January 17, 2003

California GOP Takes Whole ...

California GOP Takes Whole 'Ci on self-destruction that theare actually fighting about something that has next to zero relevance to the history of California: The Civil War.

You already know the backstory: a bitter rift between the Conservative Grassroots wing and what we might call the Riordan Moderates; inflamed by the universally hated presence of Dubya's local bagman, Gerald Parsky (who, among many things, has a long-running legal dispute with Bill Simon's late Nixon-Administration Dad). The Angry White Wing is backing party Vice Chair Bill Back, while the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only, as the slur goes) are plumping for Silicon Valley lawyer Duf Sundheim.

Here's the new stuff: On Jan. 4, the Contra Costa Times reported that in 1999 Back tacked onto a Republican newsletter he sent out to 500 people this idiotic essay by cultural conservative William Lind, musing about how America would have turned out better had the South won the Civil War. Sample:

[G]iven how bad things have gotten in the old U.S.A., it's not hard to believe that history might have taken a better turn. Slavery of course would be long gone, for economic reasons. Race relations today in the Old South, in rural areas and cities such as Charleston, South Carolina, are generally better than they are in northern cities, so we might have done all right on that score. When southerners say they have a special relationship with blacks based on many generations of living together at close quarters, they have a point. The real damage to race relations in the south came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won. [...]

America's entry into World War I ... might not have happened. Southern sympathy would probably have been with Britain and France, but the North, with a large German population, might well have lined up with the Kaiser (the Irish would have liked that, too). No American entry into the war would have meant no Communism in Russia and no Hitler in Germany. That's not a bad bargain.

It is highly unlikely that the Confederacy would have embraced the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness that is fast becoming the official American state ideology. So at least part of North America would still stand for Western culture, Christianity and an appreciation of the differences between ladies and gentlemen. Decency might have taken its stand in Dixie, along with some other good things such as an appreciation for the merits of rural life.

Back initially hemmed and hawed, then apologized. In the ensuing brouhaha, according to a poorly written story in today's L.A. Times, Shannon Reeves, a black member of the State GOP's Board of Directors, fired off an angry open letter to his colleagues Jan. 9.
The notion that this country would be better off if my ancestors had remained enslaved, and considered less than whole people, is personally offensive, abhorrent, and vile. It is particularly offensive because my own party's vice chairman distributed this bigoted propaganda in an official CRP newsletter. [...]

I am sick and tired of being embarrassed by elected Republican officials who have no sensitivity for issues that alienate whole segments of our population. Republican leaders who consort with the Council of Conservative Citizens, highlight stump speeches at Bob Jones University, reminisce about segregationist campaigns, and sympathize with the bigoted views -- and the very real possibility that others in our party affiliate with the Free Congress Foundation and groups with similar offensive ideology -- perpetuate broad public opinion that Republicans harbor racist and bigoted ideals. [...]

Black Republicans are expected to provide window dressing and cover to prove that this is not a racist party, yet our own leadership continues to act otherwise. People judge people by their experience of them, and by their actions, and when those actions do not match their words, actions become the more honest means by which to measure a person.

Reeves' letter then provoked an angry open letter from another member of the the party's Board of Directors, one Randy Ridgel, who the Times describes as a "retired white rancher from rural Lake County."
I, for one, am getting bored with that kind of garbage. Let me offer this suggestion to Mr. Reeves: 'Get over it, bucko. You don't know squat about hardship.' [...]

I personally don't give a damn about your color ... so stop parading it around. We need human beings of all human colors in our party to pull their weight, so get in without the whining our get out. [...]

Your sniveling letter makes me sick, young man; you are a superstar because you are a black Republican, and you love it. Now I wonder if you can make it as just a Republican ... like the rest of us. And don't try any of that Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters racist garbage on me.

As for Lind's curious theories of blacks somehow improving their lot under the Confederate flag,
Most of the poor devils had no experience fending for themselves, so they fared worse than before the war and during the war.
How did Back respond? Here's a weird section from the Times story:
Reached by phone at his office, Back said he would "rather not give an opinion" on Ridgel's letter.

"I will consult with my wizards and we'll get back with you," he said.

Back called later and said he disagreed with the statements "regarding slavery and Reconstruction and their impact on African Americans." He said he sent Ridgel's letter by e-mail to party members because "we got a lot of calls from people who heard about it and wanted copies of it."

Ridgel said Back believed that it "was horribly destructive to the party" to discuss the matter publicly.

