Though the swearing-in was a re-enactment down to the antique buttons, there were contemporary political overtones. More than one speaker, insisting that “the South was indeed right,” extolled the Confederacy as an example of limited government that should be followed now, and said vaguely that the Southern cause was vindicated by a glance at the headlines every day.
But even the politics on Saturday were tied up in a larger sense of grievance, a feeling of being marginalized and willfully misunderstood. Expressions of this feeling led to some rather unexpected analogies, like when Kelley Barrow, a teacher from Georgia, declared that people of Confederate heritage “have been forced to go to the back of the bus.”
The participants know, however, that they will have to live with such frustrations over the four years of the war’s sesquicentennial.
“I really wish we didn’t have to defend what we do,” Chuck Rand, an engineer from Monroe, La., who is the adjutant in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said in an interview on Friday night. “This doesn’t have to be a fight.”
Y'know, Colonel Rand, my Poor Wife and I fight over how to load the fucking dishwasher. And we like each other.
I wouldn't tolerate you sticking your nose in that one; likewise, if you wanna keep this shit in your own kitchen you'll never hear a word from me. But you don't. Somehow there just can't be a Sons of the Confederacy without the attendant denial that the Late Unpleasantness was over The Peculiar Institution.
Go ahead, Colonel: play dress up soldier all you want; hire a nice elderly couple to run around your home playing Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima--you're gonna have to pay 'em this time--and plant cotton to your heart's content. No one's gonna bother you. Hell, what's left of the American economy depends on walking hallucinations, so most of us are at least inured. We don't give a flip how much you lie to yourselves--that is, after all, your heritage, too--but we don't have to listen to you lie to everyone else and be nice about it. When you come into the public square people get to yell back. This is the difference between wearing a Stars n' Bars t-shirt, and hoisting one up the flagpole at the state capitol building.
And it may well be a minor concern when people are actively writing out the enormity of human chattel and the most destructive conflict this country has seen, fought over its perpetration, but, Colonel, the antebellum Southern contingent didn't favor "small government" any more than its namesake firebrands and pretend patriots do today. Like them, it favored self-aggrandizement and government controls on everyone else to its own benefit. Again, lying about this stuff is as old as the creation of Confederate nostalgia itself, so I don't really expect better. But the sort of peace you mean--where everyone else agrees you may say any odious thing that crosses your mind, and use the courthouse square to do so--might fly a little further if you were willing to do the same in return.
Oh, by the way: kudos to Campbell Robertson for the end of the piece, for finding a fifth-grade teacher and his class touring the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church while the march was going on outside:
But there was a lot more to discuss. So, Mr. Schmitt said as he left Dr. King’s old basement office, he was still thinking of ways to talk to his students about history, about the reasons for commemoration, about causes that were lost and causes that were won.
• Meanwhile, Frank Rich writes a pretty good column, though it may owe a lot of its effectiveness to the fact that no one else wants to speak about the Elephant in the room when it's the Republican elephant, and the utter lack of "conservative" "ideas". But there was a fainting spell right in the middle:
There was one serious speech at CPAC — an economic colloquy delivered that night by Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor much beloved by what remains of mainstream conservative punditry
Listen, first, if by "what's left of mainstream conservative punditry" one means "David Brooks and George Eff Will, plus assorted wingnut publications which need to maintain a toe in every Republican camp lest they lose access" and by "serious" you mean "didn't call the President a Socialist more than once, and waited until near the end to reference rap music", then, okay, I suppose.
You've got much to atone for, Frank, and repeating what the headlines tell you ain't gonna do it.
Let's try this: "The single attempt at a serious speech the entire weekend came from Indiana's Mitch Daniels, who, after reminding the audience that at 5'4", James Madison, our shortest President, was only three inches taller than Daniels, launched into a denunciation of the generationally-crippling effects of Federal deficits run up since his own tenure at OMB."
It's a fucking pose, Frank, though one you may have to step past the headlines to figure out. And Mr. "Culture War on the Back Burner" will, thanks to the Republican majorities he helped elect last year in Indiana, get to run for President with Arizona's Stop and Shoot Immigration Law and some of the most hallucinatory un-Constitutional abortion laws on his resumé, in addition to the generationally-crippling effects of gutting every state program average people rely on just so he won't have another massive deficit on his watch to explain away.
Can I just mention something here? This whole notion that "families have to spend within their means, so governments should too", in addition to being a haphazard argument disguised as common sense, based on real-life observation of something that rarely if ever happens (the average American family, faced with a financial shortfall borrows more money: the wealthy American family in the same situation just rigs a market or two), and which, when it does, frequently results in the opposite (part-time job for Mom or Dad), and practically never in the "third-grade math" Daniels likes to pretend he's the Master of, namely, unthinking budget slashing of a set percentage across the board. The average family which decides to face a financial shortage strictly by cutting expenses will, say, make do with an older car, or just one, or skip a vacation; it will not decide to drive 75% of a car, or get little Wylie 3/4 of the braces he or she needs. Daniels didn't "cut public employment 18%" because he thought it was the correct course of action; he did so because he could, and because that was what he needed to do to walk out of here and run for President with an arguable budget surplus. The only tough-minded decision Mitch Daniels made as Governor was the decision to run that one-year tax increase on top earners to pay down the "deficit". That one lasted all of about twelve hours. It's time to stop calling this shit "serious".
• I guess it's time for another MITCH WATCH watch, where we note what the former newspaper known as the Indianapolis Star said about the man just so it can excuse putting his picture on every Sunday's political column. This week: nothing.
Okay, that's not entirely true; it's actually less than nothing. Rush Limbaugh took offense to Daniels' CPAC speech, leading to the rather remarkable display of the Star correcting something Rush said; Jeb Bush, so inept a politician and human being he was passed over for the Republican presidential nomination in favor of his younger brother, George W. Bush, said something nice about Mitch, but also mentioned his height (and teleprompters for fuck's sake. Would someone please explain that to me?); and Mitch getting crushed in a New Hampshire poll by 1) Mitt Romney; 2) everyone else; and 3) no preference. Romney's lead was explained by the proximate distance to Massachusetts. You're free to buy that if you like, but what explains Mitt Romney?