Author Archives: Kevin Levin

Virginia is for Obama (Proud to be a Virginian – 11:07pm)

Abraham_obama  Yeswecan

(artist – Ron English)

 
The exit polls are very revealing.  I was surprised by the split when it came to income brackets.  People making less than $50,000 went with Obama, but even in the higher brackets McCain failed to capitalize on the socialist rhetoric.  It's comforting to know that Americans were not so easily duped by this language.  I wonder what this means for "Joe the Plumber" recording career?  Ten-percent of the electorate who took part in yesterday's election voted for the first time.  I spoke with an employee in our cafeteria who must be in her 60s and who had never voted before.  She went to the polls with her entire family and I can't wait to talk to her about the experience.  Some will attribute this to Obama's "star" quality, but I attribute it to the ability to inspire and rally.  And isn't this what we want in a democracy?
 
It's already a cliche to say that this election is historic.  It was a very emotional experience watching the tears stream down the face of Jesse Jackson as well as the excitement of the young students at Spelman College.  We just finished discussing King's assassination in class yesterday and at one point I showed the class the famous photograph of the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, which included Jackson.  Congressman Lewis's commentary was also very moving.  We've been discussing Lewis's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement as well and the courage he displayed on more than one battlefield.  I am so happy for him this morning and the thousands of Americans who risked everything to combat injustice and racism.  These are the people – both black and white – who paved the way for this election. 
 
That said, if we are to appreciate Obama's claim that he represents the most "unlikely candidate" than we must look beyond race.  It is the appreciation of his overall profile, including his age, personal story, and profile that give meaning to his words.  There are two facts of his life that give me reason to be optimistic.  First, this is a man who wrote openly about drug use in his memoir as well as other mistakes of youth.  Second, his election to the position of editor of the Harvard Law Review was made possible by the support of members fo the Federalist Society.  The first example points to a certain level of opennness and honesty, while the second suggests that he will, in fact, try to be a president for all Americans.   
 
I know this sounds just a little sappy, but you know what, I don't care.  For the moment I am happy and proud of my country.
 

And You Thought Lincoln Was Dangerous

I noticed that Thomas DiLorenzo has a new book out about Alexander Hamilton.  While I haven’t read it both the title [Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution--and What It Means for Americans Today] and book jacket suggest that this is a continuation of DiLorenzos’s efforts to uncover the root of centralized government and the supposed breakdown and “death of federalism.” 

DiLorenzo reveals how Hamilton, first as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and later as the nation’s first and most influential treasury secretary, masterfully promoted an agenda of nationalist glory and interventionist economics—–core beliefs that did not die with Hamilton in his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. Carried on through his political heirs, the Hamiltonian legacy:

• Wrested control into the hands of the federal government by inventing the myth of the Constitution’s “implied powers”
• Established the imperial presidency (Hamilton himself proposed a permanent president—–in other words, a king)
• Devised a national banking system that imposes boom-and-bust cycles on the American economy
• Saddled Americans with a massive national debt and oppressive taxation
• Inflated the role of the federal courts in order to eviscerate individual liberties and state sovereignty
•Pushed economic policies that lined the pockets of the wealthy and
created a government system built on graft, spoils, and patronage
• Transformed state governments from Jeffersonian bulwarks of liberty to beggars for federal crumbs

By debunking the Hamiltonian myths perpetuated in recent admiring
biographies, DiLorenzo exposes an uncomfortable truth: The American
people are no longer the masters of their government but its servants.
Only by restoring a system based on Jeffersonian ideals can Hamilton’s
curse be lifted, at last.

The book jacket follows the standard formula used in his two previous books, which castigate Lincoln for instigating an unnecessary war and using it to further the agenda of the “great centralizer.”  DiLorenzo isn’t so much interested in Lincoln as a historical figure but as a case study to further his own Libertarian agenda.  Remember, DiLorenzo is not a trained historian but an economist.  I have no doubt that he is a very good economist, but it is almost impossible to take him seriously as a Lincoln scholar.  While he vehemently complains about the overwhelming number of Lincoln apologists you will find very few references to Lincoln studies after 1950 in his bibliographies.  He rarely challenges the interpretations of those he disagrees with.  In his first book DiLorenzo rails against protective tariffs, the Morrill Act, railroad subsidies, national currency, income tax, the Homestead Act, and of course, emancipation by military force.  He also blames Lincoln for the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which extended the power of the courts.  

Please keep in mind that I have no problem with this approach to the past.  There is even an entertaining quality as you feel the momentum of the narrative build to a point of satisfaction and vindication for the writer: “You see, he really was anti-American.”  Kind of reminds me of a political campaign mentality set to a pseudo-historical narrative.  The problem is that the reader ends up learning more about DiLorenzo than about the period he is writing about.  I now know that DiLorezno believes in Libertarian principles of small government and free markets.  My problem is that I could have learned that from one of his publications in an economics journal. 

Now DiLorenzo has set his sites on the Founding Era as Americans worked through their experiences going back to the American Revolution, the Critical Period of the 1780s and the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  In it DiLorenzo finds a battle between good and evil rather than a moment in early American history where the fundamental questions of the proper scope of the federal government and the states, along with the very meaning of individual liberty, were being worked out.   Along the way DiLorenzo intends to debunk the mythmakers (as he supposedly did with Lincoln scholars) such as Ron Chernow whose massive biography of Hamilton is a must read.  There is a reason why books by Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, and Thomas Woods are referenced as further reading on Amazon’s site.  DiLorenzo’s approach to the study of the past is ultimately an extension of his political and economic world view.  You can forget about Hamilton as a historical subject because DiLorenzo isn’t interested in that.  What matters is that in light of what DiLorenzo believes Hamilton was wrong and ultimately to blame for all of our contemporary woes.  Perhaps another way to put is that DiLorenzo is interested primarily in converting the reader to Libertarian principles.  History become a means to an end in DiLorenzo’s hands.

I assume that DiLorenzo’s next book will focus on the centralizing tendencies of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  There you will find a great deal of central control over public morality.  It turns out that the “City on a Hill” was the first step down the long road of corrupt government and the suppression of individual freedom.

 

Gotta Love Those Google Rankings

I look forward to the day when a search for information on so-called black Confederates/Confederate slaves leads people to my site first.  A search for "Black Confederate" brings up the first of a nine-part series on Weary Clyburn in the number 3 slot, while a search for "Black Confederates" brings up the blog category, "The Myth of Black Confederates" again in the number 3 slot.  In both cases the top two sites are the same.  One is the book site for one of the more popular non-scholarly titles and the other site is run by the 37th Texas Cavalry.  Both have been around for some time, which means they will be tough nuts to crack. 

Update: No so fast.  It looks like these rankings are much more volatile that I first thought.