Johnny Reb-publicans

The Republican governor of Virginia, unlike his two Democratic predecessors, panders to the un-reconstructed by proclaiming “Confederate History Month.”

Below is the full text of a proclamation by the new Republican governor of Virginia. In proclaiming Confederate History Month – something his two Democratic predecessors refused to do – McDonnell tells tells two blatant lies:

1. The the Civil War was a “war for independence” rather than a war to defend slavery.

2. That the confederate soldiers “returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace,” leaving out the actual history of domestic terrorism which eventually succeeded in overturning Reconstruction and re-imposing caste dominance. (Pro-Confederate historiography calls this process – somewhat blasphemously – “the Redemption.)”

Of course no Republican elected official, in Virginia or nationally, and damned few “conservative” pundits, will have the courage to denounce this shameless pandering to the admirers of treason (defined by the Constitution as “waging war on the United States”).

The irony of the Party of Lincoln being taken over by Confederate sympathizers is now a generation old, but it grows no less painful with the passage of time. I know my Red friends hate to be called racists, but in that case might I suggest encouraging the politicians they support to take fewer racist actions?

Confederate History Month

WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today, and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”; and

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

28 thoughts on “Johnny Reb-publicans”

  1. We might compare Republicans in the South today with Germany today. The Germans are ashamed of the Nazis, and go so far as to prohibit pro-Nazi speech. They do not name parks, highways, and other public places after Nazi generals, whereas, Arlington, VA, right across the bridge from Washington, DC, has a Robert E. Lee Highway and something (I forget what) named after Stonewall Jackson. Even Baltimore, the majority of whose population is descended from slaves, has a Robert E. Lee Park. Why don't more people appreciate how insulting this is?

  2. Coulda been worse! He could have called it the "War of Northern Aggression."

    The least he could have done is call it "The Late Unpleasantness."

  3. This stuff is really amazing. As long as racism has been defined as only existing in overt, admitted hostility, its seething unconscious underbelly seems to have been merely repressed.

  4. From Lincoln's Second Inaugural:

    "On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. (…) Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

    One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."

  5. As Quiddity might have added, not from Lincoln (who may have been biased and who is certainly not a quotable authority to many Southerners), but from the Virginia convention on secession ( has the full text:

    "The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitition were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States…"

  6. When I was in Iowa City earlier this year, I saw something I couldn't believe: An elementary school named after Robert A. Lee. Then I looked and saw the "A." in the middle. It was pleasant.

  7. There is a Stonewall Jackson Elementary School in Virginia:…. It is a public school, as clicking on the BVPS will reveal.

    As for the cause of the Civil War, in 2001, James McPherson wrote: "Since the 1950s most professional historians have come to agree with Lincoln's assertion that slavery 'was, somehow, the cause of the war.' Outside the universities, however, Lost Cause denial is still popular, especially among Southern heritage groups that insist the Confederate flag stands not for slavery but for a legacy of courage and honor in defense of principle." By "Lost Cause" denial, McPherson means the view that "the Civil War was … a war of Northern aggression against Southern constitutional rights." (available only to subscribers to the NY Review archives).

  8. I learned something interesting and appropriate by talking to one of my co-congregants this year. The elementary school in Topeka where the Brown case started was Sumner Elementary. It took me a little research to determine this school was indeed named after Senator Charles Sumner, the great abolitionist. File this under "What's Right With Kansas!"

  9. Folks,

    This bluster from the new Governor confirms either his cynicism or his racism. Nice choice. But his statement is whistling past the demographic graveyard; this year's Census should indicate we're getting closer to a "minority majority" in the country, and as we do (by maybe 2040?), such statements will be seen more and more as the bleatings of reactionary minorities being bypassed by history.

    Tom Cannon

  10. "This bluster from the new Governor confirms either his cynicism or his racism."

    There can be no doubt that he is a racist, because he has just engaged in a racist act. If he is not a racist in his heart of hearts, what difference should it make? He is a public figure and has engaged in public racism; that's all that matters.

  11. John A Arkansawyer,

    How so? I ask that non-rhetorically.

    Michael Drake,

    I agree. And the Confederate flag today is a symbol of Southern heritage — the heritage of slavery.

  12. Henry,

    After Wallace got shot and abandoned the bigoted persona that served him so well, he returned to Alabama politics and, in that final term of office, did a lot of good, especially for blacks.

    Of course, as the Drive-By Truckers say in "Wallace", from Southern Rock Opera:

    Now, he said he was the best friend a black man from Alabama ever had,

    And I have to admit, compared to Fob James, George Wallace don't seem that bad

    And if it's true that he wasn't a racist and he just did all them things for the votes

    I guess Hell's just the place for "kiss ass politicians" who pander to assholes.

  13. John,

    Is it possible that Wallace was a genuine racist but later reformed? Getting shot can do that to some people.

  14. Possible, Henry, but there's good evidence that Wallace was not (relatively speaking) a bigot.

    Before he ran for governor, he had a reputation (undisputed in retrospect, to the best of my knowledge) as a fair judge who treated black people in his court with decency and respect.

    I do hear what you're saying about being shot changing minds.

    Many politicians would take getting shot over losing an important election, though, and losing is what seemed to grow Wallace's evil.

  15. I believe Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP when he first ran for governor and lost. May be an urban myth, but he is reputed to have said that he was "out niggered" by his opponent and it would never happen again. That's a cynical powerseeker.

