America: This time, it’s personal

posted at 7:45 pm on July 9, 2012 by J.E. Dyer

I’m trying to get a book finished, and it isn’t helping to keep stopping to write blog posts.  But this point is worth making.

I believe the Obama campaign is wasting its time with attacks on Mitt Romney.  That doesn’t mean Team Obama will wise up; it has only a few tricks in its bag, and it deploys them over and over.  But it does mean that the public is inured to the Obama shtick.  There’s no there there, and increasingly, the people know it.

There’s something else about this election that tends to rob the trademark Obama demagoguery of its effect.  A growing number of Americans perceive our nation to be at a turning point (or a precipice; choose your metaphor).  If Romney were a more galvanizing candidate for conservative Republicans, there would be a greater tendency to associate him with the prospect of an American turn-around, on the order of the Reagan presidency.

But Romney is not the object of widespread enthusiasm.  He comes across as a decent, accomplished man who wants to do the right thing, but he is perfectly comfortable with big government, and seems to have no philosophical underpinnings: certainly not conservative ones – constitutionalism, limited government, originalist philosophy – nor any of the kind that help meaningful policies weather the storms of political opposition.

Throughout the very competitive primary season, millions of voters were hoping intensely for someone else.  Yet Romney didn’t tack to the right much during the primary season, and his “inevitability” has meant that he sees little reason to do so in the general campaign.  He won’t be doing heavy lifting for small-government conservatism in the Oval Office.

His difference with Obama is more profound than merely a set of disputes over the precise content of big-government policy.  Romney comes across as having a better character.  He’s not steeped in cronyism, he doesn’t want to “Alinsky” his opponents – or Alinsky the middle class, for that matter – and he generally respects the people and the idea of their private property.  Romney in the Oval Office would not be a predator, ideological or otherwise.  But his idea of the proper role and scope of government is much closer to that of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and all the Democratic presidential candidates since 1964 – including, ultimately, Barack Obama – than that of Ronald Reagan.  Romney’s a Massachusetts pol; a Republican in Massachusetts would be a Democrat in a good 35 of the other states.

Reagan, by contrast, was a defining leader, even philosopher, of the limited-government conservative movement.  He did, in fact, do the heavy lifting for conservatism in Washington, DC.  He didn’t get everything he wanted, and he didn’t satisfy conservatives on every point.  But he was the person leading the charge, acting on a set of philosophical premises about the proper relationship of government to the people.  His premises were opposed in important ways to the assumptions of the New Deal and the Great Society.  Reagan, when he went to Washington, acted on the understanding that he had a mandate to literally reverse the encroachments of government on the people’s lives.

Conservatives in 2012 understand clearly that Mitt Romney will not do this.  He has never said he will, and he has never spoken in philosophical terms that suggest he might.  Electing Romney isn’t electing a champion of the American political idea.  It’s a tactical move to get Obama out of office.

The period of the Obama tenure, and now the 2012 election, are forcing Americans to reconsider, in a way I’m not sure we have for a good 200 years, what the vote means, and what politics means to our lives.  Since 1792, the sense has gradually crept upon us that when we elect a president, we are electing our collective future.  That sense took a giant leap forward with the FDR presidency, and frankly, it took another one when Reagan entered office.

Some of the most important (although not necessarily good) legislation in the 20th century was actually passed under other presidents, like Wilson, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.  But FDR and Reagan were seen by their respective constituencies, in a way none of the other presidents in the last century was, as leaders who could steer our course decisively by using the power of the executive.  An idea has spread in the public consciousness that electing a president is tantamount to electing a savior.

The point here is not that it doesn’t matter who the president is; the point is that in sending saviors to Washington, the people have effectively minimized and relinquished their own role in the stewardship of America.  We have come to think of our main obligation as electing a president, who will then do all the important work while Congress roils around being, incorrigibly, Congress: annoying, posturing, legislatively incontinent.

The Founding Fathers didn’t see it that way – and indeed, it hasn’t turned out to be a very good idea.  Now the political turning point in 2012 rests squarely with the people.  There is no “champion” – no savior – running for president in either party.  It’s down to us now.

What is our character?  Can we see through demagoguery and even outright lies?  Do we acknowledge our responsibility for a government that today sees us alternately as lab rats and pack mules, and is currently spending our great-great-grandchildren’s earnings?  Are we willing to take responsibility for ourselves and our families?  Are we willing to help those in need ourselves, rather than handing the government an open-ended charter to remake us all?

