Monday, February 23, 2009

Confederate Zombie: Re-Animating the Corpse of John C. Calhoun

[Executive Summary: Many Republicans, in these "time that try mens' souls," are looking for new sources of strength. Unfortunately, some of them are looking to the writings of John C. Calhoun, a slaver, an advocate of white supremacy, and the most wrongheaded disinterpreter of the Constitution imaginable. In short: anathema sit. Or as Snoopy might say: Bleah.]

I'm seeing a great deal of despair and desperation in the conservative movement these days. Andrew Breitbart says here that the conservative movement is so irrelevant these days [2009] that when it comes to people listening to their message, "A.C. Nielson doesn't count that low."

He further goes on to state that Hollywood's influence on the radical-leftist Obama administration is so overwhelming that
If "the medium is the message," as Marshall McLuhan formulated 45 years ago in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man," then Hollywood-style liberalism is America´s current and future message. And conservatives have no one to blame but themselves for not investing their collective efforts in the pop cultural and the greater media experience.
So what is the Conservative movement offering up as an alternative to Hollywood's bread and circuses?
The answer appalls: Warmed-over neo-confederalism of the John C. Calhoun variety.

Already these neo-Confeds are on the march. For instance, it was reported here that "Today the Bay County Patriots marched for their rights. Over 150 people showed up for the Bay Patriots walk and rally."

The piece continued:
The supporters marched from the Panama City Marina to McKenzie Park. The rally remained peaceful as participants showed support for the military and listened to speakers such as Bay Patriots President Derrell Day. § They chose Sunday, George Washington’s birthday, because he was the leader of the country’s first revolution. § Bay Patriots member Bob Thompson says they are rallying to request the state legislature to fight to regain sovereignty rights.
Sovereignty rights! Ah, sovereignty! A word, as the brilliant but flawed science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once said, "is entry found in dictionary [sic] between 'sober' and 'sozzled.'"

What do these people mean by "sovereignty"? What do these folks stand for?

"Interposition." "State's rights." The revival of abominable political theories that were crushed in 1865. And yet, those who claim to speak as members of the Party of Lincoln make noises as if they were the Party of Jefferson....Davis.

One example of this can be found, here, in Human Events, once a major voice of the conservative movement, we see one A.W.R. Hawkins conjuring up the zombied corpse of John C. Calhoun as a model for the movement to emulate:
The use of the 10th Amendment in conjunction with nullification garnered much attention in 1828, when the federal government passed a tariff that southerners believed affected them disproportionately. When the 1828 tariff was complemented by another in 1832, Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned the Vice Presidency to lead his home state of South Carolina in pursuit of an “ordinance of nullification,” which was no less a declaration of the sovereignty of each individual state within the union than the declarations now being made.
This is, frankly, disgusting. John C. Calhoun, a stone-cold racist of the worst sort, a backward-looking devotee of human depravity and slavery, did more to contribute to the start of the Civil War, the total and complete destruction of the Old South, the burning of Atlanta, and the overthrow of the antebellum South, than did U.S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman combined. He looked backwards, not forwards; he sought a world in which the chains of the black man would remain forever unstruck and where all those protesting that enslavement would be rendered dumb, silenced, and be forever crushed. Five minutes perusal of William Lee Miller's 1997 masterpiece Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress should show that this is an exercise in madness. An hour's reading of it raises the desire to hit these neo-Calhounists over the head with a clue stick.

This new love affair with Calhoun is pure, unadulterated Bad Craziness. For a number of reasons:

1. First and foremost it gives the Obama worshippers the opportunity to paint all opposition to his socialist policies as being a bunch of (a) kooks, (b) cranks, (c) racists, and (d) neo-Confederate south-will-rise-again crazies.

2. Secondly, it puts the conservative movement in the same position it was in the 1950s, when St. William Buckley first arrived on the scene: riddled through with water-purification nuts and John Birch Society conspiratists who had to be told to shut the hell up in the name of the common good of the movement. Like the GOP in the early 1950s, we now have a bunch of fools blovating a morally repugnant romanticism with no basis in either reality or truth. We need to encourage them to be silent, and we need to do it soon, lest they overwhelm the conservative movement and leave the Obama socialists free to run rampant while we fight a nasty civil war of our own, banging heads between allies when we should be huddling them.

3. Most important of all, it encourages the Conservative movement to declare itself in opposition to the Constitution and to call for replacing that Constitution with some sort of states-rights rag that is not only unworthy of loyalty but not even viable. Gettysburg and eventually the March to the Sea revealed the hell that the state's rights mantra would lead--a dead confederacy forcibly reconstructed into the Constitution. If Conservativism falls back on secessionism, then Conservativism will fail. Utterly.

Jefferson Davis, in his memoirs, stated that the main cause of the destruction of the Confederacy was its own internal divisions, caused by its own adherence to the principle of states' rights. He suggested an epitaph for the Old South: "Died of an Idea."

That "idea" is the "idea" of John C. Calhoun, of state sovereignty. The United States is a federal republic, a national unity where the States are clearly subordinate to the central government (and, I would argue, are almost all* creatures of Congress). Replace it with state sovereignty and you replace it with a one way ticket to endless civil war, oppression, and evil. The fire of Calhoun's thought lit the cannons that fired on Fort Sumter: cannons which eventually fired a salute to the rising Federal flag four years later.

Like John Brown's Body, John C. Calhoun lies a moulderin' in the grave. Let his spirit rot there as well, for if fully reanimated it can only lead its followers to the fiery gates of Hell--and through them, forever.

*Almost all: with the possible exception of the Original 13, Texas, Hawaii, and Vermont, the latter three of whom were originally sovereign republics.

(Afternote: At least one good friend of mine is a devotee of Calhoun. If you're reading this, old chum, I hope you understand me. You are a friend; but, I aver, your ideas in this matter would, if unleashed, do you and the Movement a grave disservice. We can only win by seizing the center, not occupying the fringes.)

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