It’s Melissa Harris-Lacewell Day here at JJP apparently. We’re big fans as you know of this brilliant professor and thought leader.

She’s got a great piece over at the Nation and I agree wholeheartedly. The lack of patriotism among the tea partiers who seem ready to de-legitimize a president because his ethnicity is different from theirs is shocking. It must be called out for what it is. And stamped down before people really get hurt.

From the Nation:

The Tea Party is a challenge to the legitimacy of the U.S. state. When Tea Party participants charge the current administration with various forms of totalitarianism, they are arguing that this government has no right to levy taxes or make policy. Many GOP elected officials offered nearly secessionist rhetoric from the floor of Congress this weekend. They joined as co-conspirators with the Tea Party protesters by arguing that this government has no monopoly on legitimacy.

I appreciate the parallels to the civil rights movement drawn by the MSNBC crowd, but they are inadequate. When protesters spit on and scream at duly elected representatives of the United States government it is more than act of racism. It is an act of sedition.

John Lewis is no longer just a brave American fighting for the soul of his country- he is an elected official. He is an embodiment of the state.

Commentators and observers need to move their historical lens back a little further. The relevant comparison here is not the mid-20th century civil rights movement. The better analogy is the mid-19th century period of Reconstruction.

[...]

As I watch the rising tide of racial anxiety and secessionist sentiment I am not so much reminded of the Bloody Sunday protests as I am reminded of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of Nation. This 1915 film depicts the racist imagination currently at work in our nation as a black president first appoints a Latina Supreme Court Justice and then works with a woman Speaker of the House to pass sweeping national legislation. This bigotry assumes no such government could possibly be legitimate and therefore frames resistance against this government as a patriotic responsibility.

There are historic lessons to be learned. But they are the lessons of the 19th century not the 20th. We must now guard against the end of our new Reconstruction and the descent of a vicious new Jim Crow terrorism.

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