Civil War historians have a difficult time explaining how America's Southern aristocracy convinced poor sharecroppers to fight a war on their behalf. The majority of Confederate soldiers who charged the cannonballs and bullets of the Union Army were rarely the monied aristocrats who started that war. They weren't the ones who owned plantations and slaves. But they were willing to fight a war so aristocrats could keep their slaves. We should be honest with ourselves about a war that killed 600,000 Americans. It was not a war about high ground principals like "states' rights," or "economic equality." Respected Civil War scholars have written mountains of books explaining that the driving force for that war was that an aristocracy wanted to perpetuate its slavery money machine. But it was different for the typical confederate soldier. Their war of "Northern Aggression" was ginned up more from a fear that their social status might fall to the point that there would be no class distinction between themselves and emancipated slaves.
The aristocratic plantation owners are back, and in 2009, they have a new batch of people willing to fight their unprincipaled war. These new aristocrats don't grow cotton. They are industrialists who don't want their billions taxed or regulated. They are modern mammoth health insurance companies that own huge portions of America's wealth. They are the petroleum and coal giants who will lose money with a sane American energy policy. And the thing they have in common with the old South slave owners is that they are still willing to divide America by ginning up hate, fear and racism to get what they want.
The Southern Civil War aristocrats orchestrated a virtual suicide mission for rebel "believers" in a way that disguised the aristocracy's selfish interests. To the soldiers, it was in part about impeding the progress of the black man. But to the aristocrat, it was simply about money. When Jimmy Carter made his claim that racism is the driving force behind most of the Obama detractors, he only stated half the problem.
The signs being flashed around at teabagger-type rallies these days depicting Obama as part monkey and part man are being carried by committed racists who originate on the low rungs of our intellectual food chain. But the rest of the story is that America's new plantation owners are helping to energize and finance the crowd that carries those signs.
The 21st Century version of plantation owners were thrilled to see South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson rally their frenzied rank and file. The small irony is that Wilson has the credentials to lead. After all, he was once a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. More importantly, just like the Limbaugh and Beck types, he has always been a voice for racism.
The racism alive in the crowd of unhinged crazies is angrier than it was 144 years ago. Because for this bunch, it's clear that they have lost in the war to stifle progress for black America. After all, they are the ones standing outside the gate of a White House where an emancipated black man sits as the most powerful, respected, and influential leader in the world.