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Rule Or Ruin

[ 78 ] October 1, 2013 |

As a commenter noted, Lincoln’s Cooper Union address remains all too relevant to current events:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.


Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action? But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

To be sure, what the robber demanded of me – my money – was my own; and I had a clear right to keep it; but it was no more my own than my vote is my own; and the threat of death to me, to extort my money, and the threat of destruction to the Union, to extort my vote, can scarcely be distinguished in principle.

If only the Party of Lincoln hadn’t become the party of Calhoun and Taney…


Comments (78)

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  1. Cheap Wino says:

    That is cool.

    That is cool!

    I liken this whole situation to a group of children promising to hold their breath until they turn purple if they don’t get candy for breakfast.

    • Shakezula says:

      Only the adults don’t give a shit and are waiting for the little SOBs to pass out.

      • DocAmazing says:

        Problem is that the rest of us get brain damage from their hypoxia.

        • Shakezula says:

          I feel just fine. This is due in part to all the training during 8 years of Republicans fucking everything up capped with an economic implosion set to the chorus of Republicans screaming that the rich must be protected at all costs and it’s our fault we wage moochers can’t live on $10 a month. Another advantage is I haven’t been trapped in a hermetically sealed bubble and huffing fumes off St. Ron’s corpse and Denny’s Hastert’s farts.

          Besides, the fires from all those bridges the Grand Old Parasites set alight (again!) are making an otherwise chilly morning nice and toasty. Who has the marshmallows?

    • J.W. Hamner says:

      I liken this whole situation to a group of children promising to hold their breath until they turn purple if they don’t get candy for breakfast.

      72% of voters agree with your assessment.

      I guess it’s logical in a Prisoner’s Dilemma sense to prefer the wrath of the voting public to getting primaried, but it’s insanity on a strategic level.

      • Cody says:

        Yes, but a lot of people still blame Democrats. And I’m curious on how to dispel this. I mean – in a technical sense – it IS the Democrat’s fault. They could just give in to all the Republican demands and we wouldn’t have a government shutdown. But of course that isn’t rational, and you have to be following politics to understand the situation.

        I’ve seen Obama trying to get this down in messaging, but it’s a big task.

        • LeftWingFox says:

          And I’m curious on how to dispel this. I mean – in a technical sense – it IS the Democrat’s fault.

          Not falling for that is probably a good start. The ransom target is not responsible for the actions of a kidnapper.

          This is an illegitimate tactic, using vital legislation as a hostage to pass legislation that wouldn’t have a hope in hell of succeeding on it’s own merits. It is NOT the fault of the Dems to acquiesce to this.

        • witless chum says:

          He did pretty good on NPR this morning. “I’m supposed to give them something so they’ll do their job?” or something along those lines.

          • (the other) Davis says:

            “I shouldn’t have to offer [the Republicans] anything. They’re not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That’s part of their basic function of government; that’s not doing me a favor. That’s doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.”

            I think that does a pretty good job of getting the message across.

        • agorabum says:

          Lamentably (but unsurprisingly), most of the MSM is still using a ‘both sides’ argument. Why wont’ the Senate negotiate [over the Republican/Highwayman deamnds]?
          Instead of plainly stating that constitutionally, Republicans have no way to pass a repeal law, because they lost in 2012. So they’re threatening to burn it all down.
          I’m hoping the Cooper Union thing takes off in the MSM, since it creates a fun contrast of “Republicans then [Lincoln] vs Republicans now [confederacy]”.

        • merl says:

          I have a couple of relatives blaming Obama but they’re stupid and don’t even vote. A point I drive home daily.

          • Warren Terra says:

            In general, I think everyone should vote, even the people I disagree with: if democracy is going to work, we need to trust (and inform) the electorate, not select the best voters. Still, a cynical part of me says maybe you don’t need to encourage them every day to vote their ideas.

  2. NonyNony says:

    So … another example of where history repeats, first as tragedy then as farce then?

  3. Derelict says:

    There can be no compromise with the modern GOP, if only because they do not believe in the concept of compromise. As they, themselves, have defined the term, it now consists of Democrats giving in to any and all GOP whims. And Democrats must do so 100%. Republicans, in return, will promise to make even more outlandish demands tomorrow while giving up nothing today.

  4. Cooper Union has always been quotable, but allowing for a hundred and fifty years of drift in the nouns, this is pretty dead on as well:

    “And now, if they would listen – as I suppose they will not – I would address a few words to the Southern people.

    I would say to them: – You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us a reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite – license, so to speak – among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.”

  5. Shakezula says:

    That loud farting sound you hear is the last bit of air being forced from the GOP’s big bouncy tent.

    Do you think we should drag them out before they’re smothered?

    • Hogan says:

      Let’s give it a minute.

      . . .

      Hey, want to get coffee?