What is our view of government?  What is government supposed to do?  What does it mean to elect someone to public office?  What are our responsibilities for self-government?  How well do we understand the competing philosophical justifications for small government and big?  What do we really think of them?

I see two ways for conservatives to view the vote in November.  One involves a pragmatic view of government as something to be handled, as much as possible, through prudent tactics.  This view emphasizes method and calculation over philosophy.  The other involves a view of government that makes the choice of president a form of positive affirmation of what we believe in.  With this view, philosophy is paramount; if philosophical sympathy is absent in the leading candidate(s), no mere method of politics is a way of correcting the deficiency.

Neither perspective stands alone.  In most election years, campaigning entails a combination of these perspectives, and a candidate is chosen who seems to marry them as effectively as possible for electoral politics.  In 2012, however, conservatives simply can’t make of Romney a “what we believe in” choice.  He is instead a “prudent tactics” choice: a placeholder who will basically not be Obama for the next four years.

The only strategically significant point of having a placeholder is so that the people themselves can regroup.  Romney cannot be a savior, and in policy terms, he is not the answer to our problems.  In the foreseeable future, we have to do the heavy lifting.

What I would like to suggest is that it has been unrealistic all along for American voters to imagine that we can find, every four years, a political avatar of all our hopes and dreams.  That is an unrealistic view of politics, and a dangerous view of the role government should play in our lives.  It is essentially the role defined by the left for its favorite sons.

It is also unrealistic to suppose that we can delegate to government, or to a particular president, the responsibility of standing up to bad ideas and trends in our society.  We ourselves have to stand up to them, in school board meetings and local zoning hearings, in state legislatures and the House of Representatives.  We have to stand up to them in our family lives and our personal lives, our lives as citizens, employers, employees, volunteers, philanthropists, and believers.

Even on the political right, we have come to assign government and particular politicians too large a role in correcting the problems around us.  Most of us believe in “government” too much now; instead of believing in the smallness of government and the benefits of our own liberty, too many of us have been induced to simply believe in the American government itself, whatever its size.

Our Founders were profoundly – and properly – skeptical of government.  They stated repeatedly that their reliance was ultimately on the good sense and character of the people.  In 2012, it’s all about the people: who we are and the clarity with which we see our predicament and our options.

That’s one of the biggest reasons why there is so little resonance with our spirits in this year’s election campaign.  The Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney are just noise in this season, but even Romney’s proclamations don’t matter all that much.  In 2012, the governing dynamic is the American people talking to ourselves, deciding who we really are and what we really believe.  Romney isn’t, at any point, going to intrude on that dialogue.  In an important sense, Obama is irrelevant to it, except as an example of the extremes to which our century-long practice of seeking saviors can take us.

The dialogue will continue for years after November 2012.  The dialogue is what matters, and if a sleeping giant is awakening, it will take some time for it to educate itself.  The need for the people to educate and improve ourselves, as self-governing citizens, is actually a good thing, in my view.  If we had another Reagan to elect this fall, we would remain passive, waiting for the president to try to do what only we can do.  It is good for the people to have to step up to our responsibilities, which start with character and knowledge.

This year, meanwhile, the great resolution we are working toward isn’t so much Democrat or Republican, Obama or Romney; this year, it’s America – liberty, self-government, responsibility – and us.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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Our Founders were profoundly – and properly – skeptical of government. They stated repeatedly that their reliance was ultimately on the good sense and character of the people. In 2012, it’s all about the people: who we are and the clarity with which we see our predicament and our options.

This is what Roberts told us and look how well it was received. Our problem is a lot of us don’t know ‘who we are’ which is why we ended up with Prezzy Open Book.

Kissmygrits on July 10, 2012 at 9:12 AM

He is instead a “prudent tactics” choice: a placeholder who will basically not be Obama for the next four years.

In other words:

ABO 2012!

AZCoyote on July 10, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Unless you’re aware of an alternative that I’m not…gotta go with the less-awful for now. I will not judge those who refuse to vote. I just can’t be one of them.

