Category Archives: Republicans

Tip O’Neill is Right

Posted by: ogenec

In the wake of last night’s contests, Washington is involved in its favorite parlor game: declaring winners and losers. Politico says the activists won. And, sure, that argument has superficial appeal: Rand Paul prevailed over McConnell’s hand-picked candidate; Blanche Lincoln is in a dogfight; and, perhaps most telling, Sestak beat Specter like a drum. Much to the chagrin of the White House.

But isn’t the real lesson — so far, little remarked upon — that “all politics is local”? To my mind, the famous Tip O’Neill statement was never more true than yesterday. Sestak beating Specter had, I think, more to do with reflexive aversion to the White House imposing Specter on the local electorate as if from on high. Even from my far-removed perch, it struck me as quite arrogant for Washington insiders to decree who the local representative should be, especially when the hand-picked candidate is not a Democrat, but a Republican seeking shelter from the Tea Party maelstrom. In that sense, the WH took a well-deserved loss. They should learn from it: Nobody appreciates having their mind made up for them by the party apparatchik.

But, elsewhere in PA, Mark Critz won the special election for Jack Murtha’s seat. And he’s no activist darling: he’s opposed to the Obama agenda, would have voted against health care, and is anti-choice. Hardly the poster boy for progressives. And yet, he won.   That is further proof to me of the “Big Tent” theory: Democrats win, and will retain their majority, when they elect Dems who represent the cultural make-up of their districts.  Whether they adhere to notions of progressive orthodoxy is, frankly, irrelevant.

So I applaud Sestak.  But I also applaud Critz, despite the fact that his views are so different from mine.  And I hope Blanche Lincoln pulls it out in AK.  The Republicans are on a party purification bender, but  I see no reason for Democrats to join them in that foolhardy endeavor.  Especially when wins like Critz’s portend that the rumors of the Dems’ death in November are, like Mark Twain’s, greatly exaggerated.

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Palin’s “Mama Grizzlies” Are Devouring the GOP Not Obama

Posted by: BuellBoy

Written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Sarah Palin recently told an anti-abortion activist group that “mama grizzlies” will eat up the Democrats in November and shove the country back into the GOP’s arms. Her home grown, home state animal kingdom analogy would have been more apt and frightening a year ago when the Tea Party first gathered steam. Then GOP leaders banked that the Tea Party would be their back channel hammer to pound Obama and the Democrats in November. Things went well in the beginning. The party’s angry protests, marches, and parades, the passion, zealotry, their sloganeering, name calling, their anti-tax, anti big government, and defense of freedoms code word racism boded well. President Obama seemed the perfect made-in-heaven foil. He’s a moderate, African-American, Democrat who they recast as a closet unpatriotic, race baiting, socialist.

The set script, though, has suddenly radically changed. In quick succession, GOP stalwarts in Utah, Florida, Kentucky, and Maine, and John McCain in Arizona have either been knocked out the box or are under withering fire from Tea Party activists. The white hot anti-incumbent rhetoric in Tea Party circles is almost totally aimed at the GOP incumbents and candidates. Any hint from a GOP incumbent in their words, actions, or voting record of making nice with Democrats and Obama guarantees a tongue lash from Palin, and relentless hectoring, harassment, and even physical threats from street level activists. GOP leaders have slowly woke to the recognition that Tea Party activists will settle for nothing less than a full blown exorcism of any trace of moderation or compromise from the GOP.

The danger looms for the GOP that 2010 could be 1964 all over again. That was the year that a right insurgency powered by ferocious Deep South and Western opposition to the civil rights movement, legislative and court ordered desegregation, and pending civil rights rights bills rammed the GOP to the hard right and in that year’s presidential election, to political disaster. The GOP suffered mightily in the aftermath of LBJ and the Democrat’s landslide sweep. But the crushing defeat did not totally transform the GOP into a hard core rightwing opposition party. There were many conservative Republicans who were still willing to compromise, conciliate, and work when necessary with Democrats.

