I was sitting in a Juneau bar last night when Loomis messaged me about this absurdity by Arthur Herman, who currently appears to be packing away the silver cutlery in anticipation of the nation’s “Coming Civil War,” an irrepressible conflict to be staged between the “Makers” and
Mudsills “Takers.” (And you, dear reader, are probably a Taker.) Herman’s article is for the most part a boneyard of conservative grievances about unions, welfare, and the mistreatment of the job creators, whose staggering wealth just barely compensates for the love and appreciation we cruelly withhold from them. He also goes to the predictable trouble of goofing up his numbers, insisting that 48 percent of Americans “are now on some form of government handout” when in fact the data actually show that half of all households have one or more individuals receiving cash payments, food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.
But so far as the Civil War analogies go, Herman really distinguishes himself from the field of contemporary Republican lamentations. He’s no Paul LePage, but he does conclude, after wise and patient study of 20th and 21st century economic and sociological data, that “we’re a house divided again and another civil war is coming, with the 2012 election as its Gettysburg.” Which apparently means that while the war is “coming” — as in “not yet started” — we’re about to wage one of its decisive battles. So if I follow him properly, either the Makers or the Takers are about to invade (probably figuratively) the other’s territory, organize a poorly-conceived (and also likely figurative) charge up a vital hill, and get mowed down enormously before they’re allowed to withdraw and continue the fight for another two years. (That last part is probably literal. People really want their food stamps and subsidized student loans.)
Since I can’t imagine that Herman envisions the Makers losing or abandoning the struggle — and since he approvingly quotes (and misquotes) Abraham Lincoln — I’m supposing he sees the Makers carrying on the spirit of the Union. You know, like raising income taxes on the wealthy, subsidizing massive railroad and other public works projects, and essentially giving away hundreds of millions of acres to ranchers, miners, farmers, and . . . well, just read the Ryan Budget, and you’ll see that it’s pretty much the same thing. And since Republicans are constantly accusing liberals of keeping (blah) people enslaved rather than setting them loose into the splendor of the Northern textile mills, stockyards and iron foundries, we’re obviously wearing Confederate grey in this scenario, destined to lose the war of attrition the 53 Percenters have in store for us. (Don’t despair, though. In fifty years, the history books will be telling our side of the story. Long march through the institutions, motherfuckers!)
And yet Herman also wants the Makers to identify with the terror endured, circa 1859, by the Southern master class in the face of dangerous liberty fanatics and their Big Government abettors. “Like John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry,” Herman warns, “Obamacare has been a wakeup call to what’s at stake — just as the turbulent events in Wisconsin showed how far Democrats are willing to go to win.” Indeed. If you can’t spy the similarities between (a) early 1990s Republican health care policy suggestions, (b) perfectly legal, if rare, procedures to unseat elected officials, and (c) messianic plots to foment servile insurrection and carry out a protracted Appalachian guerrilla war, then you’re clearly not paying attention to the signs of the times. Much as Jefferson Davis decried the Brown escapade as “the invasion of a state by a murderous gang of abolitionists bent on inciting slaves to murder helpless women and children,” Republican governors like Jindal, Perry and Scott are answering the call of history and making sure helpless women and children aren’t violated by preventive checkups, tuberculosis vaccinations, or prenatal testing. Or maybe it’s more like George Wallace a century later, only with primary care clinics instead of Foster Auditorium. I don’t know. History is hard.
Nevertheless, Herman assures us that the “angels of our better nature [sic]” might yet prevail. “We’re not Greece yet — or on the brink of Bull Run.” (Um. Aren’t we about to fight Gettysburg?) But we can apparently “make a house divided whole once more” by electing the States’ Rights guy instead of the Free Stuff guy. What a relief.