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Confederate Ideology: Why Wisconsin Republicans are following Trump’s contempt for the rule of law

“I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.” – Confederate President Jefferson Davis

“The people who did nothing to stop the steal. This gathering should send a message to them: This isn’t their Republican Party anymore! This is Donald Trump’s Republican Party!” – Donald Trump Jr. at “Save America March” on January 6, 2021

The last time the U.S. Capitol was breeched was during the War of 1812, when British troops did the same thing Trump supporters would do over two hundred years later. After a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, I sat glued to the television in between meetings with clients.

What has happened to the Republican Party over the past four plus years is that they have walked the plank for Donald Trump. They have done everything in their power to ignore his lies to the American people. Some members of the party continue to sing his praises even after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Half of the GOP members of the House of Representatives voted to not certify the election results from Pennsylvania as the Electoral College process was playing out late on the evening of January 6, after the attack was repelled. Much as the leaders of the Confederacy allowed their love of enslaving Black people and the wealth it created, to cloud their judgement, the GOP has allowed their love of the spell cast by Donald Trump to cloud their judgment.

“I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our election.” – Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri)

If Donald Trump, never a politician at all prior to becoming president, can take over the entire Republican Party in four years, what does it say about the GOP? Are they patriots as they claim, or does the party stand for what Donald Trump alone says? Will his sway over the party outlive his time in the White House?

Let’s take a look at the Confederate States of America to glean lessons from the past. They showed clearly that they had no real respect for the U.S. Constitution or the republic it represented. Taking a look at the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 is really instructive. This is from the Confederate States of America Constitution drawn up in the early months of 1861.

“We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America…Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within the Confederacy, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined, by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all slaves.”

Much of the language is word for word what is in the United States Constitution. The biggest exception is that the words slaves and slavery appear five times in the Confederate Constitution but not once in the U.S. Constitution. Why? Because the Confederate leaders were honest and not ashamed of looking like hypocrites. The Founding Fathers feared being questioned about slavery while espousing freedom, justice and liberty in their founding documents and as a result, intentionally used other terms (all other Persons, such Persons, No Person held to Service or Labour) to describe the more than 600,000 Black people they enslaved at that time.

The following two provisions tell you how they intended to maintain a system of servitude for Blacks forever if they had the ability to do so. “No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.” “The Confederate States may acquire new territory…In all such territory, so long as it remains in a territorial condition, the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the territorial government.”

On February 4, 1861 in their first session, the leaders of the Confederate States of America met as a provisional Congress declaring their reasons for leaving the Union and dissolving any further connections to the United States of America. They met in Montgomery, Alabama from February 4 until March 16, 1861 to draw up their rules and regulations much like the Founding Fathers did while meeting in Philadelphia in 1787.

These Founding Fathers of the Confederacy, were in many cases former members of the U.S. Congress. Their President, Jefferson Davis, had resigned his position as a Senator representing the state of Mississippi. Of the 49 men who signed the Confederate Constitution many served in the U.S. Congress before or after the Civil War: all but two of the eight from South Carolina; six of the ten from Georgia ; two of the three from Florida; three of the seven from Mississippi; two of the six from Louisiana; two of the seven from Texas. Among those who signed, a number served as governors, state legislators and judges including state supreme court justices.

On the day that the mob of terrorists attacked the U.S. Capitol, many Americans were probably clueless that several former Confederate leaders have statues honoring them in that same building in either the National Statuary Hall or the Capitol Visitor Center. This is a list of their names: Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy (Mississippi); James Zachariah George (Mississippi); Wade Hampton III (South Carolina); Edmund Kirby Smith (Florida); Alexander Hamilton Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy (Georgia); Zebulon Baird Vance (North Carolina); Joseph Wheeler (Alabama). There had been two more statues honoring Confederate icons. In 2009 Alabama swapped its statue of Confederate soldier Jabez Curry with one of Helen Keller. Last December the statue of Robert E. Lee commissioned by the State of Virginia was removed and replaced with one of civil rights leader Barbara Johns. Of these Wheeler, Vance, George and Hampton all went on to serve in the U.S. Congress after the Civil War.

