Concurrent Majority By Richard Sale


The Tea Party is heading a revolt against the idea
of government by the majority of citizens elected by national popular vote. To
the Tea Party people and the extremist Republicans, a national mandate is a
fraud on its face.  It signifies nothing
but the victory of superior numbers is nothing but a war between the mass
versus the most qualified, insightful and effective and the most visionary
minority party.  A victory in a U.S.
national election is to them merely a crude popularity contest, and the means must
be found to bypass it. Hitler, after all, was elected by a popular majority.

To the Tea Party people and the extremist
Republicans, the nation’s fate does not rest on superior numbers. Its fate
depends on the political devices of certain of essential, critical white
minorities, and it is only those particular, self-chosen minorities that
matter. Isn’t this what we are seeing in the shutdown? The Tea Party and
extremist Republicans are saying that
that any state has the right to declare specific federal laws void within
the borders of the resisting states, and instead there should be set up a “concurrent
majority” of the legislatures of each state in addition to the federal
legislature to assent to a law for it to have nation-wide effect.

Before we go further
let me say stoutly that I have no interest in politics.  I have always had the attitude of that
mythical old New England woman in her nineties in who, when asked why she had
never voted replied, “I never vote. It only encourages them.” I didn’t vote until
the 1992 George H. Bush Bill Clinton contest, and I voted for Bush because of
his handling of Saddam. I spectacularly disliked Bill Clinton and only slowly changed
my mind because in the case of Serbia and Milosevic, the iron at last entered
him and he went to battle.

To me, the Tea Party people and the extremist
Republicans are not simply red necks or fundamentalists.  They are people of ideals.  I regard those ideals as perverse, but that
is only a way of saying, that I disagree with them.  But they are intellectually clever all the

It was John C. Calhoun of South
Carolina, who in 1833, invented the idea of the “concurrent majority,” the
strategy being used by the Tea Party today.  As a person, Calhoun was a dour, humorless
intractable man.  He was entirely
addicted to complex abstractions.  His
thought had a white-hot and relentless intensity. He would wander about and
mutter, “This indeed is a real
crisis.” As he was dying, a friend asked him to sum up his life, and he
replied, “I see nothing to repeat and little to correct,” practically the same
words President George W. Bush used in describing his presidency. But make no
mistake and don’t be distracted. 
Intellectually, Bush wasn't within shouting distance of Calhoun.

a thinker, Calhoun was concerned about the power of section versus section,
obsessed by the waning power of the South which he felt was being increasingly
overwhelmed by the growth of the North. As a result, Calhoun pronounced the
South “a fixed and hopeless minority.” 
In other words, the white people of the South were being denied the
means to make their power nationally felt, thanks to the majorities of the
North. If you think of the shrinking numbers of white people that will live in
America in ten years, the growing number of Asians, Hispanics, gays, etc. the
“white” Right Wing Republicans and Tea Party people would probably say the same
thing about America today that whites in America “are a fixed and hopeless
minority.” Think of the eve of last year’s election when Bill O’Reilly cried
out in anguish that America wasn’t “white” any more. That observation
encapsulates the major Tea Party fear.

The concept of the concurrent majority was
a device to boost certain interests at the expense of others. We have all read
items that have highlighted the role of Right Wing billionaires who are funding
and supporting certain candidates who are working to restrict weaken and hamper
the rights of minorities to prevent them from becoming majority voices. To the
Tea Party, any minority that enjoys any
degree of majority support is an enemy. We usually think of minorities as a
group laboring to become part of the majority. A Virginia politician, William
H. Roane, in the 1850s said that he thought that chief right of minorities was
that of “freely, peaceably and legally converting themselves into a majority whenever they can.” To prevent certain
rising minorities becoming part of the national majority is the aim of the Tea
Party program.

The brilliant American historian, Richard
Hofstadter, said that the concurrent majority was designed specifically “to
protect a vested interest of considerable power.’ Calhoun, like the Tea Party
people, believed that the government by numerical was inherently unstable. Vox
Populi, Vox Humbug. What Calhoun wanted in its place, was “government by the
whole community – that is, a government that would organically represent both
the minority and majority interests.” He added that a society should not be governed “by counting heads,” but
by “considering the great economic interests, the geographical and functional
units” of the nation.

He then added, “In order to prevent the
plundering of the minority by the majority interest, each must be given an
appropriate organ in the constitutional structure to provide it with either a
concurrent voice in making and executing laws or a veto on their execution.”
And he concluded, “Only by such a device can the different interests, orders
and classes or portions of the community be protected and all conflict and
struggle between them be prevented.”

Calhoun then cried in pain, “We are here
but a handful in the midst of an overwhelming majority.”

There is a note of extreme distress in
this declaration.  It is a tone of
despair, the wail of the outflanked and defeated. It is also very melodramatic.
It is also incomprehensible. Why should a stubborn and truculent minority ask
to be put on the same plane of power as a majority? What sound principle demands
that  unequals should be equal to equals?
It is like an athlete who has just lost a contest, asking to be given a winning
medal all the same. The  idea of the
concurrent majority is a bit like the bully in the school yard who presides
because others cower before him.

Calhoun however said that faced with
such peril, “the South should be content with nothing less than extreme
militancy:, stand firm, meet the enemy 
on the frontier, rather than wait. Anything less than decisive victory
was unthinkable.”

Is this not what is at stake in the
current shutdown? Yet I have never seen the name of  Calhoun mentioned by the major media.

I would greatly appreciate any comments.
I am just groping my way along here.


