Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 35. Sunrise is 6:50 AM and sunset 5:27 PM for 10h 36m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waxing gibbous with 98.9% of its visible disk illuminated.
Whitewater’s Alcohol Licensing Committee meets at 6:15 PM, and Common Council at 6:30 PM.
On this day in 1862, Confederates commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd attack General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces besieging Fort Donelson in Tennessee. Unable to break the fort’s encirclement, the Confederates surrender the following day.
Writing in the New York Times, Jamelle Bouie contends that America is not headed for a second civil war, because the Trumpists lack the single-minded focus that animinated pro-slavery secessionists. I’ve no forecast to make about a second American civil war, but Bouie is spot-on about what motivated 19th century secessionists. It wasn’t “states’ rights,” it was their perverse and immormal desire as slavers to own other human beings:
The Civil War we fought in the 19th century was not sparked by division qua division.
White Americans had been divided over slavery for 50 years before the crisis that led to war in 1861. The Missouri crisis of 1820, the nullification crisis of 1832, the conflict over the 1846 war with Mexico and the Compromise of 1850 all reflect the degree to which American politics rested on a sectional divide over the future of the slave system.
What made the 1850s different was the extent to which that division threatened the political economy of slavery. At the start of the decade, the historian Matthew Karp writes in “This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy,” “slaveholding power and slaveholding confidence seemed at their zenith,” the result of “spiking global demand for cotton” and the “dependence of the entire industrial world on a commodity that only American slaves could produce with profit.”
But with power came backlash. “Over the course of the decade,” Karp notes, “slavery was prohibited in the Pacific states, came under attack in Kansas and appeared unable to attach itself to any of the great open spaces of the new Southwest.” The growth of an avowedly antislavery public in the North wasn’t just a challenge to the political influence of the slaveholding South; it also threatened to undermine the slave economy itself and thus the economic basis for Southern power.
Yes, a thousand times over: the Confederates fought so that some of them could own other people. All the rest they said and did to destroy the constitutional order was in the service of their singular, wicked goal. See also What This Cruel War Was Over.
The Trumpists, by contrast, would overturn the constitutional order for a thousand sundry reasons and grievances. They complain about everything: that they’re not respected (and whine incessantly that no one should criticize them while they freely criticize others), they assert that they are fearless (although they can’t stopping talking about fear), that they deserve more influence as native born (although they lack knowledge of our country’s history and are often without rudimentary written and spoken language skills that immigrants easily acquire), that they are hardworking (although areas of America where conservative populists predominate are less productive than the rest of the country), that they possess common sense (although they commit logical fallacy after fallacy), that they’ve done their own research (but cannot read a text properly, and don’t bother to consider what words in statutes or treatises truly mean), and that they are reasonable (yet they throw tantrums in airports, at public meetings, always bleating ‘what, what, what?’ with heads shaking and arms raised), that they insist on democracy while promoting autocracy, and contend that they are merely advancing a point of view (while threatening violence against people and institutions).
Like the Know Nothings, Confederates, Copperheads, Klan, and Bund before them, they are a blight scattered in towns, cities, and states across this continent.
Small towns like Whitewater will never see prosperity as long as residents and newcomers are saddled with Trumpist politics. Wherever this ilk has control of a community, they bring dystopia. When they fade into the dustbin of our history – and they will — America, Wisconsin, and Whitewater will be better for it.
But Bouie’s point — that the Trumpists lack the singular focus and concentration of the Confederates — is sound. Whether this lack of focus is a disadvantage for them, and an advantage for those of us committed to a better way of life, is yet uncertain.