What Trump’s Civil War Comments Reveal About Him

President Trump's comments about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War reveal something about how he thinks, and it's not good.

free-slave1

The latest comments from President Trump that are leaving much of Washington, and indeed the entire country, confused about what exactly the President is thinking involving events that happened more than 150 years ago:

President Trump mused in an interview that the Civil War could have been avoided if only Andrew Jackson had been around to stop it. Jackson had been dead 16 years and long out of office when the war started in 1861.

Mr. Trump’s comments, among several he made about Jackson in an interview broadcast Monday on satellite radio, quickly drew condemnation from his critics and from historians who said they appeared to show the president profoundly misunderstanding American history.

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” he told his interviewer, Salena Zito, a host on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. channel, who spoke to Mr. Trump for an article that was published on Sunday in The Washington Examiner.

Mr. Trump followed up on the comment in a tweet on Monday night, arguing that Jackson saw the Civil War coming and would have prevented it had he not died 16 years earlier.

Mr. Trump has often professed admiration for the seventh president’s populism and visited his tomb in March.

Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, called Mr. Trump’s comments on Jackson and the Civil War the “height of inaccurate historical revisionism.”

In another part of the interview, Trump put it in the form of a question, asking “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

As Jon Meacham, who has written what is perhaps the most definitive biography of Andrew Jackson to date, notes, Trump’s comments both about Jackson and the Civil War defy logic and the evidence:

Mr. Trump has questioned the necessity of the Civil War before, in an interview with Mr. Meacham before the election. At the time, President Trump said that he had “always felt that the South overplayed their hand,” he told Mr. Meacham.

Had Jackson been alive at the start of the Civil War, Mr. Meacham said, it would be difficult to predict his reaction. It would have brought his commitment to the Union into conflict with his identity as an unapologetic slave owner. Mr. Jackson was from Tennessee, which fought for the Confederacy.

But any president would have had to contend with the South’s attempt to expand the institution of slavery into territory newly acquired by the United States. It’s what Mr. Meacham called the unavoidable historical question.

“The expansion of slavery caused the Civil War,” he said. “And you can’t get around that. So what does Trump mean? Would he have let slavery exist but not expand? That’s the counterfactual question you have to ask.”

As many pundits and historians have noted, Trump’s comments here about Jackson and the Civil War are, to say the least, quite odd even for him. The idea that people don’t ask why the Civil War happened, or what it was that led the United States down the path that made secession and war inevitable is somehow a question that people don’t ask as Trump suggests is utterly absurd. That very question is something that historians, students of history, and regular Americans for whom the antebellum era is a particular area of fascination, have been asking for more than a century now, and it’s likely to continue to be debated for as long as the United States exists. The common contention, of course, is that slavery and its expansion in and of itself was the reason for both events, and there is most certainly plenty of evidence to support this argument both by an examination of the events that occurred in the decades prior to the day that Confederate forces fired the first shots of the war at Fort Sumter. This evidence includes the secession resolutions of the various states and the statements of Confederate officials such as C.S.A. Vice-President Alexander Stephens, who made the infamous “Cornerstone Speech” proclaiming that the CSA was built on the idea that black people were inherently unequal to whites and that slavery was, therefore, their natural condition, contemporaneous with the founding of the Confederacy. Other more nuanced theories argue that, in addition to slavery and its expansion, other forces played a role in pulling the North and South apart and toward war. These factors included the differing economic forces that were driving the country. Whereas the North was expanding rapidly thanks to industrialization, the South remained very much the largely agrarian society it had been since the Colonial Era. In no small part, this was because the economic and political class of plantation owners and farmers that relied on slave labor held tight control over the politics on most of the states that ultimately ended up seceding and going to war against the North. Political factors, such as the fact that Southerner were able to dominate control of the U.S. Senate, are also cited in that this control, combined with the rise of abolitionism in the North starting in the 1840s, made it difficult for Congress to deal with vital national issues. As the power of the north grew with its population, the conflict between these two forces on the national political stage only intensified. As I said, these are all matters that have been debated by historians and others for a very long time, making Trump’s claim that “[p]eople don’t ask that question” is not only untrue but it reveals a person who doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

This isn’t the first time that Trump has seemed to make rather bizarre claims about events in the past, of course. At one point in the early days of his Presidency, Trump made comments that suggested he believed that the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass was still alive. Mr. Douglass, of course, has been quite dead for quite some time. On other occasions, Trump has made odd claims about more recent historical events, such as the September 11th attacks, that lead one to wonder exactly where he gets his information. This morning, for example, Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough compared Trump’s Civil War comments, along with other comments he made in interviews marking his first 100 days in office, compared what we’re hearing from Trump in public to his mother, who has been suffering from for the better part of the past decade. Rather than taking things down this uncomfortable path, I’d suggest that what we’re actually seeing here is something we’ve seen before from Trump, namely evidence of a man who is profoundly ignorant of many thing and who has very little intellectual curiosity.

There have been many people who have commented about the way President Trump talks, both in public speeches and in interviews, and everyone seems to have their own theory about what’s going on in his head. One that has always stuck with me is a pundit whose name I’ve forgotten at this point who compared Trump to a middle school student who has to write or deliver a book report about a book that they didn’t read. He uses a lot of big words and asks questions that may seem profound to him but which ultimately reveal that he’s just making things up in the hope that he’ll say something that will make him sound profound when in reality all it reveals is the extent to which he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. These comments about the Civil War, for example, make me think he probably hasn’t studied the war or its causes since he took history classes in school some sixty years ago, and they’re consistent with other occasions on which he has tried to sound profound on a subject matter that he clearly doesn’t know much about. It’s unsurprising behavior from someone who has admitted publicly that he doesn’t really read many books, and one imagines that this has been consistent throughout much of his life. This contrasts greatly with most recent Presidents, including Presidents Obama, Clinton, Reagan, and both George H.W. and George W. Bush, most of whom have been known to be voracious readers even while they were in office. Instead of reading in his down time, Trump appears to spend most of his time watching cable news channels and regurgitating what he hears and sees. It’s as if we’ve elected Homer Simpson President.