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94 Responses to Concurrent Majority By Richard Sale

  1. turcopolier says:

    “Why should a stubborn and truculent minority ask to be put on the same plane of power as a majority? What sound principle demands that unequals should be equal to equals? It is like an athlete who has just lost a contest, asking to be given a winning medal all the same.” My friend Richard seems to believe that government of a vast and diverse state like the US is comparable to school yard politics or athletic contests. In order to accept his view I would have to ignore the existence of the US Constitution, a document negotiated into existence for the express purpose of limiting the absolute power of majorities however large and specifically for the purpose of limiting the power of the Executive Branch of the federal government. I would also have to believe that the interests of the “sections” as Sale clearly thinks of the states are uniform and that the citizenry should accept the principle of “winner take all” in government. As Sale writes, the political situation in the US from the 1830s to the outbreak of the Civil War is a close analog of the present situation. Today, there are quite a few commentators who, like Richard Sale, raise the issue of the “duty” of dissenting political forces to submit to the will of the majority. Some do not hesitate to call the dissenters neo-Confederates. I would say to them that if they want their opponents to think of themselves that way, all that is necessary is to keep calling them that. I would not have shut down the government over this set of issues, but the Tea Party types have done nothing illegal or unconstitutional. In 1860 Southerners finally decided that the choices left to them were submission or secession. pl

  2. Walter Moore says:

    I agree – not for nothing I have been sending friends articles about the Nullification Crisis since the current fiasco began.

  3. Jay says:

    Neither Hitler nor the NSDAP ever won a popular majority in any national election. The closest they came was 43 percent in 1933.
    Conservatives aren’t doing anything illegal. But they have broken with the precedents and norms, and are unwilling to contemplate the consequences of those breaks. Conservatives in the Senate have staged a preposterously large number of filibusters, to the point where it is hardly capable of conducting any regular business. Their insistence on dictating all policy in every matter, in a government where they don’t hold the Senate or the White House, is at odds with how matters have been conducted stretching back many decades. And their intransigence in negotiations, where they insist on always getting everything they want and more, has led to failures to pass a farm bill, a transportation bill, or even a budget. Every move they make engenders more ill-will, every step moves them closer to Masada, every day they surround themselves with only the doctrinaire true believers.
    It’s not illegal, but neither is mistaking conviction for reality. It’s not illegal to yell at your wife all day, every day, because she won’t agree with you that the moon is made of green cheese. It’s not illegal to think it terribly unfair when she kicks your ass to the curb, divorces you, and takes the house and the kids. You could say that you did nothing wrong, and stood on your principles: That the moon is made of green cheese. Or that a default on U.S. debt would have a stabilizing effect on the world markets, and is really “no big deal.” If and when the SHTF, the same people who thought invading Iraq was a good idea have to finally, actually swallow their pride, and deal with the consequences, or be ready to be replaced with people who will deal with the consequences.
    It’s really no better than a commissar rationalizing the impracticalities and contradictions of Communism.
    Conservatism can’t fail! Only YOU can fail Conservatism.

  4. John Minnerath says:

    Well put sir.

  5. Edward Amame says:

    The actions of the minority (of the minority) would be perfectly appropriate in a parliamentary system of gov’t. Our presidential system will break down without compromise, just as it did in 1860.
    Regarding submitting to the will of the majority. That apparently extends to presidential elections, too. Since the “Republican Revolution” of the 1990s, the GOP has refused to accept the legitimacy of both Clinton and Obama.
    Mr Sale’s presentation is admirable but incomplete without acknowledging the efforts of disgraced former AG Edwin Meese III, certain right wing think tanks, groups like Americans for Prosperity, and American billionaires who meticulously planned the shut down/defund ACA, are funding it, and are keeping the congressional troops in line by threatening to primary those moderates in the party who don’t support the shutdown/defunding ACA effort. That gruesome story is here:

  6. nick b says:

    Can you imagine the citizens of the United States in 1860 going to war with each other over access to universal healthcare? Of all the problems we face, why would healthcare be the issue that could literally bring down a nation?
    As a humorous aside (a little levity always helps) I read an letter yesterday from a constituent to his tea party Congressman that fits very neatly into Mr. Sales’ sport analogy. Offered for your amusement:

  7. jr786 says:

    “Before we go further let me say stoutly that I have no interest in politics”
    Everything up to this was a political statement.

  8. Jose says:

    Where in the Constitution is it written that The House of Representatives must “submit” all rights and privileges granted to that body, because another party won an election?
    I can’t stand the Tea Party for other reasons, but if you think the movement only represents the white minority you are serious wrong and believing the media “koolaid”. –
    Respectfully, disagree with your comparison, because IMHO the Tea Party represent the original “Radical Republicans” roots of the Grand Old Party.

  9. jonst says:

    Leaving aside the many issues raised in this insightful essay….I want to focus on just one of them: paraphrasing Richard, ‘Iron entered Clinton’ alright, and went right to head. It was arrogance and a provocation of the highest order, to extend NATO to borders of the former Soviet Union.

  10. JohnH says:

    This has little to with minority vs. majority rule and its racial permutation. What is at stake here is the community interest (in this case health insurance) vs. the self interest of a few filthy rich. In other words, people vs. capital.
    A democratic system allows people to numerically elect their representatives. The system as implemented allows the wealthy few to influence the choices given to the people. Allowed to function, it is an ingenious mechanism that forces a balance between plutocrats and the mob. In essence it pits those with the majority of money against the numerical majority.
    The last 30 years have seen as concerted effort by the wealthy few to permanently tilt the balance in their favor. It is as if they want the First Amendment to read: “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of action of the wealthy few.”
    The Tea Party’s underwriters seem equate their parochial interests with the national interest. If the vast majority of Americans disagree, “Tant pis, let them eat cake.”

  11. mike says:

    A better strategy might be to send the Braves back to Beantown. This solution provides:
    a] a fifth column in the heart of liberalism where RomneyCare (ooops I meant ObamaCare) started.
    b] reinforcement for the theme that baseball has not been the national sport since Branch Rickey caved in and hired a certain minority second baseman back 66 years ago.
    c] a reason perhaps for Teddy T and the hated CNN to leave also after the Braves go.
    d] an excuse to bring in a sport with more American looking players. After all if Dallas, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Miami can have Hockey teams, why not Atlanta. (The public will soon forget that those American-looking boys swinging the hockey sticks are really Canucks and Russkies.)
    Besides we miss them up here in Beantown, at least us septuagenarians. They were never appreciated in Atlanta or Milwaukee. Bring em home.

