A modest proposal: no one displaying the Confederate flag gets to lecture any American about patriotism - ever. Ditto for anyone trafficking in Confederate nostalgia as a political strategy. Of course, that new red, white and blue rule would pose a problem for today's Republican Party. After all, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, the same man who delivered the GOP's response to President Obama's 2010 State of the Union, this week resurrected "Confederate History Month" in Richmond. And to be sure, when it comes to flying the Stars and Bars and talking up secession, nullification and "the war of Yankee aggression," McDonnell has plenty of company among the leading lights of the Republican Party.
Exhuming a ritual buried by his Democratic predecessors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, McDonnell called on Virginians to celebrate the South's failure in the conflict bookended by Sumter and Appomattox, one he deemed "a four year war ... for independence." More shocking still, McDonnell's proclamation ignored the issue of slavery altogether because, he claimed, "I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia." Governor Jim Gilmore's 1999 declaration at least recognized slavery as the cause of the war that killed over 600,000 Americans, a point a humbled General Ulysses Grant made for posterity at Appomattox:
"I felt sad and depressed at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though their cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought."
Sadly, Bob McDonnell is far from alone among Republican leaders past and present reminding Americans that the old times there are not forgotten.
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If you thought you had heard that outdated term of Dixie revisionist history recently, you did.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 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.
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