There is good reason to be concerned about this given the fact that Trump is President, of course. The fact that Trump apparently lacks intellectual curiosity and hasn’t been exposed to ideas outside of his own pre-conceived notions and what his advisers tell him means that he’s unlikely to question advice that he’s given even when he ought to be doing that. It also calls into question his own judgment and ability to deal with unforeseen events that are likely to happen over the course of the next four to eight years. Of course, these are all things about his character that anyone who paid attention to him could have recognized easily, and yet he was still elected President. Now, we’re all forced to deal with the fact that a person like this is President of the United States.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    Alternate headline: don’t get your history lessons from Steve Bannon.

  2. wr says:

    Donald Trump on Libya: “The exports of Libya are numerous in amount. One thing they export is corn, or as the Indians call it, “maize”. Another famous Indian was “Crazy Horse”. In conclusion, Libya is a land of contrast. Thank you.”

    Beat you to it, Reynolds.

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The level of ignorance is awe-inspiring.

    “And then they say, ‘Is Donald Trump an intellectual?’ ” Trump said. “Trust me, I’m like a smart person.”

    Anyone who voted for this man-child is a raving fool.

  4. KM says:

    These comments about the Civil War, for example, make me think he probably hasn’t studied the war or its causes since he took history classes in school some sixty years ago, and they’re consistent with other occasions on which he has tried to sound profound on a subject matter that he clearly doesn’t know much about. It’s unsurprising behavior from someone who has admitted publicly that he doesn’t really read many books, and one imagines that this has been consistent throughout much of his life.

    Actually, I think he was being clever in his mind. That it was a leading question to a point he never got around to making. See, he fancies himself a badass “negotiator” a la Jackson who likes to be the Boss. He was trying to say if he’d been around, he’d have laid down the law and everyone would have quieted under his awesome leadership skills. He was also making a jab at those who won’t cooperate with him, likening them to the “unreasonable” people he thinks let a war happen then give into what they saw was immoral corruption. I think the whistle he was trying to blow was that he, like the Jackson in his head, was a tough, persecuted man who could have stopped so much bad from happening if only those people didn’t get in the way.

    …. Of course, I’m trying to make sense of the insensible so what do I know? Your guess is as good as mine.

  5. al-Alameda says:

    It’s best not to go too deep in analyzing Trump. He is, intellectually, as light as they come, and he is not the least bit interested in delving too far into any subject. Facts? They’re whatever he wants them to be; he cares only about the reality he creates at any moment, the one creates in pursuit of closing his next deal, or pushing forward whatever agenda he has..

    Trump styles himself as a modern day Andrew Jackson, so of course he wants us to see in Jackson what he thinks we admire in Trump – the ultimate hard-nosed deal maker. His Jackson Fetish is all about himself.

    Yes he is an appalling person, but, the first 100 days notwithstanding, he has plenty of time to advance the radical Republican agenda.

  6. CSK says:

    Doug, as we all know, the fact that “Trump lacks intellectual curiosity,” much like Sarah Palin before him, is a feature, not a bug, to a Trumpkin.

    intellectuals are “elites.” “Elites” are evil.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I am gratified by the growing consensus that Trump is not just a malignant narcissist (psychopath) but also rather stupid. I remember the old days when people would say, “Sure, Michael, I agree he’s a malignant narcissist incapable of human empathy with a skill set limited to what you’d expect of a great white shark wearing a tie, but I don’t think he’s actually stupid.”

    Never doubt me on stupid. I smell stupid the way a Labrador retriever smells bacon. It’s not just ignorant – hell, 99% of Americans are clueless on history – it’s that Trump’s too stupid to recognize his own ignorance. I am completely ignorant of physics (and many other things involving numbers) but I’m smart enough not to go around saying things like, “No one ever asks why when you drop something, it falls down and not up.”

    @wr:
    Seriously, is there any part of life that cannot be addressed with a Simpsons quote? Grampa is particular will be very useful in coming to a full understanding of this president.

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Trump – the ultimate hard-nosed deal maker.

    Who got rolled in the spending bill negotiations.
    Just more crap that is not in the least bit true.

  9. J-Dub says:

    Ken Burns produced 80 hours of a Civil War documentary and forgot to ask why it happened.

  10. J-Dub says:

    As an aside, I wonder what the Trump Presidential Library will be like? There’s only so many Dr. Seuss books.

  11. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “Seriously, is there any part of life that cannot be addressed with a Simpsons quote? ”

    One that comes to mind frequently comes from when Homer got an estimate on a home security system, then threw the salesman out the door.

    Salesman: You can’t put a price on your family’s lives.

    Homer: I wouldn’t have thought so, either, but here we are.

  12. Moosebreath says:

    @J-Dub:

    “I wonder what the Trump Presidential Library will be like?”

    There’s always the joke which I first recall being said by Jim Backus about Gerald Ford:

    There was a fire in the White House Library. It burned both books. Including the one he was still coloring.

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    Trump is the Latin-American Caudilo/Coronel. But a VERY incompetent one.

  14. CSK says:

    @J-Dub:

    The content of The Trump Presidential Library will consist purely of copies of The Art of the Deal in every edition, in every language in which it was ever published; the same for every other book that Trump had written for him. The wall art will consist of Melania’s nude portfolios.*

    It’ll be yuuuuuuuge.

