Republicans Party Like It's 1861
Until this week, Republican Congressman Zach Wamp's claim to fame had been breaking his term limits pledge. But now, the Tennessee gubernatorial candidate is making voters a new promise: secession. And as it turns out, Wamp has plenty of company in transforming the Party of Lincoln into the Party of Jefferson Davis. From their inflammatory rhetoric and antebellum nostalgia to their resurrection of discredited Confederate notions of secession, nullification and states rights, the GOP's fans of Dixie constantly remind Americans that the old times there are not forgotten
Wamp made his secession threat during a discussion of the insurance mandate required by the new health reform law:
"I hope that the American people will go to the ballot box in 2010 and 2012 so that states are not forced to consider separation from this government," said Wamp during an interview with Hotline OnCall...
"Patriots like Rick Perry have talked about these issues because the federal government is putting us in an untenable position at the state level."
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 antebellum 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If you thought you had heard that outdated term of Dixie revisionist history recently, you did.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."
The next logical step for the neo-Confederate s of the GOP is to threaten secession. And as ThinkProgress reported a year ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry suggested to a furious Tea Party rally that the secession option should be on the table:
Perry told reporters following his speech that Texans might get so frustrated with the government they would want to secede from the union.
"There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."
To be sure, violating the oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States is an odd definition of patriotism. Sadly for Perry, Wamp and the GOP secessionists, Supreme Court Justice and would-be Elena Kagan colleague Antonin Scalia crushed their hopes:
"If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede."
Hoping to stand the Civil War on its head, President Obama's Republican opponents are once again turning to nullification. Suggesting that South Carolina's effort to nullify federal tariffs starting in 1828 was a blessing, foes of the new health care reform law claiming state sovereignty trumps federal supremacy. The new "Tentherism" is embodied by Minnesota State Senator Tom Emmer, the Republicans' choice to succeed Governor Tim Pawlenty. As TPM recounted last week:
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.
Even more appalling, the Republican Confederacy of Dunces literally whitewashes the national stain of slavery. Before Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul longed for a return to the separate-but-equal days of Plessy v. Ferguson, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks declared:
"Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery."
Of course, for the likes Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Mississippi's Haley Barbour, slavery itself is merely a historical footnote. Barbour explained why his state's proclamation of Confederate History Month, like that of Virginia, made no mention of it at all:
"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."
In the battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the Republican National Committee, too, concluded slavery was just a nit. Unable to prevent three-fifths of the Senate from voting on Kagan's nomination, Republicans instead are suggesting the Founders' three-fifths of a person standard for counting slaves was no defect. As an RNC memo from May charges:
"Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?"
And so it goes. As Hotline reported, Zach Wamp hopes the American people "will send people to Washington that will, in 2010 and 2012, strictly adhere" to the Constitution. Just not, as TPM pointed out, the one you think. Under the Constitution of the Confederate States of America:
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.
So much for the Party of Lincoln.