The nation would be better off if Southern states seceded from the union, and Republicans pushing for right-to-work, voter ID laws and other reforms are “neo-Confederates” according to a candid exchange between a major Democratic donor and liberal organizers on Gamechanger Salon. The forum, a secretive and exclusive digital gathering of over 1,000 leftwing leaders, activists and journalists, was recently made public by Media Trackers, and email exchanges between members offer fascinating insights into the group’s inner deliberations.
Gamechanger Salon participant Jon Stahl sparked a conversation last October about the role of the South in American politics when he posted a link to Michael Lind’s piece for Salon magazine entitled The South is Holding America Hostage. “I thought this was an impressive (if tough) piece of big-picture political strategy and prescription,” Stahl explained before remarking, “Would be interested to hear others’ opinions of whether he is on target or way off…and if so what that might imply.”
First to respond was Guy Saperstein, a wealthy California mega-donor to Democratic candidates and leftwing causes. “In the alternative, could we just let the South secede?” the part owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team queried.
He was serious.
“My comment was not made in jest at all,” Saperstein wrote in a follow-up explanation. He expanded on his theory:
“For more than 100 years, the South has been dumbing down national politics, tilting the country in a conservative direction, supporting militarism, all while demanding huge financial subsidies from blue states. It would be 100% fine with me if the South was a separate nation, pursuing its own priorities and destiny. And if people like you succeed in blunting the conservatism of the South, more power to you.”
Saperstein is not a fringe activist hiding out on the far reaches of the left. He’s a well-heeled funder of Democratic campaigns, a former president of the Sierra Club Foundation, and founder of The Patriotic Millionaires, a group of self-conscious millionaires begging the government to raise their taxes.
Reached via email by Media Trackers, Saperstein doubled-down on his theory. Asked about the consequences for African Americans if secession became a reality, he said “secession would be a gradual process, giving any blacks who felt threatened time to relocate.”
According to Saperstein, civil rights victories “would not be lost for any blacks willing to relocate and the ones who relocated would do much better in their new environments.”
Some Gamechanger Salon activists, working in the South or familiar with leftwing initiatives in the South, urged moderation, pointing out that such rhetoric won’t endear liberal ideas to Southern voters.
Billy Wimsatt, founder of Gamechanger Salon, weighed in with his own unique theory. “Personally, I think the civil war [sic] never ended. It just became a cold war – in all 50 states.”
Historians generally agree that the American Civil War ended in 1865.
Ryan Clayton, who founded Wolf PAC, a group seeking to reform campaign finance laws through a constitutional amendment, pushed back on the talk. “Calling for secession is technically sedition – if we’re going to call out right-wing nutjobs for saying lunatic things like this, then we should be equally prone to chastise our own allies for saying so,” he posted.
But Clayton offered an odd comment of his own, praising Lind’s Salon piece and adding, “That article was a really good read (thanks for sharing) and neo-Confederates is what we should start calling these people (if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…).”
Liberals and Democrats increasingly recognize the importance of the South politically and have lately looked to increase their vote totals in states like Texas.
Clayton acknowledged this reality, optimistically writing, “Seriously, the south will be solid blue in a decade or two (if current partisanship trends continue). Texas will likely be solid blue by 2020, which means no more Republican Presidents evar [sic] (the GOP is expected to shift their mascot from the Elephant to the Mastodon to reflect this developing reality).”
But if liberals and Democrats swap political groundwork for day-dreaming about secession while calling a sizeable swath of Southern voters “neo-Confederates,” they aren’t likely to make a lot of headway in the South.