Yesterday, it was the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. It signaled the end of the American Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in our history. So, how does Harold Meyerson commemorate the occasion? By saying that today’s Republican Party is more like the party of Jefferson Davis.
Now, this is pretty good troll bait. Meyerson has an interesting bit in his op-ed about how the North-South business relationship during the antebellum South, where southern cotton plantations would sell to New York traders, who would then work with the British. Cotton was one of the reasons why the Confederacy hoped Great Britain would intervene on their behalf during the war; thank god the British Empire had bountiful cotton harvests in 1859 and 1860, and imported the rest from India and Egypt during the war.
Nevertheless, it was a very lucrative and profitable relationship. One that Meyerson contributes as a reason for New York City’s southern sympathies. Yet, this history lesson takes a rather aggressive turn:
The Southernization of the Republican Party and the increasing domination of Wall Street’s brand of shareholder capitalism over the nation’s economic life have combined to erode both the income and the power of U.S. workers. Unions are anathema to Wall Street and the GOP. Federal regulations empowering consumers and employees are opposed by both.
Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.
First of all, what “southernization” is he talking about?
Looks like the world’s worst cellular coverage map, but it’s actually the Democrats congressional map after midterms. pic.twitter.com/yDRzdqKvm1
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) November 9, 2014
Second, wealthy donors sided with the Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections (via AP):
Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats — a group favoring the GOP doesn’t appear on the list until No. 14.
The two biggest super PACs of 2014?
Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — both backing Democrats.
In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year’s elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.
Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.
Also, isn’t the prohibitive 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, a friend of Wall Street? I believe she has quite the cozy relationship with them; one that’s drawn the ire of those who are more progressive, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Supporting legislation that protects the voting process through photo ID laws isn’t suppression; the war on poverty began with a Democrat and has been a stunning failure–and a textbook example in government dependency; and promoting school choice isn’t the same as rejecting public education. It’s merely offering a way out for students in less than stellar public schools. Scorning compromise? Who’s blocking a bipartisan bill aimed at curbing sex trafficking because they didn’t read the bill, and whose excuse that Republicans slipped in Hyde Amendment language has been smacked down by Sen. Reid’s former spokesperson? Oh, that would be the Democrats.
Also, let’s not pit Grant and Lee against each other; both men exuded grace at Appomattox:
Early on the morning of April 9, Lee called a conference with his generals so they could give their opinions on surrender. All of them concurred that under the circumstances surrender was the only option, except the young Brigadier General Edward Alexander, who, writes Foote, “proposed that the troops take to the woods, individually and in small groups, under orders to report to the governors of their respective states. That way, he believed, two thirds of the army would avoid capture by the Yankees.”
Lee gently rebuked Alexander, reminding him, “We must consider its effect on the country as a whole.” The men, he said, “would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections that may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.” Alexander would later write: “I had not a single word to say in reply. He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it.”
Grant’s terms of surrender were remarkable for their leniency on the Confederate Army. Although the rebels would be required to turn over their arms, artillery, and private property, Grant added an impromptu final sentence: “This will not embrace the side arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage.” At Lee’s request, he also allowed Confederate cavalrymen and artillerists who owned their own horses and mules to keep them, reasoning that most were small farmers and would not be able to put in a crop “to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they are now riding.”
At this crucial moment, it was most important to Grant and Lee that the soldiers return home safely and get on with civilian life as soon as possible. Returning to his men, Lee told them, “I have done the best I could for you. Go home now, and if you make as good citizens as you have soldiers, you will do well, and I shall always be proud of you.” En route back to his headquarters, Grant heard salutes and cheering begin to rise up from nearby Union batteries. He sent orders to have them stopped. “The war is over,” he said. “The rebels are our countrymen again.”
This nation is founded on the right to disagree. We have two parties for a reason. Each with defined differences on how government should operate. We have Republicans, Democrats, Conservative, Liberals, Progressives, Traditionalists, Marxists, and other political affiliations that “duke” it out, for a lack of a better term, in elections. Yes, sometimes we annoy each other with our positions, but our love of country–and the rights we have to voice those opinions without fear–is one of the many things that binds us together. Those feelings date back to the end of the Civil War, where Americans began to view one another–and the nation–as a unified entity, not just by geographical location (i.e. states).
So, I don’t mind that Mr. Meyerson wrote this piece. He should write what’s on his mind. I, as a conservative Republican of Asian decent, happen to fundamentally disagree.
UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments, Ed wrote that minority voter turnout increased in Georgia after voter ID was passed in 2008.