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Max Blumenthal: How does the neo-Confederate movement achieve its influence within the broader conservative movement and in right-wing Republican circles?
Ed Sebesta: It’s not as direct as electoral politics, it’s more a matter of soft power relating to how you affect people’s thinking. There’s this plantation mythology and you shape your consciousness around the idea that the Confederacy is some ideal. But the thing about the Confederacy is that it’s about advancing inequality. To show how this cultural consciousness affects the country, I do maps of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving the women the right to vote. From these maps, you can see that there’s this Confederate fortress out there, and it’s very clear. Once you have this neo-Confederate mentality at some level of your consciousness, I don’t really have to tell you how to vote or give you a position on some issue — you’ll have this idea already, it naturally comes out of your consciousness. Neo-Confederacy forms American consciousness.
The other thing is, [neo-Confederates] do have access. They’re in the system. They’re not loners out in pickup trucks. The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History is written by a leading neo-Confederate [Thomas Woods] and it’s been a New York Times bestseller. I was looking at the “Politically Incorrect” titles and about half or more are written by neo-Confederates. So they’re about shaping mainstream consciousness in the conservative movement.
They’re also able to shape a reactionary fortress within the country. I did some mathematics and found that if you have 25% of the country in this reactionary fortress, what that means is to get any issue to pass in Congress, you have to get two-thirds support in the rest of the country. To get a judge confirmed in the Senate, you need about eight-ninths of the rest of the country. To get a constitutional amendment passed, you need 100 percent support in the rest of the country or you have to hope to pick up a couple votes in former Confederate states. That was how the 19th amendment was ratified — they did manage to pick up a few former Confederate states. The Equal Rights Amendment was not so lucky. After her celebration in defeating the ERA, Phyllis Schlafly was interviewed by the Southern Partisan. She bragged that 10 of the 15 states against it were from the South.
This is why the US was 26th to get women the vote. Because they had to get practically everyone else outside the South to vote for it. Imagine if the ERA had been ratified, what the situation would be today for women. Just look at a map of where gender inequality is most pronounced. This is the reactionary fortress.