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Building A Reformist Majority

So there is a little post-Christmas gift with the new issue of National Affairs.  Lots of good stuff, and Henry Olsen continues his project of trying to think through the problem of forming a majority around a conservative policy agenda.  I basically agree with most of it, but I would add that in the medium term, Republicans cannot rely on winning just by maximizing their votes among the white working-class.  Republicans won 60 percent of the House vote among whites but that is historically abnormal and at least some of the margin among whites is attributable to the combination of the lousy labor market, sluggish growth, and the undivided Democratic control of the elected branches.  Republicans need to find ways to win over larger shares of nonwhite voters and do so under conditions less favorable than those we had in 2010.  The thing is that many of Olsen's policy suggestions for winning over persuadable working-class whites also make sense for winning over working-class and middle-class nonwhites.  Some takeaways:

1.  Opinion polls understate the number of ideological liberals.  A significant fraction of the public thinks that moderation is that portion of the ideological terrain between Joe Lieberman and Howard Zinn.

2.  If they want to really influence policy, conservatives will have to present themselves as the best stewards of the safety net.  That means they will have to articulate a vision of the safety net that is sustainable without imposing a crushing tax burden and that the safety net (along with the tax code) will be pro-work and pro-family.  Support for some kind of safety net shouldn't seem grudging.  The key persuadable voters aren't going to trust you with reforming the safety net if you seem to think it is unconstitutional and you are just going along with its existence until you can abolish Unemployment Insurance, Social Security etc.  They also won't trust you if they think that your support for the safety net is some kind of election year hustle.  Check out Sharron Angle first talking about "privatizing" Social Security, then talking some confusing nonsense about lockboxes.  She came across as both radical and dishonest.  The shame is that there was some reasonable policy in there somewhere, but Angle first sounds like she just wants to get rid of Social Security, then there is all the bluster about saving Social Security.  The general public might trust conservatives to reform the welfare state, but only if the public trusts that conservatives' real goal isn't to eventually leave people on their own.  That means conservatives need to be very careful  in their public rhetoric and in having well thought out policy proposals.  Check out Marco Rubio for one possible approach.  Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan are also pretty good (though Ryan's and Rubio's Social Security proposals differ in important ways - there doesn't have to be one right answer.)    

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 36 Comments

A significant fraction of the public thinks that moderation is that portion of the ideological terrain between Joe Lieberman and Howard Zinn.

SInce Zinn was a crypto-Communist, no I don't think so.
In any case, only a small minority would recognize the name of either man.

Pete: I think that the important thing here is in opening up the minds of people to the POSSIBILITY that a Republican could have things to say on matters of policy that are not inherently racist. That is the mindset that has to be combated. It is less important, in one way, whether or not the things any given Republican has to say are the best things that could be said about a given policy. They have to show that the place where they are coming from is solidly American. I'm not generally inclined to say that intentions are more important than outcomes---and I'm not exactly saying that here. But since there is plenty of room for debate about what might be the best possible outcome in any given area of policy disagreement, it is more important to establish the principles from which these arguments are stemming. Republicans have to earn the trust of non-whites before anything they have to say can be taken seriously by larger numbers of them--even if it is unfair that they have lost it. They have to make this case in a way that is persuasive. If they don't care to do it, then they can (and will) watch their majorities dwindle.

Julie I would say that discussion of principles must be accompanied with discussion of relevant policies that can offer concrete short and medium-term outcomes in people's lives and they must be discussed in a language comprehensible to people who have not already bought into and might not even be familair with the conservative narrative - that last part is especially difficult. It is very similar to the challenge that Reagan faced in constructing a conservative rhetoric for appealing to FRD-loving woring-class whites. You are also right that trust has to be earned which means that initial investments in policy and rhetoric building and time and money invested in getting the message out will probably not yield very big returns at first.

Sounds an awful lot like RINO politics to me, Pete -- Democrat lite. Weaning "woring-class whites" away from government dependency should be our ultimate goal, else the Left wins. Indeed, the Left has been winning in this country for a very long time, and generally because many on the Right say "I want that too, but only cheaper." It's not much of a vision, Pete, and therefore not likely to stir enough passion to truly win in the long run.

What's needed are true non-public alternatives such as mutual aid societies and the like. Instead of talking about them, we should be experimenting with them in order to demonstrate to people that they can and do work.

