralize a coercive power at Washington stronger than the Praetorian bands when the Roman eagles shadowed the earth “from Lusitania to the Caucasus,” but you cannot come nearer coalescing the people of Virginia and the people of Vermont, the people of the St Lawrence and the people of the Gulf, than did Rome to make one of the Gaul and the Dacian, the Briton and the Ionian. No community of origin, no community of language, law or religion, can amalgamate a people whose severance is proclaimed by the rigid requisitions of material necessity. Nature forbids African slavery at the North. Southern civilization cannot exist without African slavery. None but an equal race can labor at the South. Destroy involuntary labor and Anglo Saxon civilization must be remitted to the latitudes whence it sprung.

Other historians are striking as well, including the dean of Civil War history, James McPherson.

As James McPherson, dean of Civil War scholars, commented on learning of Mr. McDonnell's proclamation: "I find it obnoxious, but it's extremely typical. The people that emphasize Confederate heritage and the legacy, and the importance of understanding Confederate history, want to deny that Confederate history was ultimately bound up with slavery. But that was the principal reason for secession -- that an anti-slavery party was elected to the White House. . . . And without secession, there wouldn't have been a war." 


McDonnell has backtracked big time, turning himself into a national embarrassment and pretty much killing his chances of ever being a serious nominee for the presidency. He stated in his defense:

"there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia." 

Can I give you a bigger shovel Bob?  It's really helping you out to say that slavery wasn't important to Virginia history.

He's since apologized and added a recognition of slavery to his Confederate History Month proclamation. This has the double advantage of making him look like a backsliding jerk and pissing off the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. The latter is especially important because no organization fights harder to push a sanitized version of the Civil War that erases black people from the story (except for the 3 slaves or whatever who supposedly fought for the Confederacy that the SCV puts out there like the single black person on the stage at the Republican National Convention). This helps discredit their intentionally false view of history.

All in all then, this is a positive event. It again shows the racism of the Republican Party. It demonstrates both how far we've come from idealizing the Confederacy and how far we have to go. It's an important public discussion of our collective history. And it has tremendous political advantages for the Democrats. Win-win, except to remember that one of our political parties continues to embrace barely concealed racism.