  12. Will says:

    this topic is as old as SPQR. Bicameralism is a form of concurrent majority.
    where is the President Jackson that would threaten too metaphorically hang Boehner as Jackson threatened to do to Calhoun for his nullification?

  13. JLCampos says:

    Sale does not noticed perhaps that the “Western Democracies” have become dictatorial. They are run on the basis of the notion of STATE of EXCEPTION, a state that voids all garanties because NATIONAL SECURITY is invoked constantly in order to rule by decree.
    That is one point. The other is that there is a hierarchy of skills. The more skilled will always float above the others whatever the other’s complaints. Perhaps the Tea Party may feel in its bowels the fact that we are ruled by decree and bereft of rights.And it does what the weak always do, be a stumbling block.

  14. Fred says:

    Richard has written, and I believe there is much agreement within the intellectual beliefs amonst many currently in media, academia and amongst the ‘political science’ politicians (to include staff, acolytes and funders), that this is an issue of ‘white (males) versus’ the interests of ‘everyone else, i.e. the ‘real Americans’: “the growing number of Asians, Hispanics, gays, etc.” and of course, – women. Words have Power as the author well knows. “TeaParty, Extremist, Redneck, fundamentalists” Why were these words chosen? The implication is that those who disagree with the current national policy are just that – extremist redneck fundamentalists. Well, obviously if you aren’t one of ‘those people’ you must agree with President Obama’s position?
    I disagree with Mr. Sale’s characterization that this ‘secularization’ is racially based. The ‘sections’ to which Calhoun referred were geographic. The power within the federal government to protect minority interests to which he referred was the compromise which gave each state two senators – not by equal proportion of population – which is how representation is determined within the US House. There is plenty of disagreement amongst the public today with the growing power of the unitary executive theory and application of government.
    “Tea Party people and … are not simply … They are people of ideals. I regard those ideals as perverse… that I disagree with them. But they are intellectually clever all the same.” Yes, thus those who have the superior ‘ideal’ do not need to persuade, to lead others to the conclusion that an idea is better and so is a proposed public policy; no, they need only to hold in contempt their lesser brethren? How did those in the majority gain those superior ideals? Was it some manifest destiny made self-evident by the simple geography of one’s birth? I think not. Those in leaderhsip, those with the right grades, right test scores, right school (Harvard, Yale, Stanord – the Ivy’s), did geography to that to them? God? Surely He died at the birth of the age of Reason.
    While the Univerisy of Alabama now has an exclusive sorority that has recently offered a black girl admittence the hiring officials of the various branches of government, of academia, of media, of think tanks and political campaigns – they are not opening the employment doors for hiring leaders applicants from some state school or ‘second tier’ university. They are becoming more intellectually self-segragationist by the year, creating an intellectual apparthied in the national power circles whithin which those with the right ideas will continue to lead, while the rest of the citizens of the Republic are to follow. The implication, if not yet the fact, is that those without the ‘right’ eduction, thus become the nation’s “intellectual N*…” well you sure get the drift without that word. After all, aren’t they just a bunch of extremist redneck fundamentalists? What true American gives a damn about them?

  15. Will says:

    “In 1860 Southerners finally decided that the choices left to them were submission or secession. pl”
    from what i read slavery was never threatened in the Slave states. it was protected by national law, i.e. the fugitive slave act. But the secessionists thought that slavery would die if it couldn’t expand to new territories. Either the American West or the Caribbean. Lincoln and his party were determined that there be no expansion. And he put off the emancipation declaration as long as he could for fear of losing the border states.
    i could be wrong and often have been.

  16. turcopolier says:

    These are thought to have been written by the “traitors” Jefferson and Madison. pl

  17. Henry Foresman says:

    Eugene Genovese wrote “The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism” which I think is the best short one volume treatment of Calhoun’s Concurrent Majority. Genovese once commented that Calhoun was the most originial political theorists America has produced.
    The discussion by Mr. Sale has been a great read and I would recommend that in addition to Genovese work that Madison’s Federalists 10 which discuss the relationship between majorities and minorities in the draft of the Constitution and a representative republic.

  18. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    it is an historical fact that there has always been a tension between federal powers & state’s rights . Depending on which issue we are discussing — is which side of the argument I might take – Clearly I believe that in the instance of gun regulation that must be a state matter. Do not want the DC elites or bi-coastal Congresscritters deciding on my gun ownership rights . But perhaps if we were arguing about whether a state law should take precedent over a federal labor law that prohibits children working on say a factory floor I might wish to side with the children being kept safely away from an assembly line. Wonder how Founding Fathers Jefferson or Madison would have felt about keeping kids out of unsafe work environments ?

  19. turcopolier says:

    “A Reply to My Friend Pat Lang,
    By Richard Sale
    I think Pat did me a bit of injustice when he said, “I would not have shut down the government over this set of issues, but the Tea Party types have done nothing illegal or unconstitional.” At no time did I believe that they had. So far.
    I am not one of those who believe that majorities are most certain to be right. Most modern media assumes that democracy and liberty are identical, but the Founding Fathers said they were most concerned about the menace posed by democracy and majority rule. In their minds, liberty was linked, not to democracy, but to property.
    Regarding Obamacare, to my understanding, (which I know has its own limitations,) the chief defect of the Articles of Confederation was that the federated congress represented states and their rights, and because of the rule of the unanimity of states, even a small one could frustrate the rule of all the others.
    It was that institutional defect that the Founding Fathers set out to correct when they created the Constitution.
    I see the same problem in today’s Tea Party. They laud the Constitution but their aim is to subvert it. Their business is to cleanse the American soul, to see any compromise as evil and reject federal law. This attitude poses real hazards.
    Why? Because the Articles of Confederation had declared explicitly that “each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence.” The Constitution did not say a single world about respecting the sovereignty, freedom and independence of the states. Instead, it put bold restrictions on state powers. The Constitution said explicitly that the constitution and federal laws were supreme over all state actions conflicting with them. (See Charles Beard ) The Constitution was not a mere agreement between the thirteen states. The powers of the new government were authorized to deal directly with individuals not states. The Constitution was authorized to go over the heads of state officials and legislatures and compel obedience to federal laws by the use of its own agencies of coercion. The Tea Party seems to think this void.
    Just before I wrote this, I saw that some House Republicans didn’t mention defunding Obamacare. This is wise. Had the House Republican succeeded in defunding a federal law, they would have been violating The Constitution.
    And my thanks to Jay, whose observations were put so tellingly and well.” pl

  20. turcopolier says:

    I did not say that you had claimed that the the opposition had broken the law. Neither did I imply that.
    “it put bold restrictions on state powers.” In fact the constitution limits Congress to legislation authorized in its enumerated powers and reserves all others to the states and the people under the Tenth Amendment. A federal government yearning for greater power has progressively sought to evade that limitation through such devices as a very loose interpretation of the commerce clause and the 14th Amendment. Now the tide is flowing in the other direction. This is reflected in the overturn of portions of the of the Voting Rights Act. Yes, the federal government could deal with individuals, but this is true only with regard to the the allowed limits of its constitutional functions. Even then there were many limitations on the extent of that direct coercion. One example would be the ban on direct taxation of individuals for other than allowed functions like customs duties. This difficulty for the growth of federal government was only removed by specific constitutional amendment in the 20th Century. pl

  21. Omo Naija says:

    The question is will Obama cave? I suspect he will somewhat because he seems intent on believing the other side comes to the table with good intentions to negotiation not annihilate.
    The rabble rousing is fascinating. The errant extremism signals an erosion of real power within the current polity; that changing demographics assures its irrecoverable.
    This is one of many last stands they will stage – but the outcome will be the same – an ever narrower support base than when they started.

  22. turcopolier says:

    Your statement about the viability of slavery simply repeats the treasured Northern canard that propagates the idea that secession was simply the work of the slaveholding class seeking to protect its property rights. What this belief ignores is the sense that existed in the South that the North was an alien cultural region, based ideologically in the political ideas of 17th Century British Calvinist Puritanism. These ideas had been defeated in Britain but thrived in the Yankee North. The sense was strong that this alien culture sought to dominate and rule. Richard’s piece and some of the comments here indicate to me that this desire is alive and well. For the slaveholder conspiracy of secession theory to work it is necessary to believe that the hundreds of thousands of men who fought desperately for Southern independence were mere dupes of the slaveholders. Most of those soldiers owned no slaves. pl

  23. turcopolier says:

    So you think Obama does not wish to annhihilate the GOP? As for the declining GOP base, IMO you are kidding yourself if you think that your Latino people and other like Indian Americans will not become more conservative as they become more prosperous. The present governors of south Carolina and Louisiana are cases in point. This has been the historic pattern in American political evolution. In any event, a GOP that exists as a parliamentary force would be enough to tie the left in knots. pl

  24. Will Reks says:

    I do find Southerners resisting a culture that threatened their concept of society to be a compelling cause for fighting for independence. However, I can’t separate that from thinking many felt compelled to resist simply because they could not adjust to the idea of living in equality with blacks who outnumbered them in many areas in the South. They were not dupes but they were also proud white men with a fixed sense of where they stood in society. I don’t think the slave-owning aristocracy failed to exploit this.

  25. turcopolier says:

    Hank Foresman
    Genovese was a marxist and a fervent admirer of the Italian communist politician Gramsci. Later in life he became a deep red conservative, something like me except that I have always hated communists. You hold him in high regard?
    IMO you distort the meaning of Federalist Ten. Madison meant that the states would be more secure as a single entity if not rent by faction. Washington believed the same thing. So do I. Let us abolish all political parties. You seem to overlook the fact that Madison was also the author of the Virginia Resolution against consolidated power.
    “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government as resulting from the compact to which the states are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact, as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states, who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose, for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining, within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties, appertaining to them.” Madison in the Virginia Resolution. against the Alien and Sedition Acts.
    Since Madison was the principal drafter of the constitution it would seem to me that when he says that the constitution is a “compact” of the states, he probably knows what he is talking about.
    If the constitution is not a compact to which the states “are parties thereto,” then why and how does it exist? Is it a divinely inspired sacred document? Is it something which Gramsci and Genovese would have approved?
    I await the desperate plea that the slave-holding men in Philadelphia with their powdered wigs and “outmoded” views are irrelevant to out times. pl

  26. turcopolier says:

    Will Reks
    You live where and are from where? IMO, you believe what you do because that belief makes it possible to justify a terrifying war of invasion and suppression. pl

  27. turcopolier says:

    “…the same people who thought invading Iraq was a good idea have to finally, actually swallow their pride, and deal with the consequences, or be ready to be replaced with people who will deal with the consequences.” So, you think the Tea Party people are the same as the neocon crew who took us to Iraq? Remarkable. BTW, I hope the divorce was not too painful. pl

  28. turcopolier says:

    I am quite sure that they would have said that workplace safety law was not the business of the federal government. Find the authorizing constitutional provision for me among the Enumerated Powers. pl

  29. nick b says:

    “the North was an alien cultural region, based ideologically in the political ideas of 17th Century British Calvinist Puritanism. These ideas had been defeated in Britain but thrived in the Yankee North. The sense was strong that this alien culture sought to dominate and rule.”
    Col., With the benefit of history, do you think this Southern perception was accurate?