I suspect most wage-earners would rather not be confounded with the welfare population.

Wage-earning populations are not typically state dependent unless they are public employees (in which case they may be over compensated for their services, but they are providing services). The eligibility threshholds for Food Stamps and housing subsidies and Medicaid will exclude ~4/5 ths of the wage earning population.

Old people who were previously wage-earners are state dependent, but modes of caring for the aged are not a problem restricted to wage-earning populations. If you dislike inter-generational transfer programs like Social Security, you can gradually replace them with portable pension schemes like TIAA-CREF. You would still be stuck with the problem of how to construct viable actuarial pools incorporating the elderly as regards medical care and nursing care.

I would tend to doubt mutual aid societies and discretionary charity are particularly effective for addressing large, predictable and systemic problems, as opposed to the many and varied vicissitudes of life people face.

Redwald, well I guess that Paul Ryan and Sharron Angle (in her "hey maybe I should start trying to communicate with the general public" phase) would also sound like RINOs. Every advanced country has some kind of social insurance policy. Pretending that it is a viable political option to go back to 1929 when it comes to social insurance might go over great at the American Constitution Party meetings, but as a political program it is just literary politics. That doesn't mean that you can't have a social insurance program that costs less, encourages more saving and investment, does better at keeping families together, and brings market forces to bear in provision of services. The Ryan Roadmap includes enormous government subsidies and forced savings but is far from "I want that too, but only cheaper." Any conceivable conservative program that has the slightest chance of being enacted will contain provisions for government subsidy and forced savings. Trying to pretend otherwise won't wean anybody off anything and guarantees that our safety net is designed and administered by the opposition.

1. What you forget about 1929 is that state and local governments administered a system of common provision. The benefits and beneficiary populations were proportionately smaller and direct service provision via public agency was the preferred mode of delivery: public schools, state asylums, state sanitariums, municipal hospitals, county orphanages, state poorhouses, &c.

2. An actuarially sound portable pension program is not a welfare program, but an enforced savings program.

Any conceivable conservative program that has the slightest chance of being enacted

Enacted on what time scale? In 1969, there was precisely one state Governor advocating replacement of Aid to Families with Dependent Children with a 'workfare' program. By 1996, Congress was willing to put a time limit on benefits and provide a facility for states to require labour of beneficiaries. Nothing wrong with Redwald thinking long term. Nothing very right with letting other set your agenda and goals for you.

AD, I mentioned forced savings. The conversion of AFDC into a more conditional and time limited program is something close to the strategy (though not the exact policies of course) that I have in mind. Public provision (partly through subsidy, partly through forced savings) can be changed in desirable ways (and that could be defined along many dimensions), while putting the public at ease that the vulnerable won't simply be left on their own. The simple abolition of federal support for poor families was not going to fly and not even supporters of more radical welfare reforms like Charles Murray (who argued for lower benefits) or George Gilder (who argued for non-means tested child allowances plus a short-term welfare-style cash assistance program) were for simply abolishing public provision - though you could probably find some article somewhere arguing for it. Including work requirements into AFDC had some support within the Democratic party in Congress in the early 1970s. One of the reasons why welfare reform went the way it did was because Lawrence Mead and congressional Republicans (and many Democrats) recognized that making welfare (I'm using the generic term to include AFDC and successor programs) a more conditional and time limited program was politically possible in ways that benefit cuts (to say nothing of simple abolition) weren't.

Yea, yea, yea, can't be done, impossible, yada yada yada. That's what they used to say about the Cold War. Pete, you've bought into the Leftist view of "progress" (i.e., that progress means a nanny state). I'm not arguing that we cut people off tomorrow as electoral rhetoric, I'm arguing that our actual policies be aimed at weaning people off the Federal (State and local) teat (which also means a reduction in public employment).

And I don't give a rat's ass about what "every advanced country" does or doesn't do. You are talking about governments that are going BANKRUPT. The equation is simple -- parasitism. The ratio of producers to dependents has been dropping in "advanced countries" for a long while (and I'm counting public workers as dependents because they don't typically generate revenue, but rather consume it). If we don't reverse this, and soon, the West is finished.

We need people of vision, Pete, not warmed-over politicos hawking last century's leftovers.

Not precisely. Pete's problem is that he cannot contemplate a social problem as a social problem. He thinks of social problems as incidental to marketing problems.

