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Great Moments in Heighten-the-Contradictions


Lysander Spooner was obviously a much more interesting and important thinker than Matt Stoller, but always interests me how electoral politics can cause even very smart people to fail to think clearly. Spooner on the 1860 election:

We entreat all, who act politically under the constitution of the United States, to… give no vote, and no word of sympathy or support, to any [Republican] man, or body of men, who either evade it, or hesitate, or equivocate… give their rant, declamation, and pretended moral sentiments to liberty, and, at the same time, give over to slavery the constitution of the country, and their oaths to support it. These men are practically the best supporters of slavery…. They have power to deceive honest men as to their rights and duties…. This power they are exerting to their utmost for the security of slavery. The open [Democratic] friends of slavery… have now succeeded in disgusting even themselves…. Should any one of the factions, into which they are divided, succeed in filling the executive department of the government, that acquisition will give them no real power in the country. Their possession of that department, therefore, is not a thing to be dreaded. Better, far better, that the presidency should be in the hands of an open, but powerless enemy of liberty, than in those of a powerful, but false, perjured, and traitorous friend.

We, therefore, entreat that all, who give their votes… give them unequivocally for freedom…. But if, as is very likely to be the result, no one of these electoral candidates [for true freedom] should be chosen, the votes given for them will nevertheless not have been thrown away. The great object is to procure the defeat of the Republicans…

This 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 through the mythical “United States Congress” or something.) If they followed their own logic, they would in fact have been arguing in 1860 that the election should have been thrown to Breckinridge — after all, there was no meaningful difference between Lincoln and the Southern Democrats, so better to clarify things so that real opponents of slavery would focus their efforts on expanding John Brown’s highly effectual guerrilla campaign instead.

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