    *Did she ever model dressed in actual clothing?

  15. SenyorDave says:

    I think we’re getting into Louis Gohmert territory here. Although it is hard to imagine anyone, even Trump, topping this (in response to Eric Holder dismissing Gohmert’s crazy delusions):

    LOUIE GOHMERT: “I cannot have a witness challenge my character! The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus!”

    Gratuitous Simpson’s quote of the day (my personal favorite):

    Homer: “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

  16. Slugger says:

    If only we would have had Michael Jackson as President in 1938. He would have been tough in those Munich negotiations, and we’d have avoided World War II.

  17. Joe says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Trump styles himself as a modern day Andrew Jackson, so of course he wants us to see in Jackson what he thinks we admire in Trump – the ultimate hard-nosed deal maker. His Jackson Fetish is all about himself.

    Yes, that.

    This is ultimately not a statement about Jackson. This is a different iteration of Trump saying that if he had been elected back then (you know, whenever the Civil War was), the War would have ended Day 1, so easy. Because everything can be solved if you just put a dealmaker in charge.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m smart enough not to go around saying things like, “No one ever asks why when you drop something, it falls down and not up.”

    We’re actually just beginning to get some of the data that might help us answer that question.

    We’ve pretty much nailed the macro level how for gravity — Newton took care of that, and Einstein added some flourishes — but the mechanisms have been largely unknown and hypothetical until recently.

    It’s a much harder question than what caused the civil war.

  19. the Q says:

    Trump also tweeted “I never understood why Superman couldn’t have ended World War 2 much earlier? Did the Nazis develop some kind of kryptonite V2 missile? Why hasn’t anyone investigated this? #puzzlement”

  20. Gustopher says:

    In regards to the title of this post… don’t the comments just reveal that Trump is a blithering idiot?

  21. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:
    @Gustopher:

    We’re actually just beginning to get some of the data that might help us answer that question.

    Seriously…I love the cast of regular commenters here…

  22. Stormy Dragon says:

    I’m reminded of an Ayn Rand quote (yeah, yeah, boo-hiss, they mentioned the unmentionable one):

    As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation — or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.

    Trump is like the poster boy for the subconciously accumulated junk heap.

  23. bookdragon says:

    @al-Alameda: Well, a contemporary did describe Jackson as “prowling like a tiger inside the cage of his ignorance” so it’s not a completely bad comparison…

    However, given how Jackson is loved by white supremacist types, it wouldn’t surprised me at all if Bannon orchestrated this as a nice loud dog whistle.

  24. Pch101 says:

    Trump is a con artist and a sociopath.

    The con artist in him is a bulls**ter who wants to sell a story because he wants to control and get something out of the mark.

    The sociopath doesn’t care whether it’s true. Trump doesn’t lie per se, but he speaks with no concern whatsoever about whether what he is saying is true or false.

    Most of what he’s saying is false because he doesn’t know anything and he won’t admit it. I am starting to suspect that he has a severe case of dyslexia, so he relies on his weak intellect, poor memory and dodgy sources to acquire his “facts.”

  25. al-Alameda says:

    @bookdragon:

    Well, a contemporary did describe Jackson as “prowling like a tiger inside the cage of his ignorance” so it’s not a completely bad comparison…
    However, given how Jackson is loved by white supremacist types, it wouldn’t surprised me at all if Bannon orchestrated this as a nice loud dog whistle.

    Jackson was toxic.

    I find it incredible that Andrew Jackson, who hated the American banking system, ended up as the ‘face’ of the twenty dollar bill.

    Yes, for many well-documented reasons Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson are two of my least favorite famous presidents.

  26. Neil Hudelson says:

    I hope the next person to have a sit-down with POTUS jumps on this subject in a very sincere manner. Push Trump to answer how HE would’ve avoided the Civil War. It sounds like he has some ideas–let’s get them on record. I would love to see him twist in the wind as he tries to respond with an answer that doesn’t include “Black people would have to be kept as property for quite a few years longer.”

    Or maybe he doesn’t have the foresight to even try to avoid that line of thinking. Either way, it’s vital we push him on this subject.

  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Gustopher:

    Any good articles you could point to? A few years ago I realized that my macro-level understanding of gravity (mass bending space-time and all that), in no way explained the actual mechanics between two objects. I spent three years haphazardly researching it, and came to the conclusion “No one really f-ing knows.”

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    As soon as you get that sh-t worked out, I expect an explanation targeted at, let’s say, a bright 5th grader. Yeah, I could probably handle that. Consider adding an animated character and lots of pie charts.

  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: Trying to figure out quantum gravity is like trying to chew off your own teeth. There’s nothing to start standing on.

    And I thought trying to visualize non-trivial SU(2) –> SU(2) mappings in a five-dimensional space was hard….

  30. grumpy realist says:

    OT:

    Fyre Festival Fiasco, Part V: Have you seen the pitchbook that these nerfs were using? (link to at bottom of article)

    (I’m starting to think that everyone who has been involved in this mess deserves exactly what they were getting–the greedy promoters, the brain-dead investors, and the gullible trustfund spawn who signed up for it.)

  31. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Push Trump to answer how HE would’ve avoided the Civil War.

    Educational deferments, and when they run out, bone-spurs.

  32. michael reynolds says:
  33. reid says:
  34. the Q says:

    In all fairness to Jackson, he did give us universal manhood suffrage, a huge leap in democracy at the time and established the modern Dem party. In his first Annual Message to Congress, Jackson recommended eliminating the Electoral College and rightly condemned the second Bank of the U.S. as a monopoly.