AD, what I try to do in some cases is think about kinds of coalition and policy formation that will move policy closer to my preferences in an environment where public opinion is not infinitely malleable and understanding that the failure to offer policies with real hope of winning sufficient public support will leave the opposition to craft policymaking. That was the point Lawrence Mead made in Beyond Entitlement in arguing against reducing AFDC benefit levels (to say nothing of simply abolishing cash assistance.) I think that Mead's observations about benefit cuts is even more applicable to the wider welfare state for the unemployed, old age pensions and medical care for the old and indigent. That doesn't mean that we can't hope to reshape the safety net in ways that make it more sustainable, increases the role of charity, self-help, and other voluntary (to include market) interactions. But even then there will be a role for the government using some combination of restructured (and hopefully somewhat reduced) government subsidy and forced savings, which is why every major right-leaning reform plan (the Ryan Roadmap, the Ryan-Rivlin health care plan, the Capretta-Miller Plan and the Goldhill Plan) includes a major role for government subsidy and forced savings. At that, getting to those kinds of reforms will prove enormously difficult because the programs they restructure have far more clients and are far more popular than AFDC. There are other modes of analysis and you are free to suit yourself.

Redwald, I would think that trying to understand the development of the welfare state across the advanced countries (to include the good old US) would be more helpful in learning what we should and shouldn't do more than dwelling on what Arthur Schlesinger or whoever said about the Cold War - though of course it couldn't teach us everything because conditions do change. You are right that we need to bring down the "ratio of producers to dependents" (though I would add that this might partly include giving better off "dependents" less in a gradually phased in way and changing tax subsidies to some "producers" in ways that will lead to better and more sustainable outcomes.) That can be dealt with by restructuring (and in many ways shrinking) the safely net rather than abolishing it. That is what the Ryan, Capretta, etc proposals do. The suspicion that conservatives are out to abolish the safety net is an obstacle to achieving the reforms we need as Sharron Angle and Joe Miller might have figured out.

The danger is that, in agreeing that a safety net is a good thing to have, you end up encouraging more and more dependence. That is the history of welfare statism in this country (and in Europe). Under such circumstances, parties of the Right become tinkerers for the welfare state and forget what they are supposed to stand for (strong CIVIL societies and sharply delimited state power). The me-tooism you are advocating, while seemingly sensible in terms of electoral strategy, isn't the kind of sharp break with the past that is needed (popular or not).

I do agree that if someone like Angle stands up and says "Let them eat cake!," then that will not be a winning strategy. What our overly-dependent and fearful electorate needs are demonstration projects proving that non-state or at least less centralized programs/policies work better. That's why I'm so encouraged by State initiatives like those of Arizona on immigration. It is time for Imperial Washington to remember its humble republican roots.

When you say something is 'politically unfeasable', you mean 'not likely to be agreed to by a coterie of salient decision-makers'. The population of salient decision-makers changed when the Democrats lost their majority in Congress and because a host of people from Ronald Reagan to Charles Murray to Lawrence Mead to R.M. Kaus refused to flinch when the social services lobby referred to workfare as 'slavery'. Stop flinching. It's undignified.

A selection of issues will raise considerable public ire, because modifications of policy have a discernable impact on the mundane life of ordinary people. Noodling around with Social Security and Medicare, noodling around with property taxes, and being asleep at the wheel during a bad blizzard would be examples of these sorts of issues.

Means tested welfare programs (bar Medicaid) benefit a modest segment of the population, a segment which has low levels of political engagement and is (as a rule) not open to the appeals of the Republican Party in any case. Elite opinion and professional opinion, not mass opinion, are what is salient here. Gov. Thompson and confederates reduced the population of the welfare rolls in Robert LaFollette's Wisconsin by 90% without suffering electorally.

Serious people are not particularly other-directed.

AD, only you know how you interpreted any of this as having to do with hyperbolic criticism. Any reform of entitlement and health care policy that is not defined primarily by tax increases and centralized rationing of health care services will surely be accused of being murderous, racist, etc. Hyperbolic criticism will come regardless for reasons ranging from cynicism to stupidity to desperation. Still, as a practical matter (and as Lawrence Mead pointed out), high profile changes to social policy require sufficient public support. That is one reason why Mead supported a strategy of making welfare more conditional rather than supporting a benefit cut strategy. It isn't clear to me that this made Mead unserious and I don't know enough to have an opinion of how other-directed he is.

