As such, this is an opportune time for historians and political scientists to serve as expert commentators and guests on the cable news and other media outlets. Unfortunately, very few (if any) of them have been given the chance to relate their specialized training to what is an immediate and critical issue of public concern.
The main reason for their absence is how public pedagogy is greeted with much suspicion by traditionalists inside the academy.
Unfortunately, academia loses its social relevance when those with expert knowledge--as opposed to generalists and the usual suspects who seem to appear on every cable news show--either are not given a broader platform on TV or radio, or choose not to insert themselves into the broader conversation.
The public also loses as they are deprived of the context for understanding the Tea Party GOP's shutdown of the United States government, and the ugly history of State's Rights and Secession of which the contemporary Republican Party is a direct descendent.
To be fair, there have been a few moments during this national debacle when appeals have been made to the work of political scientists such as that of Juan Linz and his research on the American Presidency.
And Michael Lind writing over at Salon has provided some great historical context regarding how the Tea Party GOP's treasonous antics are part of a long term (and old) strategy by Southern elites to resist federal authority in order to maximize the financial gains of the (former planter class) white southern "aristocracy" and its allies in big business.
During the shutdown crisis imposed on the American people by the Tea Party GOP, I have been thinking of V.O. Key. He was/remains one of the most important figures in the field of Political Science, and a familiarity with his work is considered obligatory for professional students of American politics, public opinion, and American political development.
In his seminal book Southern Politics in State and Nation, Key suggested that the Negro was the "glue" that binded together the "Solid South" and detailed the region's "abnormal" one-party politics during the post-Reconstruction Jim and Jane Crow era.
Building upon Key's work, The New Southern Politics makes the following observation, one which is very helpful if we are to understand the Tea Party GOP as a Southern political organization--with all of the history and baggage that comes with said identity:
Political culture refers to the attitudes and evaluations people have toward government. Here, too, the South remains unique. One-party politics, legislative governance, a distinct Christian rhetoric about values, colorful executives with flamboyant leadership styles, a preference for an elitist social system, and a popular resistance to centralized authority made southern politics extraordinary. These attitudes and patterns of life are transmitted from generation to generation through political socialization and participation.The union of white racism and conservatism in the Age of Obama, along with the open resurrection of the Confederacy by the Tea Party GOP in both its rhetoric and chosen symbols, are V.O. Key's observations about Southern "political culture" (and its actors) moved to the national stage.
The Tea Party GOP's effort to sabotage the United States government is a continuation of an old political struggle that reaches back more than 100 years wherein the plutocrats of the Old South have been replaced by the 1% robber barons of the present.
During the 19th century, the elites of the Confederacy were able to convince hundreds of thousands of poor and working class whites to go off to the slaughter of the Civil War in order to defend chattel slavery and white supremacy. Today, the Koch Brothers and the other plutocrats send off their low information propagandized Fox News viewers, the useful idiots of the Tea Party, to do their bidding.
Faulkner famously wrote that “The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.” Historians and political scientists have an obligation to educate the American public about how the Tea Party GOP's shutdown of the United States is not new: it is just the ghost of the Old Confederacy given life in the present.