"For the good of the party, he is not going to defend himself in public," Ridgel said. "If he feels that way, I'm sticking with him."

Quick -- spot the only person in this whole pathetic tussle who was called a racist! I'll tell you, speaking as a non-partisan weirdo who voted Republican for governor in 2002, and senator in 2000 (unless it was 1998), I think if the Republicans keep this garbage up in California they'll be soon overtaken by the Greens. And deservedly so. The Civil freakin' War? What is this, South Carolina?

Posted by at January 17, 2003 01:57 PM

Has anybody noticed that the South *DID* win the civil war? Sure, it took twenty or thirty years after the fighting ended, but the results are undeniable. Consider the flack over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and Georgia. Forget racism, since when does the LOSING side get fly its flag over the capital?

The last three Democratic presidents and the current Republican President have all been from the South. Democratic members of congress like Zell Miller are to the right of northeastern Republicans. Is there any doubt that we would have national health care but for the Congressional and Electorial College votes of the South? Southerners claim to be for state's rights, but would the Feds be stopping us from allowing medical pot but for the South's Congressional and Electorial College votes? Or Death with Dignity in Oregon? Would a U.S. freed from the South have passed a national DOMA?

I am glad the South lost the fighting in order to end slavery, but if they want to leave now, I say the rest of the country should help them pack. And if white Republicans don't like it here in California, then they can just all go back where they came from.

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at January 17, 2003 04:23 PM

Tim -- That Lind essay, which I urge everyone to read in full, had one interesting point I'd like to know more about: Yankee sympathy for the Kaiser over the Redcoats. This actually was a huge issue in my own family -- my great-great grandfather, Peter Joseph Osterhous, was a German 1848 immigrant & passionate abolitionist who fought for the North, ultimately becoming a four-star general, ruling Layne's kinfolk as occupying governor of Vicksburg, and marching to the sea with Sherman.

After the war, he was made U.S. Consul to my wife's native Lyon, and after finally being pardoned by a unified Germany, went on to become Consul in Mannheim before retiring in the Fatherland. Along the way, he produced litters of children, born all over the damned place. One became U.S. Admiral of the Great White Fleet, and was made head of the Merchant Marine (I believe) just before WWI. Another was a big-shot in the *German* army, and friends with K. Wilhelm himself.

Osterhaus believed, passionately, that the Kaiser was on the right side of WWI, and should be supported instead of the redcoats. He wrote letters to the Yankee son, urging him to retire. The German son, regrettably, died after taking a spear in the Boer War, thereby avoid Osterhaus-on-Osterhaus bloodshed. The American took great grief in the anti-Hun press for his supposed lederhosen sympathies. It's all pretty interesting.

I've read quite a bit about the run-up & aftermath of WWnbsp;Preview " />

Harry Turtledove's series of books that go through the "what if the south had won" scenario ("The Great War" and "American Empire" series). He's considered THE master when it comes to alternate history fiction.

Turtledove postulates that the USA does side with Germany and the CSA sides with Britain and France. The US/German alliance wins the Great War and the US now occupies Canada. The great depression still happens. The socialist party controls the US government (the Republicans have lost all respectability), and a fascist party is gaining popular support in the CSA. I'm halfway through the latest book so don't know how it ends, though I can make educated guesses.

Oh, and the situation for blacks in the CSA is not pretty.

Posted by: Rossz at January 17, 2003 07:22 PM

Try Jules Witcover's 1989 book, "Sabotage at Black Tom." Covers the Imperial German's efforts in the U.S. in the run up to the U.S. entry into WWI.

Posted by: Ray Eckhart at January 18, 2003 05:50 AM

This isn't about the Kaiser, but I would just like to reiterate my point previously stated on Matt's message board that the CAGOP leadership is full of neanderthals and should go the way of their namesake. This has little to do with most issues facing us today, but has everything to do with the mindset illustrated in Matt's post. Did anybody notice the Raider's head coach looks like Bill Simon? Go Chucky!

Posted by: Bob at January 20, 2003 12:52 AM

Matt, nice summary. This whole thing is pretty hilarious. I think in the end this says more about the motives of the Times and other media outlets than it does about Republicans. Though this is a classic mountain being made out of a molehill, I'm actually appreciative that these party hacks take our history as seriously as they do. Of course Lind & Co are wrong, but what the hell have we come to when passing along an article becomes a hanging offense? Or a feisty old rancher from Lake County gets himself paraded across the state out of ulterior motives. I thought diversity was a good thing. Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Posted by: Lloyd at January 21, 2003 11:39 AM
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