To think that these Confederate leaders are honored in the U.S. Capitol after leading a bloody insurrection that led to the deaths of 620,000 Americans (2% of the nation’s population) is amazing. Who else honors their traitors and enemies in their national Capitol with statues? Are there statues in the former Confederate capitols honoring the people they fought against in the war? I haven’t checked, but can’t imagine there would be many.

In 2017 the Washington Post reported that at that time, “In the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection there are three times as many statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians as there are statues of black people in the entire Capitol complex…Twelve of the statues memorialize individuals who either fought for the Confederacy or were active in Confederate politics. But not a single black American is represented in the Statuary Hall Collection…There weren’t any full-size statues of black Americans until 2013, when bronzes of Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks were added.”

“For too long, the Capitol collection of statues and busts failed to include courageous African-Americans who inspired and led some of the most important movements in our nation’s history. The installation of this statue in a place named Emancipation Hall is just one step toward correcting that glaring omission.” – Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the commemoration of the Douglass statue.

Looking at the last four years in light of what happened on January 6, and what may occur on January 20, I think we can question the Republican Party and its dedication to the nation. Has it been more important to Republicans to align themselves with the cult of Donald Trump or with the citizens they represent? It is obvious that many of these Republicans have and continue to align themselves with Trump out of fear of losing his supporters in upcoming elections. Trump’s son threatened those elected officials on January 6 that they better continue to support his father or suffer the consequences.

“To those Republicans, many of which may be voting on things in the coming hours: You have an opportunity today. You can be a hero, or you can be a zero. And the choice is yours. But we are all watching. The whole world is watching, folks. Choose wisely…These guys better fight for Trump. Because if they’re not, guess what? I’m going to be in your backyard in a couple of months!.. Have some backbone. Show some fight. Learn from Donald Trump!” (His father, he said,) “has more fight in him than every other one combined. And they need to stand up. And we need to march on the Capitol today. And we need to stand up for this country. And we need to stand up for what’s right.”

These inflammatory words along with those of his father and Rudy Giuliani were some of the last words the crowd heard before storming the Capitol. Despite this, no one has admitted that they got this crowd riled up to the point of hysteria. Many of the people there did not need this extra motivation. FBI reports show they had already planned to storm the Capitol in the days and weeks leading up to the Electoral College certification and Inauguration Day.

As the GOP has capitulated for years out of fear of not being aligned with a very popular president (at least among Republicans), they planted the seeds of discontent and a lack of trust for the republic they’ve sworn an oath to protect. To blame Donald Trump alone for the events of January 6 is wrongheaded and myopic.

We must hold the GOP responsible for refusing to stand up for the ideals they espouse. They have more than just egg on their faces.

Here in Wisconsin, Republican members of our government showed their contempt for the rule of law recently. The Milwaukee Jоurnаl Sеntіnеl reported that:

“Wisconsin Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked an effort to condemn last week’s assault of the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and police officers beaten and hit with stun guns. Senate President Chris Kapenga denied a resolution from Democratic Sen. Jeff Smith of Eau Claire from being taken up during Tuesday’s floor session saying it was not relevant to the state Senate…Republican senators agreed with Kapenga’s ruling and voted to block the resolution from being taken up.”

This is who the Republican Party is today. I’m not trying to imply that they are the same as the traitorous Confederates, but there are stark similarities in how they’ve handled themselves. Those who still support the party need to question where their allegiance lies. Is it to the party? Is it to Donald Trump? Or is it to the nation? If you can’t question your party what does it say about your politics. Blind loyalty such as what we are seeing has led to horrific outcomes historically. What will this blind obedience ultimately lead to? Only time will tell.

© Photo

Jаbin Bоtsfоrd and Chіp Sоmоdеvіllа

About The Author

Reggie Jackson

As an award-winning Senior Columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, Reggie Jackson covers a range of African American issues. He is also co-founder of Nurturing Diversity Partners, and volunteers as Head Griot for America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) in Bronzeville.