15 August 2011 by Published in: Neo-Confederate hooey 19 comments

It seems that there are now three Republican presidential candidates with public records of supporting neo-Confederate ideology. I’ve long known that Ron Paul has long espoused neo-Confederate theories and sympathies, as he plainly demonstrated earlier this year. I’ve addressed Rick Perry’s calls for secession here previously. It’s bad enough that these two Texas loons are in the race.

Apparently, Rep. Michele Bachmann–who has amply demonstrated that she has no command of American history whatsoever again and again in the past–warmly embraces neo-Confederate views of slavery and of the Civil War also. In this blog post, it becomes clear that she takes her view of these events from the writings of a clergyman named Rev. J. Steven Wilkins. Reverend Wilkins is a prior board member of the leading neo-Confederate advocacy organization, The League of the South. Certainly, the view of slavery and the view of the South that Bachmann endorses is the mainstay of neo-Confederate ideology.

I personally find this trend both extremely disturbing and quite scary. What is it about these right-wing Republican candidates and their embracing of neo-Confederate ideology? Two them–Perry and Bachmann–represent the religious right, and if this is what the religious right advocates, then I’m surely worried about one of them actually being elected president. I would surely like to know.

Scridb filter


  1. Bill
    Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 2:48 pm

    The rethuglican party has embraced ignorance as a party mainstay. They seem to feel it brings them closer to their base.

  2. Chris Evans
    Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I think they have become stunning in their anti-intellectual positions. I know the country has always had a streak of that but don’t people feel they deserve leaders that are on a higher plain.

    As someone said it is like a new ‘Know Nothing’ party. I find it strange that someone who wanted to secede from the Union now wants to be President of it.

    I almost believe that my three favorite Republican Presidents: Lincoln, TR, and Eisenhower would be thrown out of their own party now.


  3. Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 6:24 pm


    I can see this post getting a lot of action.

    I personally don’t believe Bachmann or Perry believe in the neo-confederate lost cause doctrine you espouse. I do believe they want to take this country back and get the Federal government out of our homes, counties and states. More control at the state level, with the Federal government having the powers set forth by our founding fathers, would be a good thing. We are spending too much. As has been said many times, our country does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Enough said. Less government, less spending and providing for the protection of the people of the U.S. is where our Federal government needs to be.


  4. Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I put allegations such as this in the same bin as those who claim President Obama is a Marxist/Socialist/etc. Until someone comes forward with facts that link a political figure to one of these distasteful ideologies, then such claims are little short of gossip. None of us would cite such sources when writing about the Civil War. I say we also hold our current event discussions to the same standard.

  5. Paul LaCroix
    Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 7:47 pm

    While I would like to see less of the Federal Government pushing it back to the states would only serve to increase state governments. How do put the brakes on the Federal spending at the same time not allow state governments to expand their spending by leaps and bounds? Government at all levels has a problem with spending v. revenue.

  6. Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 8:01 pm


    You do have a point there. Fortunately, most states have balanced budget amendments on the books which prevent them from spending like drunken sailors. Those that do not can spend until they go broke. I doubt that there will be a lot of forthcoming bailouts if the Federal government brings in its spending.

  7. Paul LaCroix
    Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 8:44 pm

    All I have to do is think back to the previous state that I lived in, Rhode Island. While there is a balance budget amendment on the books that certainly doesn’t mean that the State Of Rhode Island And Providence Plantations (the full and proper name of the state) does not increase it’s budget every year. It also doesn’t mean that they don’t go into deficit spending. Heck, from my little bit of research, some state do not even prevent deficit carry-overs. I’m sure Lil Rhody isn’t the only state that does this so plainly said, balanced budget amendments are about as good as the paper they are written on in some states.

  8. Tue 16th Aug 2011 at 7:46 am

    I don’t think Eric wants us to have a modern political free-for-all on his blog, so we should be careful. That said, let me offer two comments:

    1. The connection of Bachmann to Rev. Wilkins is apparently based on her listing of his book on Lee as one of her favorite books. I suspect she liked the book for its embrace of Christianity, and gave no thought to (nor had any appreciation of) the author’s association with extreme views.

    2. There are numerous studies and reports out there showing that current effective tax rates in the US are lower than they have been in 60 years. I would say that suggests we do have a revenue problem.

  9. Wed 17th Aug 2011 at 11:25 am

    The Republicans are considering two candidates that are dangerous for America. I have problems with Sessch Rick Perry on many issues. I am also concerned about candidates who use religion to advance their political goals. As a Texan, I try to spread the word on Perry. Much as many of us would like to get rid of Guv Rick, I wouldn’t want to wish him on the nation at this critical juncture.

  10. Rob in CT
    Wed 17th Aug 2011 at 3:44 pm

    “I do believe they want to take this country back and get the Federal government out of our homes, counties and states”

    I think this *is* neo-confederate lost cause stuff, though.

