Mississippi Learning?

Mississippi Republicans give Abraham Lincoln narrow lead (though no majority) against Jeff Davis. But hey, there’s progress: a narrow majority now think blacks should be allowed to marry whites.

Public Policy Polling’s latest survey of Mississippi included a hypothetical presidential election between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.  The result?

 Lincoln would win out 55-28.  That’s largely because of Lincoln’s overwhelming support from Democrats, 76-10. He only narrowly edges Davis with Republicans, 45-36, and the match up is actually a tie with independents at 44%.

That the state’s Republicans would give Lincoln only a plurality victory over the leader of the Confederacy is somewhat disappointing. But the poll contains some good news as well. Earlier this year, as you may remember, PPP found that only 40 percent of Mississippi Republicans thought interracial marriage should be legal. Now that number’s up considerably—to 52 percent.

(Via David Nir at Daily Kos Elections)

The Tragedy of Southern History

One particular comment on my post about the Civil War particularly stood out in my mind.  The commenter said he was a “proud son of the South” and suggested that he felt obliged to question the causes of the North’s entry into the war, commenting that perhaps it was the North’s desire to defend capitalist interests (he also had an “old Marxist” in him).

Other commenters addressed the substance of his comments effectively.  But what caught my attention was the seeming connection between being a Southerner and in some way feeling the need to defend the Confederacy, if by no other means than questioning the North. 

That connection, in my view, is truly the tragedy of southern history — the way it has put so much that is good about the south into the shade.  No one who is Chinese would somehow feel the need to defend Mao.  Ditto with a Russian and the Soviet Union. 

The whole Confederacy/Lost Cause infatuation has destroyed the South twice: first, by having them engage in a treasonous war whose chief aim was to oppress. and second, by getting generations of southerners to think that being a “proud son of the South” means defending the slaveowners who caused it.  Not by defending slavery, mind you; but somehow not acknowledging the essential evil of the Southern cause.

A white southerner could easily call himself a “proud son of the South” and focus on William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor; C. Vann Woodward, Jonathan Daniels, Hodding Carter and the other courageous southern editors who spoke out against Jim Crow during the 50’s and 60’s.  Jurists such as Hugo Black, J. Skelly Wright, John Minor Wisdom, and the rest of the Fifth Circuit Four.  He could point to southerners’ proud tradition of military service in the United States Armed Forces.  Perhaps Southern Populism, the most inspirational progressive party in US history.  And the food!

This is the south, he could say.  Not the fetid stew of slaveholders, Ku Kluxers, Redeemers and slave-raping “defenders of chivalry” that falsely claimed the monopoly on defining Southern pride and identity.  And yet somehow, that stew has managed to pull one over on people and make them believe, perhaps unconsciously, that unless they stick up for the Confederacy, they are being treasonous to the South.

This is more than just one commenter.  It’s a spiritual and intellectual problem among many, many white southerners of good will.  Stop it!  You don’t need to love the ugliness in the south to love the south. You don’t hate the South.  You dont.  You dont!  You dont hate it!  You dont hate it!

April 12, 1861

Just for the record, as the day ends on the West Coast:

The Civil War was a rebellion against a democratically-elected government by white southerners when they lost an election in a system rigged to protect them.  They committed treason in order to preserve their ability to enslave African-Americans.

Fortunately enough, the good guys won and the bad guys lost.  The biggest problem was that Reconstruction did not go far enough and ended too soon.

The Confederate flag is a banner of treason and oppression.

That is all.

Who Invented the Reagan Revolution? Jimmy Carter!

Jimmy Carter: the founder of Reaganism.

Jonathan Chait relays ED Kain’s observation that Jimmy Carter saved American beer by deregulating it, thereby allowing the flowering of local microbreweries.  But neither Chait nor Kain see fit to mention that Carter was one of the great deregulators in American presidential history.

