Monday, April 25, 2011

Civil War Memory

The Times' Disunion series has created repetitive but, to me, endless interesting comment sections. Over and over again, people debate the causes of the Civil War. Of course, there's no real debate about this among historians--it's slavery, slavery, and slavery. And while that's seeped into much of the population, there's a whole lot of people with a whole lot of money who don't want to believe that. Some companies are taking advantage of this population, as Virginia Heffernan shows in her discussion of mobile apps related to the War. That's fine and all I suppose, even if slavery disappears from their narratives. After all, maybe it's not the companies' fault that a large swath of Americans want their own version of the war that erases slavery. Because it the war isn't about slavery, then it can still be evoked today for conservative ends. Southern Republicans are doing this very thing:

In Georgia 47% of Republicans are content with the Union victory, while 31% wish the South had won. Democrats (58/17) and independents (54/19) are both strongly supportive of the North, making the overall numbers 53/23.
In North Carolina GOP voters are almost evenly divided on the outcome of the war with 35% glad for the North's victory, 33% ruing the South's loss, and 32% taking neither side. Democrats (55/15) and independents (57/14) have similar numbers to Georgia but due to the greater ambivalence of Republicans about the northern victory, overall less than half of Tar Heel voters (48%) are glad the Union won to 21% who wish the Confederacy had.
In Mississippi no group of the electorate seems all that enthused about the North having won. Republicans, by a 38/21 margin, outright wish the South had won. Democrats (39/22) and independents (49/15) side with the North but compared to those voter groups in North Carolina and Georgia they're pretty ambivalent. Overall just 34% of voters in the state are glad the Union prevailed to 27% who wish the rebels had been victorious.

While I don't doubt that some of this is directly related to southern race relations, I'd be curious to see similar polls of northern Republicans, as I believe that much of the Republican Party regardless of region has devoted itself to viewing the Civil War as a battle against a tyrannical central government looking to crack down on states' rights that, in their minds, had little to do with the enslavement of blacks. After all, it's not just in Texas that right-wing governors have been talking about nullification.