Browsing "Conservatism and Liberalism"

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

Lincoln’s only attempt at including a Southerner in his cabinet was sounding out North Carolinian and Congressman John Gilmer, who was “wary, mistrustful of Lincoln and reluctant to ally himself with an administration” opposed to the interests of his State and section. Conservatives feared that should Gilmer not accept, Lincoln would select radical hard-liner Montgomery Blair and add fuel to the sectional fire.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

“[Far from Fort Sumter] the president-elect was still at work composing his cabinet . . . [and] the impossibly tangled party considerations that continued to vex him. As [President James] Buchanan’s advisors planned their reinforcement expedition . . . Lincoln was committing the first major blunder of his administration. It began on Sunday, December 30 . . . when he met with that “greatest of Pennsylvania wirepullers,” Simon Cameron, about a place in the cabinet.

[Lincoln] knew it would be a controversial appointment. For one thing, Cameron’s easy movements from the [Democrats] to the Know Nothings to the Republicans had gained him a reputation as an unprincipled opportunist.

More damaging was the taint of corruption that surrounded him. Known to his critics as “the Great Winnebago Chief” for his mishandling of Indian funds in the 1830s, Cameron was also charged with manipulation elections and legislatures through bribery. Yet so many recommendations poured into Springfield that Lincoln could hardly see how not to appoint him.

It was one of the first important choices Lincoln had made for himself since the election, and he immediately had cause to regret foregoing his usual process of passing his decisions by [Lyman] Trumbull and [Hannibal] Hamlin . . . word of the selection [of Cameron] provoked a flood of outraged letters and visits from Republican leaders.

Displaying an indecision that was characteristic in those early months, Lincoln immediately reversed himself . . . [and] addressed a short, private note to Cameron rescinding his offer . . . [but] the imbroglio . . . exploded into what one historian has called “a mighty battle of Republican factions.” For the next several weeks Republican managers throughout the North appeared considerably more concerned with the patronage than with secession.

Placing [Salmon P.] Chase at the head of the Treasury Department [would reconcile] the powerful New York radicals to [William] Seward’s appointment [as Secretary of State].

[But] Lincoln was aware of the predicament of Southern unionists and the damage Republican rigidity [against compromise] might do to their cause. Nominating Chase, a long-acknowledged leader of the radicals, would give secessionists a powerful weapon in their fight to convince Southerners of Republican hostility.”

(Lincoln and the Decision for War, the Northern Response to Secession, Russell McClintock, UNC Press, 2008, excerpts pp. 123-125)

 

 

 

Establishing Modern, Free Government in Korea

Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for brokering the peace treaty between Japan and Russia. Like many progressive Americans, TR saw modernizing Japan as a role model for what was viewed a backward Korea, and Japan was given a free hand in colonizing its neighbor, a trade-off as the United States had colonized the Philippines. In 1904, future South Korean president Syngman Rhee was in the United States where he remained until returning to Korea in 1945, hailed by the US as a “resistance hero,” and installed as proconsul. He infuriated Koreans in his new role by relying upon Korean collaborators with the Japanese and using similar repressive policies as the previous occupiers. Despite US support for his roundly corrupt regime, he was deposed in 1961 and exiled to Hawaii.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Establishing Modern, Free Government in Korea

“Syngman Rhee, returning from the United States a resistance hero, was elected president of the First Republic and in 1948, following three-year tutelage under the US military government on the finer points of democratic governance, formed the first modern government in Korea by Koreans.

[With his American-manufactured] heroic status as the “father of the nation,” Rhee was actually a politician without a political ideology and a governor without a governing program. Hence, whenever he encountered opposition to his policies he was habitually inclined to rely on physical violence and political manipulation rather than persuasion or competition on ideological grounds . . . the Rhee administration from start to finish a one-man regime with enormous power concentrated in his hands alone.

He carried on with politics surrounded by those who were personally loyal to him rather than those chosen for objective qualifications. Elevate by his sycophants to a virtual deity, Rhee was essentially isolated from the ongoing affairs of his subordinates. Charitably, “at best he was a traditional “monarch.”

Under Rhee, Korea remained a repressive society, aided by a 300,000-man police apparatus. Corruption and incompetence characterized the regime’s national bureaucracy [and] the police force was at the center of continuing social and political oppression. Elections during his regime continued to be scandalized with rigging, violence and bribery – the final one of which resulted in the 1960 student uprising that toppled his government.

