CJCS: Civil War was “Treason”

General Milley speaks an obvious truth. Will apologists listen?

” The White House Vice President Pence in Texas” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

In the context of addressing the problems of the symbolism of US military bases named for Confederate military leaders, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley said the following in testimony before Congress:

The Civil War was an “act of treason,” he said. The south’s military leaders betrayed their nation profoundly, and still, many military installations bear their names, according to Milley.

“It was an act of treason at the time against the union, against the stars and stripes, against the U.S. Constitution, and those officers turned their back on their oath.”

Video here (full testimony here):

This, of course, glaringly obvious, and in a reasonable world, it would garner the same attention of a climate scientist telling Congress that rain is wet. And yet, it is a stunningly blunt assessment that has not been so straightforwardly proclaimed by persons of Milley’s significance, or as part of Congressional testimony of this nature.

In is actually remarkable that the work of Lost Cause mythologists and their enablers put us in a position that it has take until 2020 for the following to be acknowledged:

“For those young soldiers that go on to a base of Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, whatever, named after a Confederate general, they can be reminded that that general fought for an institution of slavery,” Milley said.

“I had a staff sergeant when I was a young officer who actually told me that at Fort Bragg. He said he went to work every day on a base that represented a guy who enslaved his grandparents.”

We have been honoring men who openly rebelled against the US for in some cases over a century (here’s a list of 10 prominent examples). I am grateful that we are finally at the stage of seriously reconsidering that fact, but remain frustrated that we are still at the consideration stage.

Worse, we have a sitting president who has decided to take up the cause of protecting those names is in his political interests. That speaks poorly both of that president, but also of those who are open to this blatant attempt at race-baiting pandering.


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FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Your link to a list doesn’t work for me.
    As for Trump, I doubt if he could tell you the dates of the Civil War, let alone the names of the better-known generals on either side. And he probably doesn’t give a damn who won or lost. He’s doing this in an effort to keep the southern states in his column. He knows he’s in danger of losing Georgia and Florida, not to speak of North Carolina.

    8
  2. PJ says:
  3. @CSK: I fixed the link.

    He’s doing this in an effort to keep the southern states in his column. He knows he’s in danger of losing Georgia and Florida, not to speak of North Carolina.

    This is clear. The blatant cynicism of a politician from Queens arguing in favor of honoring the CSA is off the charts.

    9
  4. de stijl says:

    Treason in defense of slavery.

    One can chose to die on a lot of hills.

    The right to own another person and anger that states on the frontier were denied the “right” to own a human as chattel labor on their farms is a very poorly thought through reason to rebel.

    What really scared them was the thought that slaves would be freed.

    That this is so disgusts me.

    8
  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s trump. Does anyone really expect anything else?

    5
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I like to play worst case scenario, and in that game the 101st Airborne patch on the general’s shoulder is important. If any US military force was ever to carry out a coup it would be the 101st, the 82nd, or a Marine element. The fact that Milley is Airborne, that he also wears a Ranger patch, means he’s not a garrison soldier, a logistics officer or whatever, but an actual war-fighter, carries a ton of respect in addition to rank. That picture, along with Marine General Mattis’ opposition to Trump, says: nope, not happening. This is not going to be 1860.

    It also says, ‘Joe, if you have a problem cleaning the trash out of the White House, we’re here with big shovels.’

    Milley isn’t trimming or waffling. He’s making it very clear that he is a loyal American soldier in the best traditions of the US military. He knows who the traitors were, he knows who the patriots are. Go Army.

    18
  7. @OzarkHillbilly: I’ll be honest, I did not have “Trump goes all in on CSA” in my campaign election theme pool.

    13
  8. CSK says:

    @PJ: @Steven L. Taylor:
    Thanks.

    2
  9. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Here’s also what the Chairman and the rest of the Service Chiefs know–there are dozens of thousands of talented African-America, Latino, and Asians serving their Country in their Services. They can’t be replaced by “Bubba”.

    You can’t have the premier Military force in the world if you have to rely on Bubba. Many talented whites that used to serve in the military no longer consider it as a career option or even as a 1 term stent to “give back”. That gave many talented working class minorities an opportunity to get the investment in their ability they weren’t able to get in their local communities. I was, as a young Capt, in charge of a 150-person element. Not many 20-somethings in the private sector get that type of leadership and management.