Redwald, the main driver of "more and more dependence" seems to be the combination of the current structure of our entitlement programs and increased life expectancies along with a "private insurance" model of paying for health care that has created modes of production and consumption that are unsustainable given medicine's increasing ability to produce desirable products and services. There is no reason to expect that not agreeing "that the safety net is a good thing" will help with any of those problems though there is reason to think that otherwise persuadable people who don't want the vulnerable left on their own, but don't want a crushing tax burden either will be less likely to listen. There is probably a lot more truth to Irving Kristol's observation that when conservatives fail to offer a compelling version of a better welfare state (one that is more sustainable, has fewer perverse incentives, and costs less among other dimensions), liberals end up designing the welfare state with only nominal "conservatives" occasionally called upon to administer it. I would also prefer " non-state or at least less centralized programs/policies" though the implication that plans like the Ryan Roadmap. and the Capretta-Miller Plan represent "me-tooism" and "warmed-over politicos hawking last century's leftovers" as distinct for Real Conservatives who keep it real by not agreeing "that the safety net is a good thing" is a ridiculous imposture.

A "ridiculous imposture?" No, not at all. The Ryan roadmap is still too centralized to be really conservative, and doesn't address the true "market distortion," which is the whole notion of third-payer as benefactor. No one can truly calculate marginal utility unless prices or overhead fall directly on them and not someone else. Medicine is a service, and like any other market there should be variety (upmarket and downmarket offerings). Right now we have nonsensical statements (yes, even in Ryan's plan) about a "right" to health care. No such right exists, nor can it without enslaving some segment of the population to provide it. We have to get away from state-provided "affirmative rights."

As a first step, I favor a catastrophic insurance plan offered on the State level, with more mundane medical "purchases" paid out-of-pocket. Radical? Perhaps, but it's the only sure way of controlling medical costs. Will some people suffer? Absolutely, but I think they are suffering now, and certainly our nation is suffering from a large, overly-elaborate and flabby medical system that costs about twice and much as it should.

Yes Redwald, a ridiculous imposture in calling the kind of market that would likely (we can't wholly know in advance) be created under the Ryan Roadmap by changing the deduction for buying insurance and allowing interstate purchase or the kind of HSA-driven market Goldhill wants "metooism". They might be wrong for lots of reasons (no doubt you have your reasons for thinking so and so does Nancy Pelosi), but the "real conservative" posturing over what are prudential differences is absurd. And calling any of the policies we have talked about "hawking last century's leftovers" is absurdly ahistorical in all but the most banal way that would include the broad policy preferences of everybody in this debate to include (from what I can tell) yourself.

I also dislike the use of rights talk on regarding what ought to be a discussion of the extent and nature of public provision though public provision of many products and services (food, firewood, cash, education, housing) has existed at different levels throughout US history without the it noticeably resulting in slavery. We know what slavery in America looks like. Though to be fair, rights talk has a long history of colonizing our political discourse including the rights talk about the right to own other people - which really did involve enslaving a part of the population.

high profile changes to social policy require sufficient public support. That is one reason why Mead supported a strategy of making welfare more conditional rather than supporting a benefit cut strategy.

Pete, political decisions are not made by 'the public'. They are made by politicians working and living in a particular social nexus. The dispositions of the electorate are just one thing that influences them. What elections do is communicate to politicians what the public will put up with. If the ground water is not poisoned and you do not raise their property taxes, threaten their retirement benefits, or fail to plough the snow on their street, the public will put up with a great deal.

You have forgotten the extent to which a huckster like Marian Wright Edelman had politicians and journalists in thrall. However, the sort of influence she had is not the sort intermediated through public opinion. Ninety-six people out of a hundred would not have known that woman from a cord of wood.

We can rummage through the articles Lawrence Mead wrote for The Public Interest, The WIlson Quarterly and other venues pitched to the general reader. I do not recall the articles in line-by-line detail, but I would be quite surprised to see any references to a hypothesized electorate irritated that you were taking away benefits which accrued to a lumpenproletariat 85% of them were doing their best to avoid. You might find references to what legislative bodies were inclined to do and you would certainly find references to the work of social researchers with whom he was in conversation and conflict.