  30. turcopolier says:

    After a lifetime of study of the period I must say that I do. i am not a “son of the South,” quite the opposite but the truth is the truth. Actually my great grandfather Sanford Bills was a rifle company first sergeant in the 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment (the bloody fifth). They lost just under 200 killed from a starting strength of 900. He was also an abolitionist. pl

  31. nick b says:

    My ancestors were still kicking around in the old world, I’m afraid. But my wife’s great, great grandfather (might’ve missed a great in there) was Platt Pearsall, a Corporal from the 30th Ohio Infantry who received the CMO for valor; surviving a forlorn hope detachment during the Siege of Vicksburg.
    Col., I’m having a difficult time believing that the creation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act rises to the level of cultural domination, and is some how comparable to the Civil war. Are we giving our current political impasse perhaps too much meaning?

  32. turcopolier says:

    As someone who has been taken care of under socialized medicine all my life, I have no interest in the ACA other than to know if it will work. you may have noticed that the controversy is shifting away from that. What we are seeing here is a basic age ol conflict in American political history between the forces of what Jefferson called “consolidation” and the opposing forces who once were called the “anti-federalists.” The ACA was just an excuse for close combat. Obama is a “consolidator.”

  33. VietnamVet says:

    Colonel and Richard Sale,
    There will always be tension between the rights of minorities in a political system run by a purported majority. There will be even more tension when a minority is numerous enough to have political representatives. Conflict is assured when the minority are religious true believers who have beliefs with no link to reality: “Israel is the sign of the end times” or “Government is Evil” and these beliefs are contrary to those of the ruling classes.
    The West for the last couple centuries had an advantage in that Science, Technology and Capitalism more or less tracked reality and the politics followed. Our problem is that the powerful through cash, propaganda and polling since 1980s have seized control of western governments. Their one and only purpose in life is to increase one’s own power and wealth to the detriment of everyone else. In reality we all are ruled by very few.
    A revolution would be if the radical Republicans can make the Federal Government default.

  34. Jay says:

    Funny. I’m not divorced, but as I tell many long-married geriatric friends, they’re lucky because it’s only the first forty years of marriage that are the hardest.
    While we’re being remarkably droll, I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of proto-Tea Party conservatives appearing on Fox News in 2003 who opposed the Iraq War. Were they all born in 2009 or do they only find their principled stands against foreign engagements as a result of oppositional Obama derangement syndrome? I guess if you stick a flag pin on a stuffed suit, anything can be justified.
    Meanwhile, since taking the House in 2010, the morbidly obese defense appropriations budget has actually increased (and debt scold Paul Ryan’s budget calls for more increases!), the massive tax cuts of 2001 have been made permanent, and the $2 Trillion their fellow travelers blew at the Halliburton and Bechtel race track are writing in more tax incentive bonanzas for their campaign contributors and wagging their fingers at food stamp recipients. Because the debt. Rich.
    I suggest we permanently close every military base geographically located in the former Confederate States, which also in turn happen to take in more federal dollars than they contribute. Anyone not willing to contemplate such cuts can’t be taken seriously on the subject of the debt.

  35. turcopolier says:

    I see that you are in New Haven. How predictable/. your uncontrollable anger is too much. goodbye. pl

  36. Matthew says:

    JohnH: I worry about the precedent. Obamacare opponents lack the votes to repeal or amend the legislation. They now ask that we implicitly repeal it by refusing to increase the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling involves the function of the entire government, not just Obamacare.
    No minority should ever have a blocking veto on the functioning of the federal government.

  37. Matthew says:

    Urbanization is the fount of consolidation. It’s hard to imagine a pre-FDR America with most of us living in the cities, dependent on agribusiness, and, frankly, without the skill sets to live off the land like our 19th Century Ancestors. I sure couldn’t.
    How much of Jefferson’s philosophy depends on open space and an expanding frontier?

  38. Will Reks says:

    You know very well where I live.
    I have the good fortune of not having to justify waging war. I’ve served and followed orders and have come to the conclusion that no war is wholly just.
    I do wonder how a descendant of slaves would respond if asked that question. Oddly enough their opinion comes up rarely in matters like these.

  39. twv says:

    The 60’s called.
    They miss you.

  40. SAC Brat says:

    Your reply comes at an opportune time. My kids are studying the Civil War in school and in my research to help them in their studies I find myself going down the rabbit holes often. Every study sheet they bring home reminds me that each question on it has led to several books discussing each topic, of which they are expected to right an one sentence answer. I’m partial to the long versions for some reason.
    Not an easy topic, and I find myself cursing Shelby Foote and his ideal that you need to understand the war to understand the US.
    Marcus Tullius Cicero’s quip about history is too true.

  41. Eliot says:

    I’ve always wondered, you have a genuine affection for the South. Where does that come from?

  42. Fred says:

    “… the secessionists thought…” Virginia, amongst other states, did not secede until after Lincoln’s call for armed force to suppress other states. Many in Lincoln’s cabinet were abolitionists. So was he. I suggest re-reading the history. Northern abolitionist desire for emancipation did not require a war that killed close to 10% of the adult male population of eleven states.

  43. Fred says:

    Yes, none of the elected democrats I speak with are much worried about the Occupy WallStreet crowd. I fully expect a further consolidation of federal and corporate power.

  44. Fred says:

    “If and when the SHTF, the same people who thought invading Iraq was a good idea …. be ready to be replaced with people who will deal with the consequences.”
    You mean all those Democrats who supported the AUMF will finally be voted out of office? Thank goodness. Of course most of them were re-elected alongside Obama 6 years ago and still haven’t overturned the AUMF, or the Patriot Act, or the Military Commission Act.

