Republicans like to harp on the role Democrats played down through history in defending slavery, imposing Jim Crow, battling the Civil Rights movement, and lionizing the Confederacy. It’s a complicated parlor trick, a miracle of political gaslighting, since the many of the same people who played those roles in the Democratic Party became Republicans to continue the Lost Cause. From Jesse Helms to David Duke, all the way up to Roy Moore, the old Democratic segregationists became brand new Republican “culture warriors.”
Today, which party best represents the values of the Confederates? Forget for a moment about a generation of party-switching, and the wave of former Democrats who have remade the Republican Party. Instead, look at each party’s day-to-day actions. History can be distorted into a muddle by scam artists like Dinesh D’Souza, but Republicans are making decisions every day that communicate their loyalties clear as a church bell. One of those truth-telling moments is playing out right now in the Texas Legislature.
In the Texas Senate this week, the former Party of Lincoln rammed through SB 1663, which would effectively bar local governments from removing Confederate monuments. Like most efforts to defend Jim Crow and the Confederacy, SB 1663 conceals its intention behind deceptive language about the protection of “heritage” and “monuments.” This gaslighting always accompanies efforts to protect The Lost Cause, because the cause is utterly indefensible in the open. As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out, “There are no racists in America,” the white nationalist agenda leans on deceit and evasion to escape the revulsion it deserves.
Why are Republicans lining up against Democrats in Texas to protect the legacy of the Confederacy? Because the parties changed sides in the period between the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the late 1990’s. Though it took time for the party-switching to extend down the local level, no Democratic Presidential nominee has won a majority of white voters since 1964. In Southern states, which just a few years ago were still dominated by Democrats, support for the GOP among white men is now practically universal. If there are any white male Democrats in office across the South, you’ll have to search diligently to find them. A party that barely existed in any form in the South until the 1990’s is today, thanks to a flood of segregationist refugees, America’s Party of White Men.
Republicans will still occasionally mention Lincoln in ads or speeches, but when it’s time to pass laws they side with the Confederacy. Conroe Republican, Brandon Creighton, sponsored the bill to preserve Texas’ defense of the Confederacy. In a patronizing defense of his abhorrent bill, Creighton deployed the “lots of black friends” feint, explaining that there’s no one he respects more than his black colleagues whose passionate opposition he ignored.
Travel across Germany today and you’ll struggle to find Nazi symbols anywhere outside a museum. Germans have placed the horrors of their past in an appropriate setting, part of a determined effort to learn from terrible errors. Good luck finding a statue of Stalin in Poland or the Czech Republic. The monuments we keep reflect the values we cherish. Meanwhile, our Nazis remain on granite pedestals in major Texas cities. Their shadow is a potent, living harassment to non-whites who might try to assert their humanity.
Creighton offered this justification for preserving Confederate monuments in Texas:
I fear that we’ll look back and regret that this was a period where deleting history was more important than learning from it.
Here’s the question – what history lesson does he want the public to learn? Those statues teach a lesson every day to young black or brown Texans. That lesson is that violence will defeat any effort to gain their basic human rights in Texas, just as it has in the past. Thanks to that lesson, Texas consistently ranks at the bottom in voter participation. Thanks to that lesson, young people of color grow up in Texas with the knowledge that their nominally democratic government will neither respect or represent them.
What lessons is Creighton voting to teach? He’ll teach black children that the whites who slaughtered and enslaved their ancestors paid no price then, and will pay no price now. Those who murdered their ancestors were in fact raised up as models for future generations of whites. There was no Nuremberg after the Civil War. There was no reckoning for white supremacists after the Civil Rights Acts. The Lost Cause rides on.
Creighton, who by no accident is a Southern Baptist, wants to enjoy the comfort and privileges of white supremacy while washing his hands of its bloody price. It’s the polite bargain of the genteel racist, the upstanding member of the White Citizens’ Council who distances himself from the hooded riders who perform his labor. That blood won’t wash clean.
Those who want to keep Confederate monuments in their places have only one objective, white-washing our history. They are fighting to retain the hallowed status of slaveholders and traitors. What do you figure that makes them?
Republicans can talk all they want about the civil rights legacy they inherited from the party they captured. Their actions speak the truth while their mouths lie. Republicans will defend traitors at the price of your freedom, because they’ve abandoned their attachment to the Republic we share. They’ve made their choice and they must be made to own the consequences.
Sorry, but it’s really, really hard for me to worry about Confederate Monuments when trump is blowing up the stock market, N. Korea is firing missiles with nuclear capability; he has sent B-57s and a carrier to threaten Iran; and is doing god knows what in secret in Venezuela.
And, who does trump nominate for Secretary of Defense? A man with zero military experience. Guess he can relate.
OT, but this is such a good write-up about the census question and the supreme court.
The author sounds both a little angry and a little embarrassed for some members of the court.
also, presumed soul eating
I have the greatest respect for Linda Greenhouse’ reporting on SCOTUS. It was a great article but I felt she could hardly contain her cynicism coupled with disbelief that we now have DOJ and SCOTUS in trump’s hip pocket. I keep waiting for Roberts to have enough but guess his conservative bonafides are just too strong for him to lead.
