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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Why such fury–or, for that matter, surprise–at Joe Wilson’s “liar” outburst last night? There are calls for him to be formally censured, including from one former Republican senator, or at least apologize to the entire House. Meanwhile, monies are pouring into the campaign coffers of Wilson’s 2010 Democratic challenger, Rob Miller. (According to the DCCC, more than 10,000 contributions totaling more than $350,000, and counting.) He’s getting raked over the coals for his 2000 vote as a state senator–one of just seven–to continue to fly the Confederate Flag over the South Carolina state capitol. Some are even poking into poor Congressman Wilson’s shaky personal finances.

I, for one, am not much surprised that such bleating-heart conservatism came from South Carolina. I mean, c’mon: This is a state that, more than any other, has been resisting progress for the Union–and the Union itself–since, well, before there even was a United States.

This is a state whose slaveowners pressured Thomas Jefferson to remove condemnations of slavery from the Declaration of Independence. This is a state where loyalists rallied by the British as part of their “Southern Strategy”–the Brits’ term, not mine–recaptured South Carolina from the patriots in 1780 as part of a plan to flip SC and Georgia and roll northward from there to smother the very revolution that birthers and tea partiers and Glenn Beck sychophants point to today as inspiration. This is the state that gave us senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun, who advocated state “nullification” of federal powers. This is also the state which became the first to secede from the Union to start the Confederacy—and even threatened to secede from the Confederacy when the other southern states refused to join its calls to re-open the slave trade. This is also the state that boasts of Congressman Preston Brooks, who in 1856 bloodied abolitionist senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane. (Top that, Rep. Wilson!)

All ancient history, you say? Not so fast.

Well into the 20th century, this was the state where black citizens observed the Fourth of July mostly alone. Why? Because–get this–the vast majority of whites preferred instead to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, May 10, a practice that continued into the early 50s, which means there are some very senior South Carolina citizens who skipped a few Fourths back in their early years. (Why isn’t Sean Hannity asking them to brandish their flag pins?) In 1920, this was the state whose legislature rejected the women’s suffrage amendment, only ratifying it for symbolic purposes a half century later, in 1969. In 1948, this was the state where the legislature declared President Harry Truman’s new civil rights commission “un-American,” and that offered segregationist favorite son Strom Thurmond as the so-called Dixiecrat party’s presidential nominee. And it was this state’s Clarendon County, not Topeka, that was the original case that later became–and only after political intervention by Gov. James Byrnes to replace SC with KS–the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Is anyone surprised that this was the state that brought the first court challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

Joe Wilson’s outburst? Puh-lease. Merely a peep, folks. Merely a peep.

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