The best case in point is McCain. Pre-presidential candidate Obama’s ascension, he was widely held up as the standard model of the responsible, pragmatic, Republican conservative who was willing to reach across the congressional aisle to get things done. It’s a far different story in the Obama White House days. McCain’s sprouted wings on his heels in his mad dash to the right to keep his Senatorial job. His rush to the right typifies the GOP’s Catch 22 dilemma. He can’t win, or at least the perception is that he can’t win, by ticking off Tea Party activists. Yet, catering to them types him as a pandering, captive of the loose jointed right, shill.

Either case scenario poses the grave threat that the GOP could be a fractured, unhinged party months before the November showdown. Polls and surveys show this potentially chilling scenario. In a Pew survey 40 percent of Democrats say they have no faith in their elected representatives in Congress. That’s an all time low in the history of the Pew survey. But even fewer Republicans say that they have any faith in their congressional representatives. That’s a crushing load the GOP could drag into the fall elections. A pack of hard right candidates that carry the GOP banner will be a powerful turn-off to thousands of politically crucial independent voters. In past polls, many of them registered disgust, frustration and anger at Obama and the Democrat’s policies and signaled a willingness to shift back to the GOP. This could be out the window.

Then there’s Palin. She poses absolutely no threat to Obama’s solid or lukewarm Democratic base. The mere mention of her as a possible presidential candidate is more than enough to terrorize disappointed liberal Democrats out of their Obama inertia. The real damage that she can do will be to further confuse, rile up, and split Republicans. Polls show that while voters in general say Palin’s not presidential timber, a huge minority of Republicans say that she is. This could translate into a stock of disgruntled, frustrated voters who would be sorely tempted to push, prod and hector the GOP to give Palin her due as a possible presidential candidate. This kind of talk will propel even more independents away from the GOP.

Palin can talk all day about “mama grizzlies” ousting Democrats from power in November and beyond. But the stark political reality is that so far the only ones who have been threatened or devoured wear the GOP tag. This wasn’t in the GOP mainstream’s script for Palin and the Tea Party.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press).
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Filed under 2010 Elections, 2012 Elections, Conservative, Democrats, Pres. Barack Obama, Republicans, Senate, Uncategorized

Jon Stewart Hammers Conservatives For Hypocritical Obama-Bush Comparisons

HP~When Jon Stewart’s on his game, it’s a thing of beauty. And considering he’s always on his game, last night’s opening segment was flat-out gorgeous, as he ripped hypocritical conservatives for constantly comparing Obama to Bush – but only terms of missteps.

The bit began by acknowledging the criticism the Elena Kagan selection, a move conservatives compared to Bush’s failed nominee, Harriet Miers. It wouldn’t be a big deal on its own, but as Stewart pointed out, it’s just one of many times pundits have been quick to compare anything Obama does to a Bush failure. Whether it’s his Katrina or Afghanistan, “it’s like no matter what happens during the Obama administration, there’s the perfect Bush f–k up for the occasion.”

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Kiss My Ash

Posted by: TheLCster

Written by Robert J. Elisberg

We’ve gotten to the point where the public today accepts glib political demagoguery from spokesmen for the Republican Party. Certainly, ideas and discourse exist in the GOP, but they’ve been elbowed out of the center ring. And of course there’s nothing acceptable about it. Because there are consequences to their words.

Mind you, I’m not referring to normal, everyday political razzle-dazzle. Lying, exaggeration, double-speak. That’s the lifeblood of all politics. Democrats included.

No, I’m talking about those who rant what they know not to be true, or don’t remotely believe in, or couldn’t care less whether it’s true or not, solely because the only thing they want is to create divisive anger in crowds and do nothing more than score political points.

There are consequences to their words.

All parties have long had irresponsible demagogues. But it has become a driving force within the Republican Party because of their lockstep march against All Things Obama.

Of course, today’s glib political demagoguery starts further back, fine-tuned during the Bush Administration which took the responsibility of national leadership and played it as if it was paintball. The whole “you’re with us or you’re a terrorist” mindset may have been great politics, but there were consequences. When your game is to destroy a CIA agent fighting that very terrorism, the points you get weaken America.

Glib political demagoguery is the thoughtless game that got Dick Cheney telling Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” That too was fine politics – but there were consequences. A national debt doubling to $12 trillion. A budget deficit of $482 billion from surplus. And all America is digging ourselves out of them now.

This all hit home very clearly over the past month, as GOP glib political demagoguery has repeatedly showed its consequences, in all its devastation.