    The GOP lost a couple of elections (2006-2008) and all of a sudden it was all “take our country back!” and far more inflammatory stuff. You didn’t lose your country. You lost a couple of elections (and have subsequently won one).

    As for the scope of the Federal government, I think Grant explained it rather well actually in his memoirs. In the beginning, the states were practically seperate countries. Travel and communication took days or weeks. Politics and economics reflected that reality. By Grant’s day, there were railroads & telegraphs. Now travel took hours or days, and communication was even faster (now, those are faster still). This bound the states far closer together, and I think that leads inevitably toward increasing centralization/standardization. In Grant’s day it also made papering over the divide over slavery increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible. Thankfully I don’t think our current divisions are so deep.

    Tpday things are interconnected in ways that would’ve been unimaginable when the Constitution was written. This has led, over time, to the Feds taking on more. The march of technology isn’t the only driver there, of course. The civil rights struggle is another example of the Feds throwing their weight around (to require recalcitrant states to comply with the Constitution*).

    I draw a distinction between arguing for a certain preferred level of spending and/or taxation on the one hand and arguing that our current status-quo is a perversion of some perfect past condition (usually defined as “as set forth by the [presumably perfect] founding fathers” on the other. The first is fine by me, though I might argue otherwise.

    The second is what sets me off. That perfect past condition is mythical. It never existed. The USA of 2011 is far, far, far more free than the USA of 1800 (or 1865), and the Federal government is a large part of why that is.

    * on that note, the opponents of the Civil Rights movement were all about “states rights” and keeping the Federal government out of their states & towns. The Confederate Battle Flag suddenly made a comeback. There was much discussion about tyranny and socialism. So you’ll have to forgive me if I view all the present-day talk about taking the country back and reducing the scope of the Federal government with deep skepticism, particularly because it was utterly absent from 2001-2006.

  11. Rob in CT
    Wed 17th Aug 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Gah, one addition to my post: the Civil Rights struggle was aided by technological progress. How much is probably unknowable, but seeing what was going on in, say, Alabama every night on TV seems to have helped turned the tide against.

  12. Alton Bunn Jr
    Sat 20th Aug 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I’m sorry, but I have to take issue with the Ron Paul link. First calling him a wing nut shows there’s no objective reporting here. Second, it doesn’t quote him saying anything much less espousing neo confederate sympathies. It’s simple quilt by association. That wouldn’t fly any where else.
    BTW don’t take this as support for Dilorenzo, I believe he is full of shit as far as Lincoln is concerned.

  13. Tom in MS via MA
    Mon 22nd Aug 2011 at 5:55 pm

    To Rob in CT. I have lived most of my life in the NE and now live in North MS. I am uniquely qualfied to comment on freedom and the federal government. Your statement that the USA today is more free than in 1800 or 1865 is categorically, demonstrably wrong. In fact, from the CT perspective, what is different is a populace that perceives federal intervention as the hand of freedom rather than the boot of tyranny. In fact, demonstrably the FG is a creature of the Northeast which dispenses its largess in a self-preserving manner that insulates its beneficiaries and gives them the illusory belief that somehow they are more free. For but one example example, when the EPA decides that it will “re-define” particulates so that crop dust raised by farming is a polutant, it ruffles not the NE whose dinner tables are populated by results of farming but are not paid for by the sweat of farmers. Technological progress is a tool not a philosophy of government. How the people choose to allow governemnt to use technology is batttleground of this countries future. More importantly to me, as I see it, the elitist NE perception that it is smarter, more enlightened, mnore tolerant, less bigoted, more perfect and better suited to determine and, thereby, to impose the rights and wrongs of society is far more evil and subversive than the clash of ideologies that this ciountry will forever be blessed with.

  14. Steve in Ohio
    Mon 22nd Aug 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I enjoy this Civil War blog. But it should be exactly that: a Civil War blog and not a platform for political partisanship. If I had my own Civil War blog, it would not espouse any political party, candidate, or ideology. But that is the owner’s business and not mine.

    I always find it interesting that the “Know Nothing” comparison is made for the “religious right” or some other conservative element of the Republican party. If one is a Christian and a conservative, then the stereotype exists that he/she is brainless, racist, a clone of Rush Limbaugh, etc. This is infrequently the case, albeit sometimes true (just as it is with liberals).

    For the record, many Christians are conservative and well educated. Take it from a somewhat libertarian one with a Master’s Degree in political science and who is an administrator in a county government office. And we can articulate our positions quite well, thank you.

    I can continue to read and enjoy Eric’s books, so keep up the good work. But as for the blog, I have noticed one too many anti-Christian and anti-conservative remarks for my liking.

