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For Many Republicans, Every Day is Confederate Heritage Month

April 3, 2013

While April Fool's Day is over, Confederate Heritage Month is just beginning. Every year, the seven states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia and Georgia remember the Lost Cause with proclamations, reenactments and other historical events. But Americans didn't need the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans to whitewash U.S. history by claiming "the South was the most peaceful, rural, and Christian part of America before war and Reconstruction destroyed the pastoral way of life here." With their latest attempts to resurrect secession, nullification and other evils of the antebellum era, for many Republicans every day is Confederate Heritage Month.

Consider, for example, North Carolina, where "a bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide." That thepost- Civil War 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court say otherwise is apparently no barrier for GOP House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes and his ten co-sponsors:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Of course, this is far from the only instance in which the Party of Lincoln seems determined to unlearn the lessons of the Civil War by championing state nullification of federal laws. Suggesting that South Carolina's effort to nullify federal tariffs starting in 1828 was a blessing, in 2010 Obamacare foes began claiming state sovereignty trumps the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. As Georgia Congressman and Senate hopeful Paul Broun warned that spring:

"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."

The new "Tentherism" was embodied by Minnesota State Senator Tom Emmer, the Republicans' ultimately unsuccessful choice to succeed Governor Tim Pawlenty. As TPM recounted:

He has even proposed a state constitutional amendment that would allow federal laws to operate in Minnesota only if they were consented to by super-majorities of the state legislature.

But that quixotic effort pales in comparison to the one now underway in many GOP states to block any new federal gun control regulations.
The Article VI Supremacy Clause is unambiguous in stating that the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States "shall be the supreme Law of the Land." Nevertheless, Tea Party inspired Republicans did not read the document they claim to love. As ABC News explained:

From the Mississippi governor to lawmakers in Texas, Missouri and Wyoming, even local sheriffs in Oregon and Kentucky, many of those who oppose the president's proposal believe it is within their legal right to not only refuse to enforce federal legislation, but to make it a crime for a federal agent to try and enforce the law in their states.

Despite near-universal condemnation from legal scholars calling their proposed state statutes "outrageously unenforceable" and "pure political theater," Republicans in Arizona and Texas are advocating for "gun secession bills" nullifying federal laws and making their enforcement within state lines a felony. Encouraged by Governor Phil Bryant, Mississippi Republican state Reps. Gary Chism and Jeff Smith filed a bill this month to form a "Joint Legislative Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Laws." The Mississippi Balance of Powers Act reads in part:

If the Mississippi State Legislature votes by simple majority to neutralize any federal statute, mandate or executive order on the grounds of its lack of proper constitutionality, then the state and its citizens shall not recognize or be obligated to live under the statute, mandate or executive order.

But while these and other Republicans claim the Tenth Amendment is the basis for their ridiculous assertions of state sovereignty, their real inspiration seems to come from the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.
In most respects, the CSA Constitution is nearly identical to the American one, even including its own Supremacy Clause. Otherwise, that document produced by rebels and traitors was one only a Tea Partier could love:

Language promoting "the general welfare" was omitted, while the right to own slaves was explicitly guaranteed although foreign slave trade was forbidden).
The president, serving a single six-year term, was given line-item veto power over the budget, and his cabinet awarded nonvoting seats in Congress. To guarantee Southerners their much-desired states' rights, the federal government had no authority to levy protective tariffs, make internal improvements, or overrule state court decisions, while states had the right to sustain their own armies and enter into separate agreements with one another, and were given greater power in amending the constitution.

That's not all. Starting with its Preamble, it is the CSA Constitution which seems to provide talking points for today's Republican gun control foes:

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

And in the Article I, Section 2 of the Confederate Constitution, supposed Second Amendment defenders can find the grounds for removing federal judges and officials in their respective states:

The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment; except that any judicial or other Federal officer, resident and acting solely within the limits of any State, may be impeached by a vote of two-thirds of both branches of the Legislature thereof.

But Republican opponents of the President's common sense--and popular--proposals to curb violence don't need to take his word for it that their schemes are suspect under the United States Constitution. As Justice Antonin Scalia explained during their last bout of secessionitis over what became the Affordable Care Act, "If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede." And as the New York Times reported in December, Scalia in his majority opinion in the Heller case made clear that a wide range of firearms regulations would still pass constitutional muster:

Still, the decision also contained a long list of laws and regulations that would, the court said, be unaffected. Among them were "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools."
"Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill," Justice Scalia wrote. Government buildings in general could still ban guns. And the court said it had no quarrel with "laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
Justice Scalia added that laws banning "dangerous and unusual weapons" are "another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms." He gave an example: "M-16 rifles and the like."
When the case was argued in 2008, Justice Scalia suggested that other kinds of weapons and ammunition could be regulated. "I don't know that a lot of people have machine guns or armor-piercing bullets," he said. "I think that's quite unusual."

But what should be very unusual is to claim that If only African-Americans had been armed, slavery would never have happened. As Gun Appreciation Day chairman Larry Ward explained in January:

"I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history."

And even if slavery was a sad chapter in American history, Arizona Republican Trent Franks insisted in 2010, African-Americans are living through worse today:

In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say "How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can't believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible." And we're right, we're right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America's soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery.

That might seem like a shocking ignorant and grotesquely offensive statement to most Americans. But as the last few years reveal, it's all in a day's work for the drafters of the various Confederate Heritage Month proclamation. Georgia law honors "those who served in its armed forces and government, and all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause which they held so dear." In April 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a proclamation recognizing Confederate History Month and the South's "four year war...for independence." Within days, however, McDonnell was forced to apologize after it was revealed that his proclamation did not recognize the existence slavery. (The next month, Texas conservatives approved an overhaul of the state's textbooks which would remove the word "slave" from the term "slave trade.")
For then Mississippi Governor and former RNC chairman Haley Barbour, McDonnell's supposed oversight was nothing to get exercised about. As he explained:

"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."

It didn't matter for diddly, either, for Virginia Republican legislators, who on January 20, 2013--that is, the second inauguration of America's first black President--voted to redistrict their state before adjourning to commemorate the birthday of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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