Friday, October 23, 2020
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Sabato on McDonnell’s Confederate History Proclamation: “this is a disaster for...

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University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato has some strong words for Bob McDonnell this morning. Sabato tweets:
Already tweeted about Gov. McDonnell's Confederate proclamation, but it's becoming increasingly clear this is a disaster for him & VA...McDonnell is even being denounced in a Richmond Times-Dispatch edit. The RTD normally leads the cheers for the GOV...VA's national image is suffering. It looks like the Old Dominion again, not the New Dominion so many in BOTH parties have worked hard for...Unlike some, I have no problems with a proclamation saluting Civil War sacrifices & urging study and reflection as we approach war's Sesqui...But it MUST include unqualified condemnations of slavery and secession. To do less is to elevate 19th century VA over 21st century VA...In his own interests, and the state's, Gov. McDonnell must amend this proclamation promptly or face long-lasting recriminations & turmoil...I know Bob McDonnell a bit. He was born in Philly, grew up in NoVa, has never shown slightest evidence of prejudice that I've seen...He hoped to slip this in quietly to please a small vocal part of VA constituency. Didn't work. Now he's being redefined by it. Action needed.
So, my fellow Virginians, what we have here is a complete and utter debacle - but not a surprise in the least bit! - by Pat Robertson's Manchurian Candiate after just 3 months in office. As if this isn't bad enough, Bob McDonnell's "Confederate History Month" proclamation comes on top of several other debacles - protection (or lack thereof) for GLBT citizens, ridiculous lawsuits against the federal government on health care and climate change, etc. - by McDonnell and Kookinelli since they took office in January 2010 (seems like an eternity ago).

Now, I realize that Creigh Deeds wasn't exactly the ideal Democratic gubernatorial candidate (to put it mildly!). But, to everyone who stayed home on Election Day 2009...well, something tells me you're not too happy right now! Anyway, don't say you weren't warned about how extreme and destructive Cooch and McDonnell would be if they were elected. I've been blogging about them since 2005, and it's been clear to me since pretty much Day #1 that they're completely off the deep end. Now, they're proving it.

UPDATE: Colbert King weighs in, says "Bob McDonnell can't change Virginia's history of slavery." As much as he would like to, that is.

Washington Post: “Gov. McDonnell’s airbrushing of Virginia history”

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This morning's Washington Post editorial page writes about Bob McDonnell's "Confederate History Month" proclamation:
It's fine that Mr. McDonnell decided to proclaim April as Confederate History Month; the Confederacy is an important chapter of history that merits study and draws tourists to Virginia. But any serious statement on the Confederacy and the Civil War would at least recognize the obvious fact -- that slavery was the major cause of the war, and that the Confederacy fought largely in defense of what it called "property," which meant the right to own slaves. Instead, Mr. McDonnell's proclamation chose to omit this, declaring instead that Virginians fought "for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." The words "slavery" and "slaves" do not appear.

Even more incendiary is the proclamation's directive that "all Virginians" must appreciate the state's "shared" history and the Confederacy's sacrifices. Surely he isn't including the 500,000 Virginia slaves who constituted more than a quarter of the state's Civil War-era population, who cheered the Union and ran away to it when they could.

The question is, why would Bob McDonnell, or any governor, do this in the Virginia of 2010?  In McDonnell's case, as the Washington Post points out, he has spoken "movingly of slavery's evils" and "paid eloquent homage to former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the grandson of slaves" in his inaugural address. So, again, why would he do something so "incendiary" and divisive, as opposed to issuing a proclamation aimed more at uniting all Virginians?  The Post offers two possible explanations:

1) "Charitably, we might suspect sloppy staff work"
2) "[L]ess charitably, we'd guess he is pandering to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group that lionizes the Confederacy and pressed for the proclamation."

My guess is the latter, but I can't get in McDonnell's head, and I don't want to try (****shudddddder****). Whatever the reason for McDonnell's "Confederate History Month" proclamation, and specifically the wording he's used, it's troubling and - once again, for the nth time in 3 months - embarrassing to Virginia.   What's even more troubling is that this latest McDonnell administration action comes in the aftermath of the brouhaha they caused over combating - or not combating - discrimination against gays and lesbians. If you recall, we had no "Executive Order" from McDonnell, as we got from Governors Warner and Kaine, on this issue. Instead, we got an essentially toothless "Executive Directive" on the matter. That "Executive Directive" came in response to Attorney General Cuccinelli's letter to Virginia's public colleges and universities urging them NOT to protect GLBT students and faculty from discrimination.

Is this becoming the "minority insensitivity administration" or what? At this point, in the aftermath of McDonnell's omission of any mention - let alone serious discussion - of slavery in his "Confederate History Month" proclamation, it sure is starting to look that way.

UPDATE: This is even worse.

McDonnell said he did not include a reference to slavery because "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."
WTF?!? Slavery wasn't one of the "most significant" parts of Virginia history? My god, what did they teach this guy at Pat Robertson's law school?

In response - and rightly so! - "The proclamation was condemned by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and the NAACP. Former governor L. Douglas Wilder called it "mind-boggling to say the least" that McDonnell did not reference slavery or Virginia's struggle with civil rights in his proclamation." I agree strongly with the Legislative Black Caucus and Doug Wilder; McDonnell's airbrushing of slavery and the civil rights struggle is completely outrageous, shameful, and unacceptable.

UPDATE #2: A couple of quotes on history that I think are relevant.

*"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

*"A people without history is like wind on the buffalo grass." - Sioux proverb

UPDATE #3: NLS reminds us that, back in 2002, then-Delegate Bob McDonnell pushed for the House of Delegates to recite a pledge which came from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Amazing.

UPDATE #4: Sen. Donald McEachin speaks out.

UPDATE #5: I was just talking about this with a friend; we agreed that if Bob McDonnell's goal here was to attract tourists to Virginia, he should have been as inclusive as possible - Civil War and African American Heritage Month, perhaps? Instead, he decided to be as divisive and narrow as he possibly could. That's our governor for you, no surprise to those of us who have been following him for years now, but still pathetic.