When One’s Reach Exceeds One’s Grasp …

… you might end up with a rather strained attempt to impose a Civil War template on modern American politics.


37 thoughts on “When One’s Reach Exceeds One’s Grasp …

  1. Alan January 21, 2013 / 7:37 am

    Just briefly reading O’Heir or whatever his name is, the guy comes across as a jerk.

    I am currently an Independent, former Republican, and I strongly believe Obama’s policies are divisive, probably as much if not more so than Jefferson Davis’s were back in 1861. But Obama in many ways can be compared to the guy whom O’Heir called a “hothead” and “unrepentent racist” – Andrew Johnson.

    Obama sure isn’t a Lincoln he dissed in “Audacity of Hope” ala Lerone Bennett Jr. while he wrote reverently of sitting at the side of Robert C. Byrd – until he was nominated and became a “born again” Lincoln admirer. Lincoln NEVER would have taken a vacation during any kind of crisis and neither would most of our truly great Presidents – then demand of us that we tighten our belts. Obama can definitely be compared to one Lincoln though…Mary Todd Lincoln.

    O’Heir’s tone was condescending, immature, and loaded with partisan ignorance. But so typical of a “regressive” who really doesn’t know his American History (outside of a perusal of Zinn, perhaps) and hey, he loves Obama.

    • BorderRuffian January 22, 2013 / 8:57 am

      “Obama can definitely be compared to one Lincoln though…Mary Todd Lincoln.”

      And with Michelle it’s like having two Mary Todds.

  2. wgdavis January 21, 2013 / 8:00 am

    What a shame…all that article contrived to make demographics fit his political views, conveniently leaving out any responsibility one side while mislabeling, slandering, demonizing and misunderstanding the other. But, then, what does one expect from Salon.

  3. John Foskett January 21, 2013 / 8:21 am

    Unfortunately, too many people don’t understand what it means to “learn from history”. The result is lazy, often dim-witted, attempts to clothe current political issues in mid-nineteenth century dress. Both extremes do it. The righties who trot Lincoln out as a “Republican” for their own purposes apparently are unaware of the many ways in which he was at the forefront of “big government” with an income tax, expansive federal role in conducting warfare, establishing land grant colleges, etc. This article shows how the other pole also misuses history.

  4. Bummer January 21, 2013 / 8:55 am

    That’s quite an article. This “old guy” sure hopes, that as Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural, that we have to “Bind Up the Wounds of the Nation”. The division is serious, but Bummer prays that the “Better Angels of our Nature” prevails. Seen a rupture similar to this in the 60’s and we are still reeling from that crisis. Thanks for the read!


  5. Jimmy Dick January 21, 2013 / 11:45 am

    I don’t think the author gets what is really happening in America. His attempt to link today to the Civil War is really just an attack on the other people that do the same thing but write for a different political ideology. The concept of the patchwork states may seem to be true, but it only masks what is really going on in the country and that is a significant change in the nation’s demographics. While some states are shown as red on a map today that doesn’t reflect the attitudes of the entire citizenry of the state. Same for blue states. There is no dominant long term political party running most of these states for very long. The interests of the parties change to fit the interests of the people. When the parties do not change due to one group within the party refusing to change, they undergo a metamorphisis of their own and literally rebrand themselves. They have to do that or the parties would cease to exist and would be replaced by other ones.
    I think that’s what we’re seeing now within the Republican Party. Lest we forget, it was the Democratic Party that underwent its changes many years ago to fit a new emerging demographic.

  6. Richard Williams January 21, 2013 / 1:22 pm

    Frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between what O’Hehir writes and what Professor David Blight has written:

    “The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost. As the sesquicentennial ensues in publishing and conferences and on television and countless websites, one can hope that we will pursue matters of legacy and memory with one eye on the past and the other acutely on the present.”

    See: http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/civil-war-150-past-present/#storylink=cpy


    “Why doesn’t the Confederacy just fade away? Is it because we are irresistibly fascinated by catastrophic loss? Or is it something else? Is it because the Confederacy is to this day the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history?

    See: http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2010/062010/06272010/556990/index_html?page=1

    • Rob Baker January 21, 2013 / 7:54 pm

      Those two quotes need to be read in context. They both deal with the memory and study of the war, not it’s political projections.

      • Richard Williams January 22, 2013 / 7:35 am

        You must be reading two different articles. The two pieces are about as political as one could get:

        “And, ideologically, many of the issues of 2011 are much the same as in 1861.”

        “Today, states’ rights claims are advanced by many governors and Republican-majority legislatures in the very language of “secession” and “nullification” made so infamous in antebellum America. They are aided and abetted by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, although the justices have not justified “nullification” by name.”

        “The conservative movement in America, or at least its most radical wing, seems determined to repeal much of the 20th century and even its constitutional and social roots from the transformative 1860s.”

        And that’s just the first article.

