The Confederacy was a government founded on the preservation and expansion of slavery and White supremacy. “Our new government,” explained Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, in an 1861 speech, “is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”
There’s no question we should remember the Confederate assault on human freedom, but it’s immoral to say we should honor it. But while shame is appropriate for the Virginia Flaggers, it’s also true that there’s nothing interesting about Confederate sympathizers—they’re a mainstay of American life.
Just last month, we learned that a vocal neo-Confederate ran “new media” for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and ghost-wrote his first book. What’s interesting is what the group said on Independence Day: “God bless America…and God bless those who have the courage to stand in the face of tyranny…whether it be in 1776…1861…or 2013!”
It’s hard to read this as anything other than a reference to President Obama, whose loudest opposition comes from Tea Party groups that routinely describe him as a “tyrant” who threatens American freedom. The point isn’t to compare Tea Party groups to Confederate sympathizers but is something to keep in mind when noting, as The New York Times’ Ross Douthat did earlier this week, racial polarization in the electorate. Arguing against claims that Republicans are mostly to blame for the highly racialized voting of the 2012 election, when Whites pulled the lever overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney, Douthat writes that “racial bias alone can’t explain why the president went from losing non-college-educated White voters by only 18 points in 2008 to being 40 points underwater with that same demographic today.”