SKYFOX on July 10, 2012 at 8:59 AM

One alternative is to stop voting for Republicans and vote for republicans. You can begin by looking in the Libertarian Party. You have enslaved your own mind into a false dichotomy and you continue to be the problem. Going with the “less awful” has resulted in plenty of awfulness, and no rollback of government, and no return to a Constitutional republic. We’ve heard that lesser evil nonsense for decades and your party keeps infringing upon liberty and continues to spend and continues to grow government. Remove the fleece from your eyes.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 9:29 AM

PALIN 2016!

Pork-Chop on July 10, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Sounds like you already had your conclusion going into it.

Dante on July 9, 2012 at 11:56 PM

Funny! So who is your pick for President of the US this fall?

Bmore on July 10, 2012 at 10:42 AM

And if you are a historian, you should reexamine the Whigs and Lincoln and not accept the cultish propaganda your schools and government have fed you. Big government, centralized government – and the root of today’s problems, fiat money with a central bank – can be found there, and it was with purpose. Lincoln is no hero of the republic.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 7:45 AM

Slavery was the ultimate form of Big Government. You can argue that Lincoln’s tactics during war weren’t right, as I believe also, but you can’t argue that slavery wasn’t something that needed to be ended. I understand that fiat money leads to war, but sometimes a war is worth fighting.

This is why it irks me when liberals talk about conservatives wanting to go back to the days of segregation, etc. Segregation was put into place by big progressives in the 1880s and sustained by big government New Dealers.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM

This is as well said as I’ve read thus far. Good work J.E.!!!

Tom66 on July 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Our Founders were profoundly – and properly – skeptical of government. They stated repeatedly that their reliance was ultimately on the good sense and character of the people. In 2012, it’s all about the people: who we are and the clarity with which we see our predicament and our options.

This is what Roberts told us and look how well it was received. Our problem is a lot of us don’t know ‘who we are’ which is why we ended up with Prezzy Open Book.

Kissmygrits on July 10, 2012 at 9:12 AM

yep, excellent point…basically his (Roberts’) message was: change it at the polls, folks! and people were quick at shouting ‘traitor’…

jimver on July 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM

in sending saviors to Washington, the people have effectively minimized and relinquished their own role in the stewardship of America.

My view exactly. We don’t need to see any more rockstar candidates with halos. I don’t even have to particularly like my president, as long as I have one who’s there to fulfill the oath of office.

fatherspledge on July 10, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Remove the fleece from your eyes.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Back at ya.

As a previous 10 year member of the Libertarian party, it took awhile to see that putting your faith any any party is a joke. It took me some time for me to see it, but what Dyer states is true, regardless of the circumstances.

It’s time that “we the people” took responsibility for our lives, and see all politicians as our servants, regardless of party affiliation. As long as we continue to put any faith in any party or politician, we’re screwed. Being a Libertarian only doubles down on the delusion. Never again for me.

CaliforniaRefugee on July 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM

yep, excellent point…basically his (Roberts’) message was: change it at the polls, folks! and people were quick at shouting ‘traitor’…

jimver on July 10, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Amen.

Watching all these so-called conservatives bleating that they weren’t saved by SCOTUS was revolting. I’m glad I am finally seeing some turn around.

It’s in our hands, as it really always was. Anything else is acting like a Liberal.

CaliforniaRefugee on July 10, 2012 at 1:01 PM

Slavery was the ultimate form of Big Government. You can argue that Lincoln’s tactics during war weren’t right, as I believe also, but you can’t argue that slavery wasn’t something that needed to be ended. I understand that fiat money leads to war, but sometimes a war is worth fighting.

This is why it irks me when liberals talk about conservatives wanting to go back to the days of segregation, etc. Segregation was put into place by big progressives in the 1880s and sustained by big government New Dealers.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 11:11 AM

You’re way off the subject. First of all, I didn’t mention slavery at all (and I would strongly disagree that is the ultimate form of Big Government). Secondly, I didn’t mention anything about the War Between the States. I specifically mentioned Lincoln and the Whigs’ goal of subduing the states and creating a central bank. The era of big, centralized federal government – and the end of federalism – began with Lincoln and it was deliberate.

The Republican Party establishment, led by Lincoln, was very clear on what it hoped to achieve with a central bank. As Heather Cox Richardson recounts in The Greatest Nation on the Earth: Republican Economic Policies During the Civil War, Senator John Sherman, brother of General William Tecumseh Sherman and chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, declared, “nationalize as much as possible, even the currency, so as to make men love their country before their states. All private interests, all local interests, all banking interests, the interests of individuals, everything, should be subordinate now to the interest of the Government.

