Lyons: The Old South fades 

click to enlarge Old South image

Politically speaking, we live by caricature. Particularly in the age of satellite TV news and Internet fulmination, the temptation is to melodrama. So I wasn't terribly surprised to read a recent article in the online magazine Salon arguing that "even though it's a truism of American public discourse that the Civil War never ended, it's also literally true."

Never mind that author Andrew O'Hehir appears to be one of those overheated writers who use the adverb "literally" as an all-purpose intensifier meaning "figuratively." Salon supposedly has editors. Elsewhere, O'Hehir concedes that the imagined conflict won't "involve pitched battles in the meadows of Pennsylvania, or hundreds of thousands of dead."

So it won't be a war at all then. As a Yankee long resident in the South, maybe I should be grateful for that. O'Hehir also acknowledges that while today's "fights over abortion and gays and God and guns have a profound moral dimension," they "don't quite have the world-historical weight of the slavery question."

Um, not quite, no.

But then as O'Hehir also categorizes Michigan as a "border state" for the sin of having a Republican governor, it's hard to know what Democrats there should do. I suppose fleeing across the border into Ontario would be an option.

Is it possible to publish anything more half-baked and foolish? Oh, absolutely. Here in Arkansas, we had more than our share of cartoon-think before the 2012 election. Three would-be Republican state legislators wrote manifestoes in favor of the old Confederacy.

One Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro, delivered himself of a self-published book arguing that "the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise."

Fellow GOP candidate Charles Fuqua of Batesville — like Jonesboro, a college town — self-produced an e-book entitled "God's Law: The Only Political Solution." In it, he not only called for expelling all Muslims from the United States, but returning to the Biblical practice of stoning disobedient children to death.

Not many stonings, Fuqua thought, would be necessary to restore sexual morality and good table manners among American youth.

Then there was Rep. Loy Mauch of Bismarck. An ardent secessionist, Mauch had written a series of letters to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette arguing that since Jesus never condemned slavery, it had biblical sanction.

Mauch also condemned Abraham Lincoln as a "fake neurotic Northern war criminal," frequently likened him to Hitler, and deemed the rebel flag "a symbol of Christian liberty vs. the new world order."

Comparing Hubbard's views to those of Robert E. Lee and John C. Calhoun, New York Times columnist Charles Blow expressed alarm at "the tendency of some people to romanticize and empathize with the Confederacy."

Ah, but here's the rest of the story, which Blow barely mentioned: All three "Arkansaw lunkheads," as Huck Finn might have called them, were not only repudiated by the state Republican party but lost badly to Democratic opponents last November in what was otherwise a big year for the GOP here. Unimpeded by the burdens of office, they can now get back to self-publishing their neo-Confederate hearts out.

The point's simple: these fools certainly weren't elected due to their crackpot fulminations, or even in spite of them. Their views were simply unknown. As soon as they became an issue, they became an embarrassment. Now they're ex-state legislators. The end.

This is not to deny that there's a strong regional component to the nation's current political impasse. The New Republic's John R. Judis did the numbers on the recent "fiscal cliff" vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Altogether, 85 Republicans voted for the Senate's resolution, 151 against.

Broken down by region, however, the differences were stark. Republicans outside the South actually voted for the bipartisan compromise 62-36.

GOP congressmen representing the old Confederacy voted against 83-10 — including unanimous opposition from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina. But for Florida, opposition would have been nearly unanimous.

For all the good it did them. Because the Old South is visibly shrinking. Florida and Virginia are already gone; given demographic trends, Texas is on its way. Even Arkansas, which voted for Bill Clinton something like eight times, seems unlikely to become a one-party state.

As for the rest, Mike Tomasky correctly observes that "over time...the South will make itself less relevant and powerful if it keeps behaving this way. As it becomes more of a one-party state [sic] it becomes less of a factor."

From that perspective, few recent political events have been as telling as the outrage of northeastern Republicans Rep. Peter King and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the House's foot-dragging on Hurricane Sandy relief. A few more stunts like that, and the GOP could end up as fragmented and futile as Alabama Gov. George Wallace's American Independent Party.

No Civil War necessary.


Speaking of...

  • Mainstreaming the GOP

    May 8, 2014
    Perhaps the greatest threat to the Arkansas Republican Party's continued growth in Arkansas is the selection of nominees unable to appeal to Arkansas's independent voters who are increasingly comfortable voting Republican but with a strong predilection for candidates with a veneer of moderation. /more/
  • Charlie Fuqua returns, warns of Arkansas Republicans getting slimed

    April 17, 2014
    Former state legislator Charlie Fuqua is back, warning Republicans in a mass email that "the only people who ever get slimed are the good guys." You know, good guys like he and Jon Hubbard, whose 2012 campaigns for state legislature were derailed after the Times excerpted all sorts of really nutty things they'd written in the past. /more/
  • GOP observes Juneteenth; claims support for equality despite checkered record

    June 19, 2013
    This just in from the Arkansas Republican Party: Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb has released the following statement on the celebration of Juneteenth: “Today we celebrate Juneteenth, marking the final abolition of slavery in Texas and the nation in 1865. /more/
  • Remember Jon Hubbard? He hasn't mellowed

    May 18, 2013
    Remember Jon Hubbard, the former Republican legislator from Jonesboro whose views proved too extreme for voters in 2012, though not for the Republican Party of Arkansas? /more/
  • Other Arkies of the Year

    January 16, 2013
    They also stood out. /more/
  • Live, it's Saturday night — let's eat red beans and rice and refight the Civil War

    January 5, 2013
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  • Role model

    November 28, 2012
    Flush with all the Koch brothers' money they got during their election campaigns, Republican legislators could surely scrape up enough to rent a theater and watch the new "Lincoln" movie as a group. It would be money well spent. Inviting their lobbyist friends wouldn't hurt. /more/
  • Bill Clinton enters Arkansas legislative fray with radio ad

    November 3, 2012
    The Arkansas Black Political Caucus has bought $10,000 worth of radio advertising in which former President Bill Clinton urges votes for Democratic state legislative candidates and crticizes the writings of Republicans Loy Mauch, Jon Hubbard and Charlie Fuqua, all embraced by the Republican Party despite pro-slavery and other extremist remarks. /more/
  • Recommended: A vote against Jon Hubbard

    November 1, 2012
    The Arkansas Republican Party clearly hopes, by Chairman Doyle Webb's warm words toward him, that incumbent Republican Rep. Jon Hubbard will be re-elected by Jonesboro voters despite worldwide attention to his apologia for slavery, his hateful treatment of immigrants and other extreme views. /more/
  • Republican message: vote for the 'monkey butts'

    October 30, 2012
    Michael Tilley of The City Wire in Fort Smith summarizes well the utter lack of principle guiding the Republican Party's hope for takeover of the Arkansas legislature, particularly when it comes to electing Republican Reps. Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch and former Republican Rep. Charlies Fuqua to House sets. /more/
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