    The Chairmen understands that if Black mothers and Fathers start opposing their children joining the military–DOD will have a talent vacuum.

    25
  10. MarkedMan says:

    There is an irony here. I believe when historians discuss the turning point in race relations in the US, there is a good chance Trump will have the same place in the analysis that Bull Connor did in the Civil Rights movement. A horrible person representing the worst of us so proudly and loudly that decent people actually recoiled and started to question their world. A catalyst starting a profound change while remaining completely unchanged himself.

    12
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Saturday fun: Can anyone spot the Secret Service agent in the audience? Anyone?

    3
  12. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Hate to rain on your parade, but Secret Service guys do not wear blue ties.

    That is a staffer.

    Narrator: It must have been Tuesday. He was wearing his cornflower blue tie.

    2
  13. Hal_10000 says:

    While I agree generally there is one subtlety to this point: at that time, many people felt more loyalty to their individual states than they did to the country. Shelby Foote liked to say the Civil War changed “The United States are …” to the “United States is …” Loyalty to Virginia was what Lee cited in choosing the South.

    1
  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: HA! Neither did I, but after 3 years I have learned that if there is a hole for him to go lower, he will slither thru it.

    4
  15. Scott F. says:

    @MarkedMan:

    A horrible person representing the worst of us so proudly and loudly that decent people actually recoiled and started to question their world.

    As much as I’d like this to be true, the evidence doesn’t bear it out. Trump is at 91% approval with self-identified Republicans. The decent folk of the GOP are embracing, not recoiling from, this horrible person. And they do so because he is proudly and loudly playing to the worst of us.

    4
  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: The decent folk of the GOP are embracing, not recoiling from, this horrible person.

    What makes you think there are still decent folk in the GOP? Because, your factually correct statement about them embracing him says they are anything but decent.

    7
  17. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @OzarkHillbilly:

    Dude did not just say in public that the Central Park 5 should be executed, but went out of his way to buy a full page ad advocating for their execution. Had a minion write it up.

    Has never acknowledged their innocence.

    Trump is not a race baiter, but a punisher of people that offend his concept of the proper racial order and hierarchy.

    Had he been alive back then he would have brought his family to the lynching with a picnic lunch and smiled for the photographer.

    Truly evil man.

    12
  18. Scott F. says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m told partisans in a binary system can disassociate themselves from the corruption of the leader of their party for purposes of tax cuts and judgeships, yet still maintain their decency. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but apparently holding your nose has some kind of mystical power.

    5
  19. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.: I said:

    A horrible person representing the worst of us so proudly and loudly

    Then you said:

    Trump is at 91% approval with self-identified Republicans

    Where is the conflict between those two statements?

    5
  20. sam says:

    I once asked my brother, a career Marine officer of 30 years service, what he and his fellow officers thought of Oliver North. He said they despised him for violating his oath. My brother was as right-leaning as I am left-leaning.

    8
  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott F.: I’m not exactly sure how it works, but apparently holding your nose has some kind of mystical power.

    I’m still chuckling. Thanx.

    3
  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    Yes, Milley was speaking beyond Congress to the troops and Tiny won’t notice.

    Is this a pivot point for America, maybe, but Tiny wasn’t the cause. When BLM came on the scene, most of white America said, this can’t be true. But their attention was piqued and the regular drip of cops murdering blacks seeped into their consciousness. Then along comes Chauvin, the snide, smirking, evil personification with all that is wrong with how this country treats blacks. Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd was so egregious that the silent majority finally spoke up and said BLM is right. Then along comes Tiny, so oblivious, so out of touch, living in his Fox/OANN bubble that he completely misreads the will of the people.

    Hopefully real change will happen.

    @Hal_10000:

    You’re right that those southern military officers chose loyalty to their state over loyalty to the country, but they had sworn an allegiance to the country and the Constitution, so in the eyes of the victors were traitors. They should have hanged.

    17
  23. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Saturday fun: Can anyone spot the Secret Service agent in the audience? Anyone?

    Immediately reminded me of this Monty Python sketch… How Not to be Seen

    2
  24. de stijl says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I cannot prove it but I believe quarantine amplified George Floyd. We have had dozens of instances just like this recently that did not take amongst all of us. Floyd did.

    At the same time Trump was bumble fucking C19 live on CNN every afternoon. Like obviously dropping the ball. It’s an uncontested lay-up – be sorrowful, be contrite, promise action. Instead he was an egregious dick and was stupendously ignorant per his normal course but people were at home, scared in need of a comforting word.