  35. Dividist says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t disagree, I didn’t vote for him, and I don’t support him – but there is another way to look at his comments other than he is a “stupid” “blithering idiot”.

    Specifically – he hears or is briefed on something that he likes – In this case, how his recent role model Andrew Jackson saved the Union over the South Carolina Nullification crisis – and in an interview it gets mangled through his Brooklyn/New Yawk/New Joisey Trump-Speak [Hey – I live on the Left Coast. I’m told that’s how regular people talk in New York – Doug?].

    It’s not unlike Obama glomming on to Elizabeth Warren’s talking points and managing to distill it into a jaw-dropping “You didn’t build that!” sound bite for the benefit of small business owners and entrepreneurs.

    Of course, DT does it with a lot more frequency.

    Point being – calling the guy stupid and a malignant narcissist and all the other creative name-calling during the campaign did not seem to deter voters from electing him POTUS, and it seems unlikely that more of the same will keep an incumbent with all the advantages that entails from getting re-elected.

    That said, this: https://twitter.com/AAPsyc/status/859405734383112192

  36. MarkedMan says:

    I’m a little late to this thread, but FWIW, I think Doug’s premise is wrong: his Civil War comments don’t reveal anything about him that we don’t already know. Trump is a deeply (and now, dangerously) stupid and incurious man and we’ve had that drilled in a thousand times over.

    What this episode does make me think about is the meta-question: Why was the modern Republican Party so willing to chose this man as his leader? There are a few good answers to that but the most important one is revealed in why an empty vessel like Trump, when coached by Republican leaders, think he is being profound on the Civil War. The Republican Party has become deeply and blindly racist over the past half century. It didn’t have to happen. In fact a Party leader of the 50’s and 60’s, Jacob Javits, warned of the negative consequences with amazing accuracy if the leadership chose to pursue the Southern Strategy. It’s a fascinating fork in the historical road for the US, and if anyone wants to read a little more about it, here’s something that goes into a bit more detail.

  37. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Educational deferments, and when they run out, bone-spurs.

    Not even that. Back then you could just flat out buy your way out of the draft for $300

  38. Joe says:

    @Dividist: If this were an isolated instance, I might consider your point. It’s not. I won’t.

  39. Andre Kenji says:

    The United States is the only country in the World that had a plantation economy and a industrial economy on the same time. These two economies have conflicting interests because industries are going to demand tariffs and weak currency, and slaveholders want strong currency and low tariffs, because they import a lot of things(Including people). Most of the value of South’s assets were it’s… slaves.

    The war was inevitable. On the other hand, admitting that the United States had basically a version of Brazil or Jamaica inside their own territory must be difficult to a lot of people.

  40. Joe says:

    @Gustopher:

    How Does Gravity Make Things Fall. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlTVIMOix3I

    I like this explanation of gravity.

  41. Tyrell says:

    Jackson was a committed nationalist and would have nothing to do with any secession talk. He was a southerner, but the southern leaders knew better than to cross him, the hero who crushed the mighty British army and saved New Orleans.
    Jackson – the only president to have an entire age named after him “The Jacksonian Age”. .
    ” in 1814 we took a little trip along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp….we fired our guns and the British kept a comin’, we fired once more and they began a runnin’ right down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico” (Horton)

  42. grumpy realist says:
  43. gVOR08 says:

    @the Q: What? Jackson wasn’t a Republican? Does Trump know?

  44. JohnMcC says:

    Gravity schmavity. And while I’m about it – Secession schmession. Things fall down because of the awesome effect of great men, like our President. And if we’d had a great man as our President like the great man that is our President then we wouldn’t have had any damn Civil War.

    Wasamattayoupeople?

  45. Pete S says:

    @MarkedMan:

    What this episode does make me think about is the meta-question: Why was the modern Republican Party so willing to chose this man as his leader? There are a few good answers to that but the most important one is revealed in why an empty vessel like Trump, when coached by Republican leaders

    We know why the Republican Party was willing to chose him. The smarter party people knew he could be toxic, but also realized he had no guiding principles or beliefs at all and figured they could manipulate him to front for their unpopular ideas (see Paul Ryan who has Trump out pushing hard for a toxic health care plan which accomplishes the exact opposite of what Trump claimed he wants, and which is called Trumpcare. If this mess gets passed who will ultimately be blamed? Trump).

    The dumber Republicans knew Trump was a liar but figured when he said what they wanted to hear he was telling the truth.

  46. DrDaveT says:

    These comments about the Civil War, for example, make me think he probably hasn’t studied the war or its causes since he took history classes in school some sixty years ago

    You made that sentence less accurate by continuing it after the word ‘studied’.

  47. Kylopod says:

    I’m going to make the following prediction: sometime in the next few days or weeks, Donald Trump is going to say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.

    That’s the way he often operates when it comes to making crackpot claims. For example, in 2011 he didn’t go full-birther all at once. It began with vaguely conspiratorial remarks at the CPAC conference: “Our current President came out of nowhere…. The people that went to school with him never saw him; they don’t know who he is.” A few weeks later, he was telling the press he was a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship. It wasn’t long before he was stating outright that the President’s birth certificate was a forgery.

    It may seem strange for a born-and-bred New Yorker, even an old racist one, to be embracing neo-Confederate mythology. But it’s something he could easily have picked up from Breitbart and Bannon, and it fits nicely with his overall worldview.

  48. MarkedMan says:

    @Pete S:

    We know why the Republican Party was willing to chose him.

    Yeah, i think you are right. I’m more interested in the how the Republican Party came to this. Pre-Gingrich, there were enough people in Republican Leadership that someone like Trump would have been shut down. So what happened?

