Writing in Salon, Rick Perlstein examines "what Haley Barbour's amnesia tells us" about Southern conservatives' historical revisionism. But largely lost in the imbroglio over Barbour's literal white-washing of the Jim Crow era is that the Mississippi Governor and would-have-been 2012 White House hopeful has plenty of company among the leading lights of the Republican Party. From flying the Confederate flag to talking up secession and nullification, Republicans for years have been casually trafficking in antebellum nostalgia.
In May, Texas conservatives approved an overhaul of the state's textbooks which would remove the word "slave" from the term "slave trade." Of course, that omission was in keeping with two others, as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Mississippi's Barbour celebrated Confederate History Month in their respective states, each without mentioning slavery. As Barbour put it:
"To me it's a sort of feeling that it's just a nit. That it is not significant. It's trying to make a big deal out of something that doesn't matter for diddly."
As for Michael Steele and the Republican National Committee, they apparently considered "nits" like the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to Constitution unnecessary, at least judging from the RNC's May memo attacking Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan:
"Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?"
As the health care reform debate reached its climax in March, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia was among those longing for the days of the ante bellum South. Missing the irony that health care is worst in those reddest of Southern states where Republicans poll best, Broun took to the House floor to show that he was still fighting the Civil War:
"If ObamaCare passes, that free insurance card that's in people's pockets is gonna be as worthless as a Confederate dollar after the War Between The States -- the Great War of Yankee Aggression."
If you thought you had heard that outdated term of Dixie revisionist history recently, you did. In February 2009, Missouri Republican Bryan Stevenson took exception to President Obama's support for the Freedom of Choice Act, legislation which would codify the reproductive rights protections of Roe v. Wade nationwide:
"What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression."
That expression was also a favorite of former Senate Majority Leader and later Minority Whip (really, you can't make this up) Trent Lott. Lott was a speaker in 1992 at an event of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor to the White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days. Among its offerings in seething racial hatred is a "Wanted" poster of Abraham Lincoln. Lott's also offered his rebel yell in the virulently neo-Confederate Southern Partisan, where in 1984 he called the Civil War "the war of aggression." That was years before he lauded the legendary racist and 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond:
"I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
As Americans learned this week, Trent Lott is not the only Mississippi Republican to support groups like the CCC and honor the Confederate flag. Former Republican National Committee Chairman and now Governor Haley Barbour wore a lapel pin with the image during his 2002 campaigns for the state house - and to keep the CSA emblem flying over it. And as the photographs show, Barbour literally broke bread with CCC racists at a barbeque in 2003.
Another neocon (that is, neo-Confederate) is former Attorney General John Ashcroft.