    • Mark January 22, 2013 / 12:42 pm

      I think the Confederacy won’t fade away for more complex reasons than “fascination by catastrophic loss” or that it is “the greatest conservative resistance to federal authority in American history, though those are part of it. I think there is a basic insecurity at work that this books captures that infects the left and right.


  7. rcocean January 21, 2013 / 1:32 pm

    What a clownish article. Yes, those “Neo-confederates” in Kansas and North Dakota! LOL. And yes, the Republican party is lily-white – except for Rubio, Jindal, Clarence Thomas, West, Condi RIce, and zillion other Republicans of color who were nominated for federal office but lost. And Blacks weren’t ‘Slightly’ better off in 1890 vs. 1860. You can only make that kind of stupid comment if you know nothing of slavery.

    • tonygunter January 22, 2013 / 2:00 pm

      Because de facto slavery is SOOOOOOO much better than de jure slavery.

      • rcocean January 22, 2013 / 11:50 pm

        “Because de facto slavery is SOOOOOOO much better than de jure slavery.”

        Life for blacks in the USA wasn’t “de jure slavery.” – and lets forget the dumb word games. Look up the facts. Slavery is a hell of a lot worse than segregation – if you can’t process that you belong with O’Hehir in the Dumbo pile.

        • rcocean January 22, 2013 / 11:53 pm

          For some reason people think they win points by constantly pointing out that life after Emancipation was BAD FOR BLACK PEOPLE!!!! Yeah, we all know that abner, but that’s no reason to equate it with Slavery – because being a slave is a LOT worse.

        • tonygunter January 23, 2013 / 8:35 am

          After slavery was terminated as a legal status, the southern states passed the Black Codes which virtually re-enslaved the former slaves. The federal government forced the states to repeal these codes, but after Redemption the same types of laws were put back in place. Substandard schools ensured that blacks did not become educated, voting rules ensured blacks could not vote, vagrancy laws ensured they could not leave their plantations, oppressive criminal codes ensured that the prison system was full of labor that was rented out to wealthy planters and later forced to labor on the state prison farms. Mississippi made so much money with forced labor at Parchman that white citizens paid virtually no taxes.

          And that’s ignoring the extra-legal threats faced by blacks after redemption. This wasn’t mere segregation, it was full blown de facto slavery, without the protection imparted by being considered valuable property.

          • John Foskett January 23, 2013 / 2:18 pm

            Good points. Even if the whole system was “better” than slavery, it wasn’t by very much. Toss in the roping activtties of the Klan, etc. and there was little discernible difference from administration of the lash..

          • rcocean January 23, 2013 / 9:43 pm

            No they weren’t “Virtually re-enslaved” – constant use of over-the-top-rhetoric & Marxist Jargon like “Oppressive Criminal Codes” simply shows someone to be ignorant of Reconstruction and/or American Slavery. Or why Slavery was much worse than Segregation. But as stated above, these comments are usually made to make political points as opposed to expressing historical truths. So the more absurd the comment (Segregation was HELL ON EARTH – it was no better than Slavery!!!) the better the politically motivated poster feels.

          • tonygunter January 24, 2013 / 8:40 am

            I’m not the one making political points here. I’m just pointing out that life for blacks in the south differed little from slavery under the Black Codes and again shortly after Redemption under early Jim Crow. I have enumerated the similarities. Frankly, your fevered rants about how blacks didn’t have it too bad around 1890 and how Obama is as divisive as Jefferson Davis appear to show what cards you’re playing. And tossing around the word Marxist for calling the Redemption-era criminal codes oppressive is reminiscent of the propaganda I used to read from the same bookshelf that boasted my grandfather’s copies of “The Thunderbolt.” 🙂

          • Christopher Saunders January 24, 2013 / 11:30 am

            I don’t grasp your meaning, Mr. Ocean. Blacks during Reconstruction should have shut up because they were disenfranchised and lynched instead of worked to death? Mentioning the Klan and Jim Crow laws in the context of Reconstruction is “overblown Marxist rhetoric”? Either this is a semantic quibble gone awry or demagogic nutbaggery. From our past encounters I’m leaning towards the latter.

          • rcocean January 26, 2013 / 6:52 pm

            “I don’t grasp your meaning, Mr. Ocean.”


  8. Rob Baker January 21, 2013 / 7:55 pm

    Well said Brooks. That article is absurd.

  9. TF Smith January 21, 2013 / 9:30 pm

    Is this statement absurd?

    “The lingering effects of our racist history – from the resegregation of our public schools to the enduring and astonishing “wealth gap” between whites and blacks – are national problems, not just Southern problems.”

    Seems pretty damn accurate to me.

    • Rob Baker January 22, 2013 / 5:59 am

      When one randomly cherry picks a sentence out of the article to agree or disagree with, then one takes the article out of context. The article as a whole, is absurd.

