The Civil War: Not A Useful Model For Progressive Politics

Conor Kilpatrick has some angry words for people who think that Barack Obama is precisely comparable to Abraham Lincoln and the PPACA precisely comparable to the 13th Amendment. Granted, I don’t believe these people exist (and this includes, I’m guessing, Speilberg and Kushner.) But it’s important to know that this strawman can’t stand, because Obama is the kind of “empty suit” who believes that non-revolutionary reforms might be worth achieving:

Abraham Lincoln and the early Republicans (to say nothing of the Liberty Party or Free Soilers before them) shared a vision of a radically different society. Wiping out slavery — either through immediate abolition or through the “cordon of fire” policy of the Republican party — was hardly a technocratic reform.

Let’s stop here for a second. Lincoln wasn’t a radical or abolitionist. He just wasn’t.  (Note also the fancy shuffling by which Lincoln is given retroactive credit for the positions held by the more radical minority within his party.  By the same logic, contemporary Democrats favor single payer since the leftmost members of the House caucus do.)  Had the South not seceded slavery would not have been abolished in any existing state during a Lincoln administration. A Lincoln administration and a Republican Congress would have presumably stopped the expansion of slavery in a way that would have made the gradual ending of slavery more likely — you know, the kind of thing that would get you denounced as an empty-suit technocrat by Kilpatrick if you were a 20th century Demcorat.

But, of course, secession did happen, and this created a context in which Lincoln was able to effect radical changes. Which is to his immense credit (although it is also true that emancipation was not the simple creation of political actors in Washington), but the relevance of this to contemporary politics is essentially non-existent. Which brings us to this:

Which part of this sounds anything at all like Barack Obama — the man who dives for cover whenever Ben Nelson sneezes? When did Obama ever promise to place the private health insurance industry “where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction”?

Ha ha ha! If Barack Obama were a real man, he would have just firebombed Ben Nelson’s house and held any survivors hostage until he agreed to vote for single payer.  And then sent Charles Bronson or Denzel Washington to take care of Evan Bayh, and so on.   No president worthy of the name would deal with with mere legislators.   And let’s also not forget to denounce that pathetic sellout LBJ — when Harry Bird said “jump” he said “how high?” Real revolutionary presidents don’t make deals with venal senators, period.

I’m not sure when the litmus test for being a Real Leftist became having a view of American political institutions that makes the complacent pluralists of the 50s look like Gramsci. At any rate, it is indeed true that Obama did not make a revolutionary pledge to eliminate the American health insurance industry, for the obvious reason that the result of this would be holding the uninsured as hostages in exchange for nothing. Progressive reform in the veto-point-heavy framework of American political institutions involves buying off vested interests (and when it came to the New Deal, this involved compromises substantially more immoral than preserving insurance rentiers.) If your counterexample involves a war that resulted in the death of upwards of a million people, I think it’s pretty safe to call this the exception that proves the rule.

108 comments on this post.
  1. Craigo:

    Actual radicals spent four years denouncing Lincoln as a weak-kneed compromiser. Sound familiar?*

    *Not intended as an endorsement of the Obama-as-Lincoln thesis

  2. c u n d gulag:

    When Obama won, and had both Houses of Congress, I think too many Democratic voters wanted him to be like W – preening around, posturing, and seemingly doing whatever it is he wanted to do.

    Which, early on, even W wasn’t able to do himself – because Jim Jeffords switched from being a Republican to being an Independent, losing the Republicans a clear majority in the Senate.

    Republicans in either house can almost always be trusted to vote in lockstep.
    Not Democrats.
    Obama had a House full of Red Dog Democrats (I calls ‘em that, ’cause there ain’t nothin’ blue ’bout ‘em), and a handful of Senators of the same persuasion.

    Obama ran as a Centrist, and governed as a Centrist.
    Did he accomodate too much sometimes?
    Maybe.
    Hopefully he’s learned not to reach across the aisle too much, because they other sides want to cut his hand off, to make it easier to cut-off his head.

    But he still managed to accomplish more Liberal objectives in 2-4 years, than Bill Clinton did in 8.
    I’m sorry if he wasn’t a mock tough guy and bully, and neither was Biden, like W, and Dasterdly Dick.

