When the Confederate flag is marched through the U.S. Capitol

It has always been about people’s perceived position in the racial/socioeconomic hierarchy that they helped to create. Here is a quote from a person involved in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021:

“This is not America,” a woman said to a small group, her voice shaking. “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM [note: Black Lives Matter], but they’re shooting the patriots.”

January 6 was a day of amazing contrasts. Stacey Abram’s long slog advancing minority voter registration and participation in Deep South Georgia (where by [literal] rights she should already be governor) succeeded in electing a Black man and a Jewish man to the U.S. Senate. This re-vote confirmed the disputed Georgia tally of the weeks-earlier Presidential election in Joe Biden’s favor. That same afternoon, white nationalists seeking to overturn that Republican-certified Georgia Presidential election and several others stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent orgy that resulted in death and destruction.

Black Americans finally see some fruit from 1868’s 14th Amendment, so long delayed. White Trumpists and Confederate flag wavers, openly armed to the teeth when they can get away with it, are angered by their own economic failures to the point of violent overthrow of the U.S. government. One of these groups needs to be expunged from the American political process. They both know that there is no room for co-existence in the same legislative bed.

Defenders of these unreconstructed Confederates and Copperheads [1] say that they deserve “a seat at the table.” The problem here is that, in a civilized society, you cannot tolerate at this table the very people who would burn it down in order to keep other citizens away from it. Even Jesus had to resort in physically turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple.

The last 160 years of American political history have, in large part, been about who is trying to get in the bed of political coalition with the unreconstructed Confederates and who will reject them. A tired trope by Trumpist Republicans notes that the KKK was originally aligned with the Democratic Party, which is historically correct. But the key players have changed political beds several times since then.

The 1960s-70s political realignment

Texan Lyndon Johnson’s push for the 1964 Civil Rights Act clearly resulted in most Jim Crow-supporting Democrats leaving the party over the next fifteen years to find their home in, ironically, “the Party of Lincoln.” I have asked for several years now whether former Alabama Senator and disgraced Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III really considers himself to be in “the party of Lincoln.”

The recent New Year’s Eve override of President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act was necessitated in part because Trump opposed the renaming of military bases that honored Confederate generals (itself a travesty for ever happening in the first place).

Trumpist goons.

Trumpist goons storming the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

I have written before about growing up in the George and Lenore Romney/Jerry Ford Republican Michigan of  the 1960s and 1970s. That party was characterized by a pro-Nato/anti-Russia defense posture, social moderation (Lenore Romney ran for Senate in 1970 as a pro-ERA feminist), strong support for education (I attended university for virtually nothing thanks largely to George Romney), post-Nixon political reform, and a moderate “good business” view of civil rights (often a thin veneer over lingering institutional racism). That coalition died with Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The Reagan realignment

Ronald Reagan wholeheartedly embraced the carry-over Southern segregationists from the old Democratic Party, a move that had begun with Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in 1968. Reagan also gave political power to their pulpits. Those leaders included Jerry Falwell, Sr., and the “Moral Majority” Christianists whose deep anger over the racial desegregation of schools was channeled into more marketable anti-abortion and anti-voting rights expansion efforts. That, I suggest, made their racism more palatable to the larger white Christian community as southern Dominionist megachurches spread north and west. [2]

In 2012, Romney scion Mitt tried to move right from his late mother’s feminist stance on social issues and tried to restore the more moderate business/rich-guys coalition in order to battle Barack Obama. His failure to regain power from a Black president opened the door for Donald Trump to dump most of the classic Republican ideological positions altogether, focusing instead on the politics of grievance and grifting.

Trump, grievance and grifting

Trump attracted moneyed Republicans by enabling the open grifting of appointees like Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary and corporate slasher Wilbur Ross, Michigan Amway money’s Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, and Mitch McConnell’s wealthy wife Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary. “Foreign policy” became an anti-NATO love-fest with dictators. Other traditional Republican stances were torpedoed as well:

Markov Change

After four years of daily turmoil and vile tweets, Donald Trump has now been ousted, and on his way out the door he is throwing under the bus many of his former enablers. Vice President Pence would not break his constitutional duty to simply count electoral votes, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp failed to deliver the state to the Trump camp in the 2020 election. The list of former-Trumpie Republican loyalists bearing tire marks is long, and it will get longer.

Trump’s dopey and grifting children (and their spouses) are trying to position themselves in the Republican Party as “keepers of the Trump flame,” which may appeal to the most cultic followers for a time. However, opportunists like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are proving daily that they are ready to pull out the knives if they can get support without alienating the base. The demographics look bad for Republicans, and so states like Georgia will attempt again to curtail recently expanded voting rights before the next national elections.

Meanwhile, the old pro-business, pro-NATO coalition people such as Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney’s equally ruthless daughter, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, are hoping that the cultic masses will burn themselves out, and that the dark money feeding them dries up. They advocate a more “respectable racism” that keeps minorities from power without looking overtly bigoted.

So, the open question is where does that guy waving the Confederate flag in the U.S. Capitol go next politically? Will the Republican Party openly embrace him? Or will a new party emerge that isolates these clowns, while trying to “wash off the Trump stink” and restore the “traditional conservative” foreign policy and economic party platform that wound up in the trash at the 2020 Republican Convention?


  1. Copperheads were the Northern sympathizers of the slave-holding Confederates during the U.S. Civil War. The wearying argument that the Civil War was mostly about States’ Rights (which was oddly scrapped in the recent Congressional attempt to overthrow certified state elections) is easily disproved by reading the 1860 secession statement from South Carolina:

“We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

  1. I have noted in the past that the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s-70s was also politically rooted in Black pulpits, after 100 years of the country ignoring the 14th Amendment. As I then noted, ala Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the other.” Fittingly, a new-generation minister from Martin Luther King’s pulpit is now a Georgia Senator.

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3 thoughts on “When the Confederate flag is marched through the U.S. Capitol

  1. CK

    I don’t support the protestors yesterday storming the capital to disrupt the transition of power but I also don’t support your characterization of Trump supporters as white nationalists. Too much race bating here. Its not helpful at all and very devisive.

  2. @rklindgren Post author

    To make an often-expressed distinction: Most Republicans are perhaps not white nationalists, but right now, most white nationalists, if they vote, vote Republican, because this party has embraced them. Unless Trump’s followers disavow the Confederate flag, they cannot escape the judgment of history.

  3. Pingback: Betting your life on “The Truth” – When God Plays Dice

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