  45. turcopolier says:

    Will Reks
    If i knew I have forgotten. The opinions of the descendants of slaves are worth no more or less than any others. pl

  46. turcopolier says:

    A lifetime of study of primary and secondary sources has convinced me that the South was more sinned against than sinning. My degree from VMI means nothing in this. VMI had largely abandoned its heritage when I was there and now has abandoned its dead for the rewards of the victors’ favor. pl

  47. nick b says:

    “you may have noticed that the controversy is shifting away from that”[the ACA}.
    Yes Sir, I have and I am of the opinion once again that this is the result of successful Democratic messaging.
    The House Republicans came into this fight to defund the ACA. Uncharacteristically they lost the messaging fight early to the Democrats who changed the subject to the shutdown of the government. In the face of BHO finding a spine, and the Democrats uncharacteristically holding together, the Republican position fractured internally, and the goals were changed from defund to delay, etc. all the way to the debt ceiling.
    As we get closer to the debt ceiling and the real possibility of default, the establishment wing of the Republican party will come under increasing pressure by their big business and Wall St. allies. Default, shutdowns and infighting are not good for business. Will the establishment Republicans hang tight with the Tea Party all the way to default? Will they defy their more traditional business allies? Before we see the ‘first shot on Sumter’ we need to see if the ‘anti-federalists’ will be able, or want to hold together.

  48. Alba Etie says:

    Col Lang
    Should we do away with the electoral college -and have a winner take all popular vote for President ?
    Many conservative Tea Party members down here in Central Texas think we should have a winner take all Presidential national election based on majority rule. These Tea Party members seem to believe in the end their conservative ideals will win the argument with the “consolidators.”You and they may be right-as you said look at Gov Jindal in Louisiana.

  49. Medicine Man says:

    The left tends to be anti-authority and as a consequence very few people in the Occupy crowd were willing to take charge and fewer still willing to accept any top-down leadership. They generated some noise and heat but there is very good reasons why establishment Dems are not worried about them. Compare and contrast OWS to the Tea Party and think about how willing/able the TP types were to seize control of the levers of power in their districts.

  50. Richard Armstrong says:

    Aren’t the arguments “But they did it too!” and “But you didn’t stop me!” among the least if not the very least exculpatory?
    I remember being taught something about jumping off a cliff and how the number of participants changes it’s wrongness not at all.

  51. Richard Armstrong says:

    You are correct that Federal safety and regulation laws cannot be found in our Constitution it is interesting to note that the mechanisms by which they came to be are explicitly found in that document.

  52. turcopolier says:

    “… are explicitly found in that document.” I suppose you mean in the commerce clause. pl

  53. turcopolier says:

    “… Before we see the ‘first shot on Sumter’ we need to see if the ‘anti-federalists’ will be able, or want to hold together.” This time the struggle will be altogether political and in the courts. pl

  54. turcopolier says:

    “… will win the argument with the “consolidators.”” I don’t think the TP people have any chance at all. There are too many people in the country now who have been “bought” with other Americans money. De Toqueville predicted this and it has come to pass. I am not in favor of tinkering with the Constitution. A national popular election for president would certainly produce the best demagogue. pl

  55. Tecumseh says:

    This is a common but flawed argument: they did not attempt to anticipate any and all conditions which might occur, instead they crafted the means by which a proper remedy could be created to such a problem–legislation subject to review by the Judicial branch, which is what we have.

  56. Tecumseh says:

    The contemporary structural basis for the resurgence of the concurrent majority argument that Mr. Sale has pointed to (correctly) is the creation of hyper-partisan gerrymandered electoral districts. The technology to identify voters by issue and party to within a few yards geographically, and design district boundaries to create homogeneous voting blocs, did not exist until recently. State legislatures create these districts, and are notoriously corrupt and corruptible, due to the lack of transparency in election spending at the state level. Both parties participate, but the extremist Republicans play the game better, and with frightening ferocity. Ironically, it also makes the beneficiaries of “safe” voting districts vulnerable to challenge from the fringe, since the potential “middle” or moderate cohort has usually been gerrymandered out of the district. This is the intersection of shadow money and ideology that makes the current crisis both volatile, and intractable.

  57. turcopolier says:

    “Living constitution” people always make your argument, but the unwashed “original intent” people like me insist that there has to be some textual or legislative history from the convention and ratifying process for the courts to make valid judgments. On that basis I would say there is no basis in the constitution for federal workplace safety law. pl

  58. turcopolier says:

    “State legislatures create these districts, and are notoriously corrupt and corruptible.” And you think the federal legislature is not corrupt and corruptible? Cump, we have been discussing these issues here for many years but thanks anyway for the politics 101 lecture. pl

  59. Tecumseh says:

    We at least have campaign finance laws–poorly designed, but in place nonetheless–at the federal level, and transparency is the first defense against rent-seeking and corrupt actions.

  60. Tecumseh says:

    You’re welcome.

  61. turcopolier says:

    Ever heard of “Citizens United?” pl

  62. fred says:

    So the actual voting records really don’t matter if they’re one of my tribe? That’s why most of these people keep getting reelected.

  63. fred says:

    So Obama I not on the left? He’s certainly very autoritarian.

  64. Richard Armstrong says:

    No sir. I believe the commerce clause was the rationalization used to draft the legislation which was passed my Congress, signed into law be the President and subsequently upheld be a series of court decisions.
    It was this mechanism I just described that I referred to as being enumerated.
    Even the odious can be “Constitutional” until subsequently overturned by the judicial or repealed by the legislative. To infer, as many contemporary “originalists” by claiming to know how the minds and intents of men dead for centuries believe that this law or that law is “unconstitutional” is folly.

  65. Richard Armstrong says:

    I was speaking more to the George Wills and Justice Scalias than to anyone on this board.

  66. Thanks to the Poster and those commenting on trying to place the current contretemps in some sort of historical context.
    If memory serves there was never an up or down vote on “slavery” in the Congress but could be wrong. I would argue that certain language in the 14th Amendment precludes the US from repudiating its law debts. As to future debts that has yet to be decided.
    What is of most interest to me is that the duly elected majority in the House fears an up or down vote on budget and/or debt limit. Thus the contest is within the Republican Majority.