  3. Dan:

    Yup. Acting the phony tough guy would’ve netted zero additional progressive accomplishments, and likely negatively affected his personal favorability ratings.

  4. Erik Loomis:

    The real downside (or upside depending on how I think about it) to this Lincoln movie is that I didn’t expect to spend late 2012 in a giant project of debunking stupid shit people who should know better say about Lincoln.

  5. Craigo:

    Choice tidbits?

    I liked the movie, but I know the difference between fiction and history: Age.

  6. Corey Robin:

    Scott, you refer to “people who think that Barack Obama is precisely comparable to Abraham Lincoln and the PPACA precisely comparable to the 13th Amendment.” And you say, “Granted, I don’t believe these people exist (and this includes, I’m guessing, Speilberg and Kushner.)” Kushner has in fact made exactly those comparisons. Twice. Here on the Colbert Report (start 2:00): http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/421268/november-14-2012/tony-kushner-pt–2
    And here on the Chris Hayes show: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46979738/#49947351

  7. Erik Loomis:

    It’s mostly been on Twitter. Between people comparing Obama to Lincoln in crazy ways, people doing hit jobs on Lincoln, and people saying Lincoln opposed capitalism, it’s been one giant week of me screaming to people that they can’t talk about the past without understanding context.

  8. Davis X. Machina:

    *Not intended as an endorsement of the Obama-as-Lincoln thesis

    I love the Obama-as-Lincoln thesis.

    Another Illinois statehouse hack, with a single undistinguished term in DC, then promoted over his head on the back of some neat high-profile speeches — and both of them with funny ears.

  9. RedSquareBear:

    The “Obama as centrist” thing isn’t untrue (I prefer to call him “pragmatic”, but this is largely a rhetorical difference), but it needs to be regionally qualified. The Purple Dogs (personally my preferred term) are called “centrists” but they’re not very similar to the putatively-centrist POTUS.

  10. mark f:

    I was just over at CT and noticed that your post about Lincoln was up there. I’d already read it at your personal blog thanks to a link elsewhere, and the 300 comments at CT dissuaded me from clicking just to say that I really enjoyed it. So here it is.

  11. rea:

    180,000 black troops were sure useful to the Union, but Conor Kilpatrick says that the Union could not have won without them. That is certainly . . . far from clear.

  12. david mizner:

    Well perhaps “the relevance of this to contemporary politics is essentially non-existent” but no less than the person who wrote the film, Obama-fan Kushner, has himself drawn parallels between Lincoln’s “pragamatism” and Obama’s.

    In any case, I haven’t seen the film but based on what I’ve read, it seems most Obama admirers and most Obama critics could agree that the most admirable work against slavery was done by slaves themselves and that, more generally, presidents tend to ratify social changes (often shaped by radical politics) that are largely out of their control.

    Kushner and Speilberg seem to celebrate “pragmatism” and horse-trading, which would be fine-ish if they didn’t also (as it seems) chastise radicals in Congress and, worse, ignore the contributions of slaves themselves.

  13. mark f:

    Well said.

    I also agree with RedSquareBear’s modification; Obama’s more of a concilliator than a centrist.

    And for the record I wouldn’t have voted for someone who pledged to, e.g., veto PPACA for not being single-payer or to behave similarly on other bills.

  14. Erik Loomis:

    A highly dubious assertion.

  15. david mizner:

    Yes it’s a great post.

  16. Murc:

    See, I disagree with this.

    In the context of health care, a “centrist” would be someone who actually thinks that preserving the private insurance industry is a great idea, and recoils away from single payer or other systems as actual bad policy they oppose, but they cobble together something like the ACA because they do want people to have coverage.

    Whereas being PRAGMATIC can mean “although I would like for there to be an American equivalent to the NHS, that’s never gonna happen, so I’ll support this half-a-loaf giveaway to the insurance companies because it’ll get forty million people who need it coverage.”

    Which one Obama is on any specific policy issue is of course open to debate. Although what isn’t open to debate is that the point is often moot, because he’s to the left (way to the left) of the Congress on the vast majority of things.

  17. Michael Bérubé:

    Well, I’m not seeing a dime’s worth of difference between Lincoln and Breckinridge, myself.

  18. Murc:

    it seems most Obama admirers and most Obama critics could agree that the most admirable work against slavery was done by slaves themselves and that, more generally, presidents tend to ratify social changes (often shaped by radical politics) that are largely out of their control.