    Trump is incapable of comfort.

    The C19 quarantine put attentive eyeballs on Trump and they witnessed George Floyd’s murder. They saw the emperor had no clothes in real time without distraction.

    4
  25. @Hal_10000: While I think there is something to that, I also very much think the line “people used to be more loyal to their states” is a form of apologia to help get the South off the moral hook.

    17
  26. @de stijl: I agree that evidence of is racism is old and deep. His late-in-life embrace of CSA symbology, however, is pure opportunism.

    11
  27. @Scott F.:

    I’m told partisans in a binary system can disassociate themselves from the corruption of the leader of their party for purposes of tax cuts and judgeships, yet still maintain their decency. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but apparently holding your nose has some kind of mystical power.

    Just to make sure: I had never said that can dissociate themselves from the corruption of their leader, but that they can shure as high hell rationalize it like nobody’s business.

    10
  28. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Here’s an interesting side trip…

    I have no easy way to explain this other than this is a documentary / mocumentary of an alternative history. Once in which the civil war ended in stalemate.

    Title: C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

    Here is the full movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch.

    4
  29. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree that evidence of is racism is old and deep. His late-in-life embrace of CSA symbology, however, is pure opportunism.

    I agree with that. And taking up racist cause in the name of opportunity is still promoting/advancing racism, which ultimately is functionally racist no matter the intent.

    (I am not suggesting you disagree with this Steven. I am simply making sure that particular “t” gets crossed.)

    4
  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: I cannot prove it but I believe quarantine amplified George Floyd.

    I think it was the 9 minutes it took for Floyd to die and the absolute indifference Chauvin showed as Floyd was pleading for his life. Not to mention the pleas of the witnesses and his smirking at the camera, as tho to say, “You think you can hurt me? Fuck you, I’m a cop, I can do anything I damned well please.”

    The quarantine gave them the time to watch it tho, repeatedly, in absolute disbelief.

    15
  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s a funny thing, nothing pisses my off like a corrupt DEM. In the years before Stenger finally got hauled in by the Feds, it seemed like every time I looked at the Post Disgrace, there was some new fresh corrupt act and I’d start screaming at it.

    4
  32. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    While I think there is something to that, I also very much think the line “people used to be more loyal to their states” is a form of apologia to help get the South off the moral hook.

    Agreed. Its also akin to how the “well, chattle slavery was an accepted behavior in the US” argument glosses over the abolitionists and other contemporary writers who clearly and explicitly identified it as evil and immoral.

    It also dodges the fact that the cornerstone of the Confederacy, and the succession, was the defense of the practice of chattel slavery. It’s not unlike saying in WW2 “well many German soldiers, including Generals were just fighting for their country… so why are you trying to associate them with Holocaust? What is the obsession with collective guilt?”

    6
  33. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    Yes. If you read the Declaration of Secession for South Carolina, you’ll see that the state’s right they were interested in preserving was the right to keep slaves.

    9
  34. mattbernius says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    It also helps that BIPOC folks are being disproportionately impacted by C19 both in terms of infection/death and, ironically, both being frontline workers and suffering job loss.

    The number of high profile police killings of Black people meant that it was a matter of when, not if, one would finally take things past the tipping point.

    4
  35. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    My snark wasn’t fair to your more nuanced position, Steven. And I completely concede what you’ve written about the realities of voting in a two party system.

    But, frankly I’m still befuddled by the recent polling. Expressing disapproval of POTUS in a poll doesn’t carry the same dichotomous choice as a vote at the ballot box. Yet here we are in the midst of a calamitous handling of the pandemic, historic economic challenge, and heightened racial strife exacerbated by the rhetoric and actions of the sitting president and Trump has 91% approval in his party. Not 91% who say they would still vote for him given Biden as their only other choice, but 91% who approve of the way he is currently governing. That is titanic scale rationalization at work there that I don’t think could be pulled off by a “decent” person.

    10
  36. Joe says:

    I read the list of forts and was taken by how recently most were established, seemed like WWII probably prompted several. I would have expected them to have been established post reconstruction, like the monuments. The need to appease Southerners and salve their hurt feelings just went on and on.

