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Opinion - Civil War Politics, The Tea Party, And The Decisions That Await Us

The Civil War at 150: The Past In The Present?, David W. Blight, Kansas City Star, October 3, 2011.

Why can’t we just get over the Civil War in America? Why does it still have such a hold on our imagination, on our political habits and rhetoric, on the stories through which we define ourselves as a people and a nation? Why is the Confederacy, a mere four-year experiment in revolution to preserve a slave holding society, still so interesting to so many people? Haven’t we had at least two “Reconstructions” — the first of the 1860s and ’70s, the second the civil rights movement a century later — to solve those issues at the war’s roots?

As we commemorate this most pivotal and transforming event — at the same time the country descends into some of the worst political polarization in modern times — it is important to visit these questions. The stakes are very high. And, ideologically, many of the issues of 2011 are much the same as in 1861. Given the hold the tea party seems to have on the base of the Republican Party, we should take notice when some in the group invoke the Confederate constitution as a model for anti-tax, anti-centralization libertarianism.

First, it was modeled closely after the U.S. Constitution. Second, its advocates may need a reminder of just how desperately the Jefferson Davis administration struggled to forge a centralized government out of the chaos of war, jealous localism, states’ rights and homegrown greed and individualism. Indeed, yesterday’s secessionists and today’s nullifiers have much in common. Both are distinct minorities who have suddenly seized an inordinate degree of power.

Continue reading : Civil War Politics, The Tea Party, And The Decisions That Await Us from the Kansas City Star

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