It was Carter who hired the great Alfred E. Kahn as head of the Civil Aeronautics Board, and Kahn promptly put himself out of business by deregulating air travel.  If you get cheap airfares, thank Carter.  (And if you hate the hub system, you can hate Carter for that, too).  A good description of all this is Tom McCraw’s classic (and in this case, somewhat mis-named) Prophets of Regulation, which has a whole chapter on Kahn.

Even more significantly, in the wake of the 1979 oil shock, Carter decontrolled oil prices, a move that eventually led to a six-year decline in their price.   But precisely because of Carter’s indecisiveness and atrocious sense of political timing, the initial price increase fell under his administration, and the long-term decline under Reagan’s.  The vast increase in oil prices sent the economy into a tailspin that had already begun, of course paving the way for the Gipper’s election.  Thus, not only were Carter’s actions a precursor of Reaganite deregulatory philosophy, but his ham-handedness brought us President Reagan.

Somehow I’m not expecting Carter to fall into the pantheon of conservative heroes, though.

UPDATE:  A commenter reminds me of the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, which Carter really pushed.  This Act substantially deregulated interstate trucking, greatly facilitated the development of the FedEx/UPS “just-in-time” delivery system, and also reduced truckers’ wages.  A Reaganite’s dream!

Henry Adams on the Republican Party

100 years ago, Henry Adams told us all we need to know about the contemporary Republican Party.

The Republican Party is essentially a regional party dominated by white southern elites, a group observed keenly by Henry Adams:

The Southern secessionists were certainly unbalanced in mind—fit for medical treatment, like other victims of hallucination,—haunted by suspicion, by idées fixes, by violent morbid excitement; but this was not all. They were stupendously ignorant of the world. As a class, the cotton-planters were mentally one-sided, ill-balanced, and provincial to a degree rarely known. They were a close society on whom the new fountains of power had poured a stream of wealth and slaves that acted like oil on flame. They showed a young student his first object-lesson of the way in which excess of power worked when held by inadequate hands.

The Education of Henry Adams, chap. 7.

This is eerily like contemporary Congressional Republicans, and a warning if they should ever return to power.

“Too small for a Republic….

South Carolina wanted to secede in 1860. Maybe we should have let it go.

and too large for an insane asylum.” 

        —former South Carolina Congressmember James L. Petigru on the proposed secessionist “Republic of South Carolina”, 1860

As the Washington Post notes this morning, it’s still true..

“Mark Sanford, Jim DeMint and Joe Wilson. Boy, that’s a trinity isn’t it?” said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and longtime resident. “South Carolina is filled with crazy [expletive], excuse my French.”

He forgot Strom Thurmond.  Maybe it’s just that South Carolina is the most conservative state in the Union (the latter despite its wishes).

I can think of a few South Carolina politicians whom I respect: former Education Secretary Richard Riley comes to mind.  But they are rare.  Just go back a few more decades and you get the likes of egregious white supremacist Pitchfork Ben Tillman and reactionaries like Cotton Ed Smith.

Maybe we should have let it secede: the US would have been a more progressive country, and the Republic of South Carolina would have been another backwards, oppressive, impoverished, corrupt dictatorship.  of course, getting rid of slavery was worth having to put up with these kinds of politicians.  But it really does show how right Sherman was.

Two Talking Points for Harold Ford

1. If Bob Corker can’t even get his own ad removed, what kind of leader would he be in the United States Senate?

(Yes, I know: theoretically it’s an independent expenditure. Let Corker try to explain that.)

2. Get someone to ask Ford about pundits who wonder about the ability of a southern state to elect an African-American to the Senate:

“I’m sick and tired of northerners pretending that they are so pure on race. They’re not. Where is the African-American senator from New York? Where is the African-American senator from Michigan? Where is the African-American senator from Pennsylvania? Or California? I’m glad Barack Obama is in the Senate, but let the northerners clean up their act up there before lecturing us here.”