On the eve of the 2012 presidential election Andrew Sullivan offered the following analysis:
If Virginia and Florida go back to the Republicans, it’s the Confederacy entirely. You put the map of the Civil War over this electoral map, you’ve got the Civil War.
And in August Jesse Jackson suggested that, “The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy… It’s the Fort Sumter Tea Party.” Something happens to folks on the Left when they attempt to place a current political crisis involving the issue of race and the proper scope of the federal government in historical context. In recent days, such commentary from the Left has taken this meme that connects claims of political, moral and ideological dysfunction among the opposition to the Confederacy to the height of absurdity. Consider Colbert King’s recent Washington Post editorial.
Today there is a New Confederacy, an insurgent political force that has captured the Republican Party and is taking up where the Old Confederacy left off in its efforts to bring down the federal government….
The New Confederacy, as churlish toward President Obama as the Old Confederacy was to Lincoln, has accomplished what its predecessor could not: It has shut down the federal government, and without even firing a weapon or taking 620,000 lives, as did the Old Confederacy’s instigated Civil War.
Secession and the formation of the Confederacy took place only after the Democratic Party split along regional lines in 1860 and over a specific issue that had been festering for decades. There is nothing comparable taking place in the Republican Party at this moment. What is truly absurd, however, is King’s suggestion that what the Tea Party fringe has accomplished is somehow worse than breaking up the Union. Perhaps someone should remind him that eleven states managed to shut the federal government down within their own borders for four years.
Even more bizarre is a piece by Steven Rosenfeld that was picked up this past week by Salon.
The most apt historical precedent for today’s marauder Republicans is the old Confederacy, where the provocateurs are not merely intent on stopping federal governance, but withdrawing from it or sabotaging it if they can’t get their way. Today’s Tea Party darlings like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and the House right-wingers driving the federal shutdown are cut from the same disunionist cloth as the old Southerners who fomented secession and the Civil War…. Fox News is the disunionists’ Charleston Mercury, egging on the rebels, and seeking to convey legitimacy to their crusade to save government not by fixing things, but by blowing it up piece-by-piece.
There is a difference between taking an extreme position on the limits of government power and calling for disunion. No one is calling for the latter. Let me know when they do. Look, I am just as upset about this shutdown as the next person and I have nothing but contempt for the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, but let’s not place them in the same room with Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens.
Such comparisons may help to lower your blood pressure, but they fail to shed much light on the past or the present. They will, however, make for some interesting reading in my Civil War Memory class.