Will the Confederacy Decide the 2012 Election?

Update: Andrew Sullivan attempts to explain his statement, but only manages to dig a deeper hole for himself.

According to Andrew Sullivan, the Confederacy lives or at least the racism that pervaded those specific states during the Civil War era and it may decide the 2012 election.  More specifically Sullivan argued this morning on ABC’s This Week, “If Virginia and Florida go back to the Republicans, it’s the Confederacy entirely.  You put the map of the Civil War over this electoral map, you’ve got the Civil War.”  Whether George Will is correct in the details, he at least provides a reasonable counter-explanation re: a possible shift from blue to red state for Virginia and Florida.  More to the point, it reveals Sullivan’s stupidity.  I certainly believe that race is a factor in this election, but by linking the modern South with the Confederacy he perpetuates the myth that racism is somehow concentrated in that region alone.

There is absolutely no reason, apart from trying to introduce a seductive soundbite, to mention the Confederacy or the Civil War. It feeds what I call the “Continued War” narrative that is so popular with the mainstream media.  It’s a reductionist explanation that pits Northerners vs. Southerners and blacks vs. whites.  One can only imagine what Sullivan will say if Ohio goes for Romney.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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14 comments… add one
  • Craig L. Nov 8, 2012 @ 1:23

    The blue state-red state dichotomy, pitting the union versus the confederacy, has been with slight variations the presidential electoral map now for four consecutive elections. It’s hard to imagine how it could be any more blatantly obvious. Apparently, however, it’s politically incorrect to point it out. Here’s hoping that the sesquicentennial provides a means to get past it and move on to something more useful and constructive.

  • Richard Williams Oct 31, 2012 @ 15:26

    Kevin – interesting, but how is what Sullivan is saying that much different from what David Blight has said?

    “The conservative movement in America, or at least its most radical wing, seems determined to repeal much of the 20th century and even its constitutional and social roots from the transformative 1860s.

    The Civil War is not only not over, it can still be lost. As the sesquicentennial ensues in publishing and conferences and on television and countless websites, one can hope that we will pursue matters of legacy and memory with one eye on the past and the other acutely on the present.”

    Read more here: http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/civil-war-150-past-present/#storylink=cpy
    See: http://civilwar150.kansascity.com/articles/civil-war-150-past-present/

    • Kevin Levin Oct 31, 2012 @ 15:36

      Hi Richard,

      Nice to hear from you. I am not sure why I need to reference David Blight. You seem to be obsessed with him. That said, I am not sure how what you quoted here matches up with Sullivan. Sullivan made a claim about an entire region while Blight seems focused on one segment (“most radical wing”) of the conservative movement.

  • Dudley Bokoski Oct 30, 2012 @ 17:04

    I have this vision of MSNBC and FOX covering the period leading up to the Civil War. With the benefit of modern technology they probably could have gotten the thing started a good five years quicker.

    We’re living in a great era for fire eaters. I doubt anybody much on the left or the right has heard, or wanted to hear, what the other side has said since sometime around the Clinton impeachment hearings. And there is where the parallel to the Civil War comes in. There was a national dialogue going on prior to the war, but at some point the conversation stopped being between the two regions and became almost purely internal.

    There is a tendency to romanticize the war and adopt the reunion perspective in which the narrative was primarily of brave men on both sides fighting for right as they saw it. While this narrative has truth in it, we shouldn’t overlook the intensity of resentment, mistrust, and plain ill will which built the pressure up until there was nothing for it but war. It is difficult to find the logic of the actions which lead up to the war, but the consuming anger is abundantly evident.

    Where we are now is a difficult point, but we’ll get past this time and move forward not because we have the wisdom to, but because events will direct us to our best interests.

  • Frankly Oct 29, 2012 @ 16:59

    Sully is, as he has always been, a moron. How he got the perch he flops on is beyond me; that he can be presented as an intellectual proof that any ass with an English accent sounds smart to Americans.