  49. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: The lunatics took over and 99% of the reasonable people quit in disgust and turned themselves into “independents” or “Democrats”

    And those with money (Kochs, Mercers) discovered how easy it was to manipulate the Chemtrails Crowd and get them pointed in one direction to vote for the Chosen Candidate.

    Gotta admit that it’s a racket on both sides….

    And the only thing I want to say to Hillary Clinton right now is: just go awaaayy!

  50. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    For whatever reason, he got the votes in the primaries. I live in Massachusetts, the bluest state in the country, and Trump got 50%, or 49+, depending on the source, of the primary vote–more than in any other primary in the country. Kasich came in a poor second at 18%, and every other Republican candidate still in contention was in the low single digits. I was really startled by Trump’s showing in Mass. I have no explanation for it.

  51. Anonne says:

    @CSK:

    I’d say that Michael Moore’s explanation works very well. People wanted to blow up the system, well, there we went.

  52. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: A lot of the Trump vote was a “stick it to DA MAN!!!!” grievance, coupled with a desperate Hail Mary pass hoping that the supposed buffoon actually could perhaps carry out his promises and break the deadlock in D.C.

    I can understand the anti-Hillary vote–everyone knew that she would be Business As Usual. Of course, if you wanted Something Else, Trump was a glittery promiser of All Good Things and with the same desperation that caused people to max out their credit cards for a “special program” in Trump University, a lot of people cast their votes for The Man Who Promised Miracles.

    A lot of them, being the sort of boobs who answer offers from Nigerian princes trying to get their money out of the country, have continued in slack-awed adoration of Donald Trump, where everything he promises is fantastic and his failure to deliver is obviously due to the Horrible Librals, the Fake Media, The Jewish Banker (Soros) and other Obvious Enemies.

    But for some of those who pulled the lever for Trump with skepticism, I suspect that they have nothing but contempt for his present actions and are just hoping the US economy survives the rest of Trump’s term.

  53. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    Yea, and then he set about committing what was tantamount to genocide with regard to Native Americans. I hear as well that he didn’t beat his slaves as badly as some other owners did. What a guy …

    You people down there and your romanticized revisionist history …

    I’ll say it again – we committed the mother of all f*ckups when we didn’t just let you leave when we had the chance.

  54. CSK says:

    @Anonne:

    I’m not sure how many Mass. primary voters wanted to blow up the system, given that in the general election in 2012, they voted overwhelmingly for Obama over their own recent governor, Romney.

    @grumpy realist:

    Sure, I understand about “stick it to the elites,” and all that. But it doesn’t work that way in a liberal Democratic state like Mass.

    All I can think of is that a lot of people who never before bothered to vote crawled out of the woodwork, registered, and voted for Trump in the primary.

    In the general election in 2016, Clinton got 60.8% of the vote. Trump got 33.5%.

  55. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I sometimes think that myself. But then…would the institution of slavery still exist in the south?

    Apologists for the Confederacy insist that their drive was for “states’ rights,” not to preserve slavery. Read the Declaration of Secession by South Carolina. It is clear from that that the “state right” that was important to them was the “right” to own other human beings.

  56. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    Trump actually received about 98,000 fewer votes in MA than Romney did in 2012, while Clinton received right at 75,000 more MA votes than Obama did in 2012.

    Extrapolating 75.51% turnout in MA, and Trump’s performance (I have him at 32.81%), we find that roughly 25% of the overall MA electorate voted for him. Not really concerning numbers, IMO.

  57. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    But you’re speaking of the general election, not the primary, right? How doe one account for Trump’s massive showing in the Mass. primary?

  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    But then…would the institution of slavery still exist in the south?

    My guess is – probably not. The economics of slavery were already declining prior to the introduction of the cotton gin, which reversed that trend, but we also have to factor in that this left the South essentially being a one crop entity. Cotton wreaks absolute havoc on soil – draining it of nutrients at a pretty incredible rate – which is one of the primary reasons that the South wanted to keep expanding slave territory: they had to in order to keep replacing depleted acreage so production could be maintained.

    Secession would have locked the borders of the South, meaning no more expansion, so eventually they’d have been faced with dead fields and a drop off in production while they tried to reclaim them. Would it have lasted a few decades or more longer? Without a doubt, but I think it’d pretty safe to say that – like the Old West – it couldn’t have survived into the 20th century.

  59. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    I’m not seeing a massive showing in the MA primary. Trump received 312,425 votes there, or less than half of all votes cast in the Republican primary, and about 7% of the overall MA electorate. Overall, it was a pretty dismal showing.

    In comparison to 2012, it seems pretty clear to me that turnout exploded in the 2016 primary (almost double 2012), but Trump’s share of the primary vote was 23% below Romney’s 2012 results. A lot more people showed up to vote, and as far as I can tell most of them showed up to vote against Trump. There were just too many candidates on the primary ballot, IMO. It diluted what otherwise might have been a defeat for Trump.

  60. Tyrell says:

    @HarvardLaw92: During the war, the price of cotton had dropped, due mainly to imports. Cotton would no longer be “king” either way.

  61. DrDaveT says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    The economics of slavery were already declining prior to the introduction of the cotton gin, which reversed that trend, but we also have to factor in that this left the South essentially being a one crop entity.

    Don’t forget the impact of the boll weevil. I’ve seen at least 3 serious academic econometric studies of how the arrival of the boll weevil in a given region improved African-American education, improved crop diversity, and improved nutrition in both whites and blacks. Where the boll weevil ravaged crops, cotton prices climbed but many farmers were forced to shift into other crops. That had many and complicated effects on the Southern economy, some good and some bad.