  67. turcopolier says:

    “…If memory serves there was never an up or down vote on “slavery” in the Congress.” the 13th Amendment. pl

  68. Omo Naija says:

    The immigrant story of greater conservatism as they become more prosperous was certainly not reflected in the last Presidential election. Indian Americans and other Asians voted overwhelmingly democratic. These groups have the highest rates of income, education and entrepreneurial ventures versus other immigrant groups they are a natural fit for the Republican party of old. Not anymore.
    Why is that? The current crop of Republicans are not welcoming of these groups. Unless that changes – an enduring democratic majority is a certainly.
    To be clear, I am not for that future because they will overreach. A viable Republican party is needed to serve as a counterweight.
    By the way I am a non-Latino immigrant. I am attracted to the ideas of Northeastern Republican party of old, but not the Tea Party types. Until that changes, I lean democratic.

  69. Herb says:

    Federal workplace safety laws are directly related to the interstate commerce clause. How could they not be? It would be absurd to allow Nebraska and Kansas to have such radically different requirements (or lack of) such that one state had an insurmountable advantage in commerce. Likewise with federal environmental laws. Likewise in food safety. The obvious impact on commerce is why international trade agreements include these provisions.
    For those states concerned about an intractable federal executive organization (in this case OSHA) administering the law, the law has a provision for states to create their own occupational safety and health administration, rule-making and enforcement. The only caveat is that those requirements can’t be more lax than the federal standards. The federal standards are a floor, the lowest agreed level of safety agreed to by representatives of all states.
    To my knowledge, Minnesota is the only state(?) that has created their own osha, but the option is there for states to do so.
    The federal government has no right to interfere in how representatives to the federal government are elected (i.e. voting rights)? How could that work?
    No question about it that the federal government over-reaches, for example, requiring states to adopt 0.08 blood alcohol level for DUI enforcement. I also don’t think it is the business of the federal government to get involved in marriage laws either pro or con. Where does that come from?
    Regarding Mr. Sale’s piece, the point of a constitutional democracy is to facilitate the government of our society by a representative majority while also protecting the rights of a vocal minority, rather than allow mob rule to subjugate them. Today it is the Tea Party, in the 60’s it was black people. However, those minority rights can’t be a suicide pact for the country as a whole. It hasn’t gotten there yet, but it is getting worryingly close.

  70. turcopolier says:

    “… It would be absurd to allow Nebraska and Kansas to have such radically different requirements (or lack of) such that one state had an insurmountable advantage in commerce.” There ar many areas of law in which the states have very different statutes, your logic would indicate that states that share sovereignty with the federal government are a bad idea. Should states be done away with and transformed into administrative provinces or departments as in France? Instead of a governor and legislature we could have a prefect. pl

  71. turcopolier says:

    You need to learn more US history. All the immigrants to this country over the last centuries have not had brown skin. Learn something about the immigrant Irish, Italians, etc. pl

  72. Richard says:

    The answer is no. This has no bearing on the current situation. The current situation is the result of years of decisions and policies.
    “To prevent certain rising minorities becoming part of the national majority is the aim of the Tea Party program.”
    By impugning a group with someones deep insight all discussion and debate about financial policy gets trash and it’s business as usual.
    Calhoun then cried in pain, “We are here but a handful in the midst of an overwhelming majority.”
    There is a note of extreme distress in this declaration.  It is a tone of despair, the wail of the outflanked and defeated. It is also very melodramatic”. The melodrama is comes from the way the situation is presented.
    The answer is no.

  73. Medicine Man says:

    I would say that he is not particularly leftist. I think Col. Lang has called him a Rockefeller Republican before, which seems apt in many ways.
    That said, this is missing the point a little bit. The Dem’s liberal base and the establishment are different creatures entirely. A similar dynamic can be observed on the right.

  74. Eliot says:

    I love my south. It is not without its flaws. We still carry the burden of racism, and our inability to solve the african-american question is a continuing problem. Crime and poverty remain the rule within the black community.
    That said, the South is a place where the individual is respected. It’s permissible to be different. It’s permissible to believe whatever you believe. We will not interfere, we will not presume to judge. That is something I hold dear.
    There are many things I love about New England but I will always loathe the presumption of moral superiority. To judge another is to presume too much.

  75. B. D. Warbucks says:

    “VMI had largely abandoned its heritage when I was there and now has abandoned its dead for the rewards of the victors’ favor.”
    That, sir, is one elegant and descriptive sentence.
    BDW ’82

  76. turcopolier says:

    Thank you sir. I grieve for the Institute. “Not by bread alone does man live.” pl

  77. Stephanie says:

    It’s highly misleading to call Lincoln an “abolitionist.” He was often at odds with them. They did share a common desire, e.g. the ending of chattel slavery in America, but most resemblances ended right there.
    Obviously Lincoln was not going to allow the southern part of the nation to toddle off without a fight. I am sure no one expected that he would do so, including the Virginians.

  78. LeaNder says:

    I really hate this argument:
    “Hitler, after all, was elected by a popular majority.”
    Only if you need to have him safely on the usual suspect’s side. That is, if you concentrate on the socialist element in the party’s name, which was a clever ruse, considering the fight between left and right in Weimar times. As we see even useful today. A good cover up of the nationalist element.
    You can only make this argument if you concentrate on the post Reichstags Fire events and the election in 1933, which cannot be considered free anymore.
    The relevant election which allowed Hitler to seize power with a little help from the conservative camp that thought the lesser evil could be easily controlled, maybe even considered them “rational”, was the election of November 1932, in which the Nazis in fact lost votes.,_November_1932

  79. LeaNder says:

    I responded a bit fast, but yes, I hate the argument.
    This is a great article, Sir. The address is meant to signal a standing ovation.
    I especially liked this:
    “I have always had the attitude of that mythical old New England woman in her nineties in who, when asked why she had never voted replied, ‘I never vote. It only encourages them.’”
    That’s it in a nutshell. I only started to vote, when a friend convinced me, I should. I was rather old and equally bored by political groups in university as on the real political scene, or with almost all the contenders for my vote. …
    But interesting, what you write about the Gulf War I and Clinton, I only paid attention to the verbal “war drums”, “babies thrown out of incubators” or Clinton’s “Horse Shoe” Kosovo story. But in hindsight it is easy to see that both events cannot be compared to either Afghanistan and Iraq or the larger WOT. Which at its core seems to be some type of self-fulfilling fantasy.

