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Bob McDonnell, the GOP, and the Celebration of Confederate Virginia

06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I blogged a couple of days ago about Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's reprehensible decision to declare April 2010 Confederate History Month in that state:

-- Slavery? Check.

-- Rebellion? Check.

-- A bitter, divisive legacy? Check.

-- The antithesis of progress, enlightenment, and America's purported ideals? Check.

Well, the story is gaining national attention, and rightly so, given that it sheds a great deal of light not just on McDonnell himself but on Republicans generally, and on Virginia Republicans in particular, as well as on all those conservatives who seem to sympathize with the Confederacy (and all that it was about).

McDonnell's proclamation asks Virginians to "understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War." This goes well beyond asking them to remember the fallen, which perhaps wouldn't have been quite so bad. As the chairman of the state's Legislative Black Caucus, Kenneth Cooper Alexander, a Democrat, put it, the "proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed. Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic."

McDonnell has since backtracked a bit, trying to rationalize his decision: "I felt just as I've issued dozens and dozens of other commemorations, that it was something that was worthy of doing so people can at least study and understand that period of Virginia history and how it impacts us today," he said on Tuesday. Sorry, but it won't work. The organization behind the proclamation is the Sons of Confederate Veterans, apologists of the Confederacy, not a reputable academic group with an interest in advancing the study of U.S. history. Indeed, it was that very organization that was behind fellow Republican Gov. George Allen's proclamation calling the Civil War "a four-year struggle for [Southern] independence and sovereign rights."

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates puts McDonnell's decision in its proper Republican context:

The GOP is, effectively, the party of willfully unlettered Utopians. It is the party of choice for those who believe global warming is a hoax, that humans roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that homosexuals should work harder at not being gay.

That the party of unadulterated quackery also believes that Birth Of A Nation is more true to the Civil War than Battle Cry Of Freedom, is to be expected.

*****

This is who they are -- the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn't "have had all these problems," this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a "Real American" with no demonstrable interest in "Real America" then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.

McDonnell continues to backtrack, and to spin. For example, he has apologized for not mentioning slavery:

The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation.

Well, yes, of course. But he's still either a panderer to his right-wing base or a Confederate sympathizer, or both, and he can't just talk his way out of his proclamation. He deserves all the heat he's been taking. And the American people, it seems to me, should once again take a long, hard look at the Republican Party, and what really drives it.

Cross-posted from The Reaction.