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The Tea Party's Legacy of Racism

By       Message Robert Parry     Permalink
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"Madison's refusal to acknowledge the North's right to speak out against southern slavery is matched by his feminization of the South, vulnerable if not wholly innocent and routinely subjected to unwarranted pressure. ...

"Mary alone appreciates the 'good feelings' that are meant to characterize relations between husband and wife. ... She is calm as she tries to talk sense to Jonathan, whom she continues to refer to respectfully as 'my worthy partner.' ... [S]he asks him a rhetorical question: Would divorce make your estates stronger than they are as one half of our union."

In other words, Madison considered the South's white slaveholders the real victims here, and the North's abolitionists were unfeeling monsters.

Unlike Washington and some other Founders whose wills freed their slaves, Jefferson and Madison did not grant any blanket freedom. Madison freed none of his slaves; Jefferson only freed a few who were related to the Hemings family.

On Route to War

Jefferson and Madison (at least the later incarnation of Madison as Jefferson's ally) also helped put the nation on the path to the Civil War by lending support to the "nullification" movement in which Southern states insisted that they could reject (or nullify) federal law, the opposite position from the one Madison took in the Constitutional Convention when he favored giving Congress the power to veto state laws.

In the early 1830s, Southern politicians sought "nullification" of a federal tariff on manufactured goods, but were stopped by President Andrew Jackson who threatened to deploy troops to South Carolina to enforce the Constitution.

In December 1832, Jackson denounced the "nullifiers" and declared "the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed."

Jackson also rejected as "treason" the notion that states could secede if they wished, noting that the Constitution "forms a government not a league," a reference to a line in the Articles of Confederation that had termed the fledgling United States a "league of friendship" among the states, not a national government.

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Jackson's nullification crisis was resolved nonviolently, but a few decades later, the South's continued resistance to the constitutional preeminence of the federal government led to secession and the formation of the Confederacy. It took the Union's victory in the Civil War to free the slaves and firmly settle the issue of the sovereignty of the national Republic over the independence of the states.

However, the defeated South still balked at equal rights for blacks and invoked "states' rights" to defend segregation during the Jim Crow era. White Southerners amassed enough political clout, especially within the Democratic Party -- the successor to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party -- to fend off civil rights for blacks.

The battle over states' rights was joined again in the 1950s when the federal government finally committed itself to enforcing the principle of "equal protection under the law" as prescribed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Many white Southerners were furious that their system of segregation was being dismantled by federal authority.

Southern rightists and many libertarians insisted that federal laws prohibiting denial of voting rights for blacks and outlawing segregation in public places were unconstitutional. But federal courts ruled that Congress was within its rights in banning such discrimination within the states.

Rise of the Tea Party

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The anger of Southern whites was taken out primarily on the modern Democratic Party, which had led the fight for civil rights. Opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon, fashioned a "Southern strategy" using racial code words to appeal to Southern whites and turned the region from solidly Democratic to predominantly Republican as it is today.

Southern white anger was also reflected in the prevalence of the Confederate battle flag on pickup trucks and in store windows. Gradually, however, the American Right retreated from outright support of racial segregation. The growing public revulsion over the "Stars and Bars" as a symbol of racism also forced the Right to make a stylistic adjustment as well.

The Right stopped deriving its key imagery from the embittered unreconstructed South and turned to the far more palatable era of Lexington and Concord. Instead of highlighting slogans like "the South will rise again," the Right glommed onto Revolutionary War messages like "Don't Tread on Me," with the elected American government placed in the role of a tyrannical British monarch.

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http://www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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