    This is not something I thought I’d ever see david mizner write.

  19. djw:

    Agreed. Centrist refers to the relational location of policy preferences, whereas Pragmatic refer to one’s means and expectations. The difference isn’t a semantic one at all.

  20. Peter:

    I gotta ask- what did you mean by “I’m not sure when the litmus test for being a Real Leftist became having a view of American political institutions that makes the complacent pluralists of the 50s look like Gramsci.” ? I’ve been scratching my head over it for a while and cannot make sense of it.

  21. david mizner:

    Why? I’ve never said a word that contradicts it; the idea that real changes comes from people, often via radical protest, is one of my core beliefs.

    That has nothing to do with, say, Obama’s crappy, bank-friendly housing policy.

  22. catclub:

    Lets see if he lives though April and May of this coming year before laughing too heartily at the similarities.

  23. Craigo:

    Yeah; believing that the expansion of private insurance is the ideal solution is something I can disagree with and still respect. But the principle that united current centrists is the golden mean fallacy.

  24. mark f:

    His VP’s not named Johnson.

  25. Murc:

    Weren’t you one of the guys claiming that Obama could have gotten much more liberal legislation through the Senate if he’d wanted to?

    That sort of falls into thinking change is imposed from the top-down.

  26. RedSquareBear:

    Shit. I agree.

    The “Obama as centrist” thing isn’t untrue (I prefer to call him “pragmatic”, but this is largely a rhetorical difference)

    Is incorrect. I don’t even use “pragmatic” as a synonym for “centrist” so I don’t know why I said I did.

    That being said, I think I agree with you that Obama is a pragmatist of the left.

    I think that’s a “good” thing, although I’m usually in the minority in thinking that.

  27. djw:

    I made it to about 180 comments before throwing in the towel. You made a wiser choice than I. But yes, great post.

  28. RedSquareBear:

    +1.

  29. david mizner:

    Not really. My main beef has always been things he had more control over — bank bailouts, housing, civil liberties, foreign policy, buying into the need for austerity — although I have said he should’ve tried to pass a larger stimulus and fought for a better financial reform bill (instead Geithner actively worked to take the teeth out of it.)

  30. Scott Lemieux:

    Perhaps I’ll elaborate on this in a follow-up post, but the implication of this kind of Obama criticism from the left is that there’s no barrier to eliminating the American health insurance industry that the unfettered will of Democratic presidents couldn’t solve. Not only is this wrong, it’s not really a “left” analysis at all.

  31. witless chum:

    Maybe the better Obama/Lincoln parellel is the Arab Spring. Obama either didn’t think it was a good thing for the U.S. to try to prop up Mubarak or the other non-Bahraini despots anymore or didn’t think it’d be effective to try, so he sided with the people in the streets rhetorically and took no concrete steps to help the rulers.

    Lincoln didn’t start emancipation and who knows how he felt about it, but when the slaves were running off and Ben Butler was refusing to send them back, Lincoln didn’t sweep in and try to turn back the clock.

  32. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    Actually, no. Whatever you think of the Kilpatrick piece, he quotes Eric Foner refuting the notion that Lincoln received nothing but criticism from the abolitionists:

    That little exchange of Obama’s reveals a deep misunderstanding about what happened in the Civil War…well we know what the abolitionists said about the Emancipation Proclamation…they said ‘right on, Lincoln! This is fantastic, this is great!’ They celebrated, and then they said ‘you’ve got to do more. You’ve got to go further…They didn’t denounce Lincoln as a compromiser.

    You can always find some “radicals” who denounce any leader. But the frequent claim by the Obama administration that FDR and Lincoln were as criticized by the left as he has been is simply not true.*

    * Not intended as an endorsement or a criticism of criticizing Lincoln, FDR, or Obama from the left.

  33. rea:

    If for no other reason than that there are several million people, most of them not rich, who work in the health insurance industry and related fields.

  34. david mizner:

    Well there are “radicals” who praise Obama too, like Tony Kushner.

  35. Jonas:

    Agreeing to moderate health care reform that Bayh and Nelson would vote for was pragmatism. If centrists like Bayh or Nelson were president, there would have been no health care reform.

  36. Jonas:

    After all, Obama is the metrosexual black Abe Lincoln.