The press was harassed and often closed down for anti-Rhee tendencies. A few of his political opponents were assassinated or executed, or died rather inexplicably.

Rhee’s ability to stay in power rested to some extent on his effective control of the military . . . [and] the military served Rhee well as a source of electoral votes and political funds. High-ranking officers were pressured into “delivering” their units to Rhee and his Liberal party. Since the military was spending roughly $400 million in aid from the United States, Rhee’s political machine relied heavily on the loyalty of the military to shore up his sagging political fortunes.

In its determination to win [reelection] at any cost [in 1960], however, the Liberal party supporting Rhee . . . apparently went overboard. Two weeks or so before the election a fantastic array of election rigging plans devised by the Liberal party was exposed by the press. The secret plans included producing ghost votes, stuffing ballot boxes, bribing voters with money and merchandise, using physical violence on opponents, openly casting ballots under supervision, and so on.

The opposition Democratic party . . . appealed to the Central Election Committee for safeguarding [voting] mechanisms. Predictably, this appeal fell on deaf ears.”

(Marching Orders, the Role of the Military in South Korea’s “Economic Miracle,” 1961-1971, Jon Huer, Greenwood Press, 1989, excerpts pp. 11-14)

 

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

American political theorist and historian Russell Kirk wrote that the Framers of the United States Constitution were gentlemen-politicians rather than philosophers, “whose perceptions of the human condition came from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.” Kirk contrasted these learned men who fought to preserve their British heritage with the arrogant French revolutionaries who were drunk on theories and revenge, who opened the way for a self-appointed emperor. The men of America’s natural aristocracy governed the Republic from 1775 to 1825 — their Republic afterward frayed and was pulling apart by 1830. By 1850, constituent States were speaking loudly of withdrawal, and by 1861 it had unraveled completely with an American dictator enthroned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

“Sometimes the Constitution of the United States is commended as if it had been created out of whole cloth, overnight, from the glowing imagination of the Framers. That notion is far from the truth. Sometimes the Framers themselves are spoken of with the veneration like that accorded to the Hebrew prophets or the mystical founders of Greek cities. But actually the Constitution grew out of centuries of practical experience on either side of the Atlantic, rather than springing from ingenious fine-spun innovating theory.

Truly the Constitution is a bundle of compromises among interests and classes: a principal merit of the Framers was their ready recognition of this electable fact. As Burke said of government generally, it is a contrivance of human wisdom to supply human wants. In the sagacious words of Daniel Boorstin, “The American future was never to be contained in a theory.”

The politicians who framed the Constitution were not an elite of theorists, but an assembly of governors, in the old signification of that word “governor.” They were representatives of a class, in every former colony, that had exercised authority almost from the early years of British settlement in North America; they were drawn from a natural aristocracy.

Experience, education, and wealth, passed on from generation to generation of Americans, tended to develop a continuity of public influence within leading families; while the relatively broad franchises that came to pass in most colonies nevertheless gave provincial and local government a democratic cast.

Broadly speaking, it was the body of men familiar with America’s provincial and local governments who made both the Revolution and the Constitution. This was a class that, far from intending any subversion of the social and moral order in America, took alarm at Shay’s Rebellion and so forged a strong Constitution.

Long participation in provincial and local public affairs shaped this American natural aristocracy; while the French revolutionaries, for the most part, were men previously excluded from any effective exercise of power, and so naïve in great questions of political policy.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk, Selected Essays, George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 452-453)

 

The Revolution of 1913

Below, author Frank Chodorov rightly points to the centralization of economic power in Washington as the origin of dissolution of the Union. The Lincoln revolution of 1861 left the Founders’ republic a shambles, and imperial authority became seated in Washington supported by the financial apparatus of the Northeast. The marriage of government and corporate interests was not possible with conservative Southerners in Congress; the Gilded Age and imperial expansion followed the end of the republic, and the Sixteenth Amendment was sure to follow. This was what antebellum Southern statesmen warned against and could not prevent.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Revolution of 1913

“The federal government rubbed along on what it could get out of customs duties and excise taxes until the enactment of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. It requires no great imagination to draw up a bill of particulars [today] against the present American state comparable to the indictment of the British crown in the Declaration, and one could well argue that there is more cause for revolt today than there was in 1776. The will, however, is absent.

