Backing away from his usual political pandering to the hard right, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell announced that next April will be “Civil War in Virginia” month instead of “Confederate History Month.” The announcement is the latest in the Governor’s apologies for his earlier proclamation that celebrated Virginia’s role in the Civil War and expressly omitted any reference to slavery or its role in the war.
The Governor has now called on Virginians to remember the Civil War with solemnity, rather than to embrace it as a source of regional, racial pride. McDonnell’s earlier controversial (and historically inaccurate) proclamation came at request of the group Sons of Confederate Veterans and immediately came under national criticism for doing so.
Many see this step as a way for McDonnell to repair the damage done from the earlier proclamation–but on his own terms–so as to not appear like he’s caving to criticism from outside his state and outside his conservative circles.
To the credit of some of McDonnell’s advisors, there does seem to be a genuine effort at reaching out to all Virginians here and not just the radical, racialized Sons of the Confederacy. This latest move is but one of a series that is trying to recognize an inclusive history of the state and not a revisionist one promulgated by the hard right.
But not everyone is pleased with the move, including the Virginia arm of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who called the move “cowardly” and accused McDonnell of selling out Virginia’s Confederate descendants to make himself for accepting for a national audience.
Whether this is genuine or just political opportunism almost doesn’t matter. The fact remains that white revisionists were dealt a set-back by a very conservative Governor. It’s a victory for those of us concerned by the increasingly hostile racial tone of American politics and policy and perhaps a signal that the Republican “Southern Strategy” may not have the kind of political teeth to truly impact either midterms or the 2012 elections.
photo courtesy of change-of-venue via Flickr