By Mario Carter
Never let it be said that people cannot change. Or at least pretend to change. After reissuing the eight year old dormant proclamation of “Confederate History Month,” seven months ago, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has declared that next April will officially be designated as “Civil War History Month.”
He made this announcement at a conference commemorating Virginia’s 150th anniversary of the Civil War at Norfolk State University. While there, he also made a point of expressing his regret for the controversial proclamation by referring to it as, “an error of haste, not heart.”
So this was simply, “an error of haste and not of heart.” Well then, if that’s the case, allow me to say with absolute volition, that I am delighted hear this. Had the Governor not said this, I would have continued to believe that this was nothing more than a callous and calculated move to cement his credentials with the neo-Confederate crowd, particularly considering that the proclamation was issued not in a public setting but on a quiet Friday afternoon so that it wouldn’t attract any attention. He even went so far as to minimize slavery’s significance as the central reason for the Civil War before quickly issuing both an apology and an addendum that addressed its significance.
Are we simply supposed to erase this from our minds because he now allegedly realizes that what he did was offensive? Anyone who appreciates a true willingness to show courage in spite of the consequences should immediately dismiss this inauthentic showing of “regret.”
We need to remember why “Confederate History Month,” was even reissued to begin with. It was done not out of an honest yet reprehensible desire to honor an illegal entity that according to the 1861 Mississippi State Convention was “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery–the greatest material of the world.” It was done out of a crass attempt at appealing to the “Lost Causers,” people who still want to live in their childishly romanticized ‘Dixieland’ fantasies like the spectacularly ignorant Sons of Confederate Veterans.
McDonnell had no reason to do this whatsoever. He had already established a popular reputation with conservatives not just on the state level but on the national level by running a campaign that deemphasized controversial social issues and instead one that championed pro-business policies. McDonnell even received the endorsement of one of the state’s most prominent African American residents, Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson who also happens to be a Democrat. So, why did McDonnell feel the need to appeal to the more undesirable elements of Virginia?
I can think of no other reason than pure political greed. While he may not have needed the “Lost Cause” vote for a future reelection race since Virginia only allows their Governors to serve one term, he may have found it prudent to reach out to them for support in future campaigns. As a rising star in the Republican Party, who made his first foray onto the national stage by giving the Republican response to the Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this year, he clearly has big plans for the future that extend far beyond Richmond.
He may want to challenge one of the state’s two Democratic Senators. He may even want to run for the Presidency. But he will not get there if he feels that he has not locked up their support. And what better way to appeal to racists than by issuing a proclamation that celebrates a rogue government that fought explicitly for the preservation of slavery and white supremacy by declaring war against the United States. Oh, I’m sorry; I meant ‘states rights’ (to own slaves.)
As much as McDonnell has demonstrated a willingness to descend into the depths of rapaciousness, his rescinding of “Confederate History Month,” and his latest about-face might cause some to reconsider their opinions of him. He has worked vigorously to restore the voting rights of close to 90% of non-violent felons. In fact, his administration has been so expeditious in approving requests that more applicants have already had their voting rights restored than in the previous two Democratic administrations and certainly in the prior Republican administrations.
Once again, I am delighted to hear this. And if we were all struck with amnesia, we could easily forget that it was actually McDonnell who proposed the original plan (though never implemented) to require non-violent felons, most of whom are black and poor, to write an essay that would outline their productive value to the Commonwealth upon being released. Do I even need to explain how hideous that would have been?
I have no shadow of a doubt that McDonnell’s flip-flops had more to do with the extenuation of his political career than it did with doing what was right. While we can applaud McDonnell for rectifying his errors, we should still keep in mind why this “error of haste and not heart,” was made to begin with. The one lasting positive development that has come from this ordeal is the reaffirmation of success that comes from the tried and true method of shaming one so thoroughly, that they are eventually prodded into doing what is right.