Not just nullification but secession is back in fashion. Some Republicans like Governor Perry have unearthed the constitutionally and militarily discredited notion of a state’s alleged right to secede from the Union, albeit more as a flamboyant political gesture than a serious threat. It is indeed a supreme irony of history that the Grand Old Party of the Union, the party of Lincoln, is becoming the Grand Old Party of Secession and Calhounian state sovereignty.
The state of South Carolina itself has taken the lead with Senator Jim DeMint, the doyen of Tea Party Republicans, leading the charge against “socialism” and for state sovereignty. In the years before the Civil War, unionist James Louis Petigru commenting on his state’s reputation for political extremism, sardonically noted that South Carolina was too large to be an insane asylum and too small to be an independent republic.
I really love the expression of the woman in the second photo (in marked contrast to the man behind her) as a Getty photographer captures people entering the Secessionist Ball in Charleston on the 150th anniversary of the S. Carolina breakaway. What scares me most about the new muscularity of the far right – as exhibited by a figure like Haley Barbour – is the blatant lack of self-consciousness. As reflects the quote above, there’s hardly a hint of defensiveness as this citizen slides back into the period. …What scares me almost as much, though, as reflected in the first photo, is how easily the visual media can dismiss this threat with droll humor, turning secessionists into cotton candy.
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(11 pm PST – expanded)
(image 1: Stacy L. Pearsall. caption: Dressed in period clothing, Lynn Charles, right, helps direct guests of the Ordinance of Secession Gala find their seats at the Gaillard Auditorium in Charleston, S.C., on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. The event commemorates South Carolina’s decision exactly 150 years ago to secede from the United States of America. image 2: Richard Ellis/Getty Images.)