    4
  37. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius: I hope we have in fact finally reached a tipping point, I truly do. I have friends who’ve been waiting their entire lives. But my inner cynic is saying, “Too soon to be counting chickens.”

    4
  38. de stijl says:

    One of my favorite movies is Starship Troopers by Verhoeven.

    Despite and ignoring that he had done Robocop reviewers did not get this as broad satire.

    Which is good on Verhoeven. He constructed that movie well.

    The pretty young kids in Michael Ironside’s class learning about the nature of violence in politics and the requirements of full citizenship. (“Service Guarantees Citizenship!”)

    Explicit Riefenstahl call outs in framing and dialog “I’ll do my part!” from the guy who did Robocop. I do not get how people did not get it.

    Look at Doogie’s uniform ffs! It was so blatant.

    Young people getting propagandized and sucked into a war machine their state created in a war they started.

    It was post Rambo so maybe they got confused about iconography. War mongering is patriotic and America is good… I cannot understand how badly this got reviewed on release. It is blatant satire.

    What if Leni Riefenstahl made an action movie with propaganda ads intercut?

    I loved the fake movie in Inglorious Basterds.

    5
  39. CSK says:

    @Joe:
    The building of the forts coincided, as you say, with the onset of the two world wars. I think it was to encourage whole-hearted participation in the war effort on the part of the south: put the forts in the region and name them after “local heroes,” even if those “heroes” were traitors by any reasonable standard.

    6
  40. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    I think you’ll find it probably had a great deal more to do with the relative power of the Southern congressional delegation. I.e. if we’re going to establish new military facilities, we want them in our region of the country. I’d imagine the naming was an afterthought brought about by local interests voicing an opinion to members of Congress.

    6
  41. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: We’ve never had a Chief if Staff, much less a Chairman, who was other then a combat arms guy. I’m not sure we’ve had a soldier in one of those positions who hadn’t had a Ranger tab in my memory.

    4
  42. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000: In discussing Lees loyalty and the inevitability of his staying with Virginia, one should note that most of the Lees and Custises stayed loyal to the United States.

    IIRC, Lee was commander of the Army in Texas when Texas seceded. Lee had been called to Washington on routine business when Texas demanded the surrender of the forts and arsenals. Lee’s deputy complied. One wonders if Lee’s sense of duty and chivalry wouldn’t have demanded he make some token resistance. Which would have made him the first U. S. commander fired on by the rebels, thereby altering the calculus of personal loyalty.

    3
  43. de stijl says:

    @Joe:

    Butthurt grievance and politicking!

    In the list of military installations most (all?) were named before integration of the military. Unlike many Jim Crow era statues it was not an explicit thumb in your eye to Black neighbors.

    3
  44. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl:

    Treason in defense of slavery.

    Indeed.
    The Southern leaders thought Lincoln wouldn’t go to war over secession, despite Lincoln having just won the presidency on a promise of preserving the Union. The North had multiples of the South’s manpower, manufacturing capacity, and GDP, although such things weren’t measured and published. The South thought their Samurai tradition martial spirit would overcome material deficiencies. The South decided that U. S. occupation of Fort Sumter, although of no real import, was a slight they could not bear, so they fired on the fort, uniting the North against them.*

    Secession and starting the war was not only hideously immoral, it was incredibly stupid.
    _____
    * OK, Lincoln kind of maneuvered them into Sumter, but they sure made it easy. And in the end they didn’t have to fire.

    6
  45. gVOR08 says:

    @HarvardLaw92: The story I’ve seen is that the Army needed a lot of land quickly, without a lot of hassle, so they allowed the locals naming rights as community outreach. In 1917, and again in 1941, who was going to object? At least who that anyone cared about.

    3
  46. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “While I agree generally there is one subtlety to this point: at that time, many people felt more loyalty to their individual states than they did to the country. ”

    Hey, I feel a lot more loyalty to California than I do the USA, but if I decide that to protect and defend my state I’m going to start killing United States armed soldiers, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have statue in DC in a hundred years.

    8
  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Indeed. As an example, from the best information I could find, Fort Bragg (originally Camp Bragg) was actually named by the local chamber of commerce based on Bragg being the only NC native who was a General during the Civil War. The Army was neck deep in a world war and focused on building facilities / mobilizing troops at the time, and arguably expected that the facility would be grossly downsized or abandoned entirely after the war, so the subject of naming the place I’d imagine wouldn’t have been at the top of its priority list.

