Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Fort Sumter Party 2013

A number of commentators have looked at the neo-Confederate spirit and ideology of today's Republican Party, which seems to be looking at the debt ceiling fight like a present-day version of the assault on Fort Sumter.

Bill Moyers takes on the Republicans in Bill Moyers Essay: On the Sabotage of Democracy 10/04/2013

From the website:

"When the president refused to buckle to this extortion, they threw their tantrum," Bill says. "Like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the union before giving up their slaves, so would these people burn down the place, sink the ship." He goes on to tell us where the "reckless ambition" of the Republicans could lead us.
Garry Wills takes the pre-Civil War political comparison very seriously in Back Door Secession NYR Blog 10/09/2013:

So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism—the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members. We also have the other antebellum condition—the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction. In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to carefully planned gerrymandering of districts by Republican state legislatures. This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.

The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule. We see this in the Senate, where a Democratic majority is resisted at every turn by automatic recourses to the filibuster. We see it in the attempt to repeal the seventeenth amendment, which allows a majority of voters to choose a state’s senators. The repealers want that choice to go back to the state legislatures, where they rule thanks to anti-majority gerrymandering.
Juan Cole also looks at how neo-Confederate ideology is at work in today's Republican Fort Sumter Party in Dear Tea Party: The Gov’t Shutdown is Hurting White People, Too Informed Comment 10/09/2013:

When the Republican Party was reduced to its bare minimum of support in 2008, as the American people finally rebelled against the Bush/ Rove dismantling of the economy and wasteful adventurism abroad, it was left with representatives from the Southern states. That election revealed that at its core, the GOP is now a party of white southerners, with a few additions from elsewhere when the public isn’t completely disgusted with its record.

The gov’t shutdown engineered by these white southerners looks an awful lot like the resistance their ancestors offered to Reconstruction after Lincoln freed their slaves. It is analogous to the Jim Crow regime they implemented to make sure that the freed slaves did not have any claim on their resources. If African-Americans weren't going to work for free, then they weren’t going to have an education equal to that of white people, nor access to the same resources, nor free access to the polling booth (limited by poll taxes and ‘literacy’ exams). The ingrates were on their own, and would have to be segregated now that they were no longer owned.

The primary concern of the Tea Party is that the working poor not benefit from Obamacare in getting access to health insurance. (Many of the poor already have access to Medicaid; the Affordable Health Care Act mainly benefits workers who aren't paid very well and don't get insurance via their employers). The reason that the Tea Party doesn't want Obamacare is because they are convinced that it is ultimately a transfer of wealth from the white rich and middle classes to the minorities. This allegation is untrue, since in recent decades 3/4s of the working poor are white. Since the program is a government mandate that individuals buy private health insurance, moreover, it doesn't actually cost the government much. Indeed, it very possibly will save the state money in various ways.
David Sirota is a bit more metaphorical in Right-wing coup: Deluded secessionists have already won Salon 10/09/2013:

They have, in other words, made a deliberate choice to secede into their own separate nation. Call it Conservastan.

This [extreme partisan gerrymandering] was a choice, of course, that the right didn't have to make. To start winning national elections and electoral mandates again, the conservative movement could have used redistricting to dilute Republican districts, make more Democratic districts potentially competitive, and then defeat Democrats in those competitive elections. That would have required the difficult work of broadening the movement's agenda and expanding its electoral base, but if successful, it would have also led to actual mandate-worthy majorities and genuinely national governance for the long haul.

Instead, the right chose to use redistricting to create a whole separate political country for themselves. Inside this new country, the Fourth Estate check on power isn't an objective news media — it is Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and right-wing media enforcing dogma against the perceived threat of ideological traitors. Inside this country, the Republican Party isn't interested in broadening its agenda; the incentive in Conservastan is for the party to continually narrow its agenda to intensify conservative fervor so that the gerrymandered districts that comprise Conservastan remain impenetrable GOP strongholds.
Ed Sebesta at his Anti-Neo-Confederate website links to several other articles dealing with the Confederate comparison, Political reporting is full of reference to Republicans being secessionists or Confederates 10/09/2013, where he says, "I am somewhat overwhelmed by the reporting over the government shutdown and partisan politics referring to secessionists, neo-Confederates and the Confederacy."

He links to this piece by Stephen Mihm, Tea Party Tactics Lead Straight Back to Secession Bloomberg View 10/08/2013 who recalls President Andrew Jackson's clash with the patron saint of today's Republican Party, John Calhoun, over the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33:

By 1832, the crisis that Calhoun helped create reached dangerous heights. A convention met in South Carolina and declared the tariffs null and void, despite a reduction in rates that Congress ratified to pacify the Southerners. The assembled group also summoned 25,000 state militiamen to counter federal forces. Worst of all, the convention vowed to secede if the federal government tried to stop South Carolina from flouting the law. On Dec. 28, 1832, Calhoun resigned as vice president and took a South Carolina Senate seat.

It was during this process that nullification went from being an abstract bit of political theorizing to an actual threat to the union.

Andrew Jackson would have none of this, particularly coming from his former vice president, whom he had grown to detest. Despite being a slave owner and Southerner himself, the president bluntly declared that the nullifiers were guilty of “treason” and warned that "if one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man ... I can get my hands on to the first tree I can find."

Jackson wasn't kidding. Memorably, when asked whether he thought Jackson was serious, an ally of the president replied that "when Jackson begins to talk about hanging ... look out for ropes!" But Jackson’s response was equal parts bombast and crass pragmatism: As he rattled federal sabers, he also moved the collection of tariffs offshore, away from South Carolina ports, lowering the chance of a clash between federal and state forces. He simultaneously sanctioned a face-saving reduction in the tariffs, enabling the nullifiers to declare victory and go home. The most serious constitutional crisis before the Civil War had been averted.

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