  37. FlipYrWhig:

    A Lincoln administration and a Republican Congress would have presumably stopped the expansion of slavery in a way that would have made the gradual ending of slavery more likely

    A/k/a bending the slave curve.

  38. FlipYrWhig:

    We’ve learned over time to have consoling things to say about, for instance, coal miners who’d be dislocated by cleaner energy policies. But virtually no one clamoring for the dissolution of Big Insurance offers a prescription for what to do with the unfortunates currently being paid by that baleful enterprise.

  39. Incontinentia Buttocks:

    If you want an example of a reforming president who was in fact brutally criticized from the left, there’s always LBJ. Of course, the anti-LBJ left was much more aggressive in its opposition to him than the left has been to Obama. Of course, the left was also more distinct and larger in the Sixties than today.

    The anti-Obama left’s bark has been much worse than its bite…indeed, even its bark has been greatly exaggerated. By and large, Americans on the left have held their noses and voted for Obama and the Democrats. And many don’t even feel the need to hold their noses. Unusually, Obama received not even a token primary challenger from the left (Randall Terry actually won a delegate in Oklahoma running to Obama’s right). And none of the third-party candidates this fall came close to catching fire.

  40. Glenn:

    This passage in Kilpatrick’s piece totally confused me. I thought Obama’s claim was that Lincoln was not criticized by abolitionists for the compromises in the Emancipation Proclamation, because they recognized the achievement was still hugely important despite the compromises, and therefore lefties should do likewise and STFU about the compromises in Obamacare.

  41. greylocks:

    Also, too, he resorts to the alternate history boogyman:

    In fact, had General Sherman failed to capture Atlanta in the summer of 1864

    This shit makes me crazy.

    Sherman was never not going to capture Atlanta. And in any case, he did.

  42. NonyNony:

    We’ve learned over time to have consoling things to say about, for instance, coal miners who’d be dislocated by cleaner energy policies.

    We who?

    One of the things that pisses me off most about progressives in my acquaintance (both on the Internets and in meat-space) is that they miss out on just how harmful in the short term a lot of their preferred policies would be to people who work for a living.

    I remain dumbfounded that anytime I ask the question “so what’s supposed to replace the jobs that the miners lose” I tend to get a tirade against the coal industry rather than an answer.

  43. Davis X. Machina:

    And his secretary’s not named ‘Kennedy’…

  44. joe from Lowell:

    When Obama won, and had both Houses of Congress, I think too many Democratic voters wanted him to be like W – preening around, posturing, and seemingly doing whatever it is he wanted to do.

    I think that a lot of people who had their political coming of age under George Bush – say, only started to pay attention to politics in 2006 – don’t actually understand that the President isn’t supposed to act that way.

  45. joe from Lowell:

    Personality also gets lumped in with ideology and pragmatism in the term “centrist,” as applied to Obama and to others.

    Republicans get points for moderation if they manage not to snarl too often.

  46. FlipYrWhig:

    Well, touché. But “we” at least make a frowny face while discussing it.

  47. Leeds man:

    Free Soilers? Were they the Incontinentalist Party?

  48. joe from Lowell:

    We buy clothes that look like theirs and say “eco-tourism.”

  49. joe from Lowell:

    But virtually no one clamoring for the dissolution of Big Insurance offers a prescription for what to do with the unfortunates currently being paid by that baleful enterprise.

    Wouldn’t many of them do similar jobs – billing, analyzing files, overseeing statistical analyses – for the government under a single-payer system?

  50. Johnny Sack:

    Not that I completely disagree, but at this point, after a full term, shouldn’t his Administration be weighed a lot more heavily than the fact that he was an undistinguished Senator and law professor? I mean obviously you’re just drawing a comparison, but at this point the undistinguished Senator is a stale criticism in light of the record we have, unless said lackluster record is used to illuminate shortcomings in office.

    But definitely makes one wonder why we select people the way we do.

  51. rea:

    Well, no, Joe–that’s exactly the advantage of a comprehensive single payor system.

    You don’t have billing clerks trying to figure out the right way to code the treatment so that it’s covered, because it’s all covered. You don’t have teams of lawyers debating the respective priorities of the worker’s compensation carier, the health insurance carrier, and the no-fault carrier, because it’s single payor.