Dr. Mead was an advocate of 'hard workfare', i.e. the replacement of cash relief and a selection of accessories with public service employment like the Works Progress Administration. Maybe he was so because of what he thought 'politically feasible'. Since, the guy was a tenured academic who was not sucking up to his colleagues in the social policy 'biz, I tend to think he advocated what he did because he thought that was the optimal goal.

No one can truly calculate marginal utility unless prices or overhead fall directly on them and not someone else.

We agree on something and a pig just flew by my window.


As a first step, I favor a catastrophic insurance plan offered on the State level, with more mundane medical "purchases" paid out-of-pocket. Radical? Perhaps

Milton Friedman's idea, and Thomas Sowell's. I will wager neither one ever composed a working paper which had one line about the Democratic Party's hypothesized media campaigns.

AD, I was referring to this line from Beyond Entitlement "However, simply to cut back welfare as Gilder and Murray advise, while it would force independence on the recipients, lacks the political support to be carried very far, as the Reagan administration has discovered. Most Americans, and their leaders want to continue a humanitarian social policy.” Now granted this refers to both the public and "their leaders", but he was making a prudiential argument that a particular strategy lacked sufficient political support, a component of which was public support. Mead also made policy arguments about why a benefit cut strategy was a bad idea, and I am surprised that someone would consider such an interest in gaining sufficient public support that a set of public policies might be implemented "sucking up."

Pete, I'm not sure where you are coming from. As for "rights talk," your buddy Ryan talks about a universal right to health care in his website devoted to his roadmap. No one can doubt that "rights talk" is the pivotal point of this conversation -- if there is no such right, then why the hell is the Federal Government even involved in this???

As for slavery, I don't know how you define it, but I define it as involuntary labor in the service of another. Yes, we had true slavery in this country, but that institution also came with obligations (slave-holders took care of their property), This new system, where the beneficiary and the slave are separated by several layers of coercive bureaucracy, is sooo much more efficient for exploitation. More and more of my income is seized without my direct consent (and voting every 4 years is really no control at all), and spent on things that I can't control (much less intelligently approve of). This is why government needs to be kept 1) as local as possible, and 2) as simple as possible. Every complex society that has ever existed has suffered from parasitism, and ours is reaching a crisis/tipping point.

I have no time for tinkerers, Pete. I want people who really understand the big picture and are prepared to move us in the right direction. As far as I can tell from your statements on this blog, that ain't you.

Redwald, yeah I don't like rights-talk when we are actually talking about government conferred benefits or privileges(which might or not be a good idea.) It just has a long history including the right to own slaves or to move them here or there.

As for slavery the primary definition of slavery refers to the ownership of one person as property by another person of persons and your definition is as self-dramatizing as it is hysterical. Slaves for instance do not have the option of voting on the extent of the tax system and the distribution of public benefits nor the legal option of moving to another jurisdiction at will. You also don't have to worry about your children being sold to another owner. I'm glad you have not experienced genuine slavery though it might have given you a different perspective on whether you are or are not a slave. Thinking on the subject when less hysterical might give you some of the same positive effects.

How you manage your time is your own business, though I have noticed that some of that precious time is spent on Confederate apologetics. Don't stop on my account, I find it very entertaining.

Dr. Mead was staking out a position highly atypical among faculties in social work and sociology, not to mention think tanks and advocacy groups. William Julius Wilson was absurdly pilloried for significantly less. Dr. Mead was partially insulated in the he was employed in a political science faculty. Still, compared to most academics, the man had a thick hide.

The 'lack of political support' the Reagan Administration discovered was in Congress, not the public at large. Politicians have priorities and mindsets that have only a tenuous relationship with those of the man in the street. (R.M. Kaus contended at the time that the modal opinion of the public was pensions for the disabled, jobs for everyone else. That is about what Dr. Mead advocated and it was anathema to the social work lobby).

There was a reason not to advocate simply liquidating means-tested benefit programs, and it had nothing to do with 'public support'. The reasons concerned uncertainty about the capacity of the labor market to adjust and incorporate this population and the degree to which you could mobilize this population. Dr. Mead and Kaus were in conversation with people like Dr. Wilson who maintained their had been over a generation structural alterations in the labor market (most especially intra-metropolitan geography of work) which made interventionist policies a necessity to get the welfare population into jobs.