This is your Republican Party.

Since you brought up slavery, Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves. Lincoln was a racist. Every other country that had slavery ended it through peaceful means (and the war did not end slavery). Fiat money is not what led to war. You have intellectual curiosity. You call yourself a historian. Do yourself a favor and unlearn the propaganda and lies you’ve been fed your entire life and learn our true history. I’ve pointed you toward many great sources to help with your liberation.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

As a previous 10 year member of the Libertarian party, it took awhile to see that putting your faith any any party is a joke. It took me some time for me to see it, but what Dyer states is true, regardless of the circumstances.

CaliforniaRefugee on July 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Who said anything about putting faith in a party? And no, what Dyer says is a load of bunk.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 1:24 PM

He won’t be doing heavy lifting for small-government conservatism in the Oval Office. … If we had another Reagan to elect this fall, we would remain passive, waiting for the president to try to do what only we can do. It is good for the people to have to step up to our responsibilities, which start with character and knowledge.

I think J.E. is saying that we need to “help” Romney lead. But, I say, if Romney doesn’t want our help and wants to take things his own biggish govt way, lets start prepping immediately for a primary challenge in 2016.
Remember, it wasn’t that we wanted a moderate that Romney won the nomination. No, not at all. It’s that ALL the more conservative opponents had huge failings, and nobody like say a Jim DeMint stepped up to the plate. Upon entering the race, Rick Perry quickly soared to the top, and he seemed to be our savior (from Romney!!), but immigration and his senior moments did him in. Then came Cain, who was a bit unsteady on his feat and fell down completely when allegations of sexual harassment befell him. Then Newt rose, but his unpopularity with the wider electorate was uber-intense, and his tendency to engage in unfiltered grandiosity was the final nail. So Santorum then rose, and perhaps would fit the bill, but was too easy a target with his fumbling ways of dealing with his seemingly extreme positions on social issues. So, we got the moderate, despite that that’s not what we wanted, at all. Plan then now for a 2016 challenge, unless Romney surprises us in a major way.
But we got Romney now. This we must win. Donate$!!!

A side note: it seemed that virtually all of Mitts opponents were running to sell books: Newt, Cain, Santorum, even Perry perhaps. I think that the focus on the extended roster of debates, unfortunately, encourages the “book tour” candidates. These are not the candidates we want; at the very least we should treat that, that a candidate is hawking a book, as a negative. Ideally, we need to revises the debate centered process, or screen candidates out from debates if they are peddling books. It clearly is a conflict of interest; and particularly in Cain’s case, we wondered whether he wanted to be president, or was just trying to enjoy himself and, most importantly, sell his book.

anotherJoe on July 10, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Since you brought up slavery, Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves. Lincoln was a racist. Every other country that had slavery ended it through peaceful means (and the war did not end slavery). Fiat money is not what led to war. You have intellectual curiosity. You call yourself a historian. Do yourself a favor and unlearn the propaganda and lies you’ve been fed your entire life and learn our true history. I’ve pointed you toward many great sources to help with your liberation.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Yeah, you’re completely wrong. I just spent 5 years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings. The goal of the party was to end slavery. Why do you think the South left in the first place (this is what I worked on)? The war was caused by slavery. The North fought for Union, but the South left for slavery. Calling Lincoln a racist because you’re using 21st century standards is absurd, however, most ending slavery had little to with helping black people for many in the antislavery movement, especially the Republicans who had been former Jacksonians.

I didn’t say fiat money caused the war, I said fiat money paid for the war. The bank issue goes way further back than the Whigs. I support a lot of what van Mises stood for, but the institute in his name is as much “propaganda” as anything else. It just happens to be interpretations that you agree with, and therefore, deem “true.”

Also, how could you not call government enforced enslavement a form of big government?

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Also, Dante,

Thomas DiLorenzo has been debunked by numerous historians and called out for cherry picking numerous “sources” he used and placing them out of context, or in some cases, completely fabricated. For example, he attributes quotes to Lincoln that are actually Lincoln quoting someone he disagrees with. I’ve read The Real Lincoln, it’s absurd in how it fails to engage in any historical analysis and simply brushes aside loads of evidence that contradict its conclusions. If there’s anything that’s “propaganda” it’s that.