  16. Henry noted that the myth of the Lost Cause was itself a lost cause in institutions with at least minimal standards of scholarship and respect for the historical record. I think that the New York Review of Books article he cites also shows that the South held the dominant power in the national government prior to 1860, having most of the Presidents and Speakers of the House. But this did not mean that they put a premium on states’ rights; on the contrary, they used the Fugitive Slave Law to override the rights of northern states to protect runaway slaves, and the Supreme Court affirmed the supremacy of the federal law over the state laws. States’ rights became a big deal to them after they lost control over the central government, and not before.

  17. Ed,

    I do not express an opinion on your thesis that the antebellum South did not put a premium on states' rights, but I don't think that the Fugitive Slave Law demonstrates that thesis very well. That is because the Constitution's Fugitive Slave Clause (Art. IV, sec. 2, cl. 3) appears to provide for the overriding of state law. It reads: "No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due." I'd be interested if you have another example to support your thesis.

  18. Henry:

    I would not call it my thesis, but rather my recollection of what McPherson said in one of his many NYRB articles (I cannot swear that it was the article you linked to). Of course the Constitution has the passage you cite, which was the basis for the constitutionality of the Fugitive Slave Law. William Lloyd Garrison knew what he was doing when he publicly burned a copy of the Constitution; it was the document that overrode the free states’ laws to protect runaway slaves. What McPherson may have been driving at was the idea that states’ rights are important when they support your goals (state marijuana laws overriding federal laws) and unimportant when they support the goals of your opponents. They are tools of convenience, not sacred principles to be upheld no matter the outcome. We are all a bunch of hypocrites when it comes to states’ rights. Florida jurisdiction over election law was sacred to me during the 2000 recount, and when the damn Yankee SCOTUS overrode the state court, I was livid.

  19. Ed, you're certainly right about that today, whether or not it was the case in the antebellum South. Federal tort reform proposals are a good example. Republicans support it even though it would override state law. That is because it would help liability insurance companies and those they insure, such as product manufacturers and doctors. That's what they care about, not states' rights.

  20. The five wardheelers that anointed George W. Bush included a Georgia native, a New Jersey native who taught in Illinois, a Californian and two Arizonans (one of whom was reared in Wisconsin). While California was part of the Union during the Civil War, that state was not very important to the war effort. Three dissenters were from Northeastern states (although Breyer was reared in California); one dissenter was from Illinois.

  21. Henry,

    I had a chance to refresh my memory on that McPherson article in NYRB, and remembered that he also cited the way that the South, when it held national power, enacted the gag rule, banning antislavery literature from the mail if it was sent to southern states. McPherson also mentions Charles Francis Adams, but the Wiki article on the slave power quotes Henry Adams' views on how the slaveholders were great friends of centralized power when it suited their purposes. "Thus, in truth, states' rights were the protection of the free states, and as a matter of fact, during the domination of the slave power, Massachusetts appealed to this protecting principle as often and almost as loudly as South Carolina."

    This seems to fit with what I think we agree on about state sovereignty as a tool to be used for our political preferences rather than a principle to be adhered to even at the cost of our agendas.

    In the evening news tonight, there was a story about an apology by the governor for the omission of slavery from his proclamation. He may not have placated many people, but he seems to have angered a few others. That fellow really puts the goober in gubernatorial.

  22. Ed,

    The gag rule was a rule of the House of Representatives, adopted in 1840, providing that petitions seeking abolition of either slavery or interstate slave trade not be received; previously the House had required that all petitions on the subject of slavery be tabled and not printed. The gag rule was done away with in 1844, largely through the efforts of Rep. John Quincy Adams, who served in the House after he was President.

    The ban on mailing anti-slavery literature was an instruction from President Andrew Jackson to the postmaster general to deliver such literature only to recipients who requested them. Jackson further directed that those requesting such literature be publicly exposed "as subscribers to this wicked plan of exciting the negroes to insurrection and massacre." Jackson also proposed that Congress enact a law prohibiting "the circulation in the Southern States, through the mail, of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection," and Senator John C. Calhoun's select committee approved a bill to prohibit the mailing of any written material "touching the subject of slavery, addressed to any person or post office in any State [whose laws prohibited it]." Neither proposal was enacted.

    My source for the above information is The Constitution in Congress: Descent into the Maelstrom, 1829-1861, by David P. Currie.

  23. If I understand McPherson and Henry Adams, the gag rule by the House and the postal regulations by Jackson were both manifestations of what fell under the definition of the "slave power," by which they appear to mean the way the South had and used power at the national level (what they refer to as centralization) out of proportion to its voting population. The electoral distortion of the three-fifths rule, for example, was resented in the free states, and Henry Adams seems to be saying that the resentment of the slave power inspired sentiments of disunion in New England that were as strong as secessionist feeling in Dixie. But you have inspired me to get a book titled "Arguing About Slavery" which focuses on the gag rule.

    I am with John Arkansawyer on the Jefferson-Jackson celebrations. King Andrew could be taken off the $20 bill any old time.

  24. I have a copy of "Arguing About Slavery"; I haven't read it yet, but I highly recommend the same author's (William Lee Miller's) two books on Lincoln: "Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography," and "President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman." The first ends with Lincoln's election in 1860 and the other takes it from there, but these are much more than a biography; they view his actions through an ethical prism. And they are quick and entertaining to read.

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