  62. Gustopher says:

    @Joe: That video explains some of the how, but none of the why. Describing the behavior of gravity is conceptually pretty easy — objects with mass are attracted towards each other, the Earth has a lot more mass than an apple, so the same force is going to move the apple a lot faster than the Earth.

    We have all sorts of hypothesises about the mechanisms that make this happen, but we’ve only recently (in the past year or so) possibly detected gravitational waves, and are just barely moving from hypothesis to testable theory about these mechanisms, and will likely start confirming or rewriting these theories as evidence is accumulated.

    That still leaves the question of why is gravity an attractive force rather than a repellent force — which is ultimately the original question of why things fall down instead of up. It’s a really hard question. A better understanding of the mechanisms might lead us to this answer.

    (And don’t get me started on dark matter… it’s not even dark, it’s transparent)

    Conversely, the only questions about the causes of the Civil War are along the lines of “Why were we able to tolerate slavery for hundreds of years, and then, suddenly, we weren’t?” — which is actually not a bad question… but not the question Trump was struggling with.

  63. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: All of those arguments are just pointing to cotton being less productive, not that slavery was less appealing.

    Slavery requires a large up-front capital cost compared to hiring someone, but the ongoing maintenance costs are much lower. Whether it’s planting cotton or flipping burgers, employers want to lower their overall labor costs.

    We have people now saying that there shouldn’t be a minimum wage. Why do you think they wouldn’t be willing to have slaves if it were legal?

  64. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    Understood- but if production drops sufficiently that there either 1) isn’t enough productive work which is sufficiently profitable to underwrite the cost of a large captive labor force which has to be fed, clothed and housed (lest it lose its supposedly intrinsic value as an asset in and of itself) or 2) the mix of work which is available becomes lower margin, it can become cheaper to simply free the slave than to keep feeding, clothing and housing him.

    Honestly this conversation makes me feel like I need a shower …

  65. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thanks for the patronizing tone. I’ll think of something nice to say about you one of these days. Do you think all of us Southerners fit the same caricature?

  66. And this is the guy who thinks he can broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians…

  67. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Not him…Jared.

  68. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Do you think all of us Southerners fit the same caricature?

    I would say to that “Absolutely Not!”

    However SO many southerners go out of their way to fulfil that characterization that it is a bit disconcerting, don’t you think?

    1 is an anomaly, 10 is an annoyance, but people defending the stars and bars and confederate memorials… well, it’s more than a handful, wouldn’t you agree?

    If I’m wrong, then tell me about equality in Mississippi and Alabama.

    I’ll wait.

  69. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    Not at all. I don’t think that all Southerners are stereotypical, but I DO think that – taken as a whole – the South is a regressive & reactionary region which has been detrimental to the nation as a whole. I have no problem standing behind the assertion that the nation would have been better off had we simply allowed the South to leave.

  70. Pch101 says:

    The lesson of World War II is that is sometimes necessary to completely vanquish ones opponent, not simply fight until an armistice can be negotiated.

    World War I’s failure to finish the job, i.e. utterly defeat the Germans so that they could be reinvented from the ground up, is what made WWII possible.

    The same can be said of the Civil War. The culture that produced this country’s greatest act of treason needed to be reinvented, yet it wasn’t. The region should have been treated as occupied territory, with new states with different names and boundaries carved out of it and admitted into the union on a case-by-case basis when there was cause for admitting them.

  71. Joe says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Taken as a whole, at least if compared to Europe, the United States is – if not regressive and reactionary – pretty conservative. It just is. Those of us who consider ourselves more liberal (with a small “l”), are not the norm or the average. We may not be way outside the norm or the average, but the norm and average of our representative democracy is not that different from how people here describe the South.

  72. MBunge says:

    Unless we are going to count repeatedly divorcing and marrying successively more beautiful women as a failure, Donald Trump has been more successful at just about anything in his life than everything every commentor in the blog has done put together. If he’s stupid, what does that make all of us? Besides believers in our own “alternative facts,” that is.

    I mean, I’ll give you Obama and Reagan… but George W. Bush? THAT’S your example of the benefits of being a voracious reader? Until Trump gets hundreds of thousands of people killed for no good reason and presides over a global economic collapse, both of which are certainly possible, can’t we AT LEAST avoid the intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant practice of ignoring that Trump is faaaaaaaar from being the worst recent inhabitant of the Oval Office.

    As for his Civil War comments, Trump is a bullshitting, non-political, non-intellectual. But if our “truth-telling” political intellectuals hadn’t failed so badly, that wouldn’t be a problem.

    Mike

  73. Joe says:

    @MBunge:

    Unless we are going to count repeatedly divorcing and marrying successively more beautiful women as a failure, Donald Trump has been more successful at just about anything in his life than everything every commentor in the blog has done put together. If he’s stupid, what does that make all of us?

    You and I measure success very differently.

  74. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    Oh, come on, Mike. The guy went bust trying to peddle booze and promote gambling.
    And I’m pleased to add that I never tried to drive an old lady out of her home so I could build a limousine parking lot.

  75. Pch101 says:

    @MBunge:

    It must really hurt you to love a man so deeply who doesn’t know or even care that you exist.

  76. CSK says:

    @Pch101:

    And who would treat you like garbage because you’re not–presumably–as rich as he claims to be.

  77. CSK says:

    Relevant side note to this discussion:

    Roger Stone, who frankly brings new dimensions to the definition of the word “loathsome,” is boasting on Twitter that he prevented Sean Hannity from becoming Trump’s WH Chief of Staff.

    The number of people vying for the title of “Trump’s Puppetmaster” appears to be growing by leaps and bounds. I can imagine the scene:

    Bannon: I tell the president what to do.

    Kushner. Sorry, pal. That’s my job.

