The Other Neo-Cons

The Other Neo-Cons

by digby

Governor Bob McDonnell's lame "apology" for declaring confederate history month without mentioning slavery makes me laugh. This is the very definition of the Atwater dogwhistle, cruder than anything we've seen in quite some time and it says something about where our politics are at the moment.

Sure, he backtracked but it's "out there" and now he gets to portray himself as a victim of the totalitarian left for merely standing up for his region's historical legacy. Poor aggrieved fellow, suffering once again at the hands of those who simply hate him for his freedom.

If he really wants to fetishize his heritage, fellow southerner Ed Kilgore reminds him of the century of Lost Cause mythology which these confederate types never seem to celebrate with quite the same fervor. It's not hard to see why:
It would be immensely useful for Virginians and southerners generally to spend some time reflecting on the century or so of grinding poverty and cultural isolation that fidelity to the Romance in Gray earned for the entire region, regardless of race. Few Americans from any region know much about the actual history of Reconstruction, capped by the shameful consignment of African Americans to the tender mercies of their former masters, or about the systematic disenfranchisement of black citizens (and in some places, particularly McDonnell’s Virginia, of poor whites) that immediately followed.

A Neo-Confederate History Month could be thoroughly bipartisan. Republicans could enjoy greater exposure to the virulent racism of such progressive icons as William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson, not to mention Democratic New Deal crusaders in the South like Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo. The capture of the political machinery of Republican and Democratic parties in a number of states, inside and beyond the South, by the revived Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, would be an interesting subject for further study as well.

Most of all, a Neo-Confederate History Month could remind us of the last great effusion of enthusiasm for Davis and Lee and Jackson and all the other avatars of the Confederacy: the white southern fight to maintain racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s. That’s when “Dixie” was played as often as the national anthem at most white high school football games in the South; when Confederate regalia were attached to state flags across the region; and when the vast constitutional and political edifice of pre-secession agitprop was brought back to life in the last-ditch effort to make the Second Reconstruction fail like the first.

Bob McDonnell should be particularly responsible, as a former Attorney General of his state, for reminding us all of the “massive resistance” doctrine preached by Virginia Senator Harry Byrd in response to federal judicial rulings and pending civil rights laws, and of the “interposition” theory of nullification spread most notably by Richmond News Leader editor James Jackson Kilpatrick.

Any Neo-Confederate History Month would be incomplete, of course, without reference to the contemporary conservative revival of states’ rights and nullification theories redolent of proto-Confederates, Confederates, and neo-Confederates.

McDonnell left out slavery for obvious reasons. He left the century after the civil war out of his declaration for the same ones.