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June 07, 2017

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The true new confederacy consists of those committed to "seceding" from being governed by the "establishment" or "deep state."

These new confederates are simply devoted to upending the traditional way of many things: Governing, getting rid of the old Washingtonian intellectual and clubby society, and bringing in ideologues with a wrecking ball.

The problem will be when these "geniuses" try to apply their scorched earth policy to the rest of the world. The rest of the world will throw cold water on this near anarchical mindset--and all there will be is a smoking ruin where the Wicked Warlock from the East used to be.

In reality the smoke will be a combination of the cool fog in his head--and the steaming hot anger of his petulance.

Our long post-Civil War period needs a name. How about Deconstruction? We can ding the right with the word's implicit Bannonism, the idea that government is the problem and that a republic of plutocrats and thugs will somehow preserve our white heritage. It can also ding the left for its near-absurd obsession with political correctness, the compulsion to anathematize words, symbols, and history itself in order to cleanse human beings and their too-human fears and hatreds.

I am in my person much more sympathetic to the left but I would be willing to compromise with the right if we could simply ease up on this toxic polarization. Living in Portland, I see this battle for the national soul in all its ugliness. There's a sense of rage that mixes nihilism and eschatology. Whether it's here, Berkeley, or Evergreen State, we all lose when the left's purity czars demand fealty to their ideological caprices. But the right has consciously staked its own survival on picking the scabs of our national wounds. The culture war is nothing less than the cynical manipulation of emotions for political gain. There is ultimately no freedom or peace when we Balkanize into factions contesting a neurological battleground.

America is both a nation of hungry citizens and hungry ghosts haunting its collective consciousness. I understand the anger, more so my own than the anger of others. But I'm willing to overlook my own partiality for a particular mood if it means we finally understand what's really at stake isn't tangible so much as a child's hurt feelings. We all hurt. We all bleed. That commonality should override this crazed need to be right.


From Ohio, the land of Grant and Sherman. I will forever hate the racism of the Deep South, but Bravo, If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. Let the monuments stand. Let's just not have any new ones.

Well written and a pleasure to read.

Thanks Jon, this made me stop and think. My natural reaction is to support the black community on this, and I admit I actually voted yes to remove the monuments in one of the silly news polls the other day. I appreciated your statements about Confederate history and Jeff Davis' connection to AZ, I also recommend Andrew Masich The Civil War in Arizona : the story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865 for some background. But the question before us today really pulls strings at the intersection of symbolism, commemoration and historical facts. The New Times article yesterday http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-confederate-monuments-state-capitol-greenwood-cemetery-southern-arizona-veterans-cemetery-9392610 provides some useful details about when, where and why the six memorials were installed, and I find that information unsettling. I think where I end up with this is that I would support monuments at Picacho Peak and elsewhere if they contained sufficient interpretation for us to learn something useful about this history, as the Dragoon Springs grave marker provides. But memorials that simply show the name of the confederate memorial groups placed so many years after the events simply become reminders of the pain felt by confederate and union soldiers and especially by so many african-americans who were victims of slavery. We could use less historical tweeting in granite and more detailed understanding of the tragedy of the Civil War and how we can avoid such tragedy in the future. I think Vince Murray and others did a great job with the McFarland memorial in Bolin PLaza and we should do more work like that.

We have no memorials to Adolf Hitler, and yet we haven't "erased" the history of what he did. That's because whether or not you put someone on a granite pedestal doesn't change the role they played or the history surrounding them. It doesn't make you forget, nor does it really make you remember either. Memorials are intended to make people revere, plain and simple. The notion that removing symbols of reverence is erasing history is simply laughable, especially when those memorials were only recently installed.

I believe Mitch McConnell was the poster child for the right-wing's almost complete unwillingness to work across the aisle. This sent a signal that was heard everywhere in the conservative world that it was okay to stonewall (i.e. the government shutdown).

It is this intransigent sentiment that has fermented into 40% of the electorate being absolutely deaf to anything other than their rose-colored "reality."

The left is hardly blameless, but, on the whole, liberals have been somewhat more willing to talk with the wall that is the Republican party.

It almost seems, if only to me, that the conservatives' infatuation with being hard, militaristic, and "macho" makes them deathly afraid of the mere thought of "compromise." They are so hung up on being rough and tough that talking with the other side is seen as the capital offense of being kind, courteous, or altruistic.

Nobody relishes being the "hardnose" more than Trump--and that is why these unconscionably cold-hearted neo-confederates adore and worship him more than they worship God.