Among the casualties of the revolution of 1913 is the doctrine of federalism. From 1789 until the Civil War, the tradition of coequal authority between local and federal governments held firm, and even after that war (which settled only the question of secession), the States maintained their autonomy by virtue of their economic independence. The country was a Union, not a nation; it was only when the federal government obtained power over the citizens’ property that our constitutional structure was mutated.

Before income taxation, the best the government could offer the local politician in the way of bribery were land grants, franchises, a few posts in the limited bureaucracy and “rivers and harbors” bills. The price was not high enough to buy up the integrity of the people’s representatives completely; a truly patriotic congressman was not a rarity.

The ink was hardly dry on the Sixteenth Amendment before the heretofore picayune grant-in-aid program began to blossom; in 1914 came the Smith-Lever Act establishing the Agricultural Extension Service . . . followed in rapid order with others; it would take a book of proportions merely to list the legislation passed since 1913 to favor political ambitions.

It is a truism to say that the congressman is only a liaison officer between his constituents and the Treasury Department. In fairness, one should not point to this consequence of the Sixteenth Amendment as evidence of the moral decline of the politician; it is rather proof of a dwindling social integrity.

That the politician unashamedly boasts of the prosperity his “influence” has brought to his community, by way of airfields, bridges, dams, and smokestacks, only reflects the general attitude. And the general attitude, visibly expressed in the endless safari to Washington in behalf of “worthy” causes, is in turn the result of the transfer of economic power from society to the state.

But the quid pro quo [economic power transfer] is the abdication of local social power in favor of the greater monopolization of coercion by the central establishment. The price of favors is sovereignty. Just as the citizen was turned into a subject by the confiscation of his property, so does the local politician transfer his allegiance from his community to the source of munificence.

A [John C.] Calhoun, struggling to keep inviolate the customs of his State, has no place in our mores; the people would not elect him. Nor could a governor of Rhode Island hold office today if he presumed to defy, as did several of his predecessors, the authority of Washington.

State lines have are practically obliterated, the States reduced to parish status, their politicians nationalized. The independent home government emerging from the revolution of 1789 has been destroyed by the revolution of 1913. The Union is dissolved.”

(Fugitive Essays, Selected Writings of Fran Chodorov, Charles Hamilton, editor, Liberty Press, 1980, excerpts pp. 258-266)

Saving the South for Southerners

The States’ Rights Democratic Party of the mid-1940s had no stronger advocate than Charleston News & Courier editor William Watts Ball.  Also known as the “Dixiecrats,” its platform in 1948 called for strict interpretation of the Constitution, opposed the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments, and condemned “the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Saving the South for Southerners

“A full year before the end of Roosevelt’s third term, Ball was again active in attempts to organize a Southern Democratic party. It was the spring of 1944, however, before the movement was underway in earnest. Through public contributions (Ball gave one hundred dollars) the anti-Roosevelt faction hoped to finance an advertising campaign in newspapers and on radio. The independent white Democrats would not present candidates in the primaries, but offer only a ticket of presidential electors pledged not to vote for Roosevelt.

They might back a favorite son for president, or they might better co-operate with the similarly-minded in other States in support of someone like Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia . . . in May anti-Roosevelt Democrats had held their first meeting in Columbia, with nineteen counties represented, and made plans for a State convention. The Southern Democratic Party had been reborn.

[Ball’s] News and Courier continued to urge the election of independent Democratic electors. If eleven to sixteen Southern States withheld their electoral votes, they could assure respect for their political policies.

But in spite of the untiring efforts of The News and Courier, aided principally by the Greenwood Index-Journal, the anti-Roosevelt movement did not develop. Very few people made financial contributions; the Southern Democratic Party could not wage an effective campaign. Once again South Carolina gave solid support to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.  All the State schools except the Citadel, he charged, were part of the State political machine . . .”

But at that moment, the “second Reconstruction” was already underway . . . [and] emerging forces combined to force open the entire [racial] issue. The Negro migration northward had begun in earnest with World War I. By 1940, a small Negro professional and white-collar class resided in a number of northern cities and it used its growing political power to win greater equality of treatment there.

Because New Deal programs were designed to advance employment security, including that of Negroes, most northern Negroes abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party. In cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the Democratic political machine depended heavily upon the Negro vote.

But already an earnest and vital independent political movement was underway [in 1948], in protest against the civil rights program of the Truman administration and the attitudes of the liberal court. Of 531 electoral votes, 140 were in the South; yet the North, East and West treated the South as a slave province. Other papers joined Ball in the demand for action; the [Columbia] State, like the News and Courier, called for a Southern third party.

