Over the last several years, though intensifying dramatically over the last month, Democrats banded together to resurrect the Confederate States of America and cast modern Republicans in Congress in the roles of John C. Breckinridge and Jefferson Davis. I mocked this instinct at the time, adopting the tone of the narration in Ken Burns’ unforgettable documentary in order to make the point that it was not merely silly but also a vacuous, deluded substitute for genuine political analysis.
Apparently, the instinct to relive the Civil War and its immediate aftermath is not merely a Democratic pastime. Echoing the sentiments expressed by many a grassroots conservative, former Republican congressional candidate Samuel “Joe The Plumber” Wurzelbacher pushed back against the Civil War narrative in his own crude way – by attempting to relive the post-war Reconstruction Era.
“I will not let the “left” set the narrative! Democrats have a history of lynching Black Americans,” Wurzelbacher declared, apparently in reaction to a tasteless fundraising email sent by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) in which he accused members of the tea party of being indistinct from the Klu Klux Klan.
“I know the media doesn’t want to talk about it, but racism is, was, always will be part of the Democrat party,” Wurzelbacher told Talking Points Memo when asked about the tweet. “I have heard more racist thing out of liberal progressives then I have out of conservatives. I’m tired of the media giving them a pass.”
There is something attractive about fighting the ideological battles of past generations. It’s most attractive quality is that history has already hashed out who the good guys are. The narratives are written, distinctions made clear, and one can rely on the verdict of history rather than their own potentially faulty convictions and values in order to determine the optimal course of action.
But the battles of the past have been fought. The Civil War is over. Reconstruction failed. Generations have elapsed in the interim. Both Republicans and Democrats should get over their obsession with appropriating the legacy of those who lived in those tumultuous times. There are battles to be fought today and their implications are just as grand and far-reaching.
One final note: if both Democrats and Republicans need to conjure up the villainous traits shared by Americans of four generations past and impose them on their ideological enemies today, maybe modern Americans are not all that ideologically dissimilar.
[Photo via Harpers]
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