January 16, 2018
By Harold Meyerson | Jan 29, 2018
For those still groping for a precise characterization of today’s Republican Party, minus any profanities, I submit the following mots justes: neo-Confederate.
The neoconservatives of the Reagan-George W. Bush era may be estranged from today’s GOP (hello, Bill Kristol), but the semi-abbreviation “neocon” need not be discarded. Only henceforth, it means “neo-Confederate.”
The fundamental ideology of today’s GOP is white racism, with all its historic trimmings. In one particular after another, the party’s program is a compendium of the bigoted, sectionalist, xenophobic, patriarchal, anti-paid-labor, anti-empirical, anti-majoritarian, and violent organizing principles of Jefferson Davis’s South.
The strength of today’s Republican Party is its success in winning adherents north of the Mason-Dixon line. The spread of what previously had been largely Southern beliefs and practices to the Northern GOP—restrictions on the franchise, “right-to-work” laws, the fear and loathing of immigrants, the attachment of punitive hurdles to those seeking Medicaid, and other forms of government assistance—has been enabled by the complete flight of racial moderates from the GOP’s ranks and the efforts of Fox News and kindred outlets to depict whites as an endangered species.
The new War Between the States is as virulent as it’s ever been—excepting, of course, the years 1861-1865. As in the decade immediately preceding the Civil War, the Republicans are using federal power to impose their warped beliefs on the states that do not share them. The immigrant deportation policies of Jeff Sessions and ICE are latter-day variants of the Fugitive Slave Act, which sought to require Northern legal authorities, and, indeed, anyone residing in Northern states, to participate in the hunting down and re-enslavement of escaped slaves. The GOP’s new tax law is an attack on Democratic states and their model of government, which features a more adequate level of public support for education, social spending, and all that today’s GOP and yesterday’s Confederates disdain.
This isn’t to gainsay that “white racist,” “white nationalist,” or “batshit bigoted” can’t also be used to describe today’s Republicans. But for the more decorous and historically minded among us, “neo-Confederate” will do just fine.