ANOTHER SETBACK FOR GOP MINORITY OUTREACH…. Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, Sophia Nelson, a former congressional staffer and a black Republican, had an op-ed piece lamenting the fact that her party seems wholly disinterested in minority outreach.

I thought about Nelson’s piece after seeing the latest moves from Virginia’s new Republican leadership. (via TS)

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, reviving a controversy that had been dormant for eight years, has declared that April will be Confederate History Month in Virginia, a move that angered civil rights leaders Tuesday but that political observers said would strengthen his position with his conservative base. […]

The seven-paragraph declaration calls for Virginians to “understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War.”

McDonnell had quietly made the proclamation Friday by placing it on his Web site, but it did not attract attention in the state capital until Tuesday.

McDonnell apparently went out of his way to make his declaration as insulting as possible. Virginia’s last two governors — Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — scrapped the practice of annual Confederate resolutions altogether, while Virginia’s last Republican governor, Jim Gilmore, included anti-slavery language in his resolution. McDonnell turned back the clock, honoring those who fought against the United States, and neglecting entirely to mention slavery.

Adam Serwer noted, “[N]ot only does McDonnell venerate those who took up arms against their own country, he does so without acknowledging that the institution for which they fought was the right to preserve the right to own human beings as slaves. He then papers over the horrors of reconstruction, lynching, and Jim Crow that followed.”

Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D), chairman of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, added, “Governor McDonnell’s proclamation was offensive and offered a disturbing revision of the Civil War and the brutal era that followed. Virginia has worked hard to move beyond the very things for which Governor McDonnell seems nostalgic.”

James McPherson, dean of Civil War scholars, described McDonnell’s proclamation as “obnoxious.”

I’d just add McDonnell, a graduate of radical TV preacher Pat Robertson’s college, was only too pleased to present himself to voters last year as a relative moderate. Indeed, the governor capitalized on friendly support (though not an official endorsement) from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (D), the first African-American governor in the nation since Reconstruction.

But the facade didn’t last after McDonnell’s inauguration. It’s the funny thing about conservative Republicans who downplay their ideology to get elected — they invariably stop pretending just as soon as they’re in positions of authority.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.