The Republican Party in Context: 1854-2016? (Part E)

Rebel leader George Washington (American Revolution: (1776-1783)
Rebel leader George Washington (American Revolution: (1776-1783) | Source

We are still trying to explain the Trump phenomenon in U.S. Republican politics. We are doing that putting the American Republican party in its historical context. We are exploring the question: What ever happened to the "Party of Lincoln"?

My basic thesis animating this series of essays is that there never was a "Party of Lincoln" to begin with.

The Democratic party of the nineteenth century was the racially reactionary, pro-slavery party. The Republican party was the abolitionist party. However, I have been arguing that the Republican party's opposition to slavery had always been largely utilitarian not moral. That matters. That makes a big difference.

But freeing the slaves, is freeing the slaves; and Lincoln did that with his Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of war. Okay, I accept that and give Mr. Lincoln credit.

But those of you who have been following this series know that I also think the British should be given credit for having attempted the same thing, eighty-eight years before during the American Revolution (I previously spoke of Lord Dunemore, last colonial governor of Virginia and his "Ethiopian Regiment").

The British effort to overthrow slavery by force of arms, during the American Revolution (1776-1783), failed because the Revolution succeeded. Lincoln's effort to overthrow slavery by force of arms succeeded because the Southern Rebellion failed.

As I've said before, a major reason why the American Revolution, of the late-eighteenth-century, succeeded was because the rebels had major help from France and Spain, Britain's arch-rivals.

As I have also said before, a major reason why the Southern Rebellion, of the later-mid-nineteenth-century, failed was because the Confederacy did not have any international assistance.

Those of you who have been following this series, understand that it is my contention is that it was the Southern defeat in the Civil War of 1861-1865, that ended slavery when it did and nothing else.

Those of you who have been following this series, understand that I have rejected an argument raised by some on the Left. They argue that slavery in the United States of America had to be destroyed in order to make economic opportunities for white men. In short, I have rejected the argument based on what state legislatures were actually doing over the course of the nineteenth-century.

We're having a little capsule trouble, so I thought I'd just mention that the above is a picture of rebel leader Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. The source of the photo, incidentally is biography.com.

Okay.

I've been saying that a major reason, in my opinion, why the South lost the Civil War is because the Confederacy did get any international assistance. But, they might have gotten international help.

What do I mean by that cryptic remark?

Well, first I need to invoke a very important book by a historian, Sven Beckert. The book is Empire of Cotton: A Global History. The book is essential reading, in my opinion, for nothing less than coming to a comprehension of how the modern world came to take the form it has today. The task is that simple and that awesome.

Dr. Beckert's Empire of Cotton is an economic history that uses the story of the commodity of cotton to tell the story of the birth of capitalism. You see, the nature of cotton is such that once a society learned how to mass produce items made of cotton---clothing being the principal good---they found that the door was opened to being able to mass produce other things; and the constant spinoff effect ended up modernizing or industrializing the society.

In other words, cotton industrialization leads to general industrialization.

Now, the American South is associated with big time, mass-scale cotton production, and well it should be. However, this abundance did not lead to cotton industrialization and general industrialization in the region, because of the South's social commitment to slavery.

Historically, societies that had virtually unlimited disposable human labor tended not to bother very much about mechanical innovation.

Instead, the South sent the enormous quantities of the fiber it was producing, for processing to the factories of Europe. And from Europe, finished cotton textiles would be sold all over the world.

The thing is: Only the American South could produce the quantities of cotton that Europe's factories required to adequately supply world demand for the cotton textiles they produced.

Therefore, as you can imagine, the American Civil War made European manufacturers, politicians, and financiers very anxious.

  • They wanted the supplies of cotton the South could produce.

But this did not mean that they approved of slavery; they generally did not approve of the institution.

  • What the anxious Europeans approved of were the results of slavery, meaning the quantities of cotton it produced.

While the Europeans were on pins and needles about the situation, in the meantime they were trying furiously to produce the quantities of cotton they desire, elsewhere, under circumstances of technically free labor.

  • In the beginning, as they try and fail to "crack the code," as it were, their anxiety grew.

You know, you could do worse than to compare the European disposition toward the American South to the American disposition toward Saudi Arabia.

The United States does not approve of the social system of Saudi Arabia, they way women are treated; and there are problems with the kind of Islam it exports. And so on and so forth. The point is that there is little the U.S. approves of concerning the House of Saud.

What we can say is that the United States, nevertheless, approves of the "results" of the regime, if you will, in the form of access to oil. And thus, the American-Saudi alliance which goes back to World War II and the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Anyway, it was touch 'n go for a while. Would the Confederacy get European recognition and support? How much longer would the war have to go on before the cavalry arrived?

But then the Europeans cracked the code. They figured out how to produce the quantities of cotton they needed under circumstances of technically free labor. The Europeans were free! They had become, as it were, "cotton independent"---at least as far as the American South was concerned.

