Florida Rep. Allen West, the Tea Partier notable for being one of two African-American Republicans in the House freshman class, is making headlines today for his dead-serious assertion that “about 78 to 81” House Democrats “are members of the Communist Party.” But I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more said about another recent comment with a historical tinge—the declaration by Richard Mourdock, the conservative challenging Sen. Richard Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary, that Barack Obama and today’s Democrats are the true heirs to the Confederacy. From Melinda Henneberger’s front-page profile in yesterday’s Washington Post:
[Mourdock’s] eyes filled with tears repeatedly during the interview — when talking about his feelings about his country; his wife, whom he introduces as “Saint Marilyn”; and “all those nights” he pondered a certain quote from Abraham Lincoln, who as a kid spent 14 years in southern Indiana.
“This is essentially a people’s contest,” Lincoln said of the Civil War. “On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men . . . to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”
Today, as Mourdock sees it, the “government picks winners and losers, and that infuriates me.” How so? With federal bailouts, giveaways and attempts to “give the children of immigrants special rights.” In fact, he says the current moment is strikingly similar to the Civil War era, with the question of the proper role of government dividing Americans.
At bottom, he said, the split is between “those who say, ‘You can’t have my stuff,’ and those who say, ‘I want your stuff,’ though they don’t know that’s what they’re saying.”
OK, this is definitely a new one. We’ve seen plenty of modern-day Republicans trying to hearken back to the states’ rights spirit of the Confederacy, particularly when courting Southern white voters, but I’m not aware of contemporary Republicans trying to seize the Union mantle and paint modern-day liberals as Confederates in disguise. I’m still scratching my head over the analogy, in fact. If I remember my U.S. history right, it was the Confederates who were saying to the government “you can’t have my stuff,” the stuff being, you know, their slaves. Slaves from whom the president’s wife, and many of his most ardent supporters, are descended.
Any suggestions to help me wrap my mind around this one would be much appreciated.
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