So in an amazingly tone-deaf (and just wrong) political move, Virginia's new Republican Governor (you cannot imagine a Democrat doing this) has re-instated Confederate History Month, and done so in an extensive statement that doesn't even mention slavery. Later, he mentioned that slavery was just "one of many aspects" of the Civil War. Sort of like, getting shot in the heart by a bullet would have been "one of many aspects" leading to a person's death. One of my favorite parts of my undergraduate education was a 2-semester sequence on 19th century American history. Basically, the antecedents of the Civil War and the war and it's consequences. Despite all the rationalizations, etc., of Southern apologists, the war was overwhelmingly about slavery (actually, I'm partial to Eric Foner's thesis that it was more about competing visions of America, it's just that one of those visions was about slavery, and one was about free labor). Okay, all that said, I particularly enjoyed two takes on this.
First, unusually enough, who more often than not seems to be aiming to be the new David Broder with his "they're both equally bad approach" he's always taking. Nice job here, though:
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month
notes that in April 1861, “the people of Virginia joined the
Confederate States of America.” I guess it depends on what you mean by
The 1860 Census counted
about 1.6 million people in Virginia. Of these, 58,000 or so were "free
persons of color," and roughly 433,000 were enslaved African Americans.
I think it’s safe to say that this 31 percent of “the people” did not
support a rebellion spearheaded by slaveholders…
And support for secession was hardly unanimous among the white 69
percent of the state. A state convention delayed and debated for months
in early 1861 before approving a secession ordinance rather than honor
President Lincoln's request for troops following the firing on Fort
Sumter. But even after that, about 22 percent of eligible white males
voted “no” on a secession referendum. The vote took place in May 1861,
when rebel sentiment was at a high and voting for the Union was both
practically futile and personally risky…
But if you take the 15 percent of the total population who voted
"no" in the secession referendum as a rough estimate of statewide
pro-Union sentiment among whites, and add to it the 31 percent of
Virginians who were black, you get 46 percent — i.e., nearly half of
"the people" within the boundaries of the state as they existed at the
McDonnell’s proclamation has been called an
affront to the state’s African-American population, past and present,
which it is. But it’s also an insult to the not-insignificant minority
of white Virginians who remained loyal to their country and their flag.
Jon Chait also has a smart take (as always) about the role of Virginia's highly unusual 1-term limit:
Last year, the Richmond Times-Dispatch endorsed Bob McConnell for governor, citing his "moderate temperament." Now (via Greg Sargent) the newspaper is expressing alarm over
McConnell's decision to reinstate Confederate History Month, and to
completely ignore slavery in his proclamation, his latest embrace of
hard-right social conservatism.
Of course this is an inherent problem with Virginia's cockamamie
system that limits governors to one term. Not only do you lose the
ability to retain a competent governor — and Virginia has had two
straight — but you give every incentive for a candidate to feint to
the center and then govern from the extreme once in office. Lots of
people supported McDonnell because he insisted he was not a social
issues warrior. Once he's in office, it's obvious that he lied, but the
voters can't do anything about it.
Just pathetic that a modern Governor would feel they need to engage in such transparent (and historically flawed) pandering to prejudiced Whites (Behind a substantial majority of your "it's our heritage" Southerners, I guarantee you will find negative attitudes towards Blacks).