The most prominent, of course, is the agonizing disaster of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. For two years, Republicans from Sarah Palin, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Steele and beyond, have hyperventilated with their “Drill, Baby, Drill” pontification, not caring its risks, just that it was grand politics for riling up crowds. And now we see the ghastly consequences.

Already 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled. It could reach past 11 million. In only one day, the slick went from an unthinkable 1,150 square miles to over 3.800. It’s growing faster than The Blob, and nearing the pristine Florida Keys. This is an economic disaster of such catastrophic proportions it could impact the climate. And 11 workers killed.

(It’s a macabre observation that oil is the sole area Sarah Palin has claimed supposed “expertise.” That was never expertise, mind you, but we see the naked Emperor’s Clothes laid bare. Imagine now how empty the rest of her non-existent qualifications are. And not a word from her since the disaster.)

Yet within just the past month, this is far from the only gruesome case by Republicans of glib political demagoguery that has resulted in crushing consequences.

Think back if you will to February 24, 2009. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was selected by the Republican Party to deliver its response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. With dripping ridicule, Mr. Jindal derided the Obama stimulus investment of “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.”

Never mind that Sarah Palin, then still governor of Alaska before resigning, let the glib political demagoguery pass. The callousness of this GOP strutting showed itself only a month later, when Mt. Redoubt erupted – in Alaska. There are consequences to glib political demagoguery. Far-greater devastation was only averted because of early volcano monitoring.

But even this isn’t the point. Because, remembering Bobby Jindal and the GOP’s calculated, snide mocking of “something called volcano monitoring,” as if it didn’t matter, as if it was a fake-Socialist, Big Government waste by Barack Obama because he’s Barack Obama – only weeks ago, the entire world saw this:

When Eyjafjallajokull Volcano in Iceland erupted, airline travel came to a complete halt throughout Europe. World commerce was suspended. The world’s climate was impacted. There were a billion dollars in losses. “In terms of closure of airspace, this is worse than after 9/11,” said a spokesman for Britain aviation. “The disruption is probably larger than anything we’ve seen.”

And only a year earlier, the GOP spokesman said: “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington.”

I’m guessing they’d like to take back that wisecrack about “eruptions.”

This is why government monitor volcanoes. It matters. It has consequences.

It all matters. It all has consequences.

Again.

And again and again.

Like when you engage in glib political demagoguery to rile crowds and endlessly repeat a snarky mantra for political points by attacking “cap and trade” and roaring that “clean coal CLEAN COAL” is the solution, the only solution, the easy answer, you knowingly ignore that there are consequences. And one is the Upper Big Branch mine disaster with 29 men dead.

Disagreement is good. So, too, is active opposition.

But glib political demagoguery is where the line gets drawn.

Our words matters. When you create anger in others to score political points, dismissive of what the devastating results could be, you do not deserve to be on the stage.

The gravest oil disaster in U.S. history. The biggest airline disaster in world history. A mine disaster leaving 29 me dead. All within the last month alone.

The longer list makes it more shameless.

There are consequences for your words.

Far too many Republican spokesman have tried to gut the United States with a shiv, all for 30 pieces of silver and craven political expedience. Too many others in the GOP have quietly, sheepishly acquiesced and enabled them.

Go. Let the adults talk. Let the good and serious people still in your party – and all parties – have the microphone back. You’ve shown your worth. The world can no longer afford you.

Robert J. Elisberg has been a commentator and contributor to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, C/NET and E! Online, and served on the editorial board for the Writers Guild of America. He has contributed political writing to the anthology, “Clued in on Politics,” 3rd edition (CQ Press).

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GOPer Ken Blackwell Talks ‘Obama’s Power Grab‘ — And Jon Stewart Tears Him Down

Posted by: BuellBoy

TPM~If you think Jon Stewart hasn’t taken down enough Republicans lately…

Last night he had on Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council and former Republican candidate for president Ken Blackwell, who has written a book called “The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency.”

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Republicans and Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) Vote As Bloc To Filibuster Wall Street Bill

Posted by: Audiegrl

Undaunted by a Senate setback, Democrats appeared increasingly confident Monday they will be able to take advantage of Americans’ anger at Wall Street and push through the most sweeping new controls on financial institutions since the Great Depression.