    Stone: Forget it. I run this show.

    Ivanka: Wrong. He’s my Daddy, and I tell him what to do.

  78. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Donald Trump has been more successful at just about anything in his life than everything every commentor in the blog has done put together.

    Christ – are you actually serious? At this point I’m actually waiting for you to come out and tell us all how wonderful blowing him was. 🙄

    The guy inherited a fortune and traded on his father’s credit rating, yet still managed to deliver subpar returns.

    If he had taken his inheritance, parked it in an index fund and never touched it again, he’d be worth far more than he is now (and yea, better than 50% of what he claims as net worth doesn’t exist). His supposed business acumen is just that – supposed.

    There are, unfortunately, limitations on how far I can go with regard to discussing his finances, but leave it at this: prior to his election, on net, he was essentially flat. ass. broke. The guy lives off of credit and is mortgaged up to his eyeballs. Liquidate his ridiculous company, today, and he’d be left essentially with the same number of nominal dollars that he collected from his father. In a real dollar sense, the guy has spent decades going backward.

    His father was one of the worst SOB’s that ever lived, but the guy did know how to turn a profit. Unfortunately, that skillset doesn’t seem to have been passed down.

    Trump is what a poor guy thinks that a rich guy looks like. Short version: he’s a caricature. One that you seem to have swallowed hook, line and sinker …

  79. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    Unless we are going to count repeatedly divorcing and marrying successively more beautiful women as a failure, Donald Trump has been more successful at just about anything in his life than everything every commentor in the blog has done put together. If he’s stupid, what does that make all of us? Besides believers in our own “alternative facts,” that is.

    As for his Civil War comments, Trump is a bullshitting, non-political, non-intellectual. But if our “truth-telling” political intellectuals hadn’t failed so badly, that wouldn’t be a problem.

    Well Mike, I count his five business bankruptcies as evidence of failure, and if you’ll allow me, I’d like to add to that his fraudulent Trump University ‘business’ a fleecing operation, which he just settled out a legal action for tens of millions of dollars.

  80. CSK says:

    And let’s not forget those illegal immigrant Polish workers he grossly overworked and grossly underpaid to construct that excrescence known as The Trump Tower.

  81. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    Until Trump gets hundreds of thousands of people killed for no good reason and presides over a global economic collapse, both of which are certainly possible, can’t we AT LEAST avoid the intellectually dishonest and morally repugnant practice of ignoring that Trump is faaaaaaaar from being the worst recent inhabitant of the Oval Office.

    In May 2001, Bush had not killed thousands of people, presided over a global economic collapse, etc., either. But plenty of people already recognized his flaws that would contribute to those later developments.

    Donald Trump is the most obviously unfit individual ever to occupy the White House. That doesn’t automatically mean he’ll be the most destructive. (Indeed, one of the most destructive presidents in history–James Buchanan–was in fact very well-qualified for the office.) These past few months have raised the possibility that his incompetence at governing may be preventing him from doing as much damage as he would like. If Bush had possessed Trumpian level of incompetence, he might not have succeeded at passing the Iraq War resolution. And even if he had ignored Congress and attempted to launch the war without their approval, he might then have lacked the stamina and attention span to continue pursuing it over the long haul. Just because far fewer people would have died wouldn’t have demonstrated superior governing ability.

    On the other hand, Trump hasn’t been faced with a real crisis or national emergency yet, and when one happens, things could go south very quickly. Imagine Trump trying to deal with the 2008-2009 economic crisis. Or 9/11. Or Hurricane Katrina. Or a tweet war with Kim Jong Un.

    Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean the dangers aren’t foreseeable.

  82. dazedandconfused says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I wouldn’t say he can broker that peace, but at least his comment indicates a desire to avoid war. If I may I will add another tidbit to the narrative of what this tells us about Trump.

    It is a projection into the history of Andrew Jackson that Ol’ Hickory was a peace-maker, which, however absurd, is Trump admiring a peace-maker. About “as good as it gets”, within the given condition of an incurious narcissist POTUS, to whistle past this graveyard.

  83. Monala says:

    @dazedandconfused: Seriously? Trump is the most belligerent person to serve as president in my lifetime. He’s not a peacemaker in any way, shape or form. His comments about Israel/Palestine are about promoting his greatness as a dealmaker, not because he cares about peace there. He wants to be able to say that he can do something past presidents before him could not.

  84. dazedandconfused says:

    @Monala: @Monala:

    Respectfully, I believe you are talking past the points I made. Perhaps re-reading what I wrote will solve the problem. If not, I will say that being a self-promoting self-absorbed narcissist and a desire to go down in history as a peace maker aren’t mutually exclusive. Many of that ilk have wished to go down in history as conquerors, or perhaps great “war time Presidents”.

  85. Pch101 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    It is a projection into the history of Andrew Jackson that Ol’ Hickory was a peace-maker, which, however absurd, is Trump admiring a peace-maker.

    Offering praise for Andrew Jackson is a dog whistle for white supremacists. Trump is a bigot and this is yet another way that he articulates it.

    Jackson was a slaveowner who displaced Native American tribes from their lands because they were not believed to be civilized enough to live next to white people. A peacemaker he was not.

  86. dazedandconfused says:

    @Pch101:

    I labeled the notion absurd myself, actually.

    As a practical matter tribes on land the European immigrants coveted was problematic at the time. The federal government was a tiny thing and lacked the resources to defend them from the Real Americans of Georgia, so the comment about letting the Supreme Court enforce their decisions was a bit more complicated than it appears, nearly always out of context, today. Andy knew what had happened to the tribes in New England. It was plain to him the same thing was going to happen in Georgia.

