Not since the glory days of our seventh vice president, South Carolina's John C. Calhoun, has the stink of secession been as strong as it is today. I can smell it. Maybe you can too.
Calhoun, who is a pretty much forgotten figure in American history (lending credence to the truth that history is indeed written by the winners), had his moments of radical fame. Following the Tariff Act of 1828, Calhoun invented the idea of a concurrent majority. Now you must understand the sort of English language in common usage at that time. Gibberish to some. To Calhoun, his concurrent majority was actually a lesser number, a minority acting as if it had won. The concept was born from the perceived need to avoid the evil of representative democracy and the tyranny of its real majority. Beginning to sound more familiar? The way Calhoun saw it, the losers should be treated as the actual winners. The minority ought to possess the political power to prevent the will of the majority from prevailing. Put in a contemporary context, Calhoun's concurrent majority is exactly the same as -- "Heads I win. Tails you lose."
This tasty morsel of nineteenth century political philosophy may be seen as responsible for the modern Senate filibuster. No doubt, today's minority -- the Republican Party in the Senate -- has become our own concurrent majority. Through the cooperation of Senate Democrats and the failure of the Democrat in the White House to actively oppose and successfully depose this GOP cabal, the influence of John C. Calhoun rides dominant across the modern political landscape.
A Son of the South, slaveholder, racist, wealthy plantation owner, Calhoun -- whose dying declaration was "The South! The poor South!" -- is best remembered for his Doctrine of Nullification. You remember that one. It's the political justification for the single most anti-American act in our national history -- the secession of the Southern states, their creation of the rebel Confederacy and the greatest act of domestic terrorism imaginable -- the Civil War.
How is it that such a man as John C. Calhoun could be the present day hero of Republicans running for public office? The answer can be found in the person of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. Although they deny it, the more they protest the obvious, the more obvious becomes the protest. Republicans and their associated allies on the far right, driven to the edge of political paranoia, are just sick to death at the very idea of a President Obama.
Take Georgia for example. Here a slew of candidates vie for the Republican nomination for governor. The assumption is that in this heavily white, Heart of Dixie, solid blue state, no Democrat can win a statewide election. McCain trounced Obama here in 2008. Since all statewide GOP nominees view their primary victory as their election, these contests have been fierce battles. The four leading Republicans are all running identical John C. Calhoun campaigns. Their main -- their only -- enemy is the President of the United States and his administration. Yes, they are asking to be elected governor of Georgia because they are anti-Union. They proudly promise, if elected they will defy the Congress, the president and the Supreme Court. On what? Whatever you got.
They are running TV ads pledging to stop "Obamacare" (by spending dwindling state funds to fight the new health care law in federal court) -- to copy Arizona's immigration law in Georgia (despite the fact that illegal immigration is not now and never has been a public policy problem in Georgia) -- to protect "your right" to gun ownership under the Second Amendment (even though anyone can walk into a gun shop anywhere in Georgia and walk out with a gun today) -- and to somehow eliminate a woman's constitutional right to abortion (for Southerners this conjures up the vision of governors blocking the schoolhouse door). Not to be outdone by Republicans running for governor, two GOP lawyers running for state Attorney General are likewise pledging to do the very same things. No mention is made by either of them of the actual duties of the state Attorney General, probably because none of these issues appears anywhere within the scope of that job description.
On the downside of the Republican ticket, all the way down to an office called the Secretary of State of Georgia (a job few if any Georgians know anything about), the leading GOP candidate to win this nomination devotes his entire website trumpeting his association with a FOX News TV celebrity-personality and something called the "9-12 movement." And until now I thought this meant nothing more than a moment of mid-morning relief.
The Republican objective is clear as a bell -- and not the Liberty Bell. Being anti-Obama, anti-federal government, anti-Union and anti-American -- that's the New Patriotism of the Republican Party.
Here in Georgia it seems Democrats are reacting with greater gusto than their counterparts in Washington, D.C. The apparent Democratic nominee for governor, former Governor Roy Barnes, can be seen on TV asking how Georgia can ever attract the new capital investment required to create desperately needed jobs when "people are laughing at us." Barnes' reference to the pathetic, John C. Calhoun style aspirants in the Republican Party does not go unnoticed.
We shall see if the stink of secession, hanging heavy in our hot summer air, survives the cooler breezes of autumn.