    • LeeEsq says:

      I suppose we have to. I generally feel that we are in a real life version of the fable about the ants and the grasshoper, the bowlderized version where the ants save the grasshoper. In the fable, its because its the right thing to do. In real life, its because the grasshoper is engaging in a murder-suicide.

      • Shakezula says:

        I wasn’t aware there was a “happy” version of this fable. But in any version the grasshopper has to ask for help. In fact, it would be wrong to force help on them. Down their throats. So to speak.

        • Hogan says:

          It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting through to you?

        • LeeEsq says:

          I said it was a bowlderized version, I didn’t say it was a happy version. Bowlderization doesn’t make things happier all the time.

          • Shakezula says:

            In the original version the ants tell the grasshopper to FOAD (which is a sound Libertarian position because the ants no doubt ate his corpse).

            Therefore, I maintain a bowdlerized version where the ants save the grasshopper = a happy version.

            Especially if you’re the grasshopper.

            Or the octopus.

  6. They’ll extend this madness past the debt ceiling, and then blame the national and global economic catastrophes on that Kenyan SocialistFascistCommunistHeathenMuslim Usurper.

    We may laugh between then and now – but I’m afraid that in the end, this won’t end in tears of laughter, much as I’d wish it would.

  7. rea says:

    Calhoun and the Jacksonian Taney really didn’t get along very well. Odd how thee many years later, their differences disappear

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      As I’ve said more than once, people have trouble understanding that Taney was a standard-issue Jacksonian moderate. The problem was Jacksonianism, not Taney per se.

      • rea says:

        Jackson and Taney were both pro-Union and pro-slavery. Taney stuck with the Union when the Civil War came. Taney I think thought his Dred Scott decision would save the Union–as a Jacksonian, he wanted to use federl power in support of slavery. Calhoun, on the other hand, was a states’ rights man and secessionist, maybe even more than he was pro-slavery.

  8. Barry Freed says:

    This is good:

    The US experiment at running a country in the 21st century with 18th century constitutional machinery is producing some interesting results.— Chris Brooke (@chrisbrooke) October 1, 2013

    (hoped that worked)

    • LeeEsq says:

      The Constitution is too hard to amend and lots of its features should have been changed a long time ago. At the same time, there is no way to guarantee that changes to the machinery of government will be good. People who we really disagree with get the vote to and are going to fight reasonable changes tooth, nail, and claw if not make things worse.

    • To be fair, a lot of our current structural faults weren’t part of the original 28th century design:

      – the filibuster. Not in the original Senate rules; the motion to call the question was mistakenly removed in 1803, but he first real filibuster wasn’t until the 1830s, and was seen as a hideous innovation at the time. To the extent that the revolutionary generation acted on filibusters, it was to eliminate them in the House.

      – the debt ceiling. That’s an artifact of WWi.

      • Lee Rudolph says:

        To be fair, a lot of our current structural faults weren’t part of the original 28th century design

        Even so, those Time Lords have a lot to answer for.

    • wengler says:

      I don’t intend to divine the intentions of the original authors, but I do wonder if there would be some genuine surprise that 225 years later, there have only been 15 real amendments to the thing(I don’t count Prohibition). To read Jefferson, you’d think the thing would be getting rewritten every generation.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This one from another great American is always apt

    “The hard-headed never learn.”
    –Method Man

    Put anThey want to see how hot the stove is, we can warn them all we want, but they won’t listen.

  10. swearyanthony says:

    Y’know, maybe Sherman was on to something.

  11. aimai says:

    I’m blogging for the week over at NMMNB and this is forcing me to do some stuff other than Proust or Sons of Anarchy. One thing I found out is that the government has been shut down plenty of times before, partially at least–want to know the first few times? Ford through Carter over funding for HEW and then over the Hyde Amendment and the Conservative refusal to fund abortion for women on Medicare. That’s right: they’ve been shutting the fucking government down for-ever over provision of adequate health care specifically to women and more generally to poor people. Daryll Issa thinks this is a sign that shutting the government down is a normal part of doing business (or, as he put it on TV “not funding the government is funding the government.” But what it really indicates is that in the long run the only constant is the conservative determination to use the power of the purse only to hurt people, and never to help.

  12. swearyanthony says:

    I’ve also suggested to a few folks that perhaps its time to admit the US just doesn’t have the civil institutions set up yet for self-governing democracy. Perhaps let the British come back for a bit.

  13. J.W. Hamner says:

    The last 5-6 years have been a pretty solid indictment of Madisonian democracy, but yes, the fact that a party in control of only one house of congress can shutdown the government in a fit of pique is also a good one.

  14. TT says:

    Party of Lincoln’s Assassin.

  15. sharculese says:

    So the google doodle today celebrates the opening of Yellowstone because irony is our national pasttime.

  16. Tracy Lightcap says:

    I made exactly the same comparison to my colleagues a few days ago! Great minds think alike, I suppose.

  17. […] a Republican said back when the Republican Party wasn’t dominated by reactionaries with a marginal relationship […]

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