I'm quite sure Jesus never acted like how Trump and his storm troopers gleefully parade their boorishness.

Nicely posited, Jon. I'd like to take a history class from you and a poli-sci course from Rachel Maddow. Then, I'd truly be edified.

I recommend the blog Civil War Memory for anyone who wishes to read more on this topic. For AZ I agree with Mr. Spindler. The Jeff Davis Highway? Really? That's got to go.

I also think Rob Spindler nailed it.

"I would support monuments at Picacho Peak and elsewhere if they contained sufficient interpretation for us to learn something useful about this history, as the Dragoon Springs grave marker provides. But memorials that simply show the name of the confederate memorial groups placed so many years after the events simply become reminders of the pain felt by confederate and union soldiers and especially by so many african-americans who were victims of slavery."

Without presenting/explaining the context,these monuments do little good.

Wow, really great article and probably a Rogue Columnist first for me: A nationally topical article on a controversial subject that I agree with almost completely. I find the recent movement to tear down confederate monuments disturbing and I have a hard time putting my finger on exactly why. RC nailed some of my feelings as well as giving me some new food for thought.

The Civil War is history, but the monuments themselves are also history, showing what communities have felt was worthy of a monument at various times since. If the subjects don't seem laudable to our modern senses, as long as the date the monument was erected is on it, doesn't that say something about history and where we've come from and where we are now? Are our communities not free to erect additional monuments, or contextual/interpretive plaques or anything else we want? As long as those also are dated, they become a historical marker for what the community's values are today. Perhaps future generations will find those outdated, but hopefully will have enough respect for history to leave them for people to see and learn whatever they want to learn from them.

RC really nailed it pointing out that history is complicated. It bothers me that public displays of history are falling victim to simplistic, contemporary perspectives and no longer highly visible for people to see our history, good or bad or complex.

In our neighboring state of New Mexico controversy has swirled around two monuments -- the obelisk on the plaza in Santa Fe commemorating both those who battled Native Americans and those who fought against Confederate forces, and the equestrian statue of Don Juan de Oñate near Alcalde north of Española.

Both monuments have been subjected to anonymous emendations via chisel and cutting torch.

The obelisk is noteworthy not only for the chiseling-out of an offensive word but for the state having seen the need to go meta with it -- plaques explaining plaques.

As for the removal of de Oñate's foot by cutting torch, I only remark on very long memory in New Mexico and on my admiration for the cutter, whose identity remains unknown along with the location of the original foot.

A new foot was fashioned for de Oñate, by the way, but the Visitor Center hosting the statue has since closed, with de Oñate now riding his steed above weeds in an atmosphere of neglect.

http://santafecenterforappliedresearch.blogspot.com/2012/02/1973-on-santa-fe-plaza.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/nativevoices/timeline/630.html

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelostdutchman/27777135554/in/album-72157671141689706/

Nazis!!

I would prefer to let the column speak for itself, but the conflation of the Confederacy with National Socialism — especially by Facebook commenters on this piece — is exactly the kind of lazy thinking that is ruining a chance at rational national discourse. It may make the user feel morally superior but it's not persuasive outside the echo chamber.

Hitler was determined to exterminate the Jews. Southern slaveholders considered their slaves valuable property. National Socialism was a very modern ideology (Before June 1941, Stalin admired Hitler and took Hitler's Night of the Long Knives as a cue to begin the Great Terror). The ideology of the Confederacy harkened back to ancient Athens and even the Bible. One thing that brought down the antebellum South was its collision with modernity, including Enlightenment the unavoidable implications ideas such as "all men are created equal."

Lincoln certainly didn't believe he was confronting an existential threat such as 20th century Nazi Germany. See the Second Inaugural Address, where he said in part:

"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

"Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

"It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.'

"If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

In other words, Lincoln understood we were confronting a peculiar American sin, and once atoned for, a charitable peace might be achieved. That didn't happen for African-Americans for a century. If one is looking for analogies, apartheid South Africa is a better, but even then unsatisfying, fit. This is American history and we all own it. The task is to enlarge the narrative factually. Jon7190 gets at my point.

rogue columnist, I think the confederacy's rebellious attitude plays a big part in how Arizona's leadership reacts to anything "different" from a "Southern" mentality.

This informs the majority of Arizona's electorate in their staunch rejection of anything even remotely middle of the road, much less progressive.