In fairness to the Hon. Mr. Ryan, he actually does have to concern himself with sales jobs, and the customers (other members of Congress) are a fairly rancid crew.

I think the use of the term 'slavery' is rather florid for these purposes.

Obama, Krugman, Stiglitz et al have been engaged in an attempt to move public expenditure and bureaucratic discretion over economic life to a new plateau. The old plateau was scaled in stages between 1929 and 1969 and had not changed much until two years ago, bar the removal of mercantile regulation of broadcasting and transportation and gutting some means tested entitlements.

The trouble we have now is wretched structural problems in the political economy and a class of office-holders whose dispositions are absolutely business-as-usual. Following their usual procedures, they do not have time to deal with the problem, and they do not care to do so anyway. It is not going to be pretty when the Chinese bond buyers cut us off at the bar.

Mead seemed to think that the lack of political support in one had to d with the other (though he was not wholly explicit on this point though a full reading of Beyond Entitlement seems to me to indicate Mead's belief that the eventual reform of welfare would have to line up with the public's moral and humanitarian concerns if it was to be enacted.) You seem to have the idea that I think avoiding criticism (especially hyperbolic criticism) should form any part of crafting a policy and political reform strategy of the health care entitlement sectors. I take such criticism as likely regardless of the details of the policy and that the criticism will become both greater in volume and more hysterical as the reforms seem more likely to be enacted. I would hope for a mix of policies and political strategies that could reasonably hope to attain majority support (those policies I prefer presently being mostly unknown and not especially popular among the general public as far as I can tell) and that takes some hard thinking

Unless you are a working politician or in the advertising business, the way you tend to approach these issues is bass ackward. You do not have to be Frank Luntz. Let Frank Luntz be Frank Luntz.

I would refer you to a brief memoir that James Q. Wilson incorporated into Crime and Human Nature. It concerned survey research he had been conducting in Boston in 1966. One thing he discovered: there was a complete disjunction between the city hall agenda and the street agenda. The priority of the former: "poverty". The priority of the latter: "crime". The intersection of concerns between the two: just about none.

What I have seen of survey research and my own experience of local canvassing (now the better part of a generation ago) and confirmed to me by experienced pols is this: 3/4 of the population takes little interest in public affairs and half of these have the damnedest time processing what they read and here in a way that allows them to absorb information.

That aside, something a lapsed political scientist (James Neuchterlein) had to say on this should inform you: people who are civically attentive tend to have fairly fixed and vigorous opinions on public policy. "Swing voters" are modally uninformed and often frivolous in their judgments ("that candidate reminds me of my first wife", etc.).

An issue like Social Security or Medicare is troublesome to politicians because it is motivating for a critical mass of the electorate. Public housing is simply not. Doing a mess of trimming because of what you posit ordinary voters might do is a waste of effort.

In addition, when you chatter about crafting your campaigns to appeal to 'persuadables' or whatever, remember that the people you are seeking to corral tend to save their serious thoughts for matters which have nothing to do with civic live. That is just the world we live in.

AD, Frank Luntz is not in the business of trying to think through the problem of prudently crafting a policy agenda and set of political strategies that will move policy closer to my preferences. I don't know why you think he would be doing such a thing spontaneously and gratis. So in the mean time, I think I will continue this avocation as a rank amateur and without any expectation of positive resulting consequence.

My personal experience with the partly overlapping categories of persuadable and somewhat low information voters and potential voters is somewhat different. Their policy preferences are often vague and lightly held and much of the normal language of politics (including in commercials) is opaque to them as it is often a shorthand for people who follow politics intensely. Their attention to politics is a scarce commodity so best not wasted, and a politics that offers real benefits in everyday language is preferable in trying to reach them. You have to balance against potential losses among higher information voters already on your side, but a smart policy agenda and rhetoric should mitigate or more-or-less eliminate this problem. An explanation that works best for persuadables (within reason) will probably work with the people who already agree with you.

Well, we'll hear the tune you sing when most of your income is expropriated by the government, and nothing you do seems able to change or modify it. You can stick with a very strict construction of "slavery" if you like, but human beings are very creative when it comes to parasitism and exploitation (I wish this were not the case).