  80. Fred says:

    Yes, killing 10 percent of the population in a war to keep the union was a far superior policy.

  81. Stephanie says:

    Forgot to add that that two abolitionists, Gerrit Smith and Horace Greeley, signed the bail bond to get Jefferson Davis out of jail after the war (where the authorities had kept him for two years without charging him with anything):
    “Mr. Greeley’s characteristic humanity would have strongly sympathized with the prisoner, who had, for two long and weary years, been pleading in vain for his trial. Moreover. Mr. Greeley, like every just man, does not allow himself to feel sure that the accused is guilty until he is found to be guilty……”

  82. turcopolier says:

    The federal government finally decided that it could not bring JF Davis or anyone else to trial for treason because he made it clear that he would make his case in a public trial for the constitutional legality of secession by the states. On that basis he argued that he could not be guilty of treason because he had no longer been a citizen of the US after secession of his state. The crime of treason as described in the constitution of the US can only be committed by a citizen. Other crimes by foreign nationals are possible, espionage, etc., but not treason. The US Constitution before the CW did not state that the Union is indissoluble, nor does it now. Rather than face this issue in court the US Government decided not to proceed and released Davis. The US Government’s legal position would have been adversely affected by the undeniable fact that the US had treated the CS as a belligerent during the war, and had required the re-admission of the seceded states after. This clearly implied that they had been outside the union during the period of secession. pl

  83. Stephanie says:

    No president worth the title would have lost such a significant chunk of population, wealth, and real estate without a fight. The President Jefferson who actually bought a state would have understood that as well as Lincoln did. This observation is not in itself an endorsement of the war and everything that happened in it and as a consequence of it.

  84. turcopolier says:

    How did Jefferson “buy” a state? your opinion as to the morality of suppression of secession simply means that you are yet another of the killer nationalists. pl

  85. confusedponderer says:

    Ah, Operation Horse Shoe! I recall the German then secretary of defence Sharping spreading the Horse Shoe theme during a press conference, showing, with a solemn face, aerial images of houses destroyed by Serbs in Operation Horseshoe.
    He went into great detail, like that they were destroyed by the Serbs opening a gas cannisters in the basement and lighting a candle in first floor or some such – and *bang*.
    An astute reporter then pointed out to him, that, based on the numbers on the images shown, the images were several years old and couldn’t possibly document what he described them showing (and indeed, they were taken in the Bosnian war). Pwned!
    Soon after somebody else pointed out that his candle-gas cannister scheme doesn’t really work.
    Not that he stepped back for what must have been a deliberate lie.
    How come that apparently all those noble humanitarian interventions of the last two decades came with that peculiar honesty deficit?

  86. elkern says:

    Louisiana Purchase? It was way more than one state, actually, but without it the Missouri Compromise would not have happened (no Missouri, no compromise?)

  87. LeaNder says:

    confused, I could never manage to listen to more than a sentence by Sharping. The only thing that ever sticked on my mind is a comment by a good friend about him. He once innocently remarked that Sharping always walks as if he had just soiled his pants. After that I couldn’t even watch him walk anymore without getting exactly the same feeling.
    I don’t remember having ever seen or heard about your horse story. No big surprise, see above. This is what I had in mind.
    “an alleged … plan of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo Albanians to be carried out by Serbian Police and Yugoslav Army.”
    The only thing the whole war caused was an interest in the history of the Kosovo.
    This book is not bad at all, although not quite as short as the title suggests:
    Fact is, I never was a fan of KLA either.

  88. confusedponderer says:

    My fav memory of Scharping is a cartoon of him, when he was newly in love, hearts floating over his head, baptising a ship to the name ‘And I baptise you …. Battlecruiser Pilati’.
    His successor, Struck … whenever I see his face, my mind completes the piture with an imaginary Pickelhaube. Peculiar.
    Still, all of these folks pale in cpomparison with the wholly detestable von und zu Guttenberg. That man is so in love with himself that it turns my stomach on sight.

  89. Stephanie says:

    I wasn’t speaking to the morality of the suppression of secession. I just think that any strong chief executive in power at the time wouldn’t have permitted it without resorting to force. That doesn’t entail approval of everything done to force the South to submit.
    Jefferson believed in American expansion (an “empire of liberty”) and the Louisiana Purchase was part of that. I don’t think he would have approved of Southerners who wanted not only to preserve slavery but expand it and reopen the slave trade in an new empire built on the cornerstone of slavery. (Such people did exist and they were influential.) We do know that in 1784 Jefferson reversed himself regarding the extension of slavery into the northwest territory (which he had previously been against) because he believed that any restrictions on slavery would lead to a civil war. I don’t know what he would have done in Lincoln’s predicament almost a hundred years later but he would have understood Lincoln’s position.

  90. turcopolier says:

    This is standard Northern self justification for a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands. pl

  91. Fred says:

    Lincoln was no saint and neither were the rest of the politicians in his cabinet or any of the muckrakers in the press. Slavery as an institution wasn’t created by the South at Americas ‘founding’. I’m quite willing to read history to correct my misperceptions. I have no special moral superiority from having been born in Pennsylvania, neither does anyone else.

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