The Senate, in a 57-41 vote, failed to get the 60 supporters needed to proceed on the regulatory overhaul. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined with the Republicans.

But the evening vote was just part of a legislative ballet keeping bipartisan talks alive. At the end, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to “no,” too, but that was just a maneuver that will enable him to call for a new tally as early as Tuesday.

Democrats believe that public pressure and the scent of a Wall Street scandal have given them the upper hand. Republicans themselves have taken up the Democrats’ Wall Street-bashing rhetoric and have voiced hope that a bill will ultimately pass. In that light, the path to final approval seems clearer than it ever did during the contentious debate over health care.

Statement by President Obama on Financial Reform

“I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans voted in a block against allowing a public debate on Wall Street reform to begin. Some of these Senators may believe that this obstruction is a good political strategy, and others may see delay as an opportunity to take this debate behind closed doors, where financial industry lobbyists can water down reform or kill it altogether. But the American people can’t afford that. A lack of consumer protections and a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly brought our economy to its knees, and helped cause the pain that has left millions of Americans without jobs and without homes. The reform that both parties have been working on for a year would prevent a crisis like this from happening again, and I urge the Senate to get back to work and put the interests of the country ahead of party.”

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The Tea Party: Populism of the Privileged by E.J. Dionne

Posted by: BuellBoy

Op-ed by E.J. Dionne

EJ DionneWashington Post~The Tea Party is nothing new. It represents a relatively small minority of Americans on the right end of politics, and it will not determine the outcome of the 2010 elections.

In fact, both major parties stand to lose if they accept the laughable notion that this media-created protest movement is the voice of true populism. Democrats will spend their time chasing votes they will never win. Republicans will turn their party into an angry and narrow redoubt with no hope of building a durable majority.

The news media’s incessant focus on the Tea Party is creating a badly distorted picture of what most Americans think and is warping our policy debates. The New York Times and CBS News thus performed a public service last week with a careful study of just who is in the Tea Party movement.

Their findings suggest that the Tea Party is essentially the reappearance of an old anti-government far right that has always been with us and accounts for about one-fifth of the country. The Times reported that Tea Party supporters “tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45.” They are also more affluent and better educated than Americans as a whole. This is the populism of the privileged.

And the poll suggested something that white Americans are reluctant to discuss: Part of the anger at President Obama among Tea Partiers does appear to be driven by racial concerns.

Saying this invites immediate denunciations from defenders of those who bring guns to rallies, threaten violence to “take our country back,” and mouth old slogans about states’ rights and the Confederacy. So let’s be clear: Opposition to the president is driven by many factors that have nothing to do with race. But race is definitely part of what’s going on.

The poll asked: “In recent years, do you think too much has been made of the problems facing black people, too little has been made, or is it about right?” Twenty-eight percent of all Americans — and just 19 percent of those who are not Tea Party loyalists — answered “too much.” But among Tea Party supporters, the figure is 52 percent, almost three times the proportion of the rest of the country. A quarter of Tea Partiers say that the Obama administration’s policies favor blacks over whites, compared with only 11 percent in the country as a whole.

So race is part of this picture, as is a tendency of Tea Party enthusiasts to side with the better-off against the poor. This puts them at odds with most Americans. The poll found that while only 38 percent of all Americans said that “providing government benefits to poor people encourages them to remain poor,” 73 percent of Tea Party partisans believed this. Among all Americans, 50 percent agreed that “the federal government should spend money to create jobs, even if it means increasing the budget deficit.” Only 17 percent of Tea Party supporters took this view.

Asked about raising taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year to provide health care for the uninsured, 54 percent of Americans favored doing so vs. only 17 percent of Tea Party backers.

This must be the first “populist” movement driven by a television network: Sixty-three percent of the Tea Party folks say they most watch Fox News “for information about politics and current events,” compared with 23 percent of the country as a whole.

The right-wing fifth of America deserves news coverage like everyone else, and Fox is perfectly free to pander to its viewers. What makes no sense is allowing a sliver of opinion to dominate the media and distort our political discourse.

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A correspondent for New Left Media ventured out among the tea partiers during their tax day protests in Washington D.C. last week to interview them about what it is that’s fueling their fierce opposition to to the government in general and President Obama in particular.