Off topic but since it has been referred to several times on this blog I wanted to share a follow up story to the “Falwell-Pool boy” and Mr Cohen’s involvement. This story just keeps getting stranger and illustrates the utter hypocrisy of the Christian Right.
The Confederacy’s overarching purpose was to make fact a matter of personal perspective, expediency, preference, time, location, etc. Their heirs can’t state the simple facts that the South fought for white supremacy, and that all these statues commemorate that cause.
Could you go into more detail on this, please? I thought the confederacy’s overarching purpose was to prevent the freeing of enslaved people.
One of the common rationalizations for slavery was the idea that Black people are inferior to White people. Here’s a link to the infamous “Cornerstone Speech”, delivery by CSA VP Alexander Stephens:
(A bit of historical irony, his full name was Alexander Hamilton Stephens, so named in honor of Alexander Hamilton, who was an outspoken abolitionist.)
Obviously the CSA apologists don’t like being reminded of this, or the various declarations of secession from the individual rebelling states. The one from Texas is particularly cringeworthy.
Totally off topic, but very current.
I need someone to explain to me the next step with the Contempt of Congress situation of one of the lackeys on this regime. Besides saying “we think you are a bad person”, what are the options left for Congress.
What are the next steps in the process?
Gosh, this session of the TX Lege just seems to be totally off the rails. As much as there is to admire about the state of TX, the politics sucks almost as much as the ignorance of the legislators. This is but one of many incredible “things” that have been uttered.
As for the monuments issue, I know Creighton’s politics up close and personal from my 18 years living in proximity to the man. He is the archtypical constantly climbing republican – Man has big plans for himself and plays to his Tea Party and RR base all the time.
No way to sugarcoat this, Jonathan Stickland deserves to catch one of those nasty diseases that vaccinations keep at bay.
May it flare while in close proximity to a few other deserving TX legislators.
Gee…I thought violence was not the way to go….
Another point, this past week the NPR program “Reveal” reran a segment about Confederate “history” sites that promote the Lost Cause bullshit, sometimes courtesy of taxpayer $$. The clip that made me want to throw something was the oh-so-proper-Southern-Lady tour guide talking about how those poor slaves needed a kind master to take care of them, because they wouldn’t be able to fend for themselves. There’s the temptation to go on one of these tours just to confront the ignorance and try to make them squirm, but the downside is giving them $. Better to spend my $ at museums that don’t spread lies.
My challenge to these Lost Cause revisionists, exactly what about the CSA makes you so proud? What are the contributions of the CSA to humankind? I have a list for the USA.
America still has so far to go….Removing Confederate monuments doesn’t end hate.
Credit where credit is due, Ed Rogers spelled out the best monument test I’ve seen. If you are walking with a child and you pass a monument to some historical figure in the public square, and the child asks “What did that person do to deserve a statue?”, and if all you can say is “They fought for the CSA”, there’s your sign that it needs to be moved. There is a vitally important difference between remembering something and honoring something. Cemeteries and museums are the places for remembering. The public square should be restricted to only that which is worthy of being honored.
Stephen mentioned Florida (of which I have minimal experience), but I have noticed significant shifts over the years during business related trips to North Carolina and Georgia as well. I’ve been assuming that as those states economies diversify and continue to suck educated talent into Charlotte and Atlanta their electorate are changing.
It will be interesting to see what constitutes the confederate states by 2024 and 2028. In 2032 it will be interesting to see if even Texas can survive the rapidly changing demographics occurring around the country.
Sorry’bout the duplicate post.
The switch in party alignments has upended our national politics and not for the better. At least in the old alignment, the Southern Democrats were moderated by the national Democratic Party and the national Republican Party was able to retain some loyalty to their descendance from the Civil War era, despite being largely oriented towards big business and the wealthy oligopoly of America. Now the national Republican Party has the social values of the old Confederacy and the antebellum slave owners while retaining the orientation towards the wealthy and corporations.
Florida is close to an inflection point. It’s history mirrors Texas racist past. But new comers are close to swamping the old Confederacy. I am the Great grandson of a confederate veteran. My self and most of my cousins are part of the rising new south. Educated sophisticated professional southerners generally are.
Everywhere throughout the old confederacy, the trend is the same – as soon as the “rising new south” begins to threaten the dominance of the old guard, the old guard reacts by extreme gerrymandering, extreme voter suppression and other means of ensuring the continued dominance of the old guard. That began in FL in 2000 and continues to this day. It began in NC, a few years later and continues. It has happened in TX and GA.
I witnessed the conversion from Democrat to Republican when I lived in Mississippi in the late 1990s.
I remember it in Beaumont and later in Houston. It was a source of amazement, as people changed sides and then magically forgot they had ever been Democrats. Within a few years, the whole transition was treated as though it never happened.
Yep, it’s like it just never happened … except we saw it!