    1
  48. An Interested Party says:

    @gVOR08: Obviously Southern leaders weren’t the first, nor the last (foreign or domestic), to underestimate the federal government…

    Hey, I feel a lot more loyalty to California than I do the USA, but if I decide that to protect and defend my state I’m going to start killing United States armed soldiers, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have statue in DC in a hundred years.

    Time for white Southerners to let go of that misplaced pride…

    1
  49. de stijl says:

    Imagine if someone put up a statue of Nat Turner in Boise just to fuck with white folks.

    2
  50. Joe says:

    @wr: unless you won.

    2
  51. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Not for nothing, but outsiders telling the South what they need to do or should do just makes them dig in their heels that much harder.

    6
  52. An Interested Party says:

    Not for nothing, but outsiders telling the South what they need to do or should do just makes them dig in their heels that much harder.

    Indeed, much like how they dug in their heels and caused the Civil War, or much like how they dug in their heels during the Civil Rights era when “outside agitators” dared to tell Southerners what to do and some of those noble “outsiders” were murdered while others were beaten and bruised for their audacity…still, those “outside agitators” were right then just as it is right now to remove statues of Confederate traitors from their lofty pedestals and rename military installations removing the honor bestowed on Confederate traitors…

    7
  53. de stijl says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Boo friggin hoo.

    3
  54. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @de stijl:

    Always an effective strategy …

    2
  55. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree that evidence of is racism is old and deep. His late-in-life embrace of CSA symbology, however, is pure opportunism.

    A couple of months ago a Michigan lawmaker wore a Confederate Flag mask. That suggests to me that support for the CSA is less about region these days than it is about politics. It’s become part of right-wing culture across the country.

    6
  56. Jc says:

    It is bizarre to see forts stock full of men and women who volunteer to defend the U.S. – named for traitors who fought to destroy it. Only in America… wasn’t Lee against monuments as well? Sitting in VA I hear people lose their minds over these renaming of schools etc…, it’s like “don’t you get it?” And most don’t. I give up even trying to explain what should be obvious, but you cannot explain to anger. It is a waste of breath.

    3
  57. de stijl says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    My willingness to accommodate Lost Cause folks’ feelings is extraordinarily low.

    6
  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @de stijl:

    The fact that you’re myopic enough to think those are the only folks being offended is why it’s problematic. Sure, they’re traitors. I made the argument here that these installations should be renamed years ago, as far back as 2015, long before it became the cause du jour of virtue signalling. It’s the obviously right thing to do.

    But you have to be willing to accept the blowback attached to doing it and smugly lecturing the people who don’t agree with it in an election year. That’s the price you’ll pay for thinking emotionally instead of strategically.

    4
  59. Davebo says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Been gone for a while here but it’s great to see you still are willing to spout off on things that you really shouldn’t.

    I’ve got more time on a head than you have in the South. Trust me, being cuddly hasn’t worked for 60 years and it won’t work now.

    10
  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: We got it. It’s part of why the sequels don’t have anywhere near the popularity and are not seen as working as well.

    1
  61. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Davebo:

    Nobody ever contended that it was ever going to be accomplished by being cuddly. The timing is the issue. Do you want to piss off and motivate enough voters on the other side to cost the Senate remaining under McConnell? This might be one of the better ways to accomplish it.

    1
  62. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @Hal_10000: Probably true, but I have certain problems seeing why people bring this up. Being more loyal to something else than your country is pretty much a prerequisite for treason, not an excuse for it.

    I mean, a lot of the American Taliban were likely more loyal to their “heritage” or religion than the US. If there were a lot of people saying “well that’s ok then” I must have missed it.

    1
  63. @Kylopod:

    It’s become part of right-wing culture across the country.

    Clearly this is the case. And Trump is helping to make it such.

    But, of course, his national embrace is both new for him (like in the last couple of months new) and it is also new for a national politician (in the past even GOP types would demure to state-level decisions about flying the battle flag on state capitol grounds, for example).

  64. @HarvardLaw92:

    long before it became the cause du jour of virtue signalling. It’s the obviously right thing to do.

    I think calling this a “cause du jour of virtue signalling is incorrect. I think the moment has finally arrived to make these changes exactly because it is “the obviously right thing to do.” Many have known this for decades and the moment to act may finally be nigh.

