November 9, 2015

GOP: The Second Confederacy

Sam Smith - It was good to see Nicholas Lehman in the New Yorker give some support to an argument your editor have been making for years without much response. As I put it in 2012:
History books and the media tell us that the Civil War is long over, but in truth the South only lost the right to secede and to own slaves. Much of the rest of American politics - including our militarism, the excessive role of class in a supposedly democratic society, and our skill at making disaster look pretty, reflects the continuing victories of southern states and the power of their politicians in our national legislature.

If this seems exaggerated, consider this: it took a century for the descendants of former black slaves to be granted legal equality with other Americans. We called it civil rights, but, in fact, it was unfinished business of the Civil War.
Today, half of the GOP candidates are from southern states that represent only about one third of the population of the country. Here are some excerpts from Lehmann’s New Yorker article:

Nicholas Lehmann, New Yorker - The South was the country’s aberrant region—wayward, backward, benighted—but it was at last going to join properly in the national project: that was the liberal rhetoric that accompanied the civil-rights movement. It was also the rhetoric that accompanied Reconstruction, which was premised on full citizenship for the former slaves. Within a decade, the South had raised the price of enforcement so high that the country threw in the towel and allowed the region to maintain a separate system of racial segregation and subjugation. For almost a century, the country wound up granting the conquered South very generous terms.

The civil-rights revolution, too, can be thought of as a bargain, not simply a victory: the nation has become Southernized just as much as the South has become nationalized. Political conservatism, the traditional creed of the white South, went from being presumed dead in 1964 to being a powerful force in national politics. During the past half century, the country has had more Presidents from the former Confederacy than from the former Union. Racial prejudice and conflict have been understood as American, not Southern, problems.

... After slavery had ended and Reconstruction gave way to the Jim Crow system, the Democratic Party was for decades an unlikely marriage of the white South (the black South effectively couldn’t vote) and blue-collar workers in the North.

... The great black migration to the North and the West, which peaked in the nineteen-forties and fifties, partly nationalized at least one race’s version of Southern culture, and, by converting non-voters to voters through relocation, helped generate the political will that led to the civil-rights legislation of the nineteen-sixties. Once those laws had passed, the South became for the Republican Party what it had previously been for the Democratic Party, the essential core of a national coalition. The South is all over this year’s Republican Presidential race.

... The slave states developed an elaborate and distinctively American binary racial system, in which everybody across a wide range of European origins was put into one category, white, and everybody across a wide range of African origins (including those with more white forebears than black forebears) was put into another category, black. These tendentious categories have been nationalized for so long that they seem natural to nearly all Americans.


Sam Smith, The uncivil war continues, 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The South won the civil war in 1876. But after WWII the US is just a pit crew for global and outer space conquest. Although Britain gave birth to US imperialism, today's dominant cultural traits were mostly diffused from German fascism and rocket science. Defeating fascism in WWII, like defeating the Confederacy, became a source of apology. The US interprets those two wars as ending antisemitism and slavery respectively. Taboos prevent further examination.
Robotic capitalism may have no use for human labor or the masters of the 1%, making a mockery of any human conceit of mastery. 1984 arrived in the US during the Reagan era, perhaps also 2001 arrived with the victory of HAL. The logic of technology became more powerful than any human ability to prevent the obsolescence of the species in an environment increasingly hostile to flora and fauna. Capitalism will have little use for earthlings in its project of colonization of planets hostile to life. Sanders gives a final argument for socialist human worth with the end of society within sight in the next century as a Pottersville of robots better adapted also to conditions on Mars and the Moon.