Suffice to say, the answers involve lots of wild-eyed claims about tyranny and socialism. Highlights include a woman gravely warning “Obama is considering banning fishing in America,” as well as another dressed in a ball and chain outfit to illustrate how our liberties are being constrained.

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President Obama On VA Confederate History Month: Omission Of Slavery ‘Unacceptable

Posted by: BuellBoy

Talking Points Memo~President Obama, in an interview for Good Morning America, said the omission of slavery from a Virginia proclamation dubbing April “Confederate History Month” was “unacceptable,” but pointed out that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) had acknowledged and fixed the omission.

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University of Washington Survey Finds That Racial Attitudes Influence the Tea Party Movement

Posted by: BuellBoy



The tea party movement has gotten much attention in recent months, but aside from decrying big government and excessive spending, who are the supporters and what else do they appear to believe?

Many believed that the election of Barack Obama brought to a close the long, painful, and ugly history of race and racism in the United States. But as the incident with Henry Louis Gates last summer, and the more recent shenanigans with Tea Party activists suggest, racial divisions remain. Which is closer to the truth?

A recent survey directed by University of Washington political scientist, Christopher Parker, finds that America is definitely not beyond race. For instance, the Tea Party, the incipient movement that claims to be committed to reigning in what they perceive as big government, appears to be motivated by more than partisanship and ideology.

Approximately 45 % whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 50% of white tea party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 39% think them intelligent, and at 37%, fewer tea party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy.

The survey shows among whites, southerners are 12 percent more likely to support the tea party than whites in other parts of the U.S., and that conservatives are 28 percent more likely than liberals to support the group.

The tea party is not just about politics and size of government. The data suggests it may also be about race,”said Christopher Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who directed the survey.

It found that those who are racially resentful, who believe the U.S. government has done too much to support blacks, are 36 percent more likely to support the tea party than those who are not.

Indeed, strong support for the tea party movement results in a 45 percent decline in support for health care reform compared with those who oppose the tea party. “While it’s clear that the tea party in one sense is about limited government, it’s also clear from the data that people who want limited government don’t want certain services for certain kinds of people. Those services include health care,”Parker said.

Parker directed the 2010 Multi-State Survey of Race and Politics, a broad look at race relations and politics in contemporary America. The survey reached 1,015 residents of Nevada, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and California. All were battleground states in the 2008 presidential election with the exception of California, which was included in the survey to represent the West Coast.

The survey found that 30 percent of respondents had never heard of the tea party, but among those who had, 32 percent strongly approved of it. In that group, 56 percent of Republicans strongly approved, 31 percent of independents strongly approved and 5 percent of Democrats strongly approved.

Preliminary analysis also reveals race affects the ways in which blacks and whites perceive the president, his policies, and how he’s handling his job. To illustrate, 75% of blacks have confidence in the president; 58% of whites share this appraisal. Likewise, where 90% of blacks think the president is doing a good job on the economy, 55% of whites agree with this appraisal. And the most recent hot-button issue, health care reform, received support from 86% of blacks versus only 36% among whites.

Are we in a post-racial society? Our survey indicates a resounding no,”Parker said.

Conducted by telephone from Feb. 8 to March 15, the survey reached 494 whites, 380 blacks, 77 Latinos and 64 members of other races. The sampling error margin is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality and the UW Department of Political Science paid for the survey. It was conducted by the UW’s Center for Survey Research.

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Oh, Right, Slavery… My Bad

Posted by: BuellBoy

VA Gov: I Apologize For Leaving Slavery Out Of Confederate History Month

TPM~Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has apologized for not including any mention of slavery in his proclamation declaring April “Confederate History Month” and added an extra clause to the proclamation.

“The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed,” McDonnell wrote in a statement. “The abomination of slavery divided our nation, deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights, and led to the Civil War. Slavery was an evil, vicious and inhumane practice which degraded human beings to property, and it has left a stain on the soul of this state and nation.”

He also added a clause to the proclamation that declares slavery “led to this war.”

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.

McDonnell had taken heat from both critics, such as former governor and current DNC Chair Tim Kaine, and past supporters, such as BET co-founder Sheila Johnson.

