Will the Confederacy Decide the 2012 Election?

Update: Andrew Sullivan attempts to explain his statement, but only manages to dig a deeper hole for himself.

According to Andrew Sullivan, the Confederacy lives or at least the racism that pervaded those specific states during the Civil War era and it may decide the 2012 election.  More specifically Sullivan argued this morning on ABC’s This Week, “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.”  Whether George Will is correct in the details, he at least provides a reasonable counter-explanation re: a possible shift from blue to red state for Virginia and Florida.  More to the point, it reveals Sullivan’s stupidity.  I certainly believe that race is a factor in this election, but by linking the modern South with the Confederacy he perpetuates the myth that racism is somehow concentrated in that region alone.

There is absolutely no reason, apart from trying to introduce a seductive soundbite, to mention the Confederacy or the Civil War. It feeds what I call the “Continued War” narrative that is so popular with the mainstream media.  It’s a reductionist explanation that pits Northerners vs. Southerners and blacks vs. whites.  One can only imagine what Sullivan will say if Ohio goes for Romney.

Should We Still Associate Racism With Confederate Heritage?

The following clip was pulled from a recent NEH panel on the legacy of emancipation.  It included Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, and Thavolia Glymph.  I highly recommend viewing the entire session if you have the time, but for now check out this short clip from the Q&A.  In it an African-American student asks if we should still associate racism with Confederate heritage.  I am not surprised that Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, decided to respond and she does so in a very fair and balanced manner.  Coleman’s response reflects both the difficulties of her position as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy and someone who has listened closely to visitors hailing from very different backgrounds.  Yeah, count me as a fan of Christy Coleman.

John Brown Lives!

This event has been a long time in the making and I signed on to take part when I was still living in Virginia.  John Brown Lives! is a small organization led by Martha Swan, which focuses on public and educational outreach around issues related to freedom and oppression in history and in our world today.  Freedom Then, Freedom Now offers a little something for teachers, students, and anyone else who is interested in the history and legacy of emancipation.  The list of speakers and subjects to be discussed looks very interesting and David Blight will deliver the keynote address.  I am going to host a screening of Glory for the community and then work with a group of teachers on how they can use it in the classroom.  It promises to be a fun weekend. Continue reading

Is The Irrepressible Conflict School Making a Comeback?

A couple of recent titles leave me wondering whether some version of the interpretation that the Civil War was unavoidable owing to the loss of moderate influence is making a resurgence.  If so, to what extent has it been fueled by our current political culture?  It’s hard not to see this at work in David Goldfield’s recent book, America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, which focuses on the infusion of evangelical religion into political discourse as leading to the breakdown.  [The video is from a recent presentation based on his book at the Minnesota History Center.]  I just started William Cooper’s We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 so it may be too early to say much of anything that is constructive in this context, but consider one short passage in the preface:

But not all Americans wanted another compromise.  In the South, radical secessionists saw this moment, the election of a northern president heading a northern party by northern voters, as their opportunity to disrupt the Union.  The North had its own segment that spurned any compromise with the South.  These vigorous partisans of the triumphant Republican party were determined to celebrate their victory without any deal with an alarmed, uneasy South.

Of course, two books does not make a school of thought and I have not offered much in terms of historiography, but I thought it might help to get the intellectual juices flowing.  What do you think?