In 1954 the famous United States Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, by 9-0, outlawed segregation. It ruled that separate is not equal, for the act of separating, by its very nature, creates inequality.
Jim Crow and the ERA
Look at this map in the backdrop of the Equal Rights Amendment and slavery. To me it suggests that ante-Bellum and Jim Crow attitudes persist in this Republic. Or as Gore Vidal said: it used to be a nation, but now it's a home land. This tapestry suggests that the Old (and "new") Confederacy is still doing battle with the Republic. Force of arms did not work, so they've decided to take the whole thing over in a different way.
GREEN STATES RATIFIED ERA; RED STATES DID NOT RATIFY ERA
High flowing and possibly over-stoked rhetoric, a bit of hyperbole, there, so I admit it's a bit tongue in cheek, though perhaps not totally off the mark, either. Let's look at some of the attitudes and compare slavery (and Jim Crow) with how women are "separate but equal."
The arguments against ERA are the same ones that were once used to segregate blacks and whites in the South a generation ago. One of the arguments brought forward by those against ERA was that there would be co-ed restrooms. Under Jim Crow there were colored and white restrooms. Under Jim Crow there were strict laws about who could marry whom. For example a black could not marry a white. The specter of miscegenation differs little from the fear that the ERA would legalize same-sex marriages.
Prior to Truman, although there were black troops in the military, they were in segregated units. Truman expressed the sentiment: there is only ONE army, not two, and the military integrated. Some argue that under the ERA, "our daughters will be sent into combat."
And on it goes.
And if we think about it, it is less than a hundred years since Women's Suffrage and that is a stone's throw from when women were chattel - not altogether different from slaves who were kept down and in many, though not all ways, similar to slaves.
I used to be a staunch Republican. My parents liked Ike (Eisenhower) and Nixon seemed qualified to deal with the Soviets and so I became active in Republican politics and was a page at the county and state convention but did not get selected to go to the national convention in 1964 since you had to be the son or daughter of someone important - like a senator. Yet, as a teen, I saw the Neocons work their way into the Republican party.
1964 - The Neocon watershed year
It was my first lesson in real power politics. The idea was that when the national convention took place, that all the delegates would be locked in to conservative candidates and their candidate in 1964 was Barry Goldwater who was trounced by Lyndon Johnson, but the Southern Strategy was set.
Nixon was one of its architects and grasped this lesson well. The South was the key to future Republican victories. The South had voted Democrat since Reconstruction. Even Neocons registered as Democrats for the "real" election was the primary. The general election a perfunctory exercise where the Democrat slate was ratified - much like the electoral college in the current era. As one wag put it, "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he was a Democrat."
Strom Thurmond, Senior Senator from South Carolina, the home of Fort Sumter, was certainly the first prominent Democrat to break and shift to the Republican Party. The solid South that had always carried the Democrats began to erode under the Republican Southern Strategy. And isn't it interesting that the last three Democratic presidents have all been Southerners - Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. Gore may have actually won the 2000 election and he was from Tennessee - all states of the Old Confederacy. Running Yankees such as Mondale or Dukakis has produced tepid results.
As long as the Republicans have deadlock on the South, they need to pick up a few swing states and the Neo-Confederacy - the successors of the Kansas-Nebraska Act - to hold the White House and with sparsely populated states having two senators a piece even the senate itself was not out of reach.
They key thing is the message.
So back to 1964 and what caused me to leave the Republicans, and so this is a sort of oral history at this point.
As I said, in 1964 the conservative wing of the Republican party was largely discredited and were called "extremists." Many were "closet" John Birch Society members and if not out-and-out Birchers, as they were called, they at least felt kinship. The Birchers saw Communist infiltration and agitation everywhere. The Democrats were seen as "soft" on Communism - and that included John F. Kennedy - and many Birchers went so far as to suggest President Eisenhower was a Communist.
Well, needless to say, this was too much for most people to swallow.