  52. joe from Lowell:

    Well, no, rea -

    That is not the advantage of a single payer system.

    You still have billing clerks processing invoices. You still have people running analyses about cost savings and the efficacy of different procedures. (What do you think the Medicare Advisory Panel created by Obamacare does?) You still have an enormous administrative system. Do you think there aren’t people working in back offices for Medicare and the VA? The vast majority of non-medical people who work in the health care industry are not “teams of lawyers.”

    People are still going to work in back offices under PonyCare, many of them the same people who work for Aetna and Blue Cross. Their jobs will be done differently, but people with those skills will still be needed in large number..

    It’s really not the same thing as coal jobs.

  53. The Dark Avenger:

    Not quite:

    The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It was a third party and a single-issue party that largely appealed to and drew its greatest strength from New York State. The party leadership consisted of former anti-slavery members of the Whig Party and the Democratic Party. Its main purpose was opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories, arguing that free men on free soil comprised a morally and economically superior system to slavery. They opposed slavery in the new territories and sometimes worked to remove existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in states such as Ohio.

    The party membership was largely absorbed by the Republican Party in 1854.

  54. FlipYrWhig:

    Well, just as a penny-ante hypothetical, what about all the people writing promotional copy, like all those brochures for weight-loss and smoking-cessation initiatives? They’re not needed for improving anyone’s health, but there would be much less call for such people in a true universal health care system, right? A lot of functionaries and bureaucrats would be no longer needed. That’s great for health care costs, but not so great for the now-redundant employees.

    Right now there are a lot of parallel and redundant “back office” staffs. From a technocratic perspective, it would be a greater good for a greater number to phase out a lot of them. But there aren’t that many places for them to go. That’s not an insuperable problem, but it rarely gets talked about, IMHO.

  55. joe from Lowell:

    I don’t disagree that we would see health-care-admin sector employment shrink overall. I just don’t think we’d see the dramatic collapse that banning coal-fired power plants would produce in the coal industry. I think we’d see attrition as the older employees retire and are not replaced.

    As for your specific example, I think private weight-loss and smoking cessation programs would be the least likely sector of the private health market to go away. Why wouldn’t there be even more demand for smoking cessation clinics, and even more advertising trying to get people to go, when everyone has health insurance that pays for the smoking cessation clinic of your choice? A single payer health care system would throw money at people who go to stop-smoking clinics.

  56. djw:

    I think private weight-loss and smoking cessation programs would be the least likely sector of the private health market to go away. Why wouldn’t there be even more demand for smoking cessation clinics, and even more advertising trying to get people to go, when everyone has health insurance that pays for the smoking cessation clinic of your choice? A single payer health care system would throw money at people who go to stop-smoking clinics.

    For example: doesn’t the NHS do lots of this stuff? As people change jobs more and more, private insurers lose the financial incentive to invest in preventative health-improving measures. Not a single payer state.

  57. Corey Robin:

    Thanks guys!

  58. FlipYrWhig:

    Sure, _some_ people would still do such things (like, in my kind of dippy example, writing copy for brochures and whatnot), but many fewer than do so now. Think of all the people at insurance companies whose jobs involve strategizing how to poach customers from other insurers. Those jobs go away. On one level, well, they should, because they don’t improve anyone’s health. But, you know, those people have to do something else.

    Like I said, this isn’t a reason not to do a single-payer system. Far from it! But moving to single-payer would produce at least _some_ degree of dislocation. Not _everyone_ is going to get to just do their same job for the US National Health Administration.

  59. Linnaeus:

    That and two bucks’ll get you a cup of coffee.

  60. JL:

    As someone in the relevant age group (though I started paying attention to politics bizarrely young, so my political coming of age, well before I was old enough to vote, was under Clinton) who knows a lot of liberals in the relevant age group, I would agree with this statement. I’ve run into this exact problem talking politics with friends, particularly friends a little younger than me (say, 24 or 25).

  61. JL:

    I remain dumbfounded that anytime I ask the question “so what’s supposed to replace the jobs that the miners lose” I tend to get a tirade against the coal industry rather than an answer.

    This is why I really appreciate that anti-coal protest group Mountain Justice, in addition to their anti-coal protests, tries to bring green energy jobs to Southern Appalachia. You could argue whether that’s the right thing to try to replace coal with, but at least they’ve obviously considered that this is a problem.