    There is one small way in which he almost finds an acorn of truth in the mound of manure that is his thought process though. The society that was built on the backs of human chattel was one of every man for himself, no common good, anti-industrial, wealth at all cost, socially stagnant and backward. It was defended by poor foot soldiers who fought against their own interests to the benefit of the princelings. This is a perfect representation of the world Rmoney and his friends would bring to us and the way it is being brought.

    Sadly, this thinking is not limited to 11 states but is smeared across the country. While it reached its zenith in the old confederacy it is not peculiar to that location. Racism is a component but it is not the driving force, its a tool used by the masters to enlist the support of stupid whites to the masters cause. Racism is not just a weakness of the old South but then it never was.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 29, 2012 @ 17:06

      Thanks for the comment, but I am not sure it’s any more insightful compared with what Sullivan offers.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Oct 29, 2012 @ 13:57

    “One can only imagine what Sullivan will say if Ohio goes for Romney.”

    Not sure if this adds to the discussion but I remember hearing four years ago of a White man saying, “I’m for [Obama] as long as he’s not about the Blacks all the time.” And I’m going to guess that person would find much the content of blog sites like Civil War Memory and Dead Confederates about “the Blacks all the time.”

    No question about it: racist people voted for Obama. But for that matter, racist people voted for Lincoln.

    • Neil Hamilton Oct 31, 2012 @ 21:39

      Mr. Cheeseboro,

      History put that “content” there, not the blog sites like Civil War Memory and Dead Confederates.

      And racist people vote all the time, in all times they voted. Not a shocker, just another part of that “content.”


      • Bryan Cheeseboro Nov 1, 2012 @ 9:45

        Hi Neil,
        Thanks for the comment, Neil, but I don’t know that it was necessary given what I said in my original comment.

        First off, my citing the blog sites Civil War Memory and Dead Confederates was certainly not to suggest they are the only places a person can understand the role of race- and, I think Black-White race relations specificall- in American history. I didn’t need those sites to come to an understanding of that role. But I mention them because I’ve seen to many other narratives of US history that minimize race or ignore it all together; or distort it with silly, unfounded stories like “90,000 Blacks willingly fought for the Confederacy as soldiers.”

        And of course racist people vote all the time. Again, that’s kind of what I was saying with Lincoln’s and Obama’s elections. 🙂

  • Lyle Smith Oct 28, 2012 @ 14:21

    Many blacks must be totally stupid to be moving back to the South by the thousands.

    Milwaukee, never knew it was so close to Mississippi.

    I’m a long time reader of Andrew Sullivan. I’ve been fortunate to have engaged in a few e-mail exchanges with him. He published an e-mail I sent him a number of years ago on his blog. I like him as a person. Regardless, he’s not particularly well traveled in America and from his writings he knows almost nothing about the South and the people living there. So much of his polemics aren’t credible because of his ignorance. His life is an arc between Provincetown, Washington, and Los Angeles. That’s his America.

  • Kejia Oct 28, 2012 @ 14:21

    Bless his heart, Sully’s just worked up about this election. Whatever keeps him off the ledge. (We were all worried after the first debate 🙂

    At least his heart is in the right place. I remember when I went to Boston in the 1970s, a distressingly large number of people heard my southern accent, assumed I was a white supremist, and said something racist. After I dropped my southern accent like a hot potato, the racist comments stopped.

  • Andy Hall Oct 28, 2012 @ 13:54

    Sullivan is a writer that I’ve read for a while now. Part of his appeal is that he’s idosyncratic; he’s hard to categorize, politically and every other way. But he also has a short list of subjects he’s completely, utterly obtuse on, and one of those is race. When you combine that with his natural tendency to be easily rattled and over-the-top — panicked, even — at this point in the election cycle, you get foolishness like this.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2012 @ 13:55

      Sullivan got schooled by Will and Stephan… was wise in shifting the discussion.

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