  87. Pch101 says:

    Trump doesn’t want to avoid war. He wants to subjugate minorities.

    Decode the message: By praising pro-slavery Jackson, Trump is effectively blaming abolitionist Lincoln for the Civil War. That’s what Southern rednecks do.

  88. Monala says:

    @dazedandconfused: No, I understood you. I’m saying that Trump doesn’t really desire to be a peacemaker. He says he can do things like bring about Mideast peace because he wants to boast that he is better than the presidents who came before him. My belief from observing Trump and knowing his history is that he is far too belligerent to actually achieve anything related to peace. His personal history is filled with incidences of him seeking revenge against those who he thinks have wronged him, and he’s at this time itching to go to war — no matter what he says about peace.

    And ditto to the point others have made that Trump admires Jackson for his white supremacy, not for some misguided belief that Jackson was a peacemaker.

  89. dazedandconfused says:

    @Monala:

    I have a different opinion on the reason he is fascinated by Jackson, Bannon has been feeding him a lot about the guy. Jackson has never been waved around as a standard by white supremacists nor the Lost Causers. His actions during the fight over tariffs were not popular to them. He threatened to hang would be secessionists in a “sour apple tree”. His being a slave owner has never been mentioned a lot, I believe nearly all of our first fourteen POTUS’s were slave owners, and Washington had a heck of a lot of slaves too. If slave owning was key why isn’t Washington viewed as a dog whistle to racists?

    The reason Bannon has been feeding him this stuff is IMO Jackson was a deeply transformative POTUS and Bannon envisions himself as Trump’s Wormtongue. Similar to what Cheney did to Bush by feeding him all that stuff about “great Presidents” like Lincoln. Jackson was a big break from the guys who preceded him. He tore apart Hamilton’s brilliant banking system (took two presidents who followed him to put that back together) and he tore apart a lot of institutions, which is what Bannon seeks from Trump. Bannon also seeks isolationism, hence the need to teach his pupil to avoid war, and Jackson must be someone who always sought to avoid war.

  90. Pch101 says:

    In the eyes of white nationalists, Trump will preserve white identity

    It hasn’t been a month since the inauguration, and already white nationalists are celebrating President Trump’s flurry of executive orders on immigration and his Supreme Court nominee as a concerted effort to preserve America’s white identity…

    …For James Edwards, host of the online white nationalist radio show Political Cesspool, Trump leaning toward white nationalism became apparent when he hung President Andrew Jackson’s portrait in the oval office.

    “The fact that he put up a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the oval office should’ve sent a huge signal…[and] that’s where it started,” Edwards said earlier this month on his radio show.

    Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which forcefully removed Native Americans for white settlers in the south. In Edwards’ view, this act advanced European-American interests.

    To some white nationalists, Trump’s executive orders, much like the Indian Removal Act, work to protect the United States’ white identity –– an identity they increasingly see under attack.

    https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/02/07/eyes-white-nationalists-trump-will-preserve-white-identity
    __________

    The bigots know the code, even if some of you don’t.

  91. dazedandconfused says:

    You are entitled to his opinion.

  92. Pch101 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    I can see that you aren’t one to allow facts to get in the way of an opinion.

    At least your handle is appropriate.

  93. dazedandconfused says:

    @Pch101:

    I chose that handle because I am certified brain-damaged. No big wow, loss most of use of my left hand, some use of the left leg, all slowly coming back over a period of years is the prognosis. Thank God for Kevlar. It was damn near spent and only went in about two inches, a part of the brain that is limited to motor functions. I actually tested with a slightly higher IQ than I did before though, my family says it’s because I’m not as much of an asshole. Being in a chair will do that, but I no longer need that chair…so I’m baaaaack, as they say. Let’s rock.

    Cite the facts which you have claimed I am denying or STFU.

  94. Pch101 says:

    The affection that white supremacists have for Andrew Jackson is a fact, not an opinion. The white nationalists are fond of Jackson because he is regarded as a representative of the white common man.

    Trump’s racism is not exactly a secret. The bigots know what he is trying to tell them, and they like what they are hearing.

  95. dazedandconfused says:

    All you have to do now is find evidence of the Lost Causer ilk having venerated Andrew Jackson as one of their role models prior to Trump’s mentioning of him to have something more than a fallacy of dismissal by incredulity and ad-hominem argument. If you find just one guy somewhere in the last century and a half it will be dismissed as anecdotal, btw.

    Ol’ Hickory was a white supremacist by today’s standards, yes, but that standard didn’t exist in his day. Every POTUS before Lincoln was unable to say that blacks were equal to whites and should be guaranteed the right to vote in all states (and many even after Lincoln) but you don’t label everyone who drops any of their names as trying to dog whistle the KKK because that is not what shaped their politics. It was not a serious bone of contention in their times.

    I can understand the feeling, Trump plays the racist dog-whistles more blatantly than any POTUS in the last hundred years or so, but I really believe this isn’t about that, it’s about Bannon’s desire to “tear down the administrative state”..whatever exactly that means. That was the main thing Andy is know for, he being a total break from the POTUSes who preceded him on policy.

  96. Pch101 says:

    Bannon is a bigot. He’s David Duke, but with more money.

    This should not be very hard to understand, yet some people work very hard to not understand it.

  97. dazedandconfused says:

    It’s possible to agree with that and still hold the opinion this specific action wasn’t motivated by it.

    That search for Lost Causers and the KKK venerating Andrew Jackson prior to this week didn’t go well, I assume.

  98. Tyrell says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Around here it is warming up and fishing weather is upon us. Also, baseball, NASCAR races, picnics, and lemonade stands. Things realiy slow down here in the summer. Just a little genteel living.
    “Old times there are not forgotten”