I think you've related your inhospitable treatment when you refused to knuckle under on the water issue. There is a lot of pressure in Arizona to "conform" to local "norms" because there is widespread rejection of "difference."

It is this rejection of political evolution that makes Arizona a neo-confederate state--and why black leaders may be calling for removal of the monuments they feel celebrate the confederacy. It also likely explains why so few monuments to blacks exist in Arizona. These two seemingly disparate feelings are connected by Arizona being a "Southern" state in mind, thought, and action regarding people, ideas, and practices who don't "conform."

There are places where we commemorate the dead.

They're called cemeteries.

Let's put all of these Confederate traitors' knickknacks in nice, walled, cemeteries. Then the folks who think that they were "heroes" can go and have picnics, bar-be-ques, gun fights, whatever, to celebrate the glorious past. Sort of like an un-amusement park.

That might be a good start on the "atonement" that Rogue mentions--an atonement that really has never happened in any way approaching completeness.

Yes, Jon7190 got it right. Excellent post, Rogue.

What a thoughtful post and thread. I appreciate, Jon, how you write things that you believe even if they may be unpopular. I also appreciate the many strong comments, such as Soleri's comment, which was thoughtful and quite beautifully written.

The reference by Joe to the Santa Fe Plaza statue is also quite relevant. The viewpoints espoused by Jon, Rob, Scott et al. all have their own merits as well and this figures to continue to be a great thread.

Personally speaking, as a student of history, I think the past can and should be allowed to continue to speak for itself. Let history stand in the light, unabridged, and let people rightfully draw their own conclusions from America's (and humanity's) checkered past.

Confederate monuments can indeed be unsettling to encounter. They can also spur people to deeper thinking or research. Maybe some people are shocked or angered when encountering them, or maybe they are just quizzical, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is so much value in knowing, confronting and understanding our history.

I don't know that we necessarily need exculpatory plaques erected next to every such monument, although I certainly understand the impulse, and I would certainly rather "append" history than remove, censor or sanitize it, if I had to choose between those options.

So put up competing plaques or memorials if one must, but don't remove our history.

As I believe you have noted elsewhere before, the very decision to side with the South affected Arizona's boundaries and treatment by the federal government in a number of ways. There are many residents completely unaware of our state's history in this regard, or many other regards, and pretending it didn't happen by digging out the monuments is not the right path, in my mind.

Perhaps the best way to combat the romanticization of the Confederate past is not by trying to erase it or pretend it didn't happen, but rather by shining the light of truth upon it.

I watched Bill Maher last night apologize for using the N word the previous week. It was painful to watch because Maher is at his best when he skewers the left and not just the right (Trump has been a gold mine for him, needless to say). Personally, I'm put off by his attacks on Islam, which strike me as crude. I myself have used the N word in this forum partly because I see Maher's logic that words themselves are not intrinsically bad. That said, his guest Ice Cube made the point that to African Americans, that words is cuts like a knife when coming from a white person regardless of their intention.

I think the unfinished business of the Civil War is how we bring blacks into the mainstream of American life. You can make an argument that of all the lingering aftereffects of that misery, none is more evident than their continuing marginalization. We are a divided nation, I think, primarily because liberals get this and conservatives do not. Yes, we are on the left go too far in our word-shaming and epithet hurling (Racist!). But the right is still more culpable because it weaponizes the meanness and smallness in the hearts of so many white people.

Slavery was not benign in any way. The systematic brutalization of a large number of Americans still haunts us today. You see it in the broken families, low self-esteem, anger, and hostility of so many who still seem robbed of their own lives. That they perpetuate their own misery is undoubtedly true, particularly when it comes to beating their own children. I think that one of the most important things society can do is to teach people never to harm a child under any circumstances. Make Oprah the czar of a national program to leach this toxicity from our psyches. We can make kindness itself a national aspiration.

I agree with Scott Jones here. Memorials themselves are not history although at their best they can educate. If Confederate memorials referenced the inhumanity of the Southern slave economy, it might help bridge our differences. But the faint perfume of Lost Cause nostalgia is essentially hostile to that effort.

We cannot erase our relevant history even if we tried. While I'm not particularly offended by Confederate memorials in public spaces, I would not be surprised if they disappear over time. History will not be lost as a result unless book burning becomes the order of the day. In this era of alternative facts, Fox News-style propaganda operations, and partisan denial, that is the greater threat.


I hope that progressives can put their shoulders to serious threats, such as vote suppression, instead of just symbolism and alleged "thought crimes."

