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

Republican Party Refuses to Shed Confederate Past

The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition commented today on the continuing blind spot afflicting the Republican Party:

"What does it say about a national party when they are so scared of their neo-Confederate base? Why was there such silence from the leading lights of the GOP, when their much-praised, up-and-coming future contender Governor McConnell reinstated the racist Virginia practice of praising Confederate History Month? Why were the top Republican officials not all over the media--as they have been every day, all year long, condemning the President's health care plans--to condemn the blatant omission of slavery from a proclamation supposedly about Civil War history?"

Jackson continued: "The answer, of course, is that they were AWOL. Missing in action. Uncharacteristically quiet, about a fact which 'real Americans'--to recycle Sarah Palin's much-abused phrase--are quite clear on: that the Civil War was about slavery, one of the original sins of this nation's founding."

"And why were they missing in action?" Jackson asked. "Because they are in hock to their Southern, neo-Confederate base, as they have been ever since Richard Nixon adopted Strom Thurmond's Southern Strategy, and they are afraid to tell their neo-Confederates no, even when they are morally and factually wrong about such a major, major issue."

Jackson noted that Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney has a clarifying quote in his column today: "It's important to keep in mind that, for many Virginia conservatives, today's struggles against Obamacare and climate change laws are a continuation of the efforts by Jefferson Davis and the other secessionists in the 1860s. 'They were fighting for the same things that people in the 'tea party' are fighting for now,' said Grayson Jennings, first lieutenant commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which lobbied McDonnell to issue the proclamation."

Top Republican officials will no doubt claim that the Mr. Jennings does not speak for them. Too bad they were silent when their new star Governor "omitted" slavery from his Civil War history.

Reverend Jackson continued: "Right now, Republican Attorneys General in more than a dozen states are suing on behalf of 'states' rights,' supposedly to 'protect' their residents from the Democrats' health care law. Let us not develop historical amnesia here. Let us not forget the sordid history of states' rights, bound up in defending slavery, segregation, secession, and sedition. A shameful history, filled with the use of racial fears as wedge issues. A sad history, replete with the cowering of conservative elected officials in the face of massive evil and obvious violence and abuse."

"The legacies of slavery and segregation live on today, as the descendants of those victimized by slavery and segregation lag behind in all the statistics of gain, while leading the nation in all the statistics of pain. African-Americans lag behind in wealth, in home ownership, in medical care, in employment; yet we lead America in early death, imprisonment, poverty, dropout rates."

"Last week, we sadly commemorated the 42nd year since the assassination of Dr. King, who spent his last months on this earth organizing the Poor People's March on Washington. Dr. King understood--and tried to teach us--that the legacy of slavery was poverty, not just for African-Americans, but for Latinos and Whites as well. Perhaps it is time for all of us to not just remember Dr. King's words, but to act on them."

"So if Governor McConnell really wants to apologize, he could start by telling his publicity-seeking Attorney General to drop a suit which would prevent 1.2 million uninsured Virginians from finally gaining access to health insurance."