    Why do you think you reached a sincere conclusion in 2015 while folks now are just virtue signalling?

    5
  65. @Joe:

    The need to appease Southerners and salve their hurt feelings just went on and on.

    Yep.

    And it just further evidence of how this valorization of the CSA was not just the result of actions directly after the Civil War, or even simply about honoring the war dead.

    2
  66. @HarvardLaw92:

    Do you want to piss off and motivate enough voters on the other side to cost the Senate remaining under McConnell? This might be one of the better ways to accomplish it.

    Sincere question: which Senate races do you think might hinge on this question?

    1
  67. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My model is already at 49R/46D, with MT, CO, AZ, NC, and ME in play. There is a good chance it costs you NC, but you’re somewhat missing the point. It isn’t just this issue. It’s the confluence of all the various things happening in this cycle which a good sized chunk of the electorate are not happy about, blame on Dems, and are motivated to do something about in November.

    At basis, I think you’re going to see Republican surge that will cost you senate seats in NC and MT. Jones seat in AL is already a goner. That puts them at 51 and that’s the ballgame.

  68. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If they’ve known for decades, they’ve been strangely silent. I call it virtue signaling because that’s what i believe that it is – progressives falling over themselves to get behind whatever the latest fad issue is, despite never having thought about or cared about that issue in their lives – in order to demonstrate how woke they are. It’s the cool thing to be at the moment.

    $20 says it dies out just as quickly as it came. It has certainly already disappeared from my Facebook even among progressives. The only people still talking about it are folks on the right who are pissed off about it.

  69. @HarvardLaw92:

    It’s the confluence of all the various things happening in this cycle which a good sized chunk of the electorate are not happy about, blame on Dems, and are motivated to do something about in November.

    But, of course, there is a good chunk of the electorate not happy about a lot of things which they blame on Reps and they are motivated to do something about it in November.

    Sort of by definition Trump is going to win a large chunk of the electorate.

    But all the empirics at the moment are not in Trump’s favor. The fact that some people you know have strong opinions doesn’t tell us much.

    1
  70. @HarvardLaw92:

    the latest fad issue is

    The issue of these names is not new. The momentum to change is (e.g., NASCAR and the battle flag).

    It has certainly already disappeared from my Facebook even among progressives

    And yet the CJCS is talking about changing names in front of Congress. I find that more compelling than what may, or may not, be on FB.

    2
  71. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: While the base names in particular have only rather recently come on my radar screen, I agree that the momentum to change them has come and that they will be changed sooner rather than later. The Marine Commandant has already ordered any display of the Confederate battle flag—and that includes bumper stickers, t-shirts, hats, etc.— in anything other than a minor, historical sense (i.e., a painting of a battle) gone from all Marine Corps bases worldwide. The Army is only taking so long because, since it was much more involved in the war and has a bigger presence in the South, it has a more sweeping problem to fix.

    Where I do agree with @HarvardLaw92 and disagree with some of the tenor of some on this thread is that I think rubbing the South’s nose in all this will only foster resentment. I continue to believe that the “a third of your fellow Southerners feel unwelcome when they see these names/images” approach is more useful than “your ancestors were treasonous scum.”

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  72. @James Joyner:

    I think rubbing the South’s nose in all this will only foster resentment.

    I certainly agree that this is going to create some level of resentment. I just doubt that it will create an electoral backlash. Those inclined to be pro-CSA monument and flag are already not voting D.

    I continue to believe that the “a third of your fellow Southerners feel unwelcome when they see these names/images” approach is more useful than “your ancestors were treasonous scum.”

    On the one hand, I take that point. On the other, the appeal to politeness has not been too efficacious and at some point we do have to acknowledge that yes, the CSA was based on treason in the defense of slavery. Again the fact that it is newsworthy for Milley to say an obvious truth in Congress underscores how we have not come to terms with said obvious truth.

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  73. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, that’s all fair. The Confederacy was textbook treason. Of course, so was the Declaration of Independence. One won their war and the other lost. And one cause was arguably just while the other wasn’t.

