2010 Is Not 1861

It’s incredibly disturbing to hear a former president compare the extreme political polarization that we are currently experiencing to the state of affairs that led to the Civil War and the destruction of a large section of the country.  To reduce our current political climate to Red v. Blue states completely misses the crucial point that no issue currently dividing Americans does so in the way that slavery did.  Our politicians are not beating one another in the Senate chamber.  President Obama did not enter office following the secession of any one region of the country and it is safe to say that he will never have to order out the military to put down a rebellion.  Comparing 2010 with 1861-65 not only grossly distorts the past, it clouds the salient conditions that led to Americans butchering one another for 4 years.  It trivializes our Civil War.  President Carter’s rhetoric only adds to the perception that what we are currently experiencing in our political culture constitutes a dangerous and new shift.  Just study the political world of the 1790s if you have any doubt about this.  In other words, CALM DOWN!

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8 thoughts on “2010 Is Not 1861

  1. Michael Noirot

    Kevin,
    I could not agree with you more. While there may be deep divisions today, they are nothing compared to the sectional strife that “states rights” a.k.a. slavery put the country through during the period of time from the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott and culminating with the firing on Fort Sumter. You are right on, friend.
    Mike Noirot

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  2. Dick Stanley

    Carter’s been an alarmist for a long time, and this is just more of the same for him. But he is playing to an head-nodding audience. It’s amazing the extent to which some people think the modern political situation is worse than ever. They should read more American history, particularly political and media history.

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  3. Larry Cebula

    Every election season we hear commentators and politicians moaning about how we are suffering through the most negative campaign in history. You just want to hit them with a clue stick.

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  4. Margaret D. Blough

    I voted for him twice, but Carter, despite all of his post-presidential accomplishments, can’t seem to let go of his bitterness over how his presidency went and the fact that he was defeated for reelection such as his recent post-mortem claims about Ted Kennedy and health care. As for Carter’s current claims, VP Cheney calling Sen. Leahy an obscenity to his face is NOT the same as, you note, as nearly beating a man to death on the floor of the US Senate. During the antebellum period, given the number of times it’s been documented that senators and congressmen brought weapons onto their chambers’ floors, it’s amazing no one was murdered there. There were documented cases of duels being fought. With the Confederacy, you had former senators, congressmen, and cabinet members (some wearing more than one hat) leading both the civilian authority and the armies of the insurgent. Gen. Breckenridge had just left a term as Vice-President of the United States and was a candidate for President of the US in 1860. I think there have been more than a few times as ugly or even uglier (McCarthy Era anyone?) than what we have now.

    It’s just like his claim that Ted Kennedy was responsible for health care reform being defeated during Carter’s presidency

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  5. Greg Rowe

    The current political climate, while not one I am happy with, is indeed not anywhere close to the antebellum era. It’s not even close to that expereinced during the careers of some retiring senators as evidenced by the following article, part of a series on the MSNBC website.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39138497/ns/politics-the_exit_interviews/39095771

    Boy, this is crazy. I’m now using MSNBC to refute Jimmy Carter! Please don’t tell my conservative friends! ;)

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  6. Josh M.

    On a similar note, the “historian” Thomas Woods recently released a book titled “Nullification” in which he makes the case that nullification is a legitimate a way to combat Obama’s policies. I tend to agree with Jon Stewart…”Take it down a notch…for America.” Here’s a link to the Amazon listing for the book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Nullification-Resist-Federal-Tyranny-Century/dp/1596981490/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1285386692&sr=1-1#_

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