Why Conservative Politicians Struggle with the “Civil War”

Why Conservative Politicians Struggle with the “Civil War” January 12, 2024

Why Conservative Politicians Struggle with the Civil War

The Civil War Battle of Antietam Creek
Photo Wikipedia

If the psychologist said, “I’m going to say a phrase and I want you to say the first thing that pops into your mind. The phrase: “Civil War.”

Nikki Haley: “States rights!”

Senator Tom Cotton: “Democrats.”

X-president Donald Trump: “Negotiate.”

What is it about the Civil War that short circuits conservative brains? American historians agree that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. They also teach us that the former Democrats of 1860 became Dixiecrats and then Republicans and now are the primary agents in denying American history. As to the absurd notion that the Civil War could have been avoided by “negotiation,” that makes Donald Trump sound as out-of-touch as Neville Chamberlain still muttering in his tea that “Hitler is not that bad. We can negotiate with him.”

In addition to showing an utter lack of historical consciousness about the Civil War, there are a number of Republicans who have defended the continued public display of the statues of Confederate generals. Statues of traitors to our country, men who attempted to destroy the USA, and Republican legislators defend the honor of these men and insist on keeping their statues in public places.

In Florida, HB 395, Protection of Historical Monuments and Memorials, filed by state Rep. Dean Black, R-Jacksonville, would not only prohibit the removal of “historical monuments and memorials,” it allows and encourages anyone attempting it to be punished, hard. Representative Black seems determined to honor Confederate heroes.

The irony of the names associated with these issues is humorous. Senator Tom Cotton blames Democrats for slavery and the Civil War. Representative Dean Black proposes a law that would prohibit the removal of Civil War monuments.

Six states, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee have enacted preservation laws to block the removal of Confederate memorials in the last 10 years.

One hundred twenty Republican lawmakers voted against removing Confederate statues.

“Unfortunately, Democrats, animated by the Critical Race Theory concepts of structural racism, microaggressions, and a United States based solely on white supremacy, have chosen to remove statues that underscore the failures of our pre-1861 Constitution. Make no mistake, those who won the West and George Washington are next.”

Fellow GOP member Alabama’s Mo Brooks condemned H.R. 3005 as a bill by “intolerant Socialist Democrats” seeking to seek to take down “undesirable” statues. “Cancel culture and historical revisionism are precursors to dictatorial government and the destruction of individual liberty and freedom by elitists who claim they know more than regular citizens and, hence, should be empowered to dictate what regular citizens can and cannot think or do,” Brooks said.

There’s a backstory to the inarticulation and misinformation of these legislators. This involves the campaign of rewriting American history and revising history textbooks in public schools. The ringleader of the revisionist is David Barton. When the Texas State Board of Education debated the history textbooks that would be used in Texas schools, Barton was a primary consultant.

According to Barton students were being taught a liberal version of American history designed to make students feel bad about America’s horrific human rights record. Barton wanted to rewrite the history to demonstrate that God had chosen America, made America great, and designed American exceptionalism. America, in Barton’s view, had a godly heritage.

Barton, a political consultant, not a historian, has influenced members of Congress. In particular he has been a mentor to the current Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson of Louisiana. This is how a false version of American history has found its way into the halls of Congress.

There is one other development that plays into this mass of misinformation. The political case for promoting the free market and convicting government intervention of causing the Great Depression has been made in a revisionist book, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Author Amity Shlaes offered an alleged “new history of the Great Depression,” but it is grounded in very old economics. Her attempt at a revised history of American politics and economics dovetails with evangelical attempts to revise America’s religious history.

Whether the preachers or the politicians are doing more damage to America can’t be decided. What is obvious is that America’s faith and politics are imperiled by a spurious alliance of a form of Christian faith and politics.

Not being able to express basic historical facts about the Civil War serves as a warning to those who try to deny or alter history for political gain. Asserting that the Civil War could have been negotiated exposes a level of ignorance that is hard to imagine.




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