Confederates, Copperheads, and Conservatives

It’s an understatement to say that a democratic society that endures a violent mob seizing its capitol building is a society in distress. We find ourselves in the twenty-first century facing movements as malevolent and mendacious as the nineteenth century’s Confederates and Copperheads.

Karen L. Cox writes What Trump Shares With the ‘Lost Cause’ of the Confederacy (‘It is hard to miss the parallels between now and then of rewriting history and campaigns of disinformation’):

And if there was ever a campaign of disinformation, the Lost Cause was it. The Confederacy, the lie went, failed only because of the North’s superior numbers and resources. But it went further than that. As Edward Pollard, the Richmond editor who coined the term “Lost Cause” wrote in 1866, “The Confederates have gone out of this war,” he wrote, “with the proud, secret, dangerous consciousness that they are the BETTER MEN, and that there was nothing wanting but a change in a set of circumstances and a firmer resolve to make them victors.”

This constitutes another parallel to the movement Mr. Trump has created. Under a change in circumstances — overturning the results of the election — the better man would have won. This is the “dangerous consciousness” of Trump’s supporters. Like Lee’s Lost Cause, it will not likely end. When Lee died just five years after the Civil War, the myths around Confederate defeat and efforts to memorialize it were growing exponentially throughout the South. The Lost Cause did not belong to Lee; Lee belonged to the Lost Cause — a cultural phenomenon whose momentum could not be stopped.


Like the original Lost Cause, today’s movement has been aided and abetted by the president’s field generals — many of them Republican members of Congress. They espouse the same language, stoke the same flames and perpetuate the same myths — all to incite a base of voters to keep them in office.

Of modern-day Copperheads (who like the original version are those within a democratic government undermining democratic policy), one reads that an Officer resigns as Army investigates her involvement in Washington rally that led to U.S. Capitol riot

A psychological operations officer who the Army is investigating for leading a group of people from North Carolina to the rally in Washington that led up to the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol had already resigned her commission, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports. Commanders at Fort Bragg said they were reviewing Captain Emily Rainey’s involvement in last week’s events in the nation’s capital, but she said she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law.

A Defense official told CBS News the Army is investigating how many soldiers from Fort Bragg accompanied Rainey to Washington. Rainey had resigned her commission after receiving a career-ending letter of reprimand for her actions at an earlier protest in the Fort Bragg area, Martin reports.

Of conservatives, Jonathon V. Last writes Conservatism [Before 2016] Is Dead

When Donald Trump first annexed the Republican party there was a lot of talk in conservative circles about True Conservatism. There were people from the Reagan/fusionism years who insisted that their precepts represented the True Conservatism and that the Trumpists were an aberration.

The Trumpists, on the other hand, argued that their brand of ethno-nationalism was the True Conservatism that had finally displaced a failed, dead consensus.


In this sense, it is useful to think about pre-2016 “conservatism” as a dead language. We can argue about how the language died, whether it was gradual, bottom-to-top, or radical. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is, as a functional matter, dead.

What good is it to claim that Old English is the “True English” if only a handful of academics speak it?

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