On January 19th, in the State Democratic Party’s biennial convention, Governor Strom Thurmond was nominated for the office of president of the United States. The State’s national convention votes were to be withheld from Harry S. Truman. If Truman were nominated, South Carolina would not support the national party in the electoral college.

The State had not spoken so sharply since 1860; it would bolt rather than accept Truman. At the same time Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi issued the call to revolt at the western end of the Deep South. The Southern governors’ conference . . . named its own political action committee, headed by Thurmond, which was to go to Washington . . . to demand concessions . . . from President Truman.

About two weeks later a delegation of governors met with Howard McGrath, National Chairman of the Democratic Party. When McGrath gave a flat “No” to their request that Truman’s anti-discrimination proposals be withdrawn, the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas called on Democrats to join a revolt against Truman. The South, they announced, was not “in the bag” anymore.

If the South united behind Thurmond, Truman would lose all its electoral votes and the election might be thrown to the House of Representatives, where with the votes of the South and the West, a man such as Thurmond would have a real chance. Whatever the outcome, the national parties would learn a lesson they would not soon forget — the “Solid South” would no longer be a dependable political factor.

“In the electoral college,” Ball advised, “lies the only chance to save the South for Southerners.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 201-233)

 

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

James D. Bulloch, born in Savannah and descended from Scottish forbears, was the foremost planner of naval affairs for the new American nation in 1861. His grandfather, Archibald Bulloch (1730-1777), guided Georgia’s Liberty Party in actions against oppressive British colonial measures and later served as a colonel in the Revolution. James remained in England after the war and died there in exile in 1901. It is said that Bulloch was encouraged to write his memoirs by nephew Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1880’s, which inspired Teddy’s later book on the War of 1812. Roosevelt praised his uncle and other Southern patriots for following their duty to fight for independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sacrificing the Substance of Individual Liberty

“In 1861 the disintegrating forces prevailed, and eleven of the Constituent Republics withdrew from the Union on the plea that the original conditions of Union had been broken by the others, and they formed a fresh confederation among themselves. The remaining States or Republics resisted that act of separation, and affirmed that the people of the whole United States were, or should be fused into, one nation, and that the division of the Union into States had, or should hereafter have, no greater political significance than the division of the several States into counties.

The Union of 1787 was dissolved in 1861 by the action of ten of the constituent republics. A new Union was formed in 1865 by the military power of the majority of States, compelling the minority to accept their view of the national compact. The former Union was a confederation of States, and was of course a Federal Republic; the latter Union is founded upon a fusion of the people into one nation, with a supreme centralized executive and administrative Government at Washington, and can no longer be called a Federal Republic; it has become an Imperial Republic.

The latter name gives some promise of greater strength and cohesion of the former, but the duration of the restored Union will depend very much on whether the people of the whole country fully realize, and are really reconciled to, the new dogma that each State is only an aggregate of counties, and that its political functions are only to consist in regulating such purely domestic concerns as the central authority in Washington may leave to its discretion.

If the majority who have effected the change in the conditions of the American Union are content to leave the management of public affairs to the professional politicians, the “caucuses,” and the “wire-pullers,” they will have fought in vain, and will find that to secure the semblance of a strictly national Union they have sacrificed the substance of individual liberty.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

Speaking the Language of Monuments

Historians record Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) leader General John Logan of Illinois as a creative political opportunist: a prewar Stephen Douglas Democrat who favored conciliatory measures toward the South to prevent war — but correctly sensing Radical Republican power he allied with them to keep his political star ascendant. Feeling slighted as West Point-educated commanders refused him promotions he developed an aversion to that institution; in the postwar he was known for his “bloody-shirt” oratory and catering to the pension desires of GAR veterans, serving as their commander for three terms. Logan’s postwar writings underscore the Republican Party ideology of containing slaves, and later freedmen, in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Speaking the Language of Monuments

“In short, the Grand Army [of the Republic] memory of the war represented the persistence into peacetime of the millennial, republican vision prevalent in the North before 1860 . . . [and this] older ideology of republicanism lived blissfully on in the campfires of the GAR until at least 1900.

In that view, the virtuous nation, saved until [Fort] Sumter from the ordinary travails of history, had come through the war purified of the blot of slavery and ready to lead the rest of the world into the sunshine of universal democracy. Despite the painfully obvious failure of Gilded Age America to live up to that vision, the Grand Army of the Republic (the name of the order itself is highly significant) strained to see the nation in those terms.

