And the futile rehash of the end of the closed primary for elections to Congress wasn’t the only thing interesting that Louisiana’s Republican State Central Committee tackled last weekend to disrupt the typically low relevance of these kinds of meetings. It also addressed whether it should issue some kind of request for official commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War as another round of Confederate History Month.
All right, this is not the weightiest activity a party governance board could address, but in some ways it’s even more interesting than the primary debate. As noted elsewhere, this effort creates an interesting juxtaposition between laudable aspects of existence the rebel regime, such as a willingness to defend against perceived tyranny, and the inconvenient fact (no matter how much deniers and revisionists attempt to obscure this) that its essential nature first and foremost was shaped by its support of a great evil, slavery.
But as is typical in the debate over whether April as Confederate History Month ought to be used as a time to study and reflect about the conflict – past governors as well as black mayors find no problem in proclaiming this – arguments on both sides turn out shallow and uninformed. Thus the main objection at the meeting in question to the motion to issue was that it was a “racist” issue that would draw unfavorable media coverage.
One wonders whether the hapless official that made this remark even knows the history of his own political party. The Republican Party, in essence, started out as a single-issue interest group supporting abolition of slavery of blacks that organized itself into a political party. Its rapid ascent to power (aided by discord among Democrats) was the last straw to pro-slavery (most) Southerners who decided preemptively to try to leave the Union and was reviled by the Confederacy. The South’s hatred of the party intensified when after the failed rebellion the federal government, controlled by the party, imposed measures such as equality and freedom for ex-slave blacks. When federal troops withdrew and Southern states took on their own affairs, in only a few years Republicans lost all political power they had and blacks lost protection of most of their political and economic rights.
If there is any institution in America that could call for study and reflection of the Confederacy’s impact on American history without any misinterpretation of its motives, it would be the one that was most instrumental in combating the Confederacy’s institutionalized racism, the Republican Party. Thus, objecting to such a motion on the basis that the party which sacrificed much to end slavery and to bring full citizenship to blacks would look “racist” in advocating study of that very process and era simply is absurd, and demonstrates again the muddled thinking that often accompanies this issue.