  62. rea:

    Sherman was never not going to capture Atlanta.

    Oh, man, that’s easy to say a century and a half after he captured Atlanta, but it was not all that clear at the time. There were a number of occasions when that campaign could have gone very wrong. Not many generals other than Serman could have pulled it of. John Bell Hood being a hell of a damn fool had something to do with it, too.

  63. rea:

    Free soil, Free men, Fremont!

  64. rea:

    I think Joe underestimates the enormous amount of effort insurers put into not covering things, which gets eliminated under comprehensive single payor.

  65. Eli Rabett:

    Obama went to law school

  66. joe from Lowell:

    I think Joe underestimates the enormous amount of effort insurers put into not covering things, which gets eliminated under comprehensive single payor.

    I think you overestimate how labor-intensive this is. I think you are conflating the dollar cost of the inefficiency that these practices introduce into the system, with the amount of employment it provides.

  67. Nathan of Perth:

    Yeah, there were plenty of Union Generals that could have fouled that up. By this stage though, a goodly number of those unfortunates were disgraced and away from command.

    How some of those Generals managed to dress themselves was a wonder.

  68. cpinva:

    mr. terry is to the right of genghis khan,

    (Randall Terry actually won a delegate in Oklahoma running to Obama’s right).

    so saying he ran to the right of obama is sort of redundent. what i wasn’t quite clear on, is why he ran in the democratic primary to begin with, since forced birthers are generally associated with the GOP?

  69. Nathan of Perth:

    Two dollars for a coffee, WHERE?!

  70. cpinva:

    actually, i think they get “moderate points” if they don’t shoot anyone that day.

    Republicans get points for moderation if they manage not to snarl too often.

    the fact that it’s often themselves in the foot is overlooked.

  71. Nathan of Perth:

    The Civil War is not a useful model because … well, to be frank, very little good typically comes out of tearing your country apart over 4 years as you kill off a couple whole percentage points of your population with disease and combat.

    Sure, the actual Civil War had some good outcomes in terms of the Emancipation but by and large killing what would be the modern day equivalent of 6-7m people almost never ends well.

  72. Nathan of Perth:

    Historically its only been birdshot.

    That lawyer still has a long and promising career ahead of him.

  73. cpinva:

    i think that’s being kind:

    A highly dubious assertion.

    the union could have put twice as many white men in the field, at any given time, as the CSA could ever have hoped to, absent a huge influx of foreigners to their cause. given the facts of the union blockade, that wasn’t very likely.

    in fact, the confederacy (meaning the arrogant, slave owning planters) made the same mistake the japanese did, underestimating the popular will to fight of the north. that, and the fact (again, a mistake the japanese would duplicate in 1941), of the north’s overwhelming advantage in industry, enabling it to provide massive quantities of material & supplies to its troops in the field. the CSA was lost from the start (a fact Lee well knew), unless, with a quick victory or two, they could convince the north to sue for peace.

    clearly, the south vastly underestimated lincoln’s resolve to keep the union intact. hubris will do you in nearly every time.

  74. cpinva:

    you raise probably lincoln’s biggest problem at the beginning of the war: political officers, especially generals. many of the “best & brightest” officers resigned, to return to their home states and offer their services to the CSA. this left a bitter taste towards west point grads in the north’s mouth, and forced lincoln to suffer the consequences. sure, he had meade and mcclellan, the former a one-off at gettysburg, the latter a brilliant organizer, huge ego, and not much else.

    meanwhile, grant was quietly being successful in the west. yes, he was called “butcher grant”, due to the huge casualties his troops suffered. however, given the horrific combination of new weaponry/napoleanic tactics, any aggressive general would most likely have had the same losses, grant just happened to be the one.

    a good book on the subject is “Lincoln and His Generals”, T. Harry Williams, if you’re interested. i read it shortly after it was published. sheds light on his travails, and makes you wonder why he didn’t just shoot some of them.

  75. cpinva:

    we pretty much know how he felt about it, from his very own writings:

    Lincoln didn’t start emancipation and who knows how he felt about it,

    he was no fan of the institution of slavery, on either a moral or political level. that said, he wasn’t planning on splitting the union over it either. in that regard, you could call him a pragmatist. his cooper union speach pretty much lays out his overall position on slavery and a divided union, you should go read it. the man definitely had a way with words.