The past was the past, With the Republic secure, the saviors could return to lives as simple citizens. “There is not in human history, a case cited except ours, in which a million soldiers were, in a day, removed from belligerent to peaceful life,” Logan told the 1869 national encampment. “Probably, there is no government on earth, except our own, that would have dared try the experiment. I am confident there is no other in which such trial would be safe.”

These were not the words of realists trying to come to grips with a bloody and divisive war, nor those of militarists with a present-day political agenda. The members of the Grand Army had no such words in their vocabulary. Instead, the spoke the language of monuments.

[Logan announced] that “that the late war between the American States was the legitimate climax of several cooperating forces.” The North American continent, he wrote, was reserved for European civilization through “a marvelous ordering of events.” The Revolution, though it “arrested the attention of the world,” was actually the product of trends dating back “forty centuries.”

The Civil War, by removing the blot of slavery, had rendered the Declaration of Independence “the Magna Carta of all mankind, destined to last while the human race endures.” The main threat to [Logan’s] yeoman’s paradise was “class distinction,” both in the slaveholding South and at “aristocratic” West Point . . . [and] argued that the Southern slave system had been the legitimate child of monarchy.” Once cured, the country presumably could return to its pristine state, provided that “class distinction” did not come back to ravage it.” To avoid that fate, Logan wrote, the “restrictive, inadequate, and wholly un-American” military academies need to be overhauled in the interests of democracy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 192-198)

 

The Force Bill Fight in Congress

With Benjamin Harrison in the White House in 1889, the Republican party moved quickly to restore its political hegemony and construct numerous barriers to future Democratic victories. In a two-pronged effort the McKinley Bill would establish high tariff rates to protect northeastern manufacturers from foreign competition and encourage campaign contributions; the Force Bill ostensibly prevented corruption in Federal elections – but in reality gave Federal district judges the power to manipulate congressional elections in the South by shearing as much authority as possible from local election officials.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Force Bill Fight in Congress

“When Congress assembled in December, 1889, the Republicans were in complete control of both branches for the first time in sixteen years. With a great deal of satisfaction, therefore, their leaders revived the partisan measures that a Democratic majority in one house had previously thwarted.

In the opening days of the session they prepared several items of legislation designed to strengthen and lengthen Republican power. Their high tariff supporters were to be rewarded with the McKinley bill with its inflated schedules; the [treasury] surplus was to be obliterated by a veritable orgy of Federal spending; and any subsequent restoration of the Democratic party to power was to be hampered by a set of Federal election laws that would weaken the Solid South with Negro ballots and, if necessary, Northern bayonets.

If the Democrats were to survive the onslaught that the Republicans planned for them, they would require unflagging minority leadership in Congress. Shrewd parliamentary leadership would be needed there to employ effectively the minority’s somewhat limited resources.

The elections bill . . . was designed to appeal to lovers of human, rather than property rights. Its provisions were to be simple, just, and, to all outward appearance, eminently nonpartisan. Those who opposed its passage would place themselves in the position of defending Negro disenfranchisement, unconstitutional usurpation by Southern whites, and downright criminality. To attack the elections bill would be equivalent to a shameless confession of guilt.

Both measures were designed to cripple the Democratic party. The Tariff bill was not simply the negation of avowed Democratic principle; it was both the repayment of Republican campaign debts and the promise of future contributions.

“Fat-frying” had made Republican victories possible in 1888; high tariff schedules would now satisfy old customers and establish a new group of beneficiaries whose financial support might ensure Democratic defeat indefinitely.

The ulterior motives behind the elections bill were equally clear. Pious declarations that it was not a political weapon might assist its passage, but once it became law, the President would be empowered to enforce its provisions with the full support of the Army and Navy.

By this time it was clear to everyone that the Republicans were not motivated by humanitarian impulses in their efforts to protect the Negro in his constitutional rights; they were attempting to restore the political control over the Southern election machinery which they had exercised during the Reconstruction era”

(Arthur Pue Gorman, John R. Lambert, Louisiana State University Press, 1953, excerpts, pp. 145-148; 157)

Two Views on the Destruction of Historic Monuments

 

Noted speaker and author of “Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, Robert K. Krick:

“We live in an age riven by shrill and intemperate voices, from all perspectives and on most topics. No sane person today would embrace, endorse, or tolerate slavery.