In a statement to the Washington Post today, Johnson — who co-chaired McDonnell’s Inaugural Committee this year — condemned McDonnell’s decision to proclaim April as Confederate History Month, calling it an “insensitive disregard of Virginia’s complicated and painful history.”

“The complete omission of slavery from an official government document, which purports to be a call for Virginians to ‘understand’ and ‘study’ their history, is both academically flawed and personally offensive,” she wrote.

Kaine, who as McDonnell’s predecessor skipped issuing a declaration at all, released a statement blasting the governor.

Governor McDonnell’s decision to designate April as Confederate History Month without condemning, or even acknowledging, the pernicious stain of slavery or its role in the war disregards history, is insensitive to the extraordinary efforts of Americans to eliminate slavery and bind the nation’s wounds, and offends millions of Americans of all races and in all parts of our nation,” Kaine said.

A failure to acknowledge the central role of slavery in the Confederacy and deeming insignificant the reprehensible transgression of moral standards of liberty and equality that slavery represented is simply not acceptable in the America of the 21st century,” the DNC chairman added, noting Virginia’s work to elect Black officials in former Gov. Douglas Wilder (D) and casting its electoral votes for President Barack Obama.

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Virginia: Where History is Politics

Time Swampland/Adam Sorenson~Having grown up in the Commonwealth, I’m no stranger to the tensions that inevitably lie at the intersection of Southern history and Southern politics. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, Virginia had a very awkward thing called Lee-Jackson-King Day. Believe it or not, the government decided it would be a good idea to combine the long-standing local holiday celebrating Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, with the new federal holiday honoring Civil Rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (If you’ve never seen a man dressed in full confederate army uniform belting out “We Shall Overcome,” I can tell you it’s quite the spectacle.) Governor Jim Gilmore mercifully split the holidays in 2000, placing a weekend between the two, but how and when to recognize Confederate history remains a divisive issue.

Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is now breaking from his two predecessors — Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner — by reinstating April as Confederate History Month, this year recognizing the 149th anniversary of Virginia’s secession from the Union on April 17, 1861.

Originally established by George Allen and continued by Gilmore, Confederate History Month has already ignited its fair share of controversy in the Commonwealth. But McDonnell may be further inflaming existing tensions with the language of his official proclamation. His decision to omit any mention of slavery from the document — an issue Gilmore handled by acknowledging African-Americans killed in the war and decrying the practice of bondage — has drawn the ire of Virginia’s NAACP chapter, the legislature’s black caucus and Douglas Wilder, the nation’s first African-American elected governor, among others. McDonnell’s explanation did little to quiet criticism Tuesday when he remarked, “There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.” Many feel McDonnell is glossing over both an important historical element of the Civil War era and a deeply personal issue. Wilder calls the proclamation “mind-boggling to say the least” and The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which endorsed McDonnell and has a largely sympathetic editorial board, opines: “The inexcusable omission reduces the slaves and their descendants to invisibility once again.”

There has been a longstanding effort in Virginia to better tell the story of American slavery. Wilder first proposed a National Museum of Slavery in 1993, and the project found funding and a home in Fredericksburg amid growing support over the last ten years. But with the economic downturn drying up money, 38 acres of donated land standing mostly empty and a backlog of real estate taxes piling up, the museum’s future home, thought to be worth as much as $7.6 million, is now in danger of seizure and auction. Wilder, who sits on the board of directors and has been the museum’s biggest proponent, has decided to suspend the search for additional funding.

Richmond is a city of conflicting traditions. Not only is it home to today’s statehouse, but it is the former capital of the Confederate States of America and a city with a population that is more than 50 percent African-American. While McDonnell’s decision has drawn praise from some Old South conservatives and groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans, it is ultimately a liability on the national scene. If he hopes to become a leading voice in the Republican party, McDonnell will have to better navigate the contradictions and tensions of Virginia politics.

The GOP will need to broaden its coalition to keep pace with a changing national electorate, and many feel McDonnell’s positive and pragmatic campaign style could one day serve the party well on a larger stage. But proclaiming April Confederate History Month without acknowledging the painful and indelible legacy of bondage does him few favors to that end. “[McDonnell’s] failure to mention slavery was a moral and historical mistake.” Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru writes. “It is also, I think, a political one.”

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