If Mitt Romney is to win the 2012 US Presidential Election tomorrow, he may very well need to win all eleven of the states which made up the Confederacy during the Civil War. Some analysts see this feat as a distinct possibility, with Virginia and Florida the main potential stumbling blocks.
Such an achievement for Romney would be apt given that this is the most polarised election (and electorate) in recent memory and that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the ultra conservative views synonymous with the Confederacy. Not only is the Evangelical Right more hate-filled and scaremongering than usual, but racial tensions are also simmering in a way reminiscent of the distant past. The “enemy within” during the mid-19th century was the indentured black underclass whose release from the bonds of slavery, it was argued, would pose a threat to the very survival of white civilisation in America.
The new “enemy within” are the Muslims and anyone perceived to be sympathetic towards the principles of Islam, Sharia Law and fundamentalist behaviour in general. “Liberals” have become an indistinguishable blur amongst the American population, a class of person deemed as subversive as the “communists” of bygone days. These “Liberals” – and no conservative can be any more specific in their characterisation of this supposedly dangerous sub-group – are considered almost as great a threat as the Muslim “terrorists”. (My frequent use of quotation marks may be irritating but it these very broad terms that Republican politicians and their vast media cohort use to spread a misconception about the internal threat posed to America).
It is widely believed that the result of the election will come down to economics. Do enough people see signs of a sustained American recovery? Or is there a greater number of people determined to punish Barack Obama for his disappointing economic record? Are they maybe even those who genuinely believe Mitt Romney has the economic and “business” credentials to lead America forward?
The economy is, of course, the decisive factor. However economic considerations are inextricably linked to people’s views on contentious issues such as the threat of terrorism, immigration and social rights. Ethnic minorities have long been blamed for downturns in economic performance and the denial of jobs to the “native” population. Romney’s idea that some immigrants should “self-deport” is the sort of incendiary remark likely to appeal to the unemployed and underemployed. There is also the Republican argument that Obama’s healthcare reform should be scrapped and general spending on social benefits should be slashed. The reason? Well, balancing the budget has something to do with it but then again so does the right-wing desire to increase defence spending. Despite a military and home security budget that would make any other country in the world blush, Republicans see as essential an increase in defence expenditure to protect both the benevolent Israelis from potential nuclear armageddon in the Middle East and citizens at home from that “enemy within”.
Because the stance of most Democrats is now so anathema to even moderate Republican views there is an internal segregation amongst the American people that is practically unheard of. Even at the outbreak of the Civil War, how many Unionists really wanted to see the emancipation of the slaves? The two sides probably had more in common than the two parties of today.
Perhaps a revival of the Confederacy would be a blessing; two countries for two different peoples. Because that is the way America is going.