I lean towards libertarians, but I’m solidly the side of honesty.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Every other country that had slavery ended it through peaceful means (and the war did not end slavery).

One more thing I forgot. Tell that to Haiti, Cuba (cuban rebellion against Spain), Jamaica (Baptist War), and Brazil (paraguay war), all of which saw the end of slavery come after massive insurrections or war (or both).

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Electing Romney isn’t electing a champion of the American political idea. It’s a tactical move to get Obama out of office.

Someday we may yet mature enough to realize that is only by our electing, the lesser evil–these RINO Romney types–that Obama was able to attain power.(I won’t say office because the office of President has been trashed for quite a while now.)

Don L on July 10, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Yeah, you’re completely wrong. I just spent 5 years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings. The goal of the party was to end slavery. Why do you think the South left in the first place (this is what I worked on)? The war was caused by slavery. The North fought for Union, but the South left for slavery. Calling Lincoln a racist because you’re using 21st century standards is absurd, however, most ending slavery had little to with helping black people for many in the antislavery movement, especially the Republicans who had been former Jacksonians.

I didn’t say fiat money caused the war, I said fiat money paid for the war. The bank issue goes way further back than the Whigs. I support a lot of what van Mises stood for, but the institute in his name is as much “propaganda” as anything else. It just happens to be interpretations that you agree with, and therefore, deem “true.”

Also, how could you not call government enforced enslavement a form of big government?

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

You are the one who is wrong, and no, DiLorenzo has not been debunked. The goal of the party was never to end slavery. You’re not much of a historian if you spent five years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings and didn’t know Lincoln was a racist and who had no desire to end slavery. That was NEVER the purpose of the war.

I linked to the fourth Lincoln Douglas debate in my last post. You should read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt, though:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

The belief in an inherent superiority of a race over another is textbook racism.

And from his first inaugural address:

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

And here is what you said about fiat money: “I understand that fiat money leads to war, but sometimes a war is worth fighting”. That’s not saying it paid for the war, that’s saying it led to war.

Like I said, you’re young, you have plenty of time to get straight. I just hope you get their sooner in life than I. And being a historian does not mean simply regurgitating government propaganda.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 2:29 PM

Dante, Dante, Dante, so your silence tells me two things. Neither of which are in the Republics best interest. Major fail on your part, so there’s that.

Bmore on July 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Hmm…I would swear I hit the post button. I’ll try again.

Yeah, you’re completely wrong. I just spent 5 years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings. The goal of the party was to end slavery. Why do you think the South left in the first place (this is what I worked on)? The war was caused by slavery. The North fought for Union, but the South left for slavery. Calling Lincoln a racist because you’re using 21st century standards is absurd, however, most ending slavery had little to with helping black people for many in the antislavery movement, especially the Republicans who had been former Jacksonians.

I didn’t say fiat money caused the war, I said fiat money paid for the war. The bank issue goes way further back than the Whigs. I support a lot of what van Mises stood for, but the institute in his name is as much “propaganda” as anything else. It just happens to be interpretations that you agree with, and therefore, deem “true.”

Also, how could you not call government enforced enslavement a form of big government?

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

You are the one who is wrong, and no, DiLorenzo has not been debunked. The goal of the party was never to end slavery. You’re not much of a historian if you spent five years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings and didn’t know Lincoln was a racist and who had no desire to end slavery. That was NEVER the purpose of the war.

I linked to the fourth Lincoln Douglas debate in my last post. You should read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt, though:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of n.egroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

The belief in an inherent superiority of a race over another is textbook racism.

And from his first inaugural address:

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

And here is what you said about fiat money: “I understand that fiat money leads to war, but sometimes a war is worth fighting”. That’s not saying it paid for the war, that’s saying it led to war.

Like I said, you’re young, you have plenty of time to get straight. I just hope you get their sooner in life than I. And being a historian does not mean simply regurgitating government propaganda.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Yeah, you’re completely wrong. I just spent 5 years going through speeches, pamphlets, and personal writings. The goal of the party was to end slavery. Why do you think the South left in the first place (this is what I worked on)? The war was caused by slavery. The North fought for Union, but the South left for slavery. Calling Lincoln a racist because you’re using 21st century standards is absurd, however, most ending slavery had little to with helping black people for many in the antislavery movement, especially the Republicans who had been former Jacksonians.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Slavery was a minor issue as far as the South was concerned. There’s a tendency to assume it was all about slavery because it makes the North look more virtuous, but the real point of the war was that the South was trying to leave the Union, and the North was willing to fight a bloody war to prevent them from leaving.