      • TF Smith January 22, 2013 / 9:57 pm

        I dunno, when posters like “Alan” offer the comments they do, hard to see that anything O’Heir wrote is THAT absurd…

        I mean, in comparison to grown men playing dress-up…

        • Alan January 23, 2013 / 3:20 pm

          LOL. You got an education – from me, TF… (which stands for?)

          p.s. care to refute?

          • TF Smith January 23, 2013 / 8:58 pm

            Given this:

            “Obama is more like Jefferson Davis than he’ll ever be either Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.
            The latter sought to unify us and heal our common wounds. The former chose to divide this nation – which is precisely what Obama is sadly doing.”

            Refutation would have to start in kindergarten, I’m afraid.

            “TF Smith” – let’s see how good you are with the google.

          • Alan January 23, 2013 / 9:35 pm

            That’s obviously where you are coming from TF. Kindergarten that is.

            The usual pap and smear nonsense from the Obama supporters…But I’ll say it again to help TF comprehend History even if his pal O’Heir twists things the wrong way.

            Obama has divided us as a nation as much as Jefferson Davis wanted to, if not even more so. No other President from the time of Lincoln to now has ever been this divisive in both demeanor, character and policies. In this Obama more than resembles ol’ Jeff. All even the most casual observer has to do is look around us and see. Even if TF doesn’t want to know nor get it.

            Case closed.

          • Brooks D. Simpson January 23, 2013 / 9:45 pm

            Okay, folks. That’s enough of this bickering.

          • TF Smith January 26, 2013 / 3:07 am

            It’s your bar, so to speak, but don’t you expect the dead-enders to come out of the woodwork when you put up a post like this?

            What did you think of Rafuse’s piece in this quarter’s Parameters?


          • Brooks D. Simpson January 26, 2013 / 10:51 am

            I haven’t read Ethan’s piece yet.

            I would hope that most people, regardless of political orientation, would see some efforts to inject historical parallels to contemporary politics as inane. If I expect anything, it is that certain people are convinced that what I post is somehow revealing of my politics … although those responses are usually far more revealing of their politics.

            So I am disappointed when people go off in certain directions, but I always have hope that this might change.

          • John Foskett January 26, 2013 / 1:19 pm

            Amen. That’s why I said what I said in my first post. Predictably, a lot of folks find the inanity only in the analogies made by those at the opposite spectrum of their own political views – ironically proving that both sides do the same thing. The problem, as you suggest, is that the analogies really don’t fit, period – regardless of the political pole.

          • TF Smith January 27, 2013 / 3:08 am

            It was a pretty good piece, I thought – more temperate than the usual McClellan defense.

            As far as the rest goes, fair enough.


  10. Alan January 22, 2013 / 9:32 am

    It is absurd…and the writer O’Heir is a moron who is totally ignorant of American History. Except to skew it his own way. But as someone else wrote, what do you expect from the Uber-Lib Salon?

  11. Alan January 22, 2013 / 9:36 am

    p.s. Another very important thing a pisspot like O’Heir doesn’t get is that Obama is more like Jefferson Davis than he’ll ever be either Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.

    The latter sought to unify us and heal our common wounds. The former chose to divide this nation – which is precisely what Obama is sadly doing.

  12. Groggy Dundee January 22, 2013 / 9:48 am

    The author makes some valid points, namely the lingering effects of racism and the war on American society. Otherwise it’s absurd. While I have no love for the current Republican Party, comparing them with the Confederates who literally tried to dissolve the Union over a difference in opinion, is mendacious. A few hotheaded Teabaggers crying about secession is not a national movement. It’s unfortunate that American gays have yet to achieve equal rights, but it’s nowhere near the equivalent of slavery or Jim Crow. Any reasonably knowledgeable person could point to many times in our history more comparable to our current era than the Civil War – the Johnson/Nixon era, for one.

  13. neukomment January 23, 2013 / 3:26 pm

    I cringe when anyone uses the Civil War as some kind of template for what the next American Civil War will be like. To think another civil war would be some how a continuation of the first one is grossly historically naive and parochially focused..

    A better starting point for anticipating what the next American civil war would be like would be the Spanish Civil War of the mid 1930’s, or the more recent Balkan wars. Or a whole host of modern civil war and revolutionary movements from Asia to Africa. When you contemplate what modern civil war is like, you realize the next American civil war will make the first American Civil war look like a Sunday school picnic in comparison; in terms of ugliness, barbarity, blurring the boundary between combatant and civilian, and even genocide.

    Yes, those kind of things can happen in the United States of America, and secession will have nothing at all to do with it. In case you missed it, the Spanish Civil war was not about “secession”. “Secession” is the historical red herring that keeps us here in the United States from apprehending the reality of what a modern civil war would really be about and like.

  14. Michael C. Lucas January 23, 2013 / 6:15 pm

    What particular issues effect Civil War interpretation negatively? Can present day politics, religion and social biases be set aside totally in order to comprehend the wars complexity? How greatly do the issues of that war still resonate today?

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