Their tacit support of the American South therefore cooled considerably. No one came to the rescue of the Confederacy. The Southern Rebellion failed.

But not only that! The South now saw how morally isolated they were and it was shocking to them. Southern writers immediately went into spin-mode. The Rebellion hadn't had anything to do with slavery after all!

And shortly thereafter, "Lost Cause" revisionist history became a cottage industry. (See, Bonekemper, Edward. The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won.)

Thank you for reading!

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6 comments

Ken Burgess profile image

Ken Burgess 3 months ago from Florida

This is a very interesting time in our history, I have been around long enough to remember the incredibly different times we had as Jimmy Carter's term was coming to an end, the interest rates were sky high, oil and gas seemed to be running out and was rationed at times, we were still shell-shocked from our not-war with Vietnam and the fallout of it...

And in a few short years, after America elected a President the media said could not win, said Carter had a 20 point lead over, said would be the ruination of America and society as we knew it. Things were better than they had ever been in our history.

In many ways it was the ruination of what America was, because we returned to being a prosperous nation, with jobs galore, pay increases, and a belief that tomorrow was going to be better than today... by the late 80s it was a honor to serve in the military again, not considered a servitude or to be spat upon. People were proud to be Americans and believed in their leadership.

That truly seems a lifetime ago today... the distrust for politicians, for Washington, for the current President and she who would like to follow behind him is at a level I have never seen in my lifetime... the media is in full propaganda mode, there isn't even a shred of truth in half the reports they put out there on some of them, literally they spin things 180 degrees from the truth.

Supposedly Trump is being booed at his rallies and everyone hates him, yet just the other day he had more than 10,000 people at a rally, at a time when most people's focus is on getting ready for the coming school year or enjoying one final Summer Break... meanwhile they say Hillary is beloved yet she can't pull in more than 1,000 at her last rally, and I'd be willing to bet half of those folks were collecting a paycheck to be there to support her and keep people from seeing a plethora of empty seats.

We have entered a 1984 George Orwell like scenario where it comes to our media these days, it is all canned no matter what side you prefer... and if you are someone like me who is on the side of America, Americans, better wages, better jobs... and to heck with globalization or free trade at our expense.. then you don't care about either Party, just which candidate might actually bring about the most good.

And that is my last word, to anyone reading this... to hell with either Party, don't be a fool, don't buy into a bunch of this Party is better than that Party BS... BOTH parties have politicians taking handouts from those who do not care one wit about your future... BOTH parties have politicians as corrupt and despicable as they come.

If you can't see that truth, I truly feel sorry for you, because you are investing your effort and emotions into a worthless cause, neither party is worth anything... unless WE THE PEOPLE force the politicians to do what is best for US, they will continue to sell out their services to the highest bidder... and give you lip service, and point fingers at the other Party and blame them for your woes.

Right now that is what Trump is... the embodiment, the vessel, of voters anger and distrust and awareness that Washington is corrupt, politicians on both sides are worthless... his voters come from both the Democrat and Republican party, the disillusioned, the aware, people who never voted before because there was never a "politician" stating it the way it is, like Trump does... there was never a "Politician" calling both sides corrupt, calling the media a worthless bunch of liars, saying our trade agreements with other nations were killing our jobs and economy, saying that the PC BS that allows killers to roam free in our country has got to stop.... people are hearing him, no matter what the media does to try and convince the people of America otherwise.


Eldon Arsenaux profile image

Eldon Arsenaux 3 months ago from Cooley, Texas

Great series thus far Mr. Thomas.

A lucid comparison between European interests in the 1860's Confederacy Cotton industry, and our current administration's reliance on Saudi Arabian petroleum. An attempt to insulate ourselves (US) from middle eastern oil producers is in the works. Mr. Bob Dylan would seem to agree in his song "When You Gonna Wake Up". Social differences aside, oil has put us in their domain. And that is where I agree with Ken (I presume), on that piece of domestic policy.

In response to Ken: Perhaps I can convince you to abstain from voting this election.

Trump doesn't have the general American public's interests in mind, or, at heart. He's pandering to those that want a usurpation of Washington politicians. For that, he should not be blamed. That, I consent to. Of course, anarchy would be an absolute failure. Hillary is objectionably more of the same BS, as you put it. She already has her spoon in the political stew. Trump does too. Donald Trump is big business. He is symbolic of our sheepish desire for an authoritarian figure, a faux fascism that's been fermenting in this country since our military incursions in Korea. Maybe we disagree on that point, but it's not worth noting, overall.

Trump is insidious because he is not insipid. In other words, he is not banal. He doesn't hide. He tells false truths to our face. How he can fix 'it'. Fix 'America'. He does not bore anyone on either side of the political aisle, despite his rhetorical repetition. He is hellfire and brimstone and rhetorically reckless to a chaotic degree.

Sure, voters are disparaged, even angry, but it is exactly at times like these, if we follow the rise of fascism in the 20th century, that megalomaniacs gain decisive strangleholds, promising a Utopia in the face of a Dystopia, a promise of peace masking divisiveness, waving a banner of nationalistic intent.