Part of this problem, however, is that polarized citizens take offense at the other side's culture. On the right, the outrage takes aim at gay pride parades, rap music, multiculturalism, environmentalism, etc. For the left, the mockery is aimed at fundamentalism, ostentatious materialism, xenophobia, provincialism, etc.

A lot of this reflects the urban vs rural divide. It's probably not an accident that the Civil War itself pitted the more industrial North again the agrarian South.

Respect is a two-way street. The right's strategy since Nixon has been to pick fights in areas that politics itself cannot actually remediate. The flip side of the Culture War is a left that is now fighting back. It may not be wise but it's probably inevitable given the political paralysis resulting from the GOP strategy.

Republicans started this war. I'd be very pleased if they finally chilled their nation-damaging nihilism but it's unlikely since it's their only truly effective weapon in a rapidly urbanizing nation. Voter suppression is an aspect of this strategy.

You'd think that regressive stupidity would die out eventually. Survival of the fittest, and all that.

But apparently a large part of American exceptionalism is the deep, deep vein of dumb that runs from east to west and north to south.

Like the Confederacy, it's a piece of our shared heritage, too.

There have always been self-indulgent college kids --frequently white and middle class -- who adopt someone else's grievances in politically counter-productive fashion. The problem with the Democratic Party is that it has adopted neoliberal economic policy, which require turning up the volume on identity politics because there is nothing else to talk about. It's the mirror image of the GOP What's the Matter With Kansas problem. A commitment to equality and social justice is great, of course, but it needs to be accompanied by economic justice as well.

And that's why I live in a Northern state where there are NO confederate monuments...and never were.

B. Franklin,

Too many people who believe in American exceptionalism have wrong adulterated this to mean Americans are both "excepted" from global norms and also are in that "exceptionalism" somehow superior.

This is where arrogance becomes stupidity that blinds the believer to what the supposedly "inferior" person, people, or nation is capable of.

Nobody hurts you harder than yourself, or, "A nod's as good as a wink--to a blind horse."

If Democrats run on a platform of left-wing populism, they better have a good explanation who is going to pay for all the "free stuff" because Republicans will hammer them relentlessly on this score. The TV ads will show harried homeowners opening their tax bills and discovering that they can no longer afford to heat their houses because liberals in Congress are giving "others" free college and single-payer health care.

On the other hand, Trump's core supporters would gladly give up their own health care and Social Security just to spite liberals.

Yes, this is why identity politics can be so toxic. An identity politics based on white skin, cultural grievances, and xenophobia is extraordinarily potent. Liberals respond in their fashion and are instantly lambasted by concern trolls for alienating conservatives.

In other words, it's perfectly fine for Republicans to debase our politics with demagoguery about things politics is powerless to address but liberals are more wrong if they defend themselves because.....empathy is important!

By all means, we need to craft a focused message on economic and safety-net issues. But we're not going to stop ourselves from arguing over nebulous "values" because this is what human beings do. Yes, if were a party of Buddhas, we might rise above such pettiness but we're not. We're not going to duct-tape the mouths of Colbert, Noah, Oliver, Bee, Maher, Kimmel and company or get Black Lives Matters to wear suit and ties. This isn't reality and in any case Limbaugh, Hannity, Ingraham, Steyn, and Savage will continue to tell their listeners how depraved we are.

Curiously, we could still win if we vote for the good rather than the perfect. But punishing "neoliberals" seems to be a higher priority than sanity itself on the left.


Soleri wrote: The right's strategy since Nixon has been to pick fights in areas that politics itself cannot actually remediate. The flip side of the Culture War is a left that is now fighting back. It may not be wise but it's probably inevitable given the political paralysis resulting from the GOP strategy.

Republicans started this war.

I'm trying to understand your point better, can you give some early examples of what specifically you're talking about here?

Jon, this is usually called the Southern Strategy and born out of the insights of Kevin Phillips and Pat Buchanan (who was working in the Nixon White House at the time). There was wide and deep polarization in the country at that time because of Vietnam, race riots, the counterculture, etc. The 1968 presidential election featured a strong insurgency from the populist right (George Wallace) and the perception gelled that Republicans could easily co-opt this movement. Few remember this, but Spiro Agnew was actually somewhat liberal as Maryland governor when Nixon picked him for veep. He became the Republican attack dog who galvanized the white working class on behalf of the GOP - the Silent Majority. From that point forward, Republicans created alliances with heretofore apolitical religious denominations like the Southern Baptists by leveraging discontent with Roe v Wade and school desegregation. By 1980, the party had a hard-right presidential candidate Ronald Reagan not shy about demonizing the left on cultural issues. The Silent Majority became known as Reagan Democrats, and the basic contours of our current politics became defined less by economic issues than by hot-button wedge issues.

