Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lincoln Would Be Expelled From Today's GOP

Lapham's Quarterly posted an interesting bit of historical rhetoric. Words from Stephen Douglas when he was debating Abraham Lincoln. Reading them today they seem very much like the modern Republican mindset.

I’ve been saying for a while that the modern Republican Party thinks, acts and moves like the old Confederacy. The resemblance is so remarkable it’s surprising that newspapers and commentators haven’t picked up on it. It’s probably just too insulting and awful to say out loud. It’s considered impolite. Liberals are certainly too tolerant to say such things.

Lincoln was a great president, but by modern standards he’d be called a failure. He was so unpopular when elected that half the country seceded. How would CNN play that? For most of his four and a half years in the White House he was in charge of a war that was costing hundreds of thousands of lives and going very badly. The enemy was running rings around his generals. Lincoln’s emergency security measures were draconian and widely hated. And in the middle of this horrible crisis he decided to champion the rights of millions of another race who were not even voters, not even citizens of the nation he was president of at the time. He was laughed at for his powerlessness, his coolness, his laconic nature, his unfashionable intelligence and his patience. Lincoln was widely joked about until the day he was shot. It’s only in retrospect that we realized what a hero he was.

Lincoln had one significant advantage. Most of his enemies had seceded. Obama’s equally determined and intractable enemies are in control of both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Today’s virtual Confederacy also has the full and energetic backing of Wall Street’s trillions. Today’s Republican Party is the old Confederacy in a more muscular and aggressive form, minus the gentility and honor, minus the honesty about its deeply racist motives and objectives.

When Lincoln’s armies defeated the Confederacy the nation bound up its wounds and forgave the treason. The South never forgave the North for recognizing the full humanity of the former slaves and the new Confederacy is itching for revenge on this old score. The current president embodies all that they once felt superior to.

What can we call this old order of things? Was it a feudal system of serfs and masters? Somewhat, but worse. The collaboration with Wall Street gives the new Republicans a more fascist character. Mussolini defined fascism as an alliance between corporations and government that is so close you cannot slip a cigarette paper between them. That is the system the modern Republican Party would like to impose.

They’ve already done so in many ways. Will a war be profitable for their client companies? Then we shall have a war. Do their client companies want a large undocumented workforce who can be forced to work at below legal wages for longer than legal hours in illegal conditions and be immune from Social Security obligations? Then they shall have that work force. Do their client companies want to launder their profits overseas to avoid taxes? They shall be allowed to do so. Would their client corporations like to engage in massive market manipulation and fraud and not be imprisoned for it? Not a problem. Would their client billionaires like to be free to manipulate the public and rig elections and control our political system without any restraint? Fine. The Republican Party and its Supreme Jurists will declare that corporations are people and their billions are protected speech and their income is immune from taxation. It is hard to tell whether the race baiting side of the Republican personality is the dominant half or if it’s just the ugly side that comes out when it’s convenient, like the brownshirts who beat up the Jews on the street but didn’t attend the official parties when polite society was invited. The climate today has more than a passing resemblance to the 1930s in Germany. Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South had more than a family resemblance; they were twins.

But, of course, it is impolite to say this. If it offends anyone to make this comparison, then the comparison had better not be made. It would be like repeating and giving credence to the lies said about President Obama. Saying that he is a Kenyan socialist Muslim is simply code for what the Republican half of the country would like to call him, a term which broadcast codes prohibit. Race hatred is a convenient excuse for enabling fascism. It gets the mob to march for you. Ugly emotions and ancient racial loyalties become handy tools during anxious times. But to point out the way they are being deployed would be hurtful to the ones deploying them. We mustn’t be impolite to brutal people because they might decide to be brutal to us, and they are very powerful. What they say and do is law.

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