Rkmickey at Rkmickey at
Sat Aug 7 19:10:51 PDT 1999

Here is what the Chronicles people are up to today:

Saturday August 7 3:16 PM ET

Secessionists Launch Southern Party In N.C. By Leda Hartman

FLAT ROCK, N.C. (Reuters) - A fledgling group of about 200 Southern nationalists gathered at a Civil War-era inn in the North Carolina mountains Saturday to launch a political party seeking to revitalize the secessionist movement in the South.

The Southern Party, which unlike other separatist movements of generations past claims to oppose white-supremacy ideologies, will seek to place candidates on local ballots in up to 16 states in the 2000 elections, including all the states of the old Confederacy.

``I welcome you here to this historic occasion to announce the formation of the Southern Party, dedicated to limited government, low taxes, maximum individual liberty, a free market and self-determination for Dixie,'' Southern National Committee board member Ron Holland said.

Holland, a North Carolina investment counselor, was flanked by men wearing Civil War uniforms on a platform draped with an oversized Confederate flag. A volley of ceremonial gunfire erupted as party officials signed a declaration officially forming the party.

The Southern Party is an outgrowth of the League of the South, a Southern nationalist group headquartered in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which formed a committee last November to explore the creation of a new political party.

Despite adopting the Confederate battle flag as one of its symbols, party leaders say they'll try to realize their goal of an independent Southern nation not through violence or overthrow of the U.S. government, but through the ballot box.

The party aims to eventually elect governors and legislative majorities in Southern states, which would then vote to withdraw from the United States.

``We are often asked if our affinity for the Confederate national symbols of Southern sovereignty are also indicative of an attitude of racial malice toward people of non-European origin, or racial bigotry toward people of non-Christian faith,'' Southern Party chairman George Kalas of Texas said.

``The simple answer to this question is a firm no. Southerners are not a race, they are a people,'' he said. ''Secession, if it comes, must come from the electorate and it must be a peaceful, orderly and constitutional process.''

Still, no African-Americans or other minorities attended the meeting.

Whether or not the Southern Party becomes an electoral force to be reckoned with, its other policies may resonate with some voters. The party platform calls for a decentralized federal government and increased states' rights, supports the right to bear arms, and a halt to immigration and affirmation action.

If that sounds like a conservative Republican agenda, it's no coincidence. Kalas, a former CIA agent who now works as a Web site designer, worked on both of commentator Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns, but says the Republican Party has simply given lip service to these positions.

The party is registered in nine Southern states, and has been contacted by Bob Smith, a two-term U.S. Senator running as independent candidate for President from New Hampshire seeking its support, party officials said.

University of North Carolina sociologist John Shelton Reed, one of the nation's foremost experts on Southern culture, doubts the secessionist strategy will succeed.

``I'd be very surprised if in the short run, they gather a great deal of popular support,'' he says. ``Polls show single- digit support for Southern independence and I don't think it's a topic that most people have thought about much, seriously.''

By Reed's count, there are dozens of third-party movements in the United States, including independence parties in Alaska and Hawaii.

``It's a mistake to take them too seriously,'' he says. ``On the other hand, it's a mistake not to take them seriously enough -- and I'm still trying to figure out how seriously to take them.''

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I hope Reuters will let us know when Reed makes up his mind. K.M.

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