@soleri: we tell voters we will pay for these necessary public services by restoring the relative tax burden that existed under Eisenhower or even Reagan.

Chris, in order to make a single-payer health care system work, taxes would have to go up on the middle class. Politically, this is a very heavy lift. Most of the middle class already has health insurance and would likely view the effort as a way of redistributing wealth to the less deserving. That said, if you could somehow finesse the very powerful health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies, single payer would save money. But there's the rub. They are extremely formidable precisely because they have so much economic power. Moreover, lowering the cost curve could mobilize the health-care providers to oppose the legislation.

There's an interesting idea out there to let citizens buy into Medicaid (which reimburses providers at 60% of the private schedule). Nevada is supposed to be one state actively considering this. OTOH, if Trumpcare passes, Medicaid funding will be severely curtailed.

I think this points out the wisdom of partial success. Obamacare was unpopular mostly because of Republican propaganda. Now that voters are seeing the real-world import of Trumpcare, they're very worried. One of the consequences of burning down the house in a fit of political pique is that 23 million might well lose their health insurance altogether. This includes Trump voters. Chances are Fox News will tell them it's Obama's fault but for those of us with functional consciences, this will be a bitter pill. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jan/13/how-much-would-bernie-sanders-health-care-plan-cos/

Soleri, 


Thanks for the clarification. I wouldn't take issue with any of your points, just add a little different perspective. When you, and others, describe the influence of hot button cultural/wedge issues, it makes it sound like they are not legitimate issues. They are real concerns that matter to many real people. Those types of things hadn't in the past been big political factors because there wasn't widespread disagreement on them. As the 20th century progressed, the country grew more divided on topics that hadn't previously been in the realm of politics. Appealing to the concerns of significant voting blocks is what political parties do, as is poaching discontent voters from other parties. I don't think those issues became significant because the Republican party made them to be, the party adopted them because they were already significant to a lot of people.

I'm sure you've studied political history much more than I have. My (limited) understanding of 60's/70's politics is that the Democratic party had major divisions over civil rights, the Vietnam War and liberal vs. law and order type ideologies. It was ripe for splitting and it's only natural that Republicans would look to appeal to some of the disaffected. 

Democrats have struggled ever since to build large enough coalitions to keep power, but then Republicans certainly have their struggles there, too. It's difficult for many people to find a good political home in a two party system.

Jon, What is different today from, say, 40 years ago is that politics no longer works. We're in a national crisis for this reason. Parties and people polarize to the point that one side will totally obstruct what the other attempts to do. This is what happens when the Vital Center no longer operates as a broad principle. Wedge issues by their very nature cannot be "solved". Yes, they define, mobilize, and inflame but to the point where compromise is impossible. Donald Trump is not an accident in this respect. Republicans have radicalized Americans where they regard the other half as the enemy. Listen to Rush Limbaugh - or Trump - for five minutes and you came away with this feeling that we're in a conflict that is a virtual fight to the death. Our national project is now adrift. We cannot solve ordinary problems for this reason. Yes, the Culture War is fun and easily understood. Yes, we will always disagree about "values". But what Republicans have done is to virtually disable democracy in the name of unbridled passion and tribalism. Ask yourself if cutting taxes on the 1% is that important to you personally, because that's all your party seems to be about in the real world.

Soleri--
I was actually thinking of issues other than health care --say, raising minimum wage, fixing infrastructure, restoring a bit more progressivism to income taxes, etc.

Among many missed opportunities, Obama should have allowed the Bush tax cuts to simply expire. Then the negotiations would have been over the Obama tax cuts -- who deserves them, etc.

On health care, it would have been relatively easy to allow Medicare but-in at age 55 after pulling the public option off the table.

But my main grievance is the absence of any visible fighting for working people's economic interests. The Democratic Party's love affair with globalization and neoliberal economics exarcerbates the narrative that the party is run by out of touch elites. And perhaps it is.

PS: I'm old enough to recall the founding of the DLC and the Democratic Party's decision to be just a bit more friendly to business in order to compete financially, but without losing its soul. Twenty years later, on economic issues, the Democrats are the second party of Wall Street.

