September 29, 2004


Why this May Be the Most Important Election Since 1860 (Martin Halpern, 9/27/04, History News Network)

[T]his is the most significant election since that of 1860. Then, as now, the very survival of a republican form of government is at stake.

We have to look back to James Buchanan, the fifteenth president of the United States, to find a president as reactionary as the current occupant of the White House. Serving on the eve of the greatest crisis in the country’s history, the Civil War, Buchanan sought to stop the noisy debate about slavery by making limits on the slaveholders’ power politically and constitutionally impossible. Bush, arriving in the White House at a time of growing criticism at home and abroad of corporate-dominated globalization, has attempted to tilt the government so far in the direction of the U.S. corporate elite that it will be unassailable in the future.

Buchanan, of course, was a Democrat, but, as students in U.S. history survey classes learn, the Republican party of our day has many similarities to the Democratic party of the pre-Civil War era. The Democratic party then fashioned itself as the “white man’s party” and chastised its opponents for appealing to blacks. The Republican party in recent years has opposed affirmative action and catered to white male racism and sexism. The pre-Civil War Democrats emphasized the ideal of limited government but did not shy away from restricting the civil liberties of those who opposed slavery. Bush’s Republicans likewise employ the rhetoric of limiting the size and intrusiveness of government while increasing spending on the military and simultaneously eroding basic civil liberties of those it deems suspect.

Both Bush and Buchanan rode into office with the electoral votes of all the Southern states. Newspaper readers today know how fond Bush is of his ranch; Buchanan was equally fond of his Pennsylvania estate known as Wheatland.

Each president is closely associated with one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in U.S. history.

You can guess where he's headed: yes, stopping the random recounts in Florida was every bit as bad as Dred Scott...

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2004 9:13 AM

"Bushs Republicans likewise employ the rhetoric of limiting the size and intrusiveness of government while increasing spending on the military and simultaneously eroding basic civil liberties of those it deems suspect."

And how is this different from what Lincoln did when he was in power?

Liberal stupidity of this magnitude makes me ill.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 29, 2004 9:48 AM


Modern conservatives are classical liberals who believe in the basic dignity of every human being so that they might be free to realize their God-given potential. To the modern liberal, the collective is everything so that a liberal in the classical sense must be a "states rights" fanatic and thus pro-slavery if anti-"affirmative action". This history channel commentator is typical of the type who wpuld be teaching college history "surveys" at the highest levels. The logic is head spinning in it's ignorance of the basic issues and it's failure to make the necessary distinctions. There is absolutely nothing "liberal" about it, the commentator is a simpleton.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at September 29, 2004 10:14 AM

More "Liberty" fewer "Rights".

Posted by: J.H. at September 29, 2004 10:44 AM

You know I'd expect idiocy of this level from some fool still in high school.

The fact that this guy's a professor of history is very disturbing.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at September 29, 2004 10:52 AM


I guess you don't speak to college kids often. 30 years ago the prof's were the same but excusable since the USSR was still in business. The mind set is as simple now as it was then: socialism/communism=liberalism thus 'good". Fascism/racism=conservatism thus bad. Weird but true. Colleges are packed with these tenured morons.

Posted by: Tom C, Stamford,Ct. at September 29, 2004 12:08 PM

Tom -

True enough. I will never forget the Russian history prof. who told us that George Kennan knew more about the Soviet Union than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I asked him to repeat himself, and he did, without missing a beat.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 29, 2004 3:33 PM

He was right, though.

Allan Nevins contended, I think correctly, that it was not just Buchanan, but the four presidents up to 1860, all one-termers and non-entities, who were needed to let the country drift into civil war.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 29, 2004 5:27 PM

How was it going to be avoided?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2004 6:36 PM

The attempt at making a connection bewteen Bush and Buchanan as reactionaries? Right on particular facts but an idiotic attempt at connecting the dots in order to support an extremely silly thesis.

Posted by: at September 29, 2004 7:00 PM

...corporate-dominated globalization...

Well, who else would be globalizing but business ?

Religion globalized a long time ago, and the age of governmental globalization has not yet arrived.

As far as tilting the American gov't in favor of the "U.S. corporate elite" goes, isn't Bush one of the biggest free-trading Presidents America's ever had ?
Letting foreign companies sell to the American public without fees or tariffs doesn't strike me as coddling American corporations.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 30, 2004 6:57 AM

Mr Lincoln has gotten us into this quagmire and we have to get out. Grant and Sherman don't have a clue about what they are doing, and only General McClellan who insists that we don't have the resources to fight the war and should sue for peace has the right answer.

Posted by: Bart at September 30, 2004 8:35 AM

Same way the British did in 1837.

The American Idealists, like Garrison, would never have stood for it, though.

The moment to have seized cane in 1829, when the Virginia Legislature debated slavery and came very close to voting it out.

It would have been difficult, given the way our government was set up. A single Parliament dealing with a situation where there were no representatives (thanks to the Reform Bill of 5 years earlier) was more nimble.

But it might have been done

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 4:38 PM


Yes, had we not unwisely broken with Britain we could have gotten rid of slavery when they did. What does that have to do with Pierce or Buchanan?

Posted by: oj at September 30, 2004 6:19 PM

If we had stayed under the Crown, it would have been with representation of slave states in Parliament, and the 1837 settlement probably would not have been possible.

Certainly, much more difficult.

You're the antidemocrat, you should understand how that works.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 1, 2004 2:53 PM

We'd have had our own Parliament, but we'd have had to accede to the moral suasion of the Brits.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 3:01 PM