  76. cpinva:

    well hell, at the rate they’re going, a good many of them will die from black lung disease, solving most of that problem very nicely.

    I remain dumbfounded that anytime I ask the question “so what’s supposed to replace the jobs that the miners lose” I tend to get a tirade against the coal industry rather than an answer.

    i have a question for you: if an industry, that employed lots of people, were also killing off lots of people (including the employees themselves), by virtue of both their product, and the deleterious effects to the environment of producing their product (poisoning the air/water, which then poisons people/animals), at what point would you determine that the benefits of stopping that product’s production outweighed the negative effects (loss of jobs) of doing so?

    this is a legitimate question, given your assertion about the loss of miner’s jobs, associated with shutting down coal mining. how do you determine that a miner’s livelyhood outweighs my right to not die from the toxic result?

  77. cpinva:

    and let’s not forget all those high school graduates, employed by private health insurance companies, whose jobs it is to turn down your claim, resulting, slowly perhaps, in your death. where are all those people going to work? perhaps, there will be openings on obama’s “death panels” for them.

    actually, the fact is that the private health insurance industry won’t suddenly cease to exist, were single-payer to actually be enacted. there will be a secondary market for additional insurance coverage, for things not covered, or not covered adequately, by a single-payer system, just as there is in candada and the UK.

    one thing i would predict, if single-payer were ever adopted, is the consolidation of the private health care insurance industry, eventually resulting in 3 or 4 conglomerates. it would be the most cost-effective way for them to operate, given the huge drop in their customer base.

  78. cpinva:

    only true if you’re one of those actively participating.

    but by and large killing what would be the modern day equivalent of 6-7m people almost never ends well.

    if, on the other hand, you’re an industrialist, war is always good for business. just ask any officer of halliburton. or the tredegar iron works, for that matter.

  79. Nathan of Perth:

    I do struggle to think of a commander who had a bigger fluke of a victory than Meade at Gettysburg. Inasmuch as his personal involvement went, victory happened to him rather than Meade securing victory.

  80. Those:

    It is yoga teachers all the way down.

  81. ZxZ:

    Haven’t bankers sent more people to their death than coal miners.

  82. Of Course You Can Collaborate With Bad People When They’re Offering Something. But What Does This Have to do With Rand Paul? - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money:

    [...] that even though we had to shape the New Deal according to the dictates of white supremacists cutting deals with Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh to get a health care bill through Congress was completely intolerable, because of course to [...]

  83. Great Moments in Heighten-the-Contradictions - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money:

    [...] is what amused me about the ahistorical attempts to cast Abraham Lincoln as a radical (not like Obama, who’s such a worthless sellout he thinks that statutes require passage [...]

  84. Freddie deBoer:

    For the LGM crew and the “a daily Two Minutes Hate!” commenting corps here, is there any such thing as a radical who is not a “radical”? Like, what does it take to get to be an actual radical, rather than a “radical”?

  85. The Dark Avenger:

    I’m afraid you’re almost a year late, Fredrick the Farmer.

  86. Freddie deBoer:

    Whoops! Lemieux forgot to respond to you! Crazy how he finds the time to flail a young freelance writer whom he isn’t friendly with, but somehow avoids disagreeing with a tenured prof! Totally unexpected.

  87. Warren Terra:

    Oh, hey, the most tiresome person on the internet is trying to prove something by being a d!ck in a thread that’s been dead for almost exactly eight months.

    Oh, well, saves him from stinking up any current, active threads.

  88. Freddie deBoer:

    And yet, here you are.

  89. Jordan:

    There are gawker posts eagerly awaiting your comments.

  90. Freddie deBoer:

    And yet, as tiresome as I am, you get emotional when my (real, non-pseudonymous) name appears. And in that, you have me at a disadvantage: I have no idea who you are, at all.

  91. Freddie deBoer:

    Shouldn’t you guys be out punching hippies somewhere? Organizing a cull of leftists? Redbaiting somebody? Seriously, I know of literally no place on the entire internet that is more enthusiastically anti-leftists that the comments here. Surely you have more important business than little old me.

  92. Jordan:

    The most recent comments show up on the right side of the main page.

