At the Daily Beast, there is a thoughtful and insightful article talking about the Confederate flag as a pure representation of the logic of war.
There is, however, a thoughtful line that struck me powerfully. “The policy of the rabid secessionists had been to rule or ruin the federal government.”
That connected to an earlier article I read describing the tea party as a confederate party, summarizing:
The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.
That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.”
Today’s conservatives aren’t fighting to preserver America, they’re fighting to recreate the Confederacy. I’ve said it before – the essence of American conservatism is the fight to preserve the established social order against all comers. It’s long been that way.
To quote the article from the Daily Beast ” Southerners were growing ever more confident about their ability to defy the federal government and destroy national institutions that did not bend to their will, including the Democratic Party, which they had long dominated.” Replace “Southerners’ with “Conservatives” and and “Democratic Party” with “republican Party” and you have an apt description of how things stand today.
In 2004, following George W. Bush’s re-election, American conservatives were riding high – they had a dogmatic conservative president in George W. Bush, they controlled Congress, conservative policy was everywhere – then it all turned to disaster. Under Bush, a major American city was lost in the flood waters of hurricane Katrina. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan collapsed into disaster. The economy crashed and the hated federal government had to rescue “free enterprise” from the consequences of its own bad choices.
To add insult to injury, Barack Obama became president, and began pursuing progressive policies. The Obama administration has used diplomacy, not guns. They passed the first ever comprehensive healthcare reform bill. They used government as an agent for good. The unhinged loathing of conservatives from Barack Obama is as much about his skin color as it is about his policies. He is doing what they simply cannot accept.
Do I believe we’re headed for another Civil War? No, I’m not so cynical as that. But we are flirting with a different kind of disaster – a collapse into dysfunction. Johan Galtung once predicted that the end of US empire would result in a period of fascism in the US. The tea partiers and their enablers in the republican party sound remarkably like fascists in their jingoistic nationalism, their dehumanizing of “the other”, their valorization of “the family” their mindless love of the military and love of violence.
For all his failings and shortcomings, I think we need to acknowledge that Barack Obama is a political genius. Despite controlling congress, the political right is weaker now than it was before and President Obama’s careful and sometimes maddeningly cautious politics are part of that. Obama’s approach has often allowed his political opponents to destroy themselves. We can learn something.
The Confederate welcomes open confrontation and conflict. They thrive on it and will do everything and anything to create it. It ultimately serves their cause better than careful negotiation and diplomacy precisely because those things represent change.
The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.
When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.
We have a nation divided – a conservative minority prepared to destroy it rather than accept change, a muddle majority open to change.
An article at The American Prospect, by Harold Meyerson, summarized the real divide in America as an economic one in which the Southern economic order of first no wage labor in the form of slavery and today as low wage labor through the suppression of unions, minimum wages and other forms of labor reform is driving the divide. Meyers concludes ominously:
Barack Obama came to national prominence in 2004 hoping to bridge the divisions between blue states and red. Instead, these gulfs have deepened. Federal remedy is stymied; the public policies of the red and blue states are racing apart; and the fundamental divisions that turned one nation into two in 1861 loom larger today than they have in a very long time.
As I said before, I’m not so cynical that I believe we’re headed for another Civil War. The fears driving the Confederate Tea Partiers are driven by rapid change to a mutli-racial nation and by rapid economic and social change. Social change is happening whether the tea partiers want it to or not. The question facing us is whether or not they’ll engage with the rest of us in society or try to tear it apart if they don’t get their way. Consider, as I write this, Donald Trump is leading in the GOP presidential race, I’m deeply worried.