However, even after getting their collective noses bloodied in Johnson's landslide victory in 1964, the conservatives were by no means finished. They now controlled the machinery of the party.
How I learned that lesson
A century ago, there was the old "smoke filled room," where power politics was played out. The image is of party bosses, puffing stogies, getting together to select a standard bearer for the party. Until the television age it was not unheard of for there to be several ballots until the standard bearer was selected.
In 1964 the conservatives decided that when the delegates went to San Francisco for their National Convention, the delegates would be locked in for Goldwater. How to do that?
Well, that meant locking in each of the States. To lock in the States, the counties, parishes, and boroughs, had to be locked in. To lock the counties in, the districts had to be locked in. To lock in the districts, the precincts had to be locked in. So, at the grassroots, starting in 1961 and 1962, the conservatives put themselves forward to capture the precinct captain positions. They followed the letter of the law, but made sure that at the precinct level, when the precinct captain (hopefully for them a conservative) met, that those who attended the precinct meeting were conservatives and made sure a conservative delegate (or delegation) went to the district caucus - and so on up the line and while Goldwater did not win, the machinery was now well tested and in place.
Needless to say the more moderate wing of the Republican Party did not take this laying down, and they fought back with rhetoric, but the votes were not there.
However, the taint of extremism still haunted the party and Nixon proved to be "the one." Not conservative enough for the conservatives, not moderate enough for the moderates, Nixon finally made it to the White House after the 1960 election which many say, and perhaps rightly, was "stolen" by vote tampering in Illinois - something which still sticks in the craws of many Republicans to this day.
Say what you will about Nixon, or "Tricky Dick," he was in many ways a realpolitiker, which means he was more pragmatic than ideological.
In 1964 there were many political gatherings I attended under the Republican banner. They ALL invariable started with the pledge of allegiance. Now I am old enough to remember when the part "under God" was added to the pledge in the early 1950's - as I recall about 1954, and I simply skip that part when I do the pledge and say it the old way, "one nation indivisible." Today we hear the pregnant pause at "under God" when a generation of Baby Boomers heard teacher re-teach the pledge and we all paused to remember the revision in the pledge - and it lasts to the present day.
Why am I repeating this?
It was one of those moments where things turn. As a teen I stood next to another woman who was older and she and her husband were the big movers and shakers in the district and county and as we were about to do the pledge she whisper, "and we mean 'under God,'" and then the pledge began and I took stock. Right after pledging allegiance, we sang the obligatory God Bless America, but not the Star Spangled Banner or America the Beautiful. More and more I heard the rhetoric that we had to be watchful of godless Communism that promoted black civil rights, premarital sex, homosexuality, and Darwin.
By 1964 and the omnibus Civil Rights Act, the conservative Republicans were split on what to do about the bill. The Dixiecrates, those Southerners who in 1948 had jumped the gun on the Southern Strategy, used many of the same arguments that are used today against ERA and same sex marriage, to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It was not a matter of civil rights for blacks, it was a matter of states rights, said the conservative wing of the conservatives. The leftwing of the rightwing argued that the party would look extremist if it did not support the Civil Rights Act.
Conservative Dan Smoot, who could always be counted on for a well argued case, raised excellent constitutional issues. Yet, behind closed doors, the party regulars, in unguarded moments, railed against "uppity niggers" - sorry for the racial slur - also known as "black agitators." Everyone knew that the Communists were funding the civil rights movement in order to overthrow the government. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, possibly haunted by his own, alleged, homosexuality saw Communism as American greatest internal threat and kept close tabs on civil rights leaders - and the conservatives suggested the Moscow link with civil rights was close. Photographs were brought out where blacks attended conferences where Communists and their Fellow Travelers were seen together.
The rightwing of the rightwing resisted, but in the end lost that battle, but were not out of the war.
Ford, not a Southern, lost to Carter - a Southerner. But the shift in politics in the 1960's and 1970's continued as religious issues entered politics and more and more the Republicans took on the trappings of being the Christian Party. I must say it came as no surprise to me.
