History echoes. It doesn’t exactly repeat–but events are informed, defined and argued by the fragmented memories of our shared past. Around the globe there are conflicts that have roots in events centuries old. We have one of those in America that is often shorthanded with the term ‘The Civil War’, but really the conflict goes deeper. At the root of it is the question of slavery, but even that is a side issue to the main flash point–the role of white supremacy in America.
A common thread from some founding fathers fighting to protect slavery to the treason of the Confederacy to the terrorism of the Jim Crow years to today’s rantings from TeaBaggers, neo-Confederate Republicans and other wingnuts is the idea that the Constitution was perfect when it was drafted and that any changes since 1810 or so have been attacks on that perfection. This is why they hated Lincoln, FDR, Truman, Johnson, Clinton and now hate Obama. All of these cats and many others subscribed to the idea that our Union, our Constitution was not perfect when ratified and that it is still a work in progress. Every time Obama talks about “perfecting our Union” it is like fingernails on a blackboard to those folks who see the original Constitution as perfect and filter that view with rhetorical bullshit firmly rooted in privileged, property and white supremacy. This ongoing fight in America is more than 200 years old and it is at the heart of most of our current political battles.
I happen to believe that our laws, Constitution and Union are alive and always evolving–always moving towards a more perfect Union. I am firmly in that camp and feel my point of view is firmly rooted in history, culture, nature, science and life. Everything evolves. And yes, I also believe in evolution and that there can be proven scientific facts. This makes me a liberal because as Colbert once said “We all know that reality has a liberal bias”. This puts me at odds with those other folks who think that Jesus rode a dinosaur and that the Constitution was perfection when drafted–as if the good Lord rose out of the Potomac and handed the completed document to Madison from the back of a winged stegosaurus.
The ideas of the other side are doomed to failure. History will one day move them to the dustbin. Evolution will take care of that. But in the near time these wankers will continue to do real damage as they work overtime to protect their oligarch sugar daddies and sell the old snake oil that white supremacy is why America is an exceptional nation. I call this group of folks the Confederate Party as their name and political affiliation keeps changing to follow power, but their core ideas always remain the same. And because their ideas are stupid (and always have been stupid) the only political tactic they know is obstruction, hostage taking, name calling, fear mongering and a refusal to compromise.
A NYT editorial, titled One-Sided Compromises could almost be run today with a few word swaps like switching ‘Republican’ everywhere you see ‘Democrat’ and vice versa.
This editorial came out just as the Succession crisis was heating up. Lincoln had been elected but would not be sworn in for months. Congress had just returned to Washington and there were efforts to avoid the coming bloodshed, but the Democrats and Southern secessionists refused any and all efforts to discuss a compromise. This has been a tactic of the Confederate Party since the early 1800s and it still is today. And they always backed up this refusal with the implied and sometimes specific threat to shut down, destroy or break the Union and the Federal Government. So it was back on December 6, 1860.
Here are some snippets from a 150-year old editorial that could have been written about today’s
Republican Confederate Party:
There is a universal desire for “conciliation.” Everybody demands that something shall be done to save the Union and restore peace to the country. [snip]
But when we descend to particulars the affair assumes quite a different aspect. It then becomes apparent that what the Democrats mean by compromise is the absolute surrender of the Republicans. It is the Republicans who are to make all the concessions, — who are to propose and execute all the compromises, and by whom the Union is to be saved. And they are expected to do it by abandoning every principle they have ever professed, — by accepting every law and every sentiment against which they have hitherto protested, — by surrendering all the fruits of the victory they have just achieved, and by handing over everything to those whom they have just defeated! [snip]
Equally insulting is the manner in which the action of the Republicans on this subject has been received. Those of them who have recognized the reality of danger to the Union, and have been willing to take measures to avert it, have been taunted with tardy cowardice and with a disposition to abandon their party. Those of them who have not done so, have been reproached with reckless disregard of the peace of the country. The conservative declarations of the President elect, are utterly ignored. Not the slightest notice is taken of the sentiments proclaimed, or the action proposed, by leading and influential members and organs of the Republican Party, — unless they afford material for fresh taunts and abuse. And the most inflammatory declarations of the most Ultra-Abolitionists are coolly set down to the account of the Republicans, who are held up to the South as hostile to their rights and resolved to make war upon their institutions.
Now, in our opinion, this game is about “played out.”
Of course the game was not “played out” as the same old plays are being run yet again. To see this in action just follow the news. One side is willing to destroy to get what they want and unwilling to compromise. The other side seeks to find ways of preventing the worse of the damage and limiting the harm that always follows any agreement to move forward with these assholes.
The key to victory when dealing with the Confederate Party has alway been to keep your eye on the prize–to keep your focus on the slow and steady work to perfect our Union. This work is about governing and the slow bending of the arc of progress towards justice. It is tedious and unnoticed work. It is about passing laws and then writing smart regulations to move those laws towards justice–and then implementing them. It is work that almost never gets a mention in a news cycle. It never wins the morning over at Pravda on the Potomac. It never wins the Tweet cycle. And yet–over time–it does win the day. It does move us towards a more perfect Union.
This is why I am an optimist. This is why–despite the current levels of Republican obstructions–I know that they are Confederate dead-enders and that time, reality and demographics are moving them to the dustbin of history.
This fight has been going on for 200 years. It is important to understand that you move towards steady progress by the embrace of persistence, patience and pragmatism. This means that you will lose news cycles and that some folks will will always be in a panic about losing the news cycle and other passing events of the day. It means that some of your allies who can only grok a frontal assault as the only viable tactic for every occasion will always be upset when that glorious fight they long for fails to materialize. So it goes. This is how progress has been made throughout the history of our Nation and it will not change even if the Tweet cycle and punditeers try to speed it up.
Yep, things are difficult now, but whatever your worse view of policy or your greatest fear, things were far more fucked-up 150 years ago, 50 years ago or even 20 years ago. We have made progress despite the endless obstruction. The real fight is a long game. Many will disagree, but I am glad that we have a President who knows this, that he is fighting the long game and that he’s willing to lose a few news cycles to move us towards a more perfect Union.