Lincoln was perfectly willing to give up on the issue of slavery if the South would have come back into the Union. If that was all the South wanted, the war could have been over in short order.

tom on July 10, 2012 at 2:45 PM

I often admire your columns, but not this one. I think that you’re taking a very facile, CW approach to looking at Romney. He doesn’t expound in prose on great ideals the way Reagan did. That seems to be the prevailing condemnation of the man from the right.

When you go beyond the superficial and look at his policy prescriptions, Mitt is every bit the enabler of the American way. As Obama has made us remember the Carter years, I truly believe that Mitt will bring to mind the days of Reagan.

MJBrutus on July 10, 2012 at 2:49 PM

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of n.egroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

This has nothing to do with slavery. That was my point. More than half of northerners opposed slavery expanding to the West. If you read the debates together, as you should, you’d see that. He talks about inalienable rights for blacks in other parts of the debates.

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Right, he was a politician speaking politically. He ran on preventing the expansion of slavery because he believed that would end slavery. Southerners, too, believed, probably rightly, that not allowing slavery in the West would mean the end of slavery where it existed, which is what they stated in their articles of secession.

Slavery was a minor issue as far as the South was concerned.

The war was about Union. Secession was about slavery. Every single secessionist commissioner said as much. Even Virginia, which left very late, stated slavery as the reason for secession.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Like I said, you’re young, you have plenty of time to get straight. I just hope you get their sooner in life than I. And being a historian does not mean simply regurgitating government propaganda.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Nothing I’ve said is issued from the government. In fact, I’ve never gone to a public school outside of my undergrad. Even my graduate degree is from a private institution. Unless you think Lincoln’s writings, newspapers from the era, writings from political opponents and allies, diaries, etc, have all been doctored by the government I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

You can’t cherry pick lines, place them out of context, and then say that that one line defines what a former president believed. It doesn’t make sense to do that. Events do not happen in a vacuum, they don’t now, they never have.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 3:34 PM

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of n.egroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. “

Firstly, that has literally nothing to do with slavery. In fact, most opponents of slavery, or slavery’s expansion, did not like black people. However, if you read all of the Lincoln-Douglas debates you’d also read where Lincoln talks about inalienable rights for black people. Picking and choosing quotations you like and not putting them into context is not how truth is discovered.

“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Notice how he says nothing about where it doesn’t exist already? He’s talking about slavery in the West. Lincoln was a master politician. He and slaveholders both believed that without expansion slavery would be on the road to extinction.

Slavery was a minor issue as far as the South was concerned. There’s a tendency to assume it was all about slavery because it makes the North look more virtuous, but the real point of the war was that the South was trying to leave the Union, and the North was willing to fight a bloody war to prevent them from leaving.

Lincoln was perfectly willing to give up on the issue of slavery if the South would have come back into the Union. If that was all the South wanted, the war could have been over in short order.

tom on July 10, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Lincoln was not willing to give up on the issue of preventing slavery from entering the West. The South seceded because they knew that slavery would be on the road to ending. Every article of secession said as much.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 3:50 PM

Shorter version of above piece: Electing Romney is the only thing that will save from tyranny from big government and judicial activism from a left-leaning SC for the next generation…

Pest on July 10, 2012 at 3:53 PM

This is going to be my last response to you. I’ve tried to help but it’s clear you don’t want it.

Firstly, that has literally nothing to do with slavery.

cpaulus on July 10, 2012 at 3:50 PM

I didn’t say that quote had anything to do with slavery. It is evidence, however, of Lincoln’s racism. He expressly and publicly declares that he believes the white race to be superior to the black race and that he has no desire at all to bring about the social and political equity of the two. It’s from the fourth Lincoln-Douglas debate. Hardly some obscure speech or writing, and one that would be quite hard to miss if one were doing five years’ worth of historical research.

Dante on July 10, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Remarkable fail, simply one of the greatest ever presented on HA. With the bonus of being very funny, even with no humor what so ever. Remarkable.

Bmore on July 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM

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