The Democrat-Gazette still fond of white supremacists, in spite of themselves | Arkansas Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Democrat-Gazette still fond of white supremacists, in spite of themselves

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 9:28 AM

click to enlarge "THAT OLD WRAITH": D-G's editors just can't help admiring Calhoun, who wrote that "nothing an be more unfounded and false" than the idea that "all men are born free and equal."
  • "THAT OLD WRAITH": D-G's editors just can't help admiring Calhoun, who wrote that "nothing an be more unfounded and false" than the idea that "all men are born free and equal."
The descent into self-parody in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s endorsement last weekend of Tom Cotton was as inevitable as the endorsement itself. Flowery hero-worship? Check. Mattie Ross? Check. Purple prose love letters to bygone American greatness? But of course. I'd write a satire, but it would be no different than the original.

But it wouldn’t be a true D-G editorial classic without a few fond words for John C. Calhoun, the white supremacist firebrand who argued that slavery was a “positive good” and stands as one of the great villains of nineteenth-century America.

The D-G’s premise is that Cotton’s supposed unbending principles remind the paper of Calhoun, and this is supposed to be...a good thing.

Here’s our statewide daily newspaper, waxing nostalgic for the good old bad old days when “giants roamed the earth”:

...John C. Calhoun. That old wraith may have represented a clear and present danger to the Union and the very idea on which this Republic was founded—that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Yet he defended his principles, however dubious, with a coherence and courage that even now inspire admiration despite ourselves. 

One wonders, considering the “principles” in question, who might be included in “ourselves” and who might not. Those who admire Calhoun in spite of themselves ought to have the guts to offer up a few examples.

Here are some samples from Calhoun, the long-time South Carolina congressman who also served as vice-president and cabinet member and died a decade before the secessionists he inspired brought the nation to a Civil War:

[T]o destroy [slavery] would be to destroy us as a people 

Or:

[I]t is a great and dangerous error to suppose that all people are equally entitled to liberty.
Or: 
I hold [slavery] to be a good…the black race of Central Africa…came among us in a low, degraded, and savage condition, and in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, reviled as they have been, to its present comparatively civilized condition. This, with the rapid increase of numbers, is conclusive proof of the general happiness of the race, in spite of all the exaggerated tales to the contrary. 

Or:

Slavery is indispensable to a republican government. 

I mean, the coherence! The courage!

The D-G here is playing up one of the themes from the Cotton campaign itself – one they come back to again and again and again and again and again. You might not always agree with Cotton, the argument goes, but at least he’s principled. (In fact, while Cotton certainly likes to brag that he chooses the “hard right over the easy wrong,” during this election, those unbending principles have done a fair amount of bending – but we’ll leave that for another day.) The trouble with this argument: what if those principles are in defense of bad stuff? The comparison with Calhoun, which D-G thinks is a compliment, in fact shows precisely the weakness of the “principled” defense. An ideologue’s rigidity is only as impressive as the ideology. 

Whatever one thinks of Calhoun’s notions of republicanism, they are inseparable from his defense of slavery, the project to which he devoted his intellectual fervor. Whatever one thinks of his critiques of majority rule, they are inseparable from the notion that the apartheid South was itself an oppressed minority. Calhoun’s logic is only “coherent” insofar as one accepts the notion that black people in the South were not human beings deserving of rights in the United States of America. (A different version of that same lunacy masquerading as logic pops up more than a century later from another D-G fave, in William F. Buckley’s 1957 National Review editorial, "Why the South Must Prevail" — which argued that because of the “cultural superiority” of whites over blacks, “the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”) 

The D-G's habit of giving a token mention to the evil of Calhoun's ideas so that they can get on to the business of romanticizing his "greatness," gets things exactly backwards. Extremism in defense of slavery is no virtue. 

The endorsement's title is one more tell that we're reading yet another wistful paean to those lost days of American greatness from the D-G: "Tom Cotton: A Profile in Courage." If Tom Cotton really wants to show some political courage, he could tell the D-G thanks but no thanks to an endorsement grounded in such a rotten conceit. Or at least ask them to not to compare him with John C. Calhoun. (Cotton sees it differently.)  

Arkansans should vote for Cotton or vote for Sen. Mark Pryor as they see fit. But all of us should be embarrassed of our daily paper’s Confederate nostalgia gussied up as True Grit. 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

    A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility.
    • May 26, 2017
  • Health care policy FAQ

    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.
    • May 25, 2017
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016
  • 'Million-Dollar Thursday': A visit to Sherwood's hot check court

    We take a visit to the weekly hot check court in Sherwood District Court, the subject of a recent civil rights lawsuit filed by ACLU Arkansas and others, who say the system there results in a modern-day debtor's prison
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Another Republican miracle-working governor

    Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

  • Lynchings hidden in the history of the Hot Springs Confederate monument

    Hot Springs twice erupted into the kind of violence that has its roots in the issues left unresolved by the Civil War, and both times, it happened right where that monument to Confederate soldiers stands today.
  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation