When the Confederate States of America seceded, the response of the United States of America was firm: dissolving the Union was impermissible. By contrast, it took a few more years for the United States to resolve the question of whether it would permit slavery within its own borders, and it took more than a century for the U.S. to enforce civil rights and voting rights for all its citizens. This was mainly because of the South’s political power. In order to become the richest and most powerful country in the world, the United States had to include the South, and its inclusion has always come at a price.
Let’s not get carried away here, friends told me yesterday. A flag is just a symbol. When they stop passing voter-ID laws or start passing gun laws, then I’ll be impressed. This is a sound view, no doubt about that. But if you don’t think symbols matter, think about how tenaciously people fight to hold onto them. And more than that: In terms of our political culture, the pending removal of the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s capitol grounds, and now Mississippi’s state flag—and, don’t forget, from WalMart’s shelves—represents a rare win for North over South since Reconstruction.
There's a pioneering education nonprofit in Boston that uses stories of past bigotry to teach young people about tolerance. It's called "Facing History and Ourselves." Which pretty much sums up our national challenge for the foreseeable future. Last week, when the Rachel Dolezal media circus was in full swing, the subtext of the coverage and debate was that "this is all so fascinatingly 21st century." Coming so soon after Caitlyn Jenner's transgender declaration, Dolezal's masquerade raised convoluted, sometimes comical questions about whether it is possible or permissible now to claim race as a matter of mere personal preference.
I feel like I’ve had the South yankeesplained to me,” former North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller wrote on Facebook in reaction to Michael Tomasky’s argument in The Daily Beast, after Senator Mary Landrieu lost in the Louisiana runoff, that "the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying" to win southern voters. Tomasky's argument wasn't an outlier. Ed Kilgore at Talking Points Memo declared the Blue Dog model dead, the southern populist tradition outdated, and said there was nothing the party could have done differently to win in a state like North Carolina. New York magazine's Jonathan Chait saw Landrieu’s defeat as the culmination of a long overdue political realignment; not only did Democrats deserve to lose Dixie, they should have years ago.
Southern voters will go to the polls in November 150 years, almost to the day, after Gen. Sherman commenced his March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Confederacy and leaving a burnt scar across the South. The wound never fully healed. Humiliation and resentment would smolder for generations. A sense of persecution has always mingled with the rebellious independence and proud notions of the South’s latent power, the promise that it “will rise again!” Congressman Paul Broun Jr., whose Georgia district spans nearly half of Sherman’s calamitous path to Savannah, evoked the “Great War of Yankee Aggression” in a metaphor to decry the Affordable Care Act on the House floor in 2010.