  93. Freddie deBoer:

    Cool. How are you? I’m doing pretty good, myself. My prelims are on Tuesday so I’m pretty stressed but otherwise not bad. One of my good friends is getting married tomorrow. Should be fun.

  94. Jordan:

    No, you are just annoying.

    I suppose you must be drunk to be saying these things. And that is fine, it is a saturday night.

    On the other hand, supposing you are sober, if you literally know of no place on the entire internet that is “more enthusiastically anti-leftists” then this place, then

    1) You are a fucking moron
    2) This place isn’t anti-leftist. It is somewhat anti-you. But that isn’t the same thing.
    3) There is this thing called the right wing. They are all over the internet. They are quite enthusiastically anti left wing.

    Again. Not anti-leftist. Anti-you, because of dumb things you write.

  95. Jordan:

    I’m great. I understand the stresses of prelims, so I see why you would want to be drunk. That then explains posting on a months old post for no apparent reason, and with not a whole lot more coherency.

  96. Freddie deBoer:

    Well I do think that there’s a lot to be said about mainstream liberalism’s attitude towards leftists like Connor Kilpatrick, but you’re right to think that there’s little constructive good that would come out of this particular conversation!

  97. Freddie deBoer:

    But this post is not about me. It’s about Marxist Connor Kilpatrick. Who is treated very poorly around here. As is Glenn Greenwald. As is Ralph Nader. As are many people who are generally considered to the left of mainstream liberalism. Which is okay. Political spectra exist for a reason. It’s just that the posture that no one is to the left of mainstream liberalism might (might!) be to the detriment of both conventional American liberalism and the broader leftwing project. Just maybe. That’s all I’m saying.

    I feel like you guys around here always think I’m talking about me, but trust me, nobody assumes my irrelevance more readily than me. I don’t assume anybody is thinking about me. I do think that there is such a thing as a radical wing that exists to the left of conventional liberalism, though.

  98. The Dark Avenger:

    Please, try and be a little more timely next time.

  99. Freddie deBoer:

    yeah that’s a fair request.

  100. Jordan:

    Ralph Nader has done many, many things to make the world a better place. He has also done something that makes the world a much, much worse place. He gets called out here for the latter. That seems right.

    Glenn Greenwald, also, has done things that make this world a better place. He also has said things that are wrong and counterproductive. He gets called out here for the latter (and gets links and props when he does the former, from those who aren’t Loomis). Again, that seems right.

    The desirability of someones good ends does not determine whether their political actions serve those ends. Nader (and others) have good ends in mind. They have disastrous means to achieve those ends. Indeed, their actions are often entirely counterproductive. That is the basis for the criticism at LGM and, again, seems entirely correct.

  101. Erik Loomis:

    The fact that DeBoer thinks he is to the left of me is hilarious, not to mention counter to actual evidence.

    Also, I am impressed that you are reading ancient posts at this blog. Perhaps you will pay attention to the hundreds of left-wing posts I have written.

  102. Erik Loomis:

    “I feel like you guys around here always think I’m talking about me, but trust me, nobody assumes my irrelevance more readily than me. I don’t assume anybody is thinking about me.”

    The last time you showed up in a comment thread here, I recall it being about how Important People (TM) asked you to write articles for them.

  103. Erik Loomis:

    Please provide actual evidence that Kilpatrick is to the left of Lemieux or myself.

  104. Manju:

    What do yo want? A multidimensional scaling method or something?

  105. Manju:

    Oh, hey, the most tiresome person on the internet

    Hey! when did i get demoted?

  106. Scott Lemieux:

    Again, you fail to notice that I’m didn’t criticize Kilpatrick because of his Marxism — this isn’t an ideological dispute. I criticized him because 1)he’s wrong about what Lincoln believed, and 2)he’s wrong about how policy change happens in the United States more generally.

    I’ll take your word that Kilpatrick is a Marxist, but the argument I critiqued here is not only not Marxist, it’s not even structuralist — far from radical, it’s a combination of bad 50s pluralism and middlebrow Great Man historical biographies. More Marxism would be a substantial improvement.

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  108. Post-Political Critiques of “Post-Political Politics” - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money:

    [...] aside, the bigger issue is with the increasingly familiar form of political analysis. It takes the tone of a tough-minded left-structuralist critique of [...]

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