I hope this does not happen. I will keep other optimisms to myself.

Love a flag-bearer and a flag. But don't forget which is the human.

I believe you are a patriot, Ken, but don't buy the vitriol. You're intelligent. Exampled by your cogent comment. We all have the potential to be freethinkers, thus, distrust anyone who would make us, unilaterally, do anything. Especially when they say they alone can do it. We can do it! There is a piece of propaganda I'll still support.

-E.G.A.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 3 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@Ken Burgess

Hi Ken Burgess! How's it going? Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my essay.

Your anger and passion are palpable. I guess I am simply not as aroused by the Trump phenomena as you and Eldon seem to be. As I say, the entire point of this ongoing series is my contention that the "Party of Lincoln," as such, the "honorable opposition," the Republicans of mythical glory, according to the wistful American center-left (MNSBC crowd), never really existed.

I am building to something. I won't give it away now, but the issue isn't really about this or that candidate from this or that mainstream party---on that the three of us seem to agree.

Well, I'll go ahead and give a spoiler alert: The issue is the well spring of nativism and racism that Trump is tapping into, a well spring that the Republicans have tapped into for electoral success for 40 some years now---roughly the same amount of time real wages have remained flat for American worker, if not dipped a little down.

Anyway, Ken, I love the passion.

Thanks again.

W.T.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 3 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi Eldon! Thanks for stopping by.

Here's the issue (spoiler alert!): Trump is not what is really important. What is important is the well spring of nativism and racism from which he is drawing to fuel his success.

But of course, there is nothing new in this. The Republican party has been doing this for forty years, since the late-1960s, with Nixon and his "Southern Strategy" (you'll recall that Roger Ailes was his head of communications, who went on to found Fox News 'fair and balanced,' 'We report, you decide').

The issue is: For how much longer will nativism and racism be a power source for Republican electoral success?

Take it easy.

W.T..


Ken Burgess profile image

Ken Burgess 3 months ago from Florida

To both Winged and Eldon

"Here's the issue (spoiler alert!): Trump is not what is really important. What is important is the well spring of nativism and racism from which he is drawing to fuel his success."

See this is the point, I agree, Trump is not what is important, in fact, if Trump were more polished this would truly be a slam dunk for him.

The issue is not Trump, it is that a growing majority of regular Americans, black or white... mostly the working or wanting to work... aren't buying the media spun BS.

We aren't buying the AP approved BS about how Obamacare is so great, we know it is worse coverage than we have ever had, we know it is costing us more and its deductions are higher... we know it is a scam so that they can take more of our money and give us less in return, we know it because we are living with it.

Just like we are not buying into the daily and consistent barrage against Trump by the majority of the media... sure we know he is bombastic and a boor, but all this crud about fascism and racism is garbage, media driven garbage... and driven by poor folks who still buy into the belief that the Party system matters, that Democrat means something different than Republican in Washington.

The difference between Hillary and Trump is not Republican vs Democrat... it is poster-child Washington political elitist VS the Outsider, outside the establishment, outside the strings which control the politicians through their funding and behind-doors directives.

Republicans despise Trump just as much as Democrats do... BOTH parties despise him, the Republicans have to suck it up, so that the entire farce isn't exposed... so that any American paying the least bit of attention doesn't come to the realization that their votes, their wants, really don't matter one whit to those in Washington...

So long as the ruse can be sold to a majority of Americans, that is all they care about... Trump (and Bernie) came close to pulling up the covers and revealing what lies underneath with their campaigns... The Republicans chose after much debate not to steal the election from Trump and hand it to someone else because of the growing outcry at their attempts.

Meanwhile the Democrats were able to steal the election away from Bernie because of their Super Delegates and some backroom deals in various states.

What was exposed mostly in these campaigns is that Washington doesn't care what Americans want... they just want them to be compliant and buy into the BS they are providing them.

We saw this with Obamacare... 76% of Americans didn't want it... more than 90% were fine without it... more than 50% realized from day one it was just going to turn into another tax, another way for the government to steal their money and control their lives even more.

But Washington pushed it through, because Washington answers to those who are pulling the strings... and these days that is not the American people... and this has essentially been the case since the mid-90s.

It hasn't mattered whether it was Clinton, or Bush, or Obama... Washington at large no matter who has held control, has been marching America in a general direction that is not at all good for its future wellbeing or its individual Nationalism.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 3 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Ken, I promise that if you stick with this series, you will see what I mean about nativism and racism; you will see that it is not garbage. If you follow along with me, step-by-step, the climax will be made clear.

Remember, I said that the Trump campaign is tapping into an already existing wellspring of nativism and racism---dog whistle politicking, if you will, but not always so subtly.

I also agree with you, that if he were more polished he'd probably have this race in the bag. But alas, he isn't and he seems to be losing some of his mojo from the primaries.

Take it easy, Ken.

W.T.

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