Confederate Tea Party

Chattanooga, TN is an area rich in Civil War history, as well as numerous other events and eras. It is really no surprise that the largest local paper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is usually littered with pictures, articles and notes about the past. The Civil War usually garners the most attention in the fair city, so it came as no surprise when a picture of a Confederate Battle Flag popped up on my feed last week. What is surprising, is that the flag is depicted as a modern symbol of the Tea Party.

Clay Bennett is the political cartoonist for the Chattanooga Times Free PressIf I had to categorize Clay’s politics, I would probably label him as a Democrat. The majority of his cartoons are left leaning in my opinion, but I will admit that he is fair. He does not shy away from opportunities to point out the flaws of President Obama or other Democratic Party members. That being said, one of Clay’s latest cartoons, “I Voted,” displays a “I Voted” pin identifying the Tea Party with the Confederate Battle Flag.

One is left to wonder what Clay’s message is. I have not read nor heard about any Tea Party rallies in Chattanooga as of late, so I cannot comment to whether or not this is a message intended to critique local events. My belief is that this is a much broader message. Which begs the question: what is the message? Some would undoubtedly claim that it is a Marxist, Politically Correct, Leftist agenda “to denigrate the intelligence of those they disagree with, at one time or another, to one degree or another — especially Southern heritage folks.” These people are usually angry, old, petty, and take up residence in Florida. I think it has more to do with the efforts of certain political figures associated with the Tea Party, who are ‘taking up arms’ against Civil Rights legislation and race relations in the U.S.

Representative Ted Yoho (R. – Fla.) is among the young voices of Tea Party affiliated candidates who question the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act.  There was also last year’s “Million Vet Protest March” where, during a government shutdown of monuments in and around the National Mall, protesters converged on the White House where one man brandished the CBF. Many people associate this march withf the Tea Party given that it hosted some of the same political darlings of the party. Then, of course, who can forget the Tea Party poster child Rand Paul and his interesting comments about the Civil Rights Act? It’s little wonder that media pundits and certain politicians argue that Tea Party types are the same people who led the fight for segregation during the Civil Rights Era.

Though I tend to think this might be the core of Clay’s message, for me, his political cartoon also highlights those who openly wield the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of Southern Heritage. For several years now the VA Flaggers, one such Southern Heritage group, have been flagging numerous historical sites and museums in Virginia, and throughout the South, in an attempt to “restore the flag and restore honor.” Of course, this fight has recently turned into throwing up battle flags along highways in random places. These types of people usually ignore accurate history of the flag’s past, opting for a white washed version of history where heroic soldiers fought for freedom (while keeping others in bondage). The most non-surprising thing about these people, is that they usually share common beliefs with active Tea Party proponents.

A lot of today’s “Southern Heritage” groups advocate that their ancestors fought for the same things that they themselves politically advocate today: smaller government, low taxes, fighting against tyranny, etc. It appears the only thing that parallels with the past is that their ancestors fought to maintain the institution of slavery and the current Tea Party claims that Civil Rights legislation is unconstitutional and an example of an imposing federal government. Both are examples of race relations gone wrong.

I have not been alone in arguing that “heritage” groups are guilty of presentism. Heritage advocates routinely project their political beliefs onto the past in an attempt to justify their claims. Rarely do these claims hold up to objective analysis, but like-minded individuals rarely disagree with one another. Of course, if you disagree with the heritage types then they have a plethora of words, that they deem demonic, to insult you with. After all, if you think the war was about slavery, you are just a politically correct leftist that has been brainwashed by your Marxist college professors. I guess it is safe to say that Clay drew a cartoon that provokes debate and interpretation; and for that, I salute him. Now, back to the thesis.




  1. Nice to see Dunford doing the usual running of the mouth while doing no historical work whatsoever. My students are amazed that people like him exist in the world, but then they realize the KKK exists and are supported by Jerry’s kind.

  2. Clay Bennett is pretty damn funny. Back during the 2012 primary season he did this caricature of Herman Cain, who was tripping all over himself to do and say anything that would attract far-right, hyper-conservative voters, who happened to be congregated in the South:
    In fact, Confederate Heritage™ advocacy is very much a proxy war for present-day political, social and cultural issues, and your observation about “present-ism” going unrecognized within the ranks of the True Southrons. None of us living in 2014 can completely divorce ourselves from the present-day, but it’s quite remarkable to read a harangue about the wickedness of big gubmint while collecting Social Security and Medicare, or describing him- or herself as “Confederate Southern American” while happily taking a federal employee pension from the feds. It’s a toxic comedy of anger and resentment that maybe even Clay Bennett couldn’t top.

  3. My Dad served in Vietnam, making Captain. He was ROTC. Purple Heart, Silver Star.

    The experience did not make him a super-hawk or super-patriot. He came home with a deep irritation for people who were eager to send other young men off to war, but not fight it themselves. He was annoyed with the armchair warriors and American Legion guys who wanted the Army “unleashed” and to use nuclear weapons. He was also disgusted by the corruption and waste he saw in Vietnam, especially in human life.

    He told me about seeing the rich Vietnamese who’d sit around the cafes in Saigon and Dalat, who made piles of money on the black market or American economic aid or contracts, ignoring the limbless beggars crawling around. And the gigantic bases the Americans built that provided the Grunts with all their supplies and the vast stuff for the contractors…they had dozens of barges that provided electrical power to the bases to keep the air conditioners humming, PXs where GIs could buy motorcycles on layaway to ship back home…one of the bizarre results was that Saigon’s sanitation system broke down because all the Vietnamese sanitation workers quit to get better jobs on the US bases, and they couldn’t get anyone to pick up the trash in the city, which Dad said was a pretty ghastly place, full of cheap bars that sold colored water and called it tequila, teenage hookers, guys selling black market electronics stolen from the US bases, and drug dealers.

    The worst thing about the waste…the kids under his command who got killed, and writing those letters home. He told me there had to be better ways of solving problems than people killing each other — which is why he went into human resources at Verizon — and that he didn’t see any glory in war. It really steams him to this day when he hears people talk about war being good or the Army taking over the government.

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