The New Civil War
In Charleston, South Carolina on April 30,1860, William Lowndes Yancey and the Alabama delegation walked out of the Democratic National Convention, followed by the delegates from Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. Yancey and his followers were jubilant, confident that they had destroyed the Democratic Party. The Party, now split in two, would run two different candidates for president, thus paving the way for the election of the Republican Abraham Lincoln. On the surface it might seem strange that Yancey, an ardent advocate of slavery and the plantation economy, would want to see Lincoln elected, but he did. This was part of a well-orchestrated plan to push leaders of southern states down the road to treason, i.e. succession, and it succeeded perfectly. Like many political decisions this one was driven by money and power as well as an abiding belief in white supremacy and racial inferiority.
While the traitors lost the war they largely won the peace. In less than 20 years from the end of the Civil War they were able to completely dismantle reconstruction and re-impose the plantation economy. Better yet, they were able to go from being the traitors who seceded from the Union and fired the first shots of the Civil War to portraying themselves as the victims of a noble Lost Cause. It would be as if the 9/11 terrorists today somehow convinced America that they were the victims, and that not only did the USA deserved to be attacked but that the terrorist cause was just.
Systematically, the white supremacists built their political and economic power through black codes, Jim Crow laws, campaigns of violence, and a renewed feudalism of subservient captive labor. From this base they built a political powerhouse that largely ran the country. The southern Dixiecrats, thanks in part to the "freed" blacks who were counted for representation but not allowed to vote, held most positions of power in Congress and either had presidents who supported them or who they could intimidate. For example, FDR, as a Democrat, needed support for the New Deal from southern Democrats. He got it, but the cost was that farm and domestic workers (mostly Black) were excluded from most provisions, including minimum wage and labor standards such as the 40 hour work week and overtime. This continues to the present day with those same farm and domestic workers.
Similarly the GI Bill and federal housing programs were structured so that Blacks were largely excluded, turning these programs into de-facto affirmative action programs for whites. Banks joined in by redlining areas where they did not give mortgages, mostly impacting communities of color.
This continued until the 1960's when the Civil Rights, the anti-Vietnam war and the women's rights movements radicalized much of the country. The cracks in the white supremacist wall appeared in the Kennedy administration. JFK was elected by the narrowest of margins when the southern Democrats delivered their states to him in the election. Without them and Chicago Mayor Daly, JFK would not be president, so it is no surprise that Kennedy opposed the passage of a Civil Rights bill, yielding only when out-flanked by Republicans in Congress who had introduced sweeping civil rights legislation. Southern Democrats felt betrayed but that was nothing compared to their outrage when LBJ actually passed a strong Civil Rights bill (the Kennedy bill never passed) and on top of that a Voting Rights bill.
It appeared that the southern white supremacist power was broken, but Richard Nixon to the rescue. Taking a lesson from his defeat at Kennedy's hands in 1968 Nixon deployed his southern strategy and moved the white south from the Democrats to the Republicans, where they once again began to assert their power. They needed friends and they found them in wealthy elites who had come to see the money to be made in a new kind of economic feudalism: one that blocked minimum wage growth, crushed unions and set up wealth transfer from the poor and middle class to the wealthy - a new plantation economy.
The problem the elites have is that, well, they are the elite, the one percent or within a stone's throw of it, so there are not very many of them, but money can make up for a lot. Still, by themselves they can't win most elections so they needed to convince lesser mortals to support their agenda. This is not easy when that agenda is to take money from the workers and give it to the boss, to take taxes from the poor and middle classes, and give the rich tax cuts or, better yet, outright subsidies. A strategic alliance and the distraction of trumped up culture wars worked wonders.
The economic elites and the white supremacists, often one and the same, found a common path to power. The racists brought their experience in defining scapegoats and convincing non-wealthy whites that their struggles were the fault of non-whites - Blacks, Latinx and immigrants. The elites brought their understanding of the need to frame the discussion and make the incongruous seem reasonable.
With a strategy and working alliance they began to execute the key elements. For many years they funded a broadly conservative set of think tanks, media outlets and political organizations and built an angry populist coalition through the fostering of culture wars and hate.
Importantly, they were willing and committed to the long game; not giving up after a set-back or three. Establishing and lavishly funding a series of interconnected think tanks, including the Charles Koch Institute, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council, Federalist Society, FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation, they created and promoted a radical anti-democratic ideology. They targeted this at policy makers and politicians at all levels - federal, state and local - with significant but limited success. However, they were ready when opportunity knocked. The election of Barack Obama may have seemed like a set-back, but when given lemons they made lemonade, and in quantity. The rise of the Tea Party movement in response to Obama's election showed the power and depth of racism in the country and the power of disinformation. A large percentage of the population believed blatant lies - birthism, the president was a Muslim, coming for your guns - that could be built on.
The next major opportunity was using Donald Trump, a made-by-TV demagogue, to promote the racism, populism, and disinformation with large amounts of money and unlimited media exposure to deliver the White House.
This is all part of a new Civil War. It has been going on for some time. You may have missed it because there were no shots fired on Ft Sumner. This time the take-over is from the inside. It looks disturbingly similar to the first Civil War - white supremacist and economic leaders of a new "plantation" capitalism purposely dividing the country for their own benefit.
They have carefully learned from their predecessors’ mistakes. They have secured the presidency, the Senate and much of the judiciary to their cause. They have secured the power of the government, intimidated much of the opposition, and largely control the media, either because they are complicit or because of skillful manipulation (the power of unending tweets).
The traitors of 1860 had three objectives for the original Civil War. First, de-facto and de-jure white supremacy that would be systemic and institutionalized in law and practice. Second, economic supremacy, giving economic control to the plantation class and assuring access to cheap expendable labor. And third, political supremacy regardless of who was theoretically eligible to vote or hold office.
The new Civil War going on today retains these same objectives and has been stunningly successful. De-facto and de-jure white supremacy has been widely achieved through the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the removal of campaign contribution controls, the appointment of young, radically conservative judges to more than 30% of federal judiciary positions under Trump and the take-over of many states’ legislative bodies.
Economic supremacy has achieved unprecedented levels of both income and wealth inequality. Tax rates of businesses and wealthy individuals are near historic lows, and the inheritance tax is practically non-existent. Cheap labor has been secured through the destruction of unions, use of foreign workers and suppliers, outsourcing, and gig workers.
Political supremacy has been even more successful through voter suppression techniques reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. Poll taxes have been replaced with the removal of polling sites, the purging of voter rolls, gerrymandering, and the on-going and highly successful disinformation campaigns, both domestic and foreign. It is currently estimated that Joe Biden will need to receive at least 5 million more votes than Trump to have a chance at victory. So much for one person one vote.
Many seem to believe that if Donald Trump is defeated for re-election that everything will "get back to normal." That is at best wishful thinking and at worst delusional. The leaders of the new "plantation" economy understand that despite all their success this Civil War will not have a final victory for either side. Rather, economic and political systems need to be continually managed and controlled, new scapegoats need to be targeted or resurrected, and new demagogues cultivated and financed. Like America's other wars - on drugs, terrorists etc. - this one will be endless and the payoff for those who benefit similarly unbounded
One Small Voice
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