January 10, 2013

That time the Mummers waved confederate flags at a Republican House retreat

Last week, I wrote a piece about a ridiculous Mummers skit for The Philly Post. I did a little research but I had to write it pretty quickly the day after the parade. I was able to do a bit more (to satisfy my curiosity) and came across an incredible story from the March 1, 1990 edition of Roll Call.

It concerns a late February 2001 “Congress of Tomorrow” strategy retreat 60 GOP House members attended in Plainsboro, a Central New Jersey township about an hour from downtown Philadelphia. (The lede’s cute: “Leave it to the Republicans to hold a retreat at the stodgy-sounding ‘Merrill Lynch Conference Center’ as opposed to a posh hotel or resort.”) Most of the names at this thing are unrecognizable-to-the-general public now, but John Sununu (Chief of Staff for President George H.W. Bush), Dan Quayle (VP) and Newt Gingrich (then-Minority Whip of the House) attended. Okay, still not big names.

Anyway, here was the entertainment:

New Jersey House Members, including area Reps. Chris Smith and James Courter, played host, while the group was alternately entertained by Princeton singing groups, the America Boys Choir, and the “Philadelphia Mummers,” a plumes-clad entourage that waved Confederate flags to Dixieland tunes.

I’ve seen a few small Confederate flags in the parade, but not in a couple years. But, somehow just 23 years ago America was so different that prominent Republicans were entertained by confederate flag-waving jesters from a Mummers brigade. Also, the No. 1 song was by Paula Abdul and a cartoon cat.

Also, Philadelphia is in the North! Where was the outrage from the Union League?!