It has been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the doors at All Saints'. It has been less than 150 years since the Civil War ended. Maybe we just need a few more centuries for the divide to be repaired so Americans can get along as well as Catholics and Protestants.

Chris, I spend a lot of time here defending the center not because I'm ideologically enthralled with corporate America, Wall Street, balanced budgets or the "market". I do it because it's really the only place politics can get done absent some seismic shift in public attitudes.

We use the term Overton Window to describe the public consensus. It's not fixed but it is relatively stable. For the left, the trick is to move it in their direction without losing elections. Bill Clinton, the DLC Democrat, found a way to do that and helped revive the party. Obama inherited the coalition and made the greatest advance in social democracy since FDR.

Obamacare passed with no votes to spare in the Senate, which ought to tell you something. Medicare buy-in at 55 almost happened. The Independent Joe Lieberman crushed that possibility but Democrats were ready to do that. No Republicans voted for ACA because they no longer do policy that is in the public interest.

In the 1980s Democrats lost the white working class who decided globalization, free trade, Morning in America, union-busting, and Culture War were more to their liking than being nice to Negroes. Republicans figured out that the American psyche is fearful and easily distracted by ginned-up "issues" like guns and abortion. This is the great fault line in our politics even today. I wish it wasn't that way but Republicans made a cynical bet that people care more about nebulous "values" than reality itself. Now, the party is (sorta) against globalization and free trade but you can bet no rich person will be harmed in that policy shift.

Political parties cannot have fixed ideological platforms without becoming either cults or movements. FDR was a realist who managed to midwife significant change by including Southern segregationists and Northern union leaders. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is an ideologue. He doesn't practice compromise or logrolling, which in the eyes of his followers makes him pure. I call this a category error in that politics has never been about purity (FDR proved that) but it can accomplish good things if people vote for their real interests and not simply their vanity or fears.

I worry that the purity movement will do again in 2020 what it did in 2016 and 2000, helping elect another Republican president out of this misguided notion that the good is never quite good enough, therefore burn down the entire edifice of social democracy to spite the real world. Republicans play a long game where the goal is privatizing Medicare and SS, eviscerating the safety net, and making life much worse for most Americans. We can see how a kleptocracy works in Russia and increasingly in Donald Trump's America. If the progressive coalition splits apart again, democracy is doomed.

This video is worth watching and is the single best thing that I have seen on this issue.
https://www.prageru.com/courses/history/was-civil-war-about-slavery

Soleri,

You sound like you might be a good candidate for the Libertarian party: federal government would only be involved in the absolute minimum it has to, everything else left to the individual, locality or state (in that order). That would eliminate an awful lot of issues from national politics.

I agree there doesn't seem to be a natural end point for many of these issues. They are zero sum games. For example, the two big ones of gun control and abortion, there is no way for one side to get what they want without the other side feeling that they lost.  

Jon, I'm not sure how you came by the idea that I'm a Libertarian. I assure you I'm quite the opposite. We need a strong set of rules governing our relations because human beings are greedy and self-dealing (see: Donald Trump). The rule of law is our best defense against capricious exercises of power. Relative equality keeps us committed to social norms. Government is indispensable for peace.

I'm not sure why guns and abortion are zero-sum games. When it comes to guns, I don't believe in confiscation but some regulation are quite sensible. As far as abortion, the best rule is to minimize this unpleasantness with sex education and contraception. Sadly, the American right is more interested in preening its moral superiority. They would rather see women die in back alleys than respect their difficult life decisions. Liberals believe in the autonomy of human beings when it comes to reporduction. Conservatives prefer the state to impose their moral codes. The easiest solution is to simply not have an abortion yourself if you're upset about it. That and minimizing unintended pregnancies. One good step in that direction would be universal health care. But we know money is more important to conservatives than human health.

One of the karma paybacks in the short life of the CSA was that the Confederate ideal was state rights. But putting together a new nation and fighting a war required a strong central government. Jefferson Davis spent the entire war feuding with secessh governors over power and resources.

soleri, you wrote on June 10,

"For the left, the mockery is aimed at fundamentalism, ostentatious materialism, xenophobia, provincialism, etc."

My big problem with the right (especially the "evangelicals," is the first three behaviors are NOTHING like God and Jesus Christ would act--and I extremely detest religious hypocrisy.
The conservatives and the confederacy have the same sort of fair-weather religious practices, in my opinion--and I cannot stand silent when I witness it.

