A hundred and forty-eight years ago this month, the southern states fired the first salvos of the Civil War. The rebels attacked Fort Sumter and for the next day pounded it relentlessly until the skeleton detachment of Union soldiers encamped within ran up the white flag of surrender.
Charleston's residents celebrated their first victory against the north the traditional southern way. They got drunk.
So began the war between the states. A bloody, pointless, fracas between one culture so debased that would fight and kill its fellow countrymen to preserve its entitlement to hold human chattel. Or it would die trying.
Between that culture and another culture, a culture so espoused to the notion of one great catholic union that it would fight and kill its fellow countrymen to preserve them and their culture of slavery. Or it would die trying.
Anchoring Washington's great mall at the west, staring through the Washington monument to the halls of Congress, sits the Lincoln Memorial. The Great Emancipator, exalted to a class of only himself, Jefferson and Washington is therein immortalized, at a place we return as a nation over and over again to remember the lessons of our history, so as to never have to repeat it.
Lincoln's prosecution of the war preserved the Union, it emancipated those who had been enslaved, and it drove those who would own others, if only they could, from the Republican Party for a hundred years.
Until Nixon's "Southern Strategy," that is. For a century after the war, the Republican Party had been a quiet and genteel entity consisting of Main Street bankers, proprietors, professionals and businessmen. Headed by a beloved and inert war hero, whose greatest joys were golf and weekly flying home to his Pennsylvania farm, the Republicans had no desire, or need, for pot-stirrers.
Business was good, what more was there to want?
Electoral success, answered Nixon as he proceeded to convince white racist southern Democrats that the Republican Party now had a tent for them, too. Not only a tent, but the big one. Certainly they could see that the Democratic Party of the 1960s, with its freedom marches, its fights for integration and affirmative action, its Jews, its blacks, uppity women and Catholics, was no longer a place for good 'ol boys to be.
That place was with the Republicans, now. And as Nixon drove in the southern Democrats, he drove out Main Street Republicans. Gone Eisenhower. Gone Goldwater. Hello fundamentalists and racists.
No doubt you've heard about the Great Teabagging. You know, the events staged -- I mean that spontaneously erupted -- across the country this past April 15h. Events where ordinary citizens just suddenly came together to express their displeasure at the government for... For. Umm, well we don't really know because they never actually had a coherent message as to what it was, specifically, they were angry about.
That is, aside from some hand waving about taxes, spending and debt. You know, the Holy Trinity of all rightwing -- there I go again. I meant "bipartisan -- objections to governance.
They were mad about President Obama's $1 trillion dollar stimulus package, designed to un-wreck the economy. But they didn't seem to mention, or even mind, the previous administration's doubling of the national debt in a $6 trillion dollar giveaway of tax rebates to the wealthy.
They were mad about taxes, specifically them being too high, even though the only action that Obama has taken with regard to taxes is to lower them, starting this April.
None of it made any sense, of course. Every argument made was exactly the opposite of reality. But there was no denying the protesters were mad. You just had to figure out what they were actually mad about.
And that turns out to be relatively simple. They were mad that the slaveholder had become the enslaved.
Not feeling good about themselves
Individual states in our nation are either donors or receivers. That is they either pay more in federal taxes than they get back in federal money, or they pay less than they get back.
With the just-barely exceptions of Georgia and Texas, all of the southern states are receivers. This is true, actually, of most "red" states. The more conservative a state, the more likely it is that it derives more benefit from federal taxation than negatives from the taxation. This is true in the exact opposite with the "blue" or liberal states -- they overwhelmingly pay more in taxes than they get back.
In other words, the blue states support the red states. The blue states pay the taxes, the red states live on that welfare.
Red state conservatives formed the overwhelming demographic of the teabaggers. Yet, as pointed out, it makes no sense to protest taxes if you're the direct beneficiary of the taxes.
But it does make sense if the condition makes you feel enslaved and reminds you of what you once were, powerful and now powerless. And how galling to have to be reminded of that in the worst way imaginable: a black man took the White House.
John McCain's running mate has a husband who was a card-carrying member of Alaska's secessionist party (Alaska receives $1.87 from the federal government for every dollar it sends to the federal government). This week, the governor of Texas suggested that his state might secede from the Union because the federal government "wasn't listening" (A poll earlier this month indicated that 70 percent of Americans approved of the President's economic agenda -- so much for "not listening").
And no less an august figure than Tom Delay went on the television last night to declare that Texas would do well on its own because Texans were wealthy because of Texas' few regulations and low taxes (Texas' per-capita income of $47,548 is actually about $3,000 below the U.S. average).
Lincoln made a monumental mistake when he set out to save the Union. We need not make that mistake, again. Let's encourage Texas to go and suggest that it take everything south of the Mason-Dixon line with it. We won't put up a fight, this time.
Promise. We learned that lesson.
Gregory Travis can be reached at .