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  74. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s difficult to say that when at least a significant portion of the motivational factors which led to the revolutionary war included the preservation of slavery. Recall that Somerset v. Stewart was handed down in mid 1772, and without that ruling, it is somewhat doubtful that the southern colonies, which were historically much more aligned with England both economically and culturally, would have gotten on board with independence at all. After all, taxation took a portion of their wealth to which they’d grow accustomed and adjusted; Somerset would have taken all of it had it been implemented in the colonies. The issues we like to associate with being the impetus for the war – taxation without representation, etc. – were much more Northern issues than Southern. Indeed, no less than John Adams himself, at the First Continental Congress in 1774, promised southern colonies that their right to maintain slavery would be supported, and all of the documents – from the declaration all the way through to the constitution, were carefully worded (and edited in committee) to avoid giving the impression that slavery wouldn’t be a part of the new nation.

    So, in a sense, they were partially wars about the same issue, an issue without which the new nation likely wouldn’t have existed at all. We differentiate honor more on the basis of having won than we do on the issues themselves.

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  75. James Joyner says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Yes, disentangling an of early American history from slavery is challenging. And even most of the ‘taxation without representation’ business we peddle in school is laden with class interests. Still, Thomas Jefferson did a better job of marketing than did Jefferson Davis.

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  76. @James Joyner:

    so was the Declaration of Independence.

    Sure. But would any American not admit that it was treason against the British crown? Many would gleefully acknowledge that fact.

    And it matters that the treason for the CAS was explicitedly in the cause of maintaining slavery.

    (And I know you know all of that–I am just emphasizing).

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  77. An Interested Party says:

    Still, Thomas Jefferson did a better job of marketing than did Jefferson Davis.

    I would think that there was a far larger audience that found what Jefferson was selling as very appealing as opposed to what Davis was selling…

  78. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @James Joyner:

    Davis is a textbook case of the the perils of elevating resume over past performance. Still, history tells us that he was a fervent opponent of secession, speaking out against it and urging caution / compromise as late as two months before he was elected to the presidency of the Confederacy. It wasn’t until his own state of Mississippi seceded that he declared his allegiance to it and resigned from the Senate. It’s difficult, I think, for us viewing history through the unavoidable context of our current norms to understand how much more loyal people were to their individual states than they were to the nation prior to the Civil War. When that is coupled with the peculiar (to us) but very rigid codes of honor which governed upper class southern life at the time, we can see Davis (and I’d argue Lee, et al) as people more or less trapped by events and their personal devotion to concepts of honor which would probably seem alien to our modern society. We cant excise either the very real economic tensions which had been building between North and South for decades prior to the war’s outset. Northern economic interests did not like what they saw as the economic advantage the South enjoyed as a consequence of basically free labor, even while they imposed wage standards that often equated to slavery in all but name themselves.

    Ive seen credible evidence that both Jefferson and Davis knew and recognized that slavery couldn’t survive long term, both for societal reasons and for economic reasons. Neither knew how to deal with the problem in a constructive way.

    Something I found very interesting is the degree to which Davis pushed conditional emancipation beginning in 1864 through 1865 – basically the same deal afforded to slaves during the revolutionary war – fight for the confederacy and gain emancipation. While widely criticized in the South, it also demonstrates that Davis was willing to jettison slavery to preserve southern independence. So we’re left with “the founders knew they were committing treason, while we can make a credible case that the confederates believed that their loyalty to their states override any loyalty they owed to the nation, and they’d have been treasonous had they abandoned their states regardless of what those states were doing.” I think that things are rarely as simple or as ideologically neat as we’d like for them to be. History, however, is written by (and we end up viewing it through the lens of) the victors.

  79. @HarvardLaw92:

    Something I found very interesting is the degree to which Davis pushed conditional emancipation beginning in 1864 through 1865 – basically the same deal afforded to slaves during the revolutionary war – fight for the confederacy and gain emancipation.

    I think that is called “desperation.”

    Regardless, let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that Davis had complicated views on these issues. All well and good, but that doesn’t provide a justification for naming schools after him or erecting statues in his honor.

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  80. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think that is called “desperation.”

    It’s also not “jettison[ing] slavery to preserve southern independence.” Slavery was still going to persist if the South won the war. Additionally, the plan, as I understood it was that the Southern Army would essentially “buy” those soldiers from the existing slave owners (i.e. treating them as property).

    At best, it was “Davis was willing to allow a select number of slaves–estimated to be a few thousand–to go free (if they survived the fighting) in order to preserve Southern Independence and the right to maintain SLAVES!”

