Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Conservatives secede, liberals endure

I recently came across a very interesting piece that argues that although they lost the war, the Confederates actually won the peace:  not a Tea party, but a Confederate Party.   First, a little history:
After the U.S. forces won on the battlefield in 1865 and shattered the organized Confederate military, the veterans of that shattered army formed a terrorist insurgency that carried on a campaign of fire and assassination throughout the South until President Hayes agreed to withdraw the occupying U. S. troops in 1877.
By the time it was all over, the planter aristocrats were back in control, and the three constitutional amendments that supposedly had codified the U.S.A’s victory over the C.S.A.– the 13th, 14th, and 15th — had been effectively nullified in every Confederate state. The Civil Rights Acts had been gutted by the Supreme Court, and were all but forgotten by the time similar proposals resurfaced in the 1960s. Blacks were once again forced into hard labor for subsistence wages, denied the right to vote, and denied the equal protection of the laws.
In other words, the South did rise again!  And its culture endures, entrenched in the Old South but also  other parts of the country, particularly Appalachia and parts of the rural west.  Not in great shape in many respects, and a net taker, but in control of our political process.  The author draws specific comparisons to the Tea Party-inspired threats of secession and nullification.
The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.
That worldview is alive and well. During last fall’s government shutdown and threatened debt-ceiling crisis, historian Garry Wills wrote about our present-day Tea Partiers: “The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.”
Here's the thing:
When in the majority, Confederates protect the established order through democracy. If they are not in the majority, but have power, they protect it through the authority of law. If the law is against them, but they have social standing, they create shams of law, which are kept in place through the power of social disapproval. If disapproval is not enough, they keep the wrong people from claiming their legal rights by the threat of ostracism and economic retribution. If that is not intimidating enough, there are physical threats, then beatings and fires, and, if that fails, murder.
Violence.  Guns.  Bombing abortion clinics.  And the attempt to render the president illegitimate (birther conspiracies, etc) because he challenges the social order.  A black man dares to be president.
This is not a universal, both-sides-do-it phenomenon. Compare, for example, the responses to the elections of our last two presidents. Like many liberals, I will go to my grave believing that if every person who went to the polls in 2000 had succeeded in casting the vote s/he intended, George W. Bush would never have been president. I supported Gore in taking his case to the Supreme Court. And, like Gore, once the Court ruled in Bush’s favor — incorrectly, in my opinion — I dropped the issue. 
For liberals, the Supreme Court was the end of the line. Any further effort to replace Bush would have been even less legitimate than his victory. ....I don’t recall anyone suggesting that military officers refuse his orders on the grounds that he was not a legitimate president. 
Barack Obama, by contrast, won a huge landslide in 2008, getting more votes than any president in history. And yet, his legitimacy has been questioned ever since. The Birther movement was created out of whole cloth, there never having been any reason to doubt the circumstances of Obama’s birth. Outrageous conspiracy theories of voter fraud — millions and millions of votes worth — have been entertained on no basis whatsoever. Immediately after Obama took office, the Oath Keeper movement prepared itself to refuse his orders
A black president calling for change, who owes most of his margin to black voters — he himself is a violation of the established order. His legitimacy cannot be conceded.
Fascinating concept.

This isn't limited to the Old Confederacy, of course.  It seems to be a particular type of conservatism that trends towards nullification and threats.   Consider the recent ire of conservatives in the Roman Catholic church, outraged that Pope Francis is calling for a more merciful face on doctrine.  We can't have that.  Note the hysteria, manifest in columnist Ross Douthat's recent piece threatening a schism 
 over the possibility that divorcés could be readmitted to Commuion, or gays accepted.

No change can be allowed, and if it comes, then there will be schism.  No dynamic tension is possible.  We will walk, back to the former Pope.  

Here's an interesting article in the National Catholic Reporter on the small numbers of  vocal, angry conservatives and their leader Cardinal Burke.

Well, the Episcopal Church saw this too.  The conservatives were very clearly "my way or the highway", especially over the issues of sexuality.   Democratic polity be damned.  You can't do this, or we will walk, and deny your validity.  And so there was ACNA, and attempts to replace TEC in the Anglican Communion with a band of angry conservatives defined by what they are against.

So I would put it to you that there is a disturbing trend amongst a certain type of conservative that sees a defense of a particular social order as a high calling, even if it requires the destruction of an institution.

Shut down the government.  Repeal Obamacare.  Drown the government in the bathtub.  Unpave the streets, dismiss the police.  Every man for himself, with a gun at the window.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

I have a theory - it's not fully thought through and perhaps debunkable by those more knowledgeable of history than me - so let's call it a hunch: It seems to me that whenever a left-wing movement gets any real power, it must be destroyed. Not negotiated with, not compromised with, certainly not worked with - total annihilation. Even though he isn't particularly left, the GOP gives NO credit to Obama for ANYTHING (which is why the recent elections were no surprise to me). Have you seen that letter floating around the interwebs today that is supposedly from the FBI telling MLK to kill himself? Think about left-wing religious and political movements in South America. Heck, we're still mad at hippies.

I know this argument falls apart when you think about many left leaning western governments - Canada, Australia, much of Europe. Here's where history fails me a bit, but I don't think any of those governments had entrenched right wing/corporatist establishment fighting any and all progress and they were always of a mind that government could be used to advance society (and lookie - it does!).