Yglesias Apologizes for/Explains away/ Defends Clinton II

January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment



How Hillary Clinton got on the wrong side of liberals’ changing theory of American history

“Over the course of her extremely long life in American politics, Hillary Clinton has played many roles.”

Read “changed her public positions on issues many times.”

“And at the CNN candidates’ forum in Iowa Monday night, she reminded us that one of those roles has been a moderately conservative Southern Democrat”

she either was, or wasn’t.

The kind of politician Bill Clinton — supported by Hillary as, by all accounts, a genuinely trusted adviser and confidante — was at that time has gone badly out of style, and Hillary Clinton’s reemergence as a Northern suburbanite is part of that process.

changes positions

But answering the question of which historical president she most admires, Clinton named Abraham Lincoln. That’s a safe choice in almost any context. But she went on to espouse a theory about the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination that would have been banal for almost any 20th-century Democrat but that cuts sharply against the modern progressive view of American history.

It was never Grant or Sherman’s point of view. These men opposed the Klan using the Klan’s own language. And they were joined by the Republican Party [the Freedom Party of the time]

“In the 1970s, when Clinton was the wife of a Southern Democratic governor, Democrats dealt with the awkward fact that they used to be the party of white supremacy by blaming Republican extremism — not Democratic racism — for the turmoil of the Reconstruction era.”

I never did. Many never did, this is apologism in action.

“But it’s now 2016, and the modern Democratic Party has moved on. Most liberals now believe that Reconstruction was a noble project to secure racial equality that was stopped by unjustified Southern racism and violence.”

Liberals? Maybe now. Progressives. No. It was always accepted that suppressing race-based political violence was part of Reconstruction. Non-apologist for the south Historians didn’t..

“Lincoln is, obviously, the president who freed the slaves and saved the Union.”

He wasn’t alone. and he wasn’t unprodded. Here’s Yglesia’s making up a simpleton’s version of what happened.

“But instead “we had Reconstruction, we had the reigns of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant.””

Much of Reconstruction was the suppression of white violence. Only in order to obtain the Presidency in 1876 [by triangulating and dealing] did the Republican’s begin abandoning Black southerners to southern white political violence. A deal the Clintons would have signed onto.

“And at this point, it’s politically obsolete as well. Modern-day liberals no longer feel the need to talk around the embarrassing fact that it was a Republican who saved the Union.”

Well the Republicans themselves have made it a bit easier. This isn’t an accurate rendering of the historical narrative.

Now that “Southernism” in terms of fetishizing the Confederacy as something other than based on slavery has been outed. It’s now time to move on to Reconstruction.


Only once the mixed-race regimes of freedmen, “carpetbaggers” (Northerners who’d moved South), and “scalawags” (pro-Northern Southern whites) had been displaced in favor of white supremacist governments was it possible for the South to be peacefully reincorporated into the nation.”

“The merger of Dunning School thinking with the political priorities of the civil rights–era Democratic Party is an impressive intellectual synthesis, but it makes for terrible history.”

I have a different recollection of how this worked.

“Reconstruction, in this view, failed because the white South fought so hard against it, and because it turned out that while most white Northerners didn’t like slavery, they also didn’t like racial equality, and certainly didn’t like racial equality enough to invest the money and manpower that would be needed to enforce it.”

No mention of the 1876 election makes Yglesia’s argument shaky.


“That’s an opinion that aligns well with the sensibilities of the modern-day Democratic Party, which includes very few white people with deep family ties in the South. But it’s an institutional problem for the Democratic Party to the extent that admitting Republicans were right on racial issues in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s leads to awkward questions about why committed white supremacists from earlier periods (like Andrew Jackson) and later ones (like Woodrow Wilson) are celebrated as pillars of the party.”

I don’t “celebrate” either Jackson, the genocidist, or Woody “Jim Crow” Wilson.

But more importantly, it’s an opinion that would have aligned very poorly with Bill and Hillary Clinton’s constituents in Arkansas in the 1970s and ’80s. To the extent that the modern-day national Democratic Party wins elections in Southern states, it does so in places like Virginia and Florida by relying primarily on a mix of votes from nonwhite people and white people who are not culturally Southern. The Clinton-era Democratic Party of Arkansas wasn’t like that. It counted on the votes of Arkansas’s (modest by Southern standards) African-American population, but with few Northern transplants living in the state it primarily counted on the votes of politically moderate white Southerners.

There seem to be very few “politically moderate white Southrons” in the modern Republican Party.


“Clinton is going to have to flip-flop on this”

Easily done, lots of practice.



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