  15. Alton Bunn Jr
    Tue 23rd Aug 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Well said, Steve, I second that.

  16. Paul LaCroix
    Tue 23rd Aug 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I’m trying to understand the comment you made about how you having lived most of your life in New England and that you now live in MS makes you “uniquely qualified”. One of the reasons that I don’t understand it is that I too am from New England having lived in Massachusetts for 40+ years and then Rhode Island for 13+ years and now I live in southeast Tennessee. I just don’t understand how that alone makes one uniquely qualified on freedom and the federal government. I don’t see New Englanders thinking they are any smarter, any more enlightened than others. I also don’t think New Englanders regard themselves any less bigoted or even think of themselves as anywhere close to being perfect.
    What I also want to point out is that you cannot paint New England and the northeast with one broad brush like you have. I know many New Englanders who would agree with some of your points, not all of them. Also, you need to look at some of the proponents of the very points you’re so against. First there’s my absolute favorite, Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr. from Tennessee, next you have William Jefferson Blythe III aka William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton from Arkansas and his wife, Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, although from Illinois spent plenty of time in Arkansas with Bill, let us not forget James “Jimmy” Earl Carter, Jr. from Georgia, these are but a few but there has long been the southern liberals you seem to be so against. So you see there’s plenty of blame to go both North and South and we can’t be blind to that fact.
    One of my favorite phrases is “Dependency is slavery”. I think that is what you were trying to say in a much more condensed version.

  17. Rob in CT
    Mon 29th Aug 2011 at 1:34 pm

    “Your statement that the USA today is more free than in 1800 or 1865 is categorically, demonstrably wrong”

    I’d like you to go ahead an demonstrate that (you know, that’s what “demonstrable” means). All you did was make the claim, and failed to back it up with anything of substance.

    I can back up my statement (note: this is not an exhaustive list) and, to make it easier on you I’ll use 1865 instead of 1800:

    1) Universal suffrage (includes advancements in the voting rights of black Americans, women, people aged 18-21 and those poor enough to be deterred by a poll tax);
    2) Civil Rights victories in the 50s & 60s (this isn’t a double-counting of #1, but rather refers to advances in freedom other than voting rights. Jim Crow was a lot more than vote suppression).
    3) Various advancements in the rights of women (again, non-voting rights stuff, like the Equal Pay Act, FLMA, Title VII, Title IX, and the ever-controversial Roe v. Wade decision)
    4) Gay rights advances, largely in the last decade.

    Some of these things are directly b/c of action by the Federal government, though not all. Women’s suffrage and gay rights are examples that have bubbled up from the states as much as anything.

    Obvious losses of freedom over the same timespan include:

    Prohibition of Alcohol, thankfully repealed (and thus irrelevant to this discussion)!
    The “War on Drugs”
    Higher Taxes
    Various Regulations.

    I think regulation is double-edged. Regulations constrain actions, but they also protect the public from invisible/undetectable harms (contamination/pollution being an obvious example, but there are others such as equal pay for equal work), which is in keeping with the general notion that my right to swing my fist ends at the tip of your nose. There is an important distinction between constraining action that harms no one or only the actor on the one hand, and action that harms others on the other (for instance: municipalities banning smoking in restaurants).

    That’s not to say that every regulation is appropriate – as with many things, they have to be evaluated individually. I’ve no doubt we have some that are unhelpful.

    Anyway, 1865-present is a story of increasing freedom. If you can demonstrate otherwise, go ahead.

  18. Dennis
    Sun 04th Sep 2011 at 4:40 am

    We have family in Texas who are die-hard Republicans. They echo a sentiment above that they want him out of Austin, but not in DC. He won’t be getting their votes.

    What bothers me is that candidates across the board seem to worry more about the sound bite than about sound thinking.


  19. Fri 20th Apr 2012 at 6:29 am

    The parallels between the Calhounist Democrats of the 1850s and the modern GOP are pretty plain.

    Prior to the Civil War, the South used its solid bloc status and the Democratic Party to dominate the Federal government. “Nullification” and what not was pretty much just for when they couldn’t get their way, and there were plenty of northern Democrats willing to cooperate with the Southern agenda in order to advance their careers. The more Old Hickory faded into history, the more this became the case.

    Slavery was in ZERO danger from the election of Abraham Lincoln. He would have faced a very difficult time banning slavery in all new states, as was his agenda, let alone attacking it where it already existed. Yet the Calhounists weren’t willing to obstruct according to the rules; having lost an election, they opted to destroy the country rather than accept even the slightest loss of power.

    You can see this in the modern GOP quite plainly. Basically, if you win public office and you aren’t one of them, you aren’t even slightly legitimate. Anything the GOP wants to do is kosher, even if it isn’t legal. Etc, etc, etc.

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