A casual observer, readily able to convince himself that he would have behaved similarly in the 1860s, can vault to the high ground with the greatest of ease. Doing that gratifies the powerful self-righteousness strain that runs through all of us, for better or worse.

In fact, it leaps far ahead of the Federal politicians (Lincoln among them) who said emphatically that slavery was not the issue, and millions of Northern soldiers who fought, bled and died in windrows to save the Union – but were noisily offended by mid-war emancipation.

It is impossible to imagine a United States in the current atmosphere that does not include zealots eager to obliterate any culture not precisely their own, destroying monuments in the fashion of Soviets after a purge, and antiquities in the manner of ISIS.

The trend is redolent of the misery that inundated the planet during the aptly-named Dark Ages, arising from savages who believed, as a matter of religion in that instance, that anyone with opinions different than their own was not just wrong, but craven and evil, and must be brutalized into conformity.

On the other hand, a generous proportion of the country now, and always, eschews extremism, and embraces tolerance of others’ cultures and inheritances and beliefs. Such folk will always be society’s salvation.”

 

Thos. V. Strain, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, Sons of Confederate Veterans:

“. . . It is my opinion, and that of many others, that these [monument] removals are an attempt to erase history. If you take some time to read the comments on social media and on the websites of the news organizations reporting these removals, it is obvious that only a few people support the removals. What it boils down to is that the politicians are telling those that elect them that their wishes mean absolutely nothing to them.

Just this week one of these politicians that voted to remove a statue in Virginia lost in the primary for reelection, and he noted that his stance on the removal more than likely cost him the election.

In the end, what we really have, in my humble opinion, is a group of people who are following their own personal agendas and saying, “to hell with the people” and moving forward with these removals. It isn’t what we want, it is all about them.”

(Civil War Times, October 2017, excerpts, pp. 32; 37)

Exhortative Liberalism

The term “virtue signaling” is defined as “an act of affirmation of some liberal value or shibboleth, intended to establish or reaffirm the sender’s reputation as a socialized, politically correct, and tolerant person.” In the not-too-distant-past, Christian morality dominated American culture and one had no need to signal the virtue one already had in his or her heart.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Exhortative Liberalism

“Even the strongest political conservatives – people who believe in the free market and resist statism, support a strong military defense, and go to church every Sunday – participate in virtue signaling to display their generous intentions, maintain social harmony, and compensate for their illiberal opinions regarding fundamental political, economic and social issues.

Virtue signaling is one aspect of the urgent exhortative tone characteristic of modern liberal society – the “OK guys – let’s all go out today and do the ethical thing!” society.

The spirit behind exhortative liberalism is purely liberal-bourgeois, yet its pedigree traces from the civic boosterism of the conservative bourgeoisie of the 1920’s to whom Sinclair Lewis’s fictional character of the decade gave the name “Babbittry.” In fact there has always been an intimate connection between liberalism and social and intellectual vulgarity . . . Liberalism as an idea is ideally suited to the moral, aesthetic, and political vulgarity of modern commercial-democratic society.

The [Laramie, Wyoming] newspaper [the Boomerang] was founded in 1881 . . . What hard news there is at hand to report daily is buried under alerts, announcements, feature stories and photographs promoting a variety of “awarenesses,” “sensitivities,” and other liberal totems: Big Brother-Big Sister, Violence Against Women Week, Run for the Cure races, rallies to save the climate and fight discrimination against the “LGBT community,” Latina seminars, safe-sex crusades, and Special Olympics weekends.

In the Boomerang’s world, everyone “cares,” “gives back,” “supports,” and “tolerates” from morn to set of sun, and – no doubt – in his dreams as well.

It’s not “nice” to mock, let alone object to, false sentimentality, moralistic self-satisfaction, and virtue signaling, assuming even that people are aware of these things, now as natural a part of the municipal atmosphere as . . . the overflowing bars downtown on Saturday nights, and the ubiquitous message T-shirts advertising (in about equal numbers) commercial products, liberal causes and organizations, and sports teams.

(Message T-shirts are another ubiquitous message from the Exhortative Society, delivered by bipedal human billboards who imagine their fellow bipeds care a tinker’s damn what products they buy, what left-wing causes they support, or what teams the root for.)”

(The Easiness of Being Liberal, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, December 2016, excerpts, pp. 9-10)

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