Bradley, people are irrational. The values on the right are not our values, but it's better to simply accept these people since we cannot change their minds and our opposition will only serve to inflame them more. I know in my own life and arguments how frustrating this is.

The politicization of cultural values has been a catastrophe for this nation. If I would say anything, it's that our shared humanity should override our differing opinions. It's not even close when you think about it. We may come from different life circumstances and believe different things but underneath it all is the same consciousness that Jesus meant by the peace that passes all understanding. We will not repair the fabric of being by slashing it with our contempt.

soleri, I want them to know that the God they so self-righteously parade as the inspiration for their control-oriented agenda would act nothing like they do--and I also ask them if they really feel God would approve of their conduct.

I am looking to change minds by trying to tap into that shared humanity that Jesus, as God's incarnation here on Earth, so clearly demonstrated.

Soleri,

I have to disagree with you, it is very much a zero sum game to many, many folks on both sides of those debates. For them, unlike Goldilocks porridge, there is no "just right" in the middle on these issues. For gun rights advocates, there is no such thing as additional regulation that is reasonable and much of the existing regulation isn't reasonable either. If you feel that the solution to gun deaths is getting rid of guns, you will not be satisfied until we have at least European or Australian level gun control. I'm not a gun guy and not real passionate on that issue, but I know a lot of people who are. For people who really care about abortion, there is not a happy compromise position. If you think a fetus is a person, the only acceptable eventual outcome is outlawing abortion. If you don't think that, but rather think women's rights to do with their fetus as they see fit should never be restricted, then you will be opposed to any law that even limits it slightly. I don't understand middle of the road positions on that. If it's unpleasant, then it's wrong. If it's not wrong, then it should be encouraged and facilitated and who cares about birth control. Louis CK has a crass but funny bit that I think actually nails the abortion debate really well: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+tube+louis+ck+abortion&view=detail&mid=42E9E0F47C5AE02C36F942E9E0F47C5AE02C36F9&FORM=VIRE But even if one tries to split the baby, so to speak, and just promote sex education and contraception, it's not so simple because that too is controversial since most serious anti abortion people believe in abstinence only sex education. Just to underline how complicated this gets, here's an interesting study out of the UK I saw the other day: massive cuts to sex education and teen pregnancies went down significantly https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/sex-education-funding-cuts-drive-decline-in-teenage-pregnancies-n67v6mnzr

I didn't think you are a Libertarian, and neither am I. I simply suggest it as a possible solution if controversial wedge issues are truly poisoning our politics. The nation is so divided over controversial subjects, there will never be a national consensus on some things. Therefore, anything is national by its nature (like immigration, probably healthcare)could stay national, but lots of issues could be moved to the state and local level and debated there. Given the sorting that has increasingly been happening, they wouldn't even be controversial in some places. Some places could have strict gun control, some places not. Some places could have gay marriage and unisex bathrooms and locker rooms everywhere, some places would have only opposite sex marriage and say you need to look between your legs to know which bathroom you should use.

As far as taxes go, I think one has to differentiate between Republicans and Republican politicians. I don't think Republican voters care about tax cuts for the 1% nearly as much as the politicians do. It's the same reason Democratic politicians are so accommodating to Wall Street when most of their voters aren't: the donor class. Many Republicans would say that if the damned politicians would just do what was best for the majority of Republican voters, their grip on power would be a lot more secure. That was a big part of why Trump's campaign was so attractive to many voters, that's basically what he was saying. How that plays out will be seen. If he doesn't govern that way, his re-election prospects will be greatly in question, as will the congressional majorities.

Jon, I may be a bit of a maverick here but I don't think Trump's attractiveness to certain voters had that much to do with his positions. Indeed, I don't think a rational voter would believe anything Trump had to say about "positions" given his brazen flip-flopping from liberal Democrat to right-wing populist within a very short period of time. This is the guy who donated to Planned Parenthood, who advocated for gun control, whose Judeo-Christian values were entirely a mirage (and still are, for that matter).

So, why do people love this con artist so much? I think it's race and xenophobia, pure and simple. There's really no other explanation. And it's also here that Trump is most nearly himself and not a weather vane blowing in a politically favorable direction. Even in his days as a Democrat he advocated death for the exonerated group known as the Central Park Five. His first serious foray into politics was predicated on the racist Birther lie. And his family business was sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination.