In the 1960's there was a slogan "Impeach Earl Warren," then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Republican strategy was better. With the White House and possibly the Senate in the hands of the Neo-Confederates, they could appoint Justices that would be sympathetic to their views - much as the Justices who delivered the Dread Scott Decision or Plessy vs. Ferguson.
As Gore Vidal points out, the trouble with President Ford was that he did not look Presidential. But as Vidal pointed out Ronald Reagan did and Vidal said: he'd been giving the same speech for seventeen years and he beat the incumbent President from the South - Reagan, last President who did not hold elected office in a Southern state.
Continuing with my oral history, in my early 20's I lived for several years in a small Southern town. Its one movie theater had been closed and padlocked the day the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. The owner was not going to seat any blacks and so there is sat. One of the old ladies, then in her 80's, whose grandfather fought in the Civil War, without a smile, called it "The War of the Northern Aggression," and used the word "darkie" in her active vocabulary.
These were the last of the a group that automatically voted Democrat because of the "scallywags," another of her favorite words, who had been Republicans.
I recall visiting Stonewall Jackson's Northern Headquarters, not much more than a two story house where other Confederate granddaughters kept what they called, again without even a hint of a smile, "the Shrine." As if being led to the holy sepulcher, in hushed tones I was led to "the General's" bedroom. He was never Old Stonewall or even Jackson. He was always "The General."
The tragedy was that while they believed they had won every battle, that they ended up losing the war.
A new generation of Neo-Confederates does not know, firsthand, the men who served with Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, or A. P. Hill. Nor do they know of scallywags or carpetbaggers except from history books.
What they do know is their affiliations and prejudices that are part of a traditional view of man's (and woman's) place in the world and its pecking order.
Recently a friend commented on a book about the occult origins of National Socialism in Germany and theories that suggested that Aryans (read, "Germans") were the descendents of a mythical race of Norse godlings. She wondered how anyone could believe such a tale, yet there are people who vote based on beliefs that the world began in October 4004 B.C.E. That's the whole megillah right there.
It was the Garden of Eden from where we sprang and we hear how it was "Adam and Eve" and not "Adam and Steve" and say what you will about women's rights or same-sex unions, for neo-Confederates there is no debate on certain issues, for God has already spoken and revealed Himself through the Bible which, accord to George W. Bush, is a higher law than the constitution and if you don't believe he said it, I'll direct you to the Frontline broadcast "The Jesus Factor" so you can hear for yourself.
The code name for "Christian beliefs" is "family values." The code name for a union of church and state is "faith based initiatives." Instead of "godless Communism," that is, "atheism," we not are in a war against "terrorism." And George W. Bush said we are on a "crusade," that is before his handlers had him shift the language, but word is out among the faithful.
And women? Well, we're still in the background, although covering your bases with a black woman Secretary of State is not at all bad politics.
The real concern that many of us have is that religion and politics don't mix and I don't mean that in the usual way. Religion is, by nature, doctrinaire. That is, it is somewhat if not completely inflexible. Politics, even if ideological, is based on flexibility. Religion is separatist. Its adherents are somewhat removed in that they have their own creed. The same can be said of a political party, but when one creed believes it is directly plugged into God, I wonder what room there is for a differing view, save for one that is at least suspect of being Satanic.
One neo-Confederate of the rightwing of the rightwing published a controversial book and was interviewed in Elle magazine in September 2003 and boasted that her book would be "Satanic Versus" to "liberals."
"Liberal" is code word for (damn) "Yankee."
Interesting that Satanism would be her metaphor for a political discussion of Joe McCarthy's positive contribution to American politics.
Joe never went so far as to say, as the Birchers did, that Ike was a Commie, but he did suggest that Secretary of State George C. Marshal might be. Ike called Joe to the Oval Office and proceed to tear Joe a "new one."
From seeds, the tree grows and the Neo-Confederates have tended their garden well, and we should not be surprised that what has sprung up in the home land is a (John) birch tree.