With the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States upon us, don’t be surprised if you see more opinion pieces like this one from E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post or this one at Salon.com by Western Kentucky professor Glen LaFantasie. They are obviously designed to try demonize the Confederacy, to equate the Confederacy with Nazi Germany, but there’s a deeper purpose to them as well.
A race-obsessed Left will obviously want to make the war entirely about slavery because no one would want to identify with such an odious notion as a nation based on chattel slavery. Dionne wrote not to spin the cause of the war and yet manages to spin on his own anyway, conveniently forgetting a codicil in the U.S. Constitution about a slave being three-fifths of a person (which Northerners demanded in the Constitutional Convention and got), about a nation created on July 4, 1776 where slavery existed up and down the coastline (or as Samuel Johnson would put it “this revolution of slave holders”) where the military leader of the revolution and best theoretician were also slaver owners and where the “liberator” himself, Abraham Lincoln, once said if he could save the Union without freeing a slave he would do so. In fact, such a hope was part of the platform of the Republican Party, which was did not call for abolition in the states where slavery already existed. Lincoln was not an abolitionist. He would not have been the GOP nominee in 1860 if he was. While detesting slavery, Lincoln’s overall attitude was similar to many Negrophobes in the Midwest at the time who worried the expansion of slavery would settle blacks not only in the Western territories, but in their own states as well (which is why the Dred Scott decision swung sentiment towards the Republicans). The Union side included several slave states and the cause the U.S. fought for had nothing to do with slavery at the beginning of the war but preserving the Union itself. No one denies slavery was a cause of the secession and eventual war. Certainly there were Southerners who defended slavery. But it was not the only cause of Southern grievance against the U.S. government which led henceforth to its secession from it.
This line of attack of course is typical and has been going on for at least 20 years. What will be noticeably different is the Left’s view of secession being treason in itself. This is basically the thesis of the LaFantasie essay which includes this chilling line…
“There is no gray area, no wiggle room, that allows you to claim that because the Constitution does not mention secession, it therefore must be legal, and, oh, by the way, beginning on Tuesday Texas will henceforth be an independent republic. If Texas desires to leave the Union, then the president and Congress are duty-bound to prevent it from doing so. The aphorism “Don’t Mess with Texas” has no relevancy. Neither Texas nor any other state can secede from the Union without paying the consequences..”
So if little Vermont, which does have a secessionist movement which is far more along than the one in Texas (and without the opportunism of a career politician looking to save his political neck by co-opting Tea Party rhetoric), did manage to secede, the consequences of this would be fire, bloodshed, murder and destruction right? No doubt LaFantasie probably does fantasize this response when it comes to Texas itself but would he feel the same way if peaceable Vermont did so? Does he not forget Vermont essentially invoked nullification of Fugitive Slave Act and that Vermont and other New England states entertained ideas of secession during the War of 1812? No, he does not because to do so would mean secession was not just a Southern issue (which leads us back to slavery again) but has been thought about by other parts of the country (including Alaska which elected a member of a pro-secessionist political party as governor) for the very same reasons: separation from a larger body of government due to irreconcilable differences, the kind which were clearly spelled out in Declaration of Independence. This is why LaFantasie was vainly tries to equate the Founding Fathers on the same level as the Jacobins, the Communists and other revolutionary forces throughout history because otherwise the American Revolution looks exactly as it does, the secession of Great Britain’s American colonies from the British Empire, the rule of King George III and the British Parliament in favor of rule by colonial assemblies and their representatives in Philadelphia which signed the document.
Its more than just anti-Southern hatred which motivates this thinking. What we are seeing is the rise or re-rise of an authoritarian Left. The “power to the people” rhetoric from the 1960s is dead, and really has been since the Clinton Administration. The Left wants power and wishes to use this power to its own egalitarian ends. It does not believe in self-enpowerment any more because it does not trust the people to govern themselves for whatever reason, take your pick (they are either fat, stupid, lazy, drunk, easily mislead, superstitious and overly religious). To be fair, many on the Right have felt the same way about the public from time to time, but the authoritarian Right is what it is mostly for nationalistic reasons (outside of neocon support for Israel). This “New Left” has been born in admiration of leftists past from FDR through to LBJ. The McGovern/Carter/Dukakis/Nader rejection of such concentrated power because of Vietnam and the failure of the Great Society has been largely discredited in their eyes. Power is what they want, the power to do things, even killing innocent people which the drones are doing currently in Pakistan.
Justin Raimondo points this out in his latest column in Antiwar.com, showing how liberal writer Michael Lind defends the government’s persecution of Julian Assange. Read LaFantasie essay and you’ll see the same kind of “for us or against us” rhetoric Bush II used or the “America – Love It or Leave It” rhetoric found with the authoritarian Right, even though he tries to deny it:
“It should be obvious, then, that any serious suggestion of secession in our own time is perilous. And, quite frankly, when it comes to secession (and not just the more benign “opting out” of federal programs, which in some cases are voluntary anyway), words put into action would become treason. Nor does the right of revolution — enshrined in the words of the Declaration of Independence — allow you to foment rebellion without paying the consequences. You have every right to rise up in revolution. But when you do so, you become an enemy of the United States. There is no gray area, no wiggle room.”
Like the authoritarian Right, the authoritarian Left doesn’t do nuance either.
Some other articles for your consideration. My latest at Etherzone explains why libertarianism so popular for those on the outside looking in.. until they actually go in
Sarte’s decade retrospective at BATR.
The Fighting Bobs by Bill Kauffman over at TAC.
The Human Condition, American Nihilism and the Absurd by Thomas Naylor at Second Vermont Republic
Chime into Jeff Taylor’s essay at Front Porch Republic on who you feel were some of the worst Presidents in U.S. history