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This is the fifth entry in the series*

Patterns tend to persist in cultures over long periods.

Sometimes, when a spirit has seized hold of a society and then driven it into disaster or disgrace, that spirit can be eradicated, or at least exiled into the recesses of the culture. Think of the way that Nazism has been systematically driven out of the German nation and the German psyche.

Nothing remotely like this happened with the spirit that took possession of the South and led it into catastrophic defeat in the Civil War.  

If it was an evil spirit that inflamed a region to fight to preserve slavery, neither the South nor the nation as a whole ever decided to drive that spirit out.

The South has continued to honor that spirit, and its fateful consequences. My wife went to Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. Forrest was a main founder of the Ku Klux Klan. The other high school nearby was named for Jefferson Davis, who attempted to prolong the war after Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Ulysses Grant. The South continues to form its identity around the spirit that animated it during that era of destruction.

After the Civil War, the same spirit that had roused the South to fight to preserve its "peculiar institution" -- to defend both its existence and Southern claims about its rightness -- continued to dictate the region'€™s values, claiming that the "€œLost Cause"€ was noble and that its defenders were the good guys.

After the war and Reconstruction, that spirit created the Jim Crow South. It was a regime that wielded power through racial terror and oppression, forming the heart of the region'€™s politics and power relations for the better part of a century.  Although slavery had been abolished, its basic dynamics were resurrected, with blacks exploited and kept in humiliating and degrading conditions.  

The spirit that created Jim Crow also exploited the brokenness of its devotees, socializing a great many people from the dominant race to be ready to punish the most vulnerable group of people in their midst if any of them stepped out of line.  It built into the culture a readiness to punish a black man for looking the wrong way at a white woman, or for failing to show sufficient deference to whites, or for objecting to second-class citizenship (e.g. wanting the right to vote).  

The regime ended when the nation as a whole rallied -- €“nearly a century after the Civil War -- to enforce equal protection under the law.  Segregation was dismantled.

But that spirit is back.

Since the end of segregation, the once solidly Democratic South has become the base of a Republican Party that preys on the most vulnerable and expresses contempt (behind closed doors) for the 47 percent ( of whom it has a most distorted picture). It hosts a political culture that is more likely to blame and belittle the downtrodden than to want to help them. It'€™s a culture that would rather children go hungry than that the richest should pay a cent more.

This Republican culture, moreover, seeks to impose its dominance in the name of morality, while really being driven by an insistence on power and control.  And like the earlier ante-bellum expression of this spirit, today’s version presents itself as the bastion of Christian values.

In these ways, the spirit expressing itself through today'€™s Republican Party resembles what worked for decades to defend human slavery as right and good and just. It is a spirit that drives people into dominating and exploiting others, and covering it over with hypocrisy.


*  The first four entries in this series have been

 The Spirit that Drove Us to Civil War is Back: Introduction,

The Spirit that Drove Us to Civil War is Back: The Wolves' Version of Liberty,

The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back: Looking Closer at that National Nightmare, and

 The Spirit That Drove Us to Civil War Is Back: A Spirit that Made Slavery Its Priority.

The next four entries will deal with the issue of where the responsibility lies, in both the Civil War era and the present day, for the breakdown of the political process into ever less cooperation and ever-escalating levels of conflict. These piece, about the spirit that prefers war to peace, will appear beginning in two weeks.


Andy Schmookler, recently the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia'™s 6th District, is an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher.  His books include The Parable of the Tribes:  The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.   His website is at .

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Comment Preferences

  •  The truth is: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The "Radical Republicans" were right about Reconstruction. It needed to be harsh and needed to drive out the "spirit of the rebellion". Unfortunately, U.S. Grant made a political capitulation and cut Reconstruction short. Then came the "Lost Cause Movement" that eventually morphed the reasons for the rebellion from defense of slavery to a non-specific "States Rights" justification.

    "Who is John Galt?" A two dimensional character in a third rate novel.

    by Inventor on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 09:14:55 AM PDT

  •  Interesting series (0+ / 0-)

    Enjoying this a lot.

    Every time i read it I'm reminded of how I found Daily Kos in the first place. I was following David Corn's blog after having read "Hubris" the book he co-wrote with Michael Issikoff about the lead up to the Iraq War.
    He kept referencing Daily Kos and Markos. One day I followed the link to a posting by Markos imploring the Democratic Party to stop chasing the South and the Southern vote and begin looking Westward (Colorado, Nevada, etc) where people would be more open to the Democratic position on issues (as long as gun control was moved to the back burner).
    The posting gave a brief history of how the South has always been "backwards" and lagged behind the rest of the nation on social issues etc by at least a generation.
    I got hooked and have been here ever since, seldom posting and commenting frequently - at least according to my profile!

    Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

    by kenwards on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 09:30:34 AM PDT

  •  That spirit seems to be in their DNA. They don't (0+ / 0-)

    integrate, they don't talk, they don't listen, they migrate farther and farther into the countryside and they haven't changed much at all for those reasons. In my hometown in Mississippi, they abandoned their schools, built private academies and eventually their homes. They've been running and doing everything possible to survive change since the passage of integration and civil rights laws, with the expectation that someday, someday dixie will rise again. Not kidding.

    If those laws were repealed, they would welcome it and quickly TRY to return to those good old days. I have absolutely no doubt about it.  

  •  Take heart...the south shall fall again. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Fascinating series. (0+ / 0-)

    Please continue.

    The "were coming for you soon" twitter traffic is rising as well.  There are not just a few hoping to fight in the streets, if twitter is believable.

    Fight or Flight response

    If I understand your premise

    The segregationists took flight from schools etc. to cope after the Civil Rights Act.

    If they feel encrouched upon, they will feel the need to fight.

    If so, then this appeal has serious implications.  

    Dominionist Author Renews his Call for Martyrs

    How is this not a call for insurrection?

    Even the pundits, like David Brooks, are raising eyebrows at some of the Libertarian connections, and the danger thereof.

    How may of today's college Libertarians have a clue that the Libertarian Party has a radical religious underpinning, as shown in this chart

    David Koch, Ralph Reed, & Christian Coalition

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Wed Jul 31, 2013 at 08:21:02 AM PDT

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