As for "Confederate apologetics," there wasn't much need until the recent development of demonizing Southerners (part of the PC craze that has been soiling our nation). I have ancestors who fought on both sides of that war, nor was I raised in the South, so I think my judgment on these matters is fair and evidence-driven. Yours, on the other hand, seems to follow from 1) educational indoctrination, and 2) a preferential regard for African-Americans (whom I think of as simply the latest victims of slavery -- even our own ancestors suffered from it at one time or another). Crushing people because you dislike their customs and practices wasn't anything new, whereas respecting their right to self-sovereignty, now that was new. But it didn't last long.

And before you jump back on your moral high-horse, please remember that there were people (and still are) who view Northern industrial capitalism as a form of slavery and who would gladly fight to crush it. You are convinced of your moral superiority, but you shouldn't be.

Crushing people because you dislike their customs and practices wasn't anything new,

That is a rather anodyne way of describing the modus operandi of the police, courts, and electoral registrars in Mississippi, ca 1945. (Not to mention certain commercial regulations).

Redwald, well IF I lived in a jurisdiction with a top marginal tax rate of 51 percent and IF a large majority of my earnings were at that tax rate I hope I would retain enough of my senses to recognize that my ability to participate in politics as a voter, speaker, and candidate, my right to serve on juries and to marry, and the protections against having my daughter sold away from me, and my right to move to a different jurisdiction are only some of the relevant difference between my condition from that of slaves in America prior to the Civil War.

I don't care if your relatives fought for the North, the South and the Sultan of Brunei. Your seeming inability to distinguish your condition from that of slavery is a better guide to your ability to objectively interpret the matters under discussion than your family tree. Only you know how a marked preference for equality of basic political rights (to vote, serve on juries, own guns, testify in court, organize peaceful political activities) translates to "preferential regard" for anybody. Considering the Confederate attempt to set up a slavery-based-republic and the Redeemer attempt to prevent the exercise of any political rights by African Americans, it takes a bitter sense of humor to get indignant about "self-sovereignty." You rarely see a worldview groaning under so much unintended irony

I'm not sure what you think your last paragraph is supposed to suggest. We know that there are people who are ready to use political violence for this or that cause. To be relevant to the discussion we have wandered into, I think you would need to be warning me against supporting my home state in an attempt at secession in order to preserve slavery. Thanks. If the occasion comes up, I'll do what I can.

My basic point remains valid -- there are different forms of subjugation. True, chattel slavery is the most extreme form, but that doesn't change the fact that our current system treats affluent taxpayers as milk cows, and that "voting" and all the other rights you list hasn't changed this very much. Nor does it change the fact that our Federal government has breached the rights of States over and over again, and that this has led to a sharp asymmetry of power. Our republic is perishing before our very eyes.

I'd take all your weepy talk about repression of blacks in the American South more seriously if 1) you'd address how the radical Republicans USED those same blacks to take over the "reconstituted" State governments of the South, 2) you'd discuss the black reception in the North between WWI and WWII. The fact is, quite a bit of that repression against blacks was white rage against former social inferiors being elevated above them by a hated conqueror. There's not a population in the world that would have reacted any differently (e.g., the Sinhalese rejection of British colonial favoritism of the Tamils, the Hutus' resentment of the Tutsi). Such situations guarantee humiliation and rage, with predictable consequences.

A little objectivity and breadth of historical context would help you see my point. But I'm not holding my breath.

Redwald, when I was in high school, federal income taxes had an ultimate marginal rate of 70%. During the Second World War, the ultimate marginal rate was higher. Affluent taxpayers are not the milk cows they once were and the characteristics of income distribution in the private economy have improved the position of the affluent before taxes are assessed.

I think we understand that Southerners were enraged and that this sort of thing will be replicated now and again in this world. The cause of the Southern Redeemers was still deeply unjust and should have been dealt with harshy by the central government. Nothing was done after about 1877.

Redwald, so you don't believe that your situation is truly similar to that of a slave and you were not trying to trivialize the many oppressions of slavery by making the comparison. You now seem to be asserting that you were trying to make a banal and non-germane point (for nobody had argued that there was only one kind of undesirable political condition) in a hysterical manner. Got it.

to your numbered points:

1) That is a very bizarre way to describe the exercise of political rights by African Americans. It assumes the illegitimacy of African Americans exercising their rights to peaceably vote, organize and run for office. That is a very strange assumption to make about your fellow Americans.