I do understand that some semi-serious conservatives have advocated for Trump because of the Supreme Court, which is critical to installing the kind of repressive fundamentalist ideology they hold dear. That said, Trump will not deliver on any of his major promises and will pay no political price for this failure among his key supporters. The reason is that tribalism is now the most salient feature in our politics, which is the cause and the fruit of excessive polarization. Trump in his person is naturally divisive and polarizing. He is the political embodiment of the absurdity where we tear apart our nation for no better reason than being right.

I have long suspected that many religious fundamentalists are paper-thin in their understanding of Christianity. I have had more than a few discussions with Trump voters who really don't care about abortion. And the gun issue itself is largely ginned-up hysteria based on the misreading that sensible regulations are somehow tantamount to confiscation.

What seems to unite almost every fervent right-winger I talk to is the belief that blacks are the real racists while they themselves are unfairly attacked for being racists. This is the fruit of the Southern Strategy and the dog-whistles Republicans have long deployed to assert cultural affinity with the white working class. Trump's success in last year's primaries, and among certain voter groups in the general election, underscores this belief. It's why I don't think a President Mike Pence would have nearly the same fervent appeal Trump has.

Trump may well sign into law legislation depriving millions of his own supporters health care. His tax policy is strictly pro-billionaire. He will not tear up any trade agreements and negotiate new ones. He will not reindustrialize the Rust Belt. He will not ban Muslims or deport en masse Latinos. The good news for Team R is that he doesn't have to. Just driving people like me crazy is all the base needs to love their Cheeto Benito.


Soleri,

This commentary on civil war monuments has meandered on long enough and far enough afield, I think.  I have appreciated your consistent advocacy for a pragmatic and not dogmatic approach to politics. I will just say, respectfully, that your cynicism about Republicans and Trump voters seems entirely consistent with the toxic political environment prevailing in our country and not consistent with the tone of your reply to Bradley last night (which I totally agreed with)

A great column. Mucho intelligente hablando.

JON7190. SINCE u think its time to end here I'll add my non intellectual comments.
As a conservative and conservationist minded 77 year old Republican and retired cop I think those folks that voted for the White and Orange Donald were geniuses.
The campfire boys got a free brown shirt, a Confederate flag, a membership to th SS social club and for a dollar a NRA hunting license to shoot anyone not of white Northern European ancestry. Plus free Club drinks for bagging liberals and Muslims.

Jon, my apologies. It's very, very hard for me to discuss Trump with dispassion. I don't hate him - or his followers - although I do regard him as an existential threat to our survival as a democratic republic. Again, I blame much of this unpleasantness on the Culture War. I also wonder, however, if this epic polarization means our sensibilities may be neurologically wired in such a way that make common agreements about social reality impossible.

I do have friends who support Trump. I don't taunt them as a rule although I occasionally let something slip. One of my best friends from childhood is a very dear lady and one e of the sweetest people I've ever known. Her understanding of politics, however, is mediated through chain e-mails and talks with like-minded friends. She was convinced Obama was evil, for example. I was asked her if she could allow the possibility that differences were not necessarily bad things, that we all need one another to get the fullest picture of humankind. She concurred and from that point on we never disagreed about politics again.

Forums like this one accentuate differences, as does language and its binary formulas. We think out loud in day-glo colors, as it were. Our thoughts are frequently crude and simplistic but they also advance the human project insofar as we can learn from one another.

In my feeble and pathetic way, I am an elitist. I want smarter, not dumber people to govern. I prefer experts to blowhards and kind people to mean. This is not to say I'm kind, or an expert, or smart. It means I recognize my own limitations without collapsing standards altogether. But part of that is also accepting reproof when I cross lines. Thanks for reminding me that humility is much more important than certitude.

Yes, it is easy to get carried away with politics, especially on the internet. None of us are without sin, especially me. Thank you for the much more characteristic reply:)

I must not be living on the same planet.

And HOPE with out action is hopeless.

Donald Trump is the most powerful person on the planet. He is a fan of Hitler, a man that believes in eugenics and thinks U have to be WHITE to be superior. The second most powerful man is the AG, Sessions. He is all of the things above and he is stupid. Besides the military, Trump is backed by most of Homeland Security and many other law enforcement agencies who believe Donald is god's gift to putting people in private prisons.
I'm to tired to go on with all the bad chit. But in case you have noticed the Confederacy is back and winning. And while I never belived the myth that Obama was going to imprison white Republicans in empty Walmart's. I think Trump might make that come true for anyone that opposes him.

Cal - you have taken leave of your senses. Get a grip already, or you'll wind up like that IL shooter.

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