Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was supposed to be the new face of moderate Republicans. Recently, though, McDonnell proclaimed April as Confederate History Month in the Commonwealth without mentioning slavery, then was pushed to apologize for that and add a "whereas" clause acknowledging how awful human bondage was. McDonnell says he declared Confederate History Month in part to spur tourism, to sell the idea of visiting Virginia's many Civil War battlegrounds and cemeteries.
Which moved Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell to wonder on TRMS about the romantic, imagined version of the Confederacy that McDonnell is selling:
"I say it's imagined because part of what the Confederate story is, is this idea that somehow poor, white Southerners really benefited from the relationship of slavery. When, in fact, we know that, you know, the vast majority of white laborers did not benefit from slavery. They found that their labor was degraded by slavery.
"But instead, what happens with this sort of romantic notion of the 'great South' is that it gets sold as a commodity so that I can see, for example, rebel flags, Confederate flags, in rural Pennsylvania and in southern California and in downstate Illinois. Now, these are not places that were part of the Confederacy, but they are consumed by Americans across the country who want to have a sort of vision of white supremacy, a vision of this kind of romantic moment in American history where black people knew their place and women knew their place and laborers knew their place.
"And so, this is clearly to me about attaching to one he perceives as a national anxiety about the ways in which women, and people of color and immigrants are changing and rewriting the American story, and saying, you know what, Virginia will be a nice, safe place for those of you who want to romanticize a past where this sort of, you know, power struggle did not exist.
"But, of course, it's not true. It's simply a romantic notion of the Confederacy. It's not the reality of the ways in which the Confederacy degraded whites and blacks together."
[Full segment: Confederate history nothing to celebrate]