    Also, these discussions tend to also lead into the mythmaking about Black Confederates which is part of the attempt to rehabilitate the lost cause into being not primarily about slavery – https://www.theroot.com/yes-there-were-black-confederates-here-s-why-1790858546

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  81. @mattbernius: These are excellent points that I am glad you raised. Indeed, you are correct to note that the goal remained the maintenance of slavery.

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  82. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    All well and good, but that doesn’t provide a justification for naming schools after him or erecting statues in his honor.

    It doesn’t justify it to you (or, to be frank me either), but neither of us live in Richmond. Why do we (or should we) get any input at all?

    Broader point is that the people of Richmond, et al, should be making this decision for themselves, via a direct vote. If they want to get rid of it, more power to them, and thank you. On the other hand, if they want to keep it, it’s their city, not ours.

  83. @HarvardLaw92: Am I allowed to have an opinion about Jefferson Davis High School, Robert E. Lee High School, and Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, AL?

    Beyond that, since when do normative judgements stop at the city limits?

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  84. @HarvardLaw92: @Steven L. Taylor: Put another way: it is moral to valorize Davis or it isn’t. It is wholly an issue of values.

    The politics and process of removal (and who has a direct say those matters) is another.

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  85. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Morality is unavoidably subjective. We don’t (or shouldn’t) attempt to legislate it. In this case, it’s a simple issue of community owned property – does the community want to remove it or not?

  86. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If you live in Montgomery, AL, sure, otherwise no.

  87. @HarvardLaw92:

    Morality is unavoidably subjective. We don’t (or shouldn’t) attempt to legislate it

    I would argue that, in fact, laws are codified morality.

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  88. @HarvardLaw92:

    If you live in Montgomery, AL, sure, otherwise no.

    Then why are you expressing any opinions about any of this? By your own logic, it isn’t your concern.

    You are taking a rather odd position on opinions when it comes to a comment section of a political blog.

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  89. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’m expressing opinions about the impropriety of these choices being made by people who aren’t in a position to make them, which is a directly political consideration.

    No need for snark just because you don’t like being disagreed with.

  90. @HarvardLaw92: It is an observation that I find it an odd position to revert to “it is a local matter” in the context of this type of forum.

    Snarky? Perhaps. Because I don’t like being disagreed with? No. (Indeed, the observation has nothing to do with the substance of the discussion, since the imposition of the location-based standard really has nothing to do with whether we agree in principle or not–indeed, somewhere upthread we agreed at least in part).

    In truth, I find it a dodge, because rather clearly neither of us is going to directly influence specific name changes or statue removals.

    If, indeed your position is, as stated, that one should only have an opinion about these matters when one is a resident of said locale, then why did you even comment on this post in the first place? (An honest question).

  91. de stijl says:

    If anyone thinks this a cause du jour they have been paying attention for decades. This has been a sore point and a call to action for a very long time.

    Just recently it became more salient and crossed a threshold that more than want statues removed because surpassed those that want them to remain.

    CSA monuments, highway names, school names are tremendously offensive to many of us. Intentionally offensive. A blot on communities. Have been for decades. This is not a new thing.

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  92. mattbernius says:

    @de stijl:

    Just recently it became more salient and crossed a threshold that more than want statues removed because surpassed those that want them to remain.

    Additionally, it’s worth noting that it’s also become more salient because the people whose voices have been ignored or otherwise dismissed by those in power have improved their organization and have come to wield increasing political and social power.

    The Overton Window on these topics has definitely shifted. And that also represents an important power shift towards BIPOC communities the likes of which we have not seen in the last few decades (at a minimum).

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  93. de stijl says:

    @mattbernius:

    I missed a “not” in there. Thank you for reading the context.

    It is incredibly disingenuous to claim this movement to have offensive statues removed is new or is PC run amok. This has been a thing that aggravated and activated folks for decades.

    We just now reached the tipping point where that is not an opinion local leaders can dismiss and ignore.

    Removing CSA monuments is now doable. It is our deep shame that those voices were actively marginalized and ignored this long. They are an intended egregious affront.

    Now highways, street names, school names.

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  94. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If, indeed your position is, as stated, that one should only have an opinion about these matters when one is a resident of said locale, then why did you even comment on this post in the first place? (An honest question).

    Opinion in that context = input regarding their removal, which I suspect you already knew. As far as I’m concerned, you’re free to think whatever you like, obviously, but unless you live in a community, as an outsider you have no right to any input regarding what happens in that community.