2) No apologist for the North could have a greater rhetorical gift than the invitation to compare the treatment of African Americans in the North in first half of the 1900s (which includes race riots and localized segregation in education among other injustices) to the much more comprehensively oppressive regimes like the black codes and the fraud and terror regimes instituted by the Redeemers. If you are going to indict the North, the standard of equal justice under the law is a much better standard in every way.

Well there were some Southern whites who did not go the Redeemer route so I am deeply skeptical of what is guaranteed and what isn't, but several comments ago you said you wanted to defend white Southerners from demonizing PC attacks and now you are comparing their causes to the Hutus at their most genocidal (a bit much I think given the historical record.) With friends like you...

Just one historical point:

Right after the Civil War, the legislatures of the Southern states attempted to reconstitute hereditary subjection in a modified form with the 'Black Codes'. This included, by the way, the institution of corvee labor. Radical Reconstruction was a reaction to this business.

It should also be noted that the freedmen were not elevated above the caucasian population of the South. There was simply the formal end of hereditary subjection and the attempt to extend to the freedmen civic rights on more-or-less the same terms as the caucasian population. You would have found localities politically dominated by local freedmen, but you would have been hard put to find one state government under the direction of freedmen. In contradistinction to the emancipations effected in eastern Europe at that time, there was no agrarian reform co-incident with the emancipation. Little of the land or capital of the South was in the hands of the freedmen.

One might also note that there was considerable intra-regional variation in race relations throughout the South. Why did Mississippi have to be Mississippi? Why could it not be like Tennessee?

The central government faced a choice in 1868: crush the South or stand by while they crushed the domestic black population therein. If M.E. Bradford dreamt up a third alternative not involving historical fabulism, I would like to know what it was.

A very nice cleaned-up version of what actually happened, AD. As for land reform, how much of that land was still under the ownership of white Southerners? As I said before, Northern interests had as much to do with post-bellum land and labor practices as Southern interests did.

Pete, I suggest you look at KKK strength in such Southern redoubts as...Indiana in the 1920s. Or perhaps we should examine the labor unrest in Philadelphia during WWII, or perhaps residential segregation in the North and South, or perhaps black/white incarceration rates (which are highest in non-Southern States). What's the point? I'm sure Southerners are sick of being lectured to about their terrible racial history by a bunch of sanctimonious Northern hypocrites. They won the war and wrote the history books, but that doesn't make it right or accurate.

As for genocide, who do we find out West slaughtering Native Americans after the CW? Oh, yes, folks like Sheridan and Custer, having warmed up on Confederates. My point? ALL people are capable of genocide under the right conditions. If the North was so enlightened and wise, one wonders why they failed to understand that punitive measures would create the very conditions they sought to eliminate.

I might also add that, by disenfranchising a good segment of the Southern population, they created the ultimate hypocrisy. For four years the North insisted that the South was in rebellion and that they should be returned to the Union. Lo and behold, once they "returned to the fold," they were treated as colonials.

Nothing 'cleaned up', Redwald.

1. The freedmen made up about a third of the population of the post-bellum South and owned little property. They also had little of the skill by which determined minorities come to dominate institutional life. You could not 'elevate' them above the caucasian population.

2. The white population of the South needed to take an oath of allegiance to the union to have their political rights restored. Those with considerable property also had to seek a Presidential pardon. I think former public officials who had taken an oath to respect the Constitution of the United States had some additional disabilities attached to them. Only a small minority of white Southerners were disfranchised by aught but their own discretionary decisions.

3. Land tenures in Eastern Europe were, in comparison to the United States, complicated. You had the distinction between the seigneur's demesne and rustic's lands, between allodial rights and usufruct, heritable rights of occupancy, entail, &c. You had little in the way of developed factor markets. Emancipation meant a clean-up of land tenures, which (outside of Prussia) meant that allodial rights were conferred on lands that peasants had worked on their own account and to which they had had rights of occupancy. Nothing similar happened in the U.S., nor was the homestead program made use of for the freedmen.

4. The behavior of Southern legislatures during the two years after the end of the war made fairly clear that a society comprehending free labor, free association, and non-racial criteria for extending rights of citizenship could only be had with a sort of 'MacArthur Regency'. The fault there does not lie with the central government or with the freedmen.

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