Are We Approaching a Second Civil War?
As the GOP meltdown continues, the nation seems to have caught on to the fact that we’re fighting round two of the Civil War. David Sirota at Salon.com, wrote on Wednesday that, “Thanks to a confluence of three events, the S-word – secession – is once again in the air.” His take on the Civil War we’re currently fighting is that the GOP has carved out a separate America, one that all tax payers have to pay for, and one that ultimately is being used to destroy the country.
I could have told David that it didn’t take three events–the government shutdown, Obamacare, and the debt ceiling — it took one, the election of the first black President.
In my piece last January, I make the argument that we are in a de facto state of war and that the economic terrorism of the GOP, their overt desire to obstruct the government’s full faith and credit, as well as orderly governance of the nation, is in fact a type of treason. I argue that what started as a political dispute has mutated over time and obstruction into active concentrated attacks on the institution of government itself.
This new normal — brought about by a sort of mania or hate that defined the start of the first Civil War — comes to us in the body politic of the Tea Party. Like the first Civil War, this Civil War pits the Neo-Confederate States against the industrialized North and West, and it breaks almost completely along racial lines. A diverse majority of America is once again fighting an almost all-white minority.
A recent Washington Post interview helps to clarify what the goal of the Neo-Confederates may be, and how ideologically ridged they are in their dealings with this particular President.Ezra Klein interviewed Christopher Parker, author of Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, a book that attempts to explain the differences between the Tea Party and the rest of the Republicans. Parker explained:
So I run a survey research lab at the University of Washington. In 2010, I began to see these opposing views on the tea party. You had Peggy Noonan and Juan Williams basically saying, the tea partiers are just angry Republicans, no big deal. Then I read Frank Rich, and he says no, these people are completely different. He says they’re more in line with Richard Hofstadter’s “Paranoid Style of American Politics.” And I thought, I can get real data on this! And when I looked at it empirically, I found that people who supported the tea party tended to be more racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and anti-Obama.
Most black people realized immediately that this wasn’t a “normal,” reaction to politics but rather a hate-filled uber-mob intent on undermining the first black President. Hell, just say the word Birther and you get the point. But that they are quantifiably more racist, sexist, homophobic etc. that the general GOP is fascinating. Klein, one of the best people writing on issues involving politics today, pushed back hard:
So I’m not exactly a tea partier myself. But when I hear you say that I bristle. The description members of the tea party would give of themselves is that they’re really concerned about the growth of government and the rise in taxes and the management of the economy. Labeling them things like racist, sexist and homophobic sounds like an attempt to just write them out of civilized discourse. So persuade me that this isn’t just an attack.
I’ve heard this “concerned Americans” defense of the Tea Party a lot. I get the argument that calling a group inherently racist, sexist, or homophobic is designed to silence discourse, not encourage it. But the idea that behavior and language by conservative groups that is overtly racist or racialized, sexist or gendered, orientated or homophobic, should exist unchallenged because to call out said behavior or rhetoric would halt meaningful discourse is also untenable.
Klein doesn’t want the accusation of an “ism” or “phobia” to halt a fuller examination of motive and repercussions. But by defending the Tea Party — when they are overtly using this type of language, arguing for these types of ideas, or pushing this type of message — gives them cover from which to remain racist, sexist and homophobic without consequences. After what appears to be a knee jerk nod to civilized discourse, Klein seems willing to be persuaded by the evidence provided.
Parker argues that the Tea Party, twenty-two percent of the country by his estimation, is dominating political discourse because of structural realities of the Tea Party itself. Seventy-six percent of it wants President Obama to fail, with no discernible discussion about what that failure would do to the country. Seventy-one percent of it believes President Obama is destroying the country. “People don’t fully appreciate how committed the tea party is to not compromising and not capitulating,” Parker says.
And this is where my argument that this is a Civil War, rather than a political movement, is born. The Tea Party eschews politics. A political movement has to, at some level, functionally compromise and govern. An old professor of mine said politics is the distribution of finite resources. If that is true, if it is even partially correct, the GOP represented in the body of the Tea Party isn’t interested. They aren’t distributing resources, they are burning them. They aren’t governing; they are shutting down the mechanisms of governing, and currently both the government and maybe the economy of the world. It is a nihilistic sort of politics at best; a more realistic description is that it is an anti-political political movement.
J. Christian Watts
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