Yet Another Reason to Hate Calhoun

Long time readers know I get a bit intemperate when the Old Confederacy is at issue. Here is more fuel for that particular fire with a modern spin. Sam Tanenhaus has an article in The New Republic that’s getting a lot of attention entitled Original Sin. He talks about the modern conservative’s roots going back to John C. Calhoun by way of William F. Buckley and the National Review.

The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun’s ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.

Calhoun was a voice of aggrieved elitism that seems to have characterized the planter class. As Samuel Johnson put it, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” Echoes of Calhoun will end up hurting the modern conservative; just as his nonsense led to the ruin of the South when Gen. Sherman undertook to show them what oppression really looked like, if only for a time.

That said, however, I don’t buy the notion that the GOP is in any real danger (let alone “grave” danger) of ceasing to be a national party. They’ll re-calibrate sooner or later, and then the Democrats will be on the defensive nationally.


  1. Gene says

    Stopped reading after the title, “Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people”.

    Yeah, Nixon had the southern strategy…which coincided with the Democrats’ creation of the federal welfare state. You think poor white people don’t vote Democrat ?

    When IUPUI leadership, the Nuvo staff, and Green Party meetups are more than one percent minority, get back to me.

    • Carlito Brigante says

      Nixon’s Southern Strategy came in the wake of the Great Society program. But the Democrats knew they would lose the racist south. Good riddance.

      I do know how poor white people in the south, Indiana, OK, TX and the high plans vote. They vote the Republican sub-platrodm of guns, god and the caste system which puts them a half notch up from immigrants and whoever else should live in New Youk City.

      If you are a Republican, your stopped reading just at the point you should have continued. If the GOP’s state stragegys, fortunes of 2010, and the redistricting process, there would be a Democratic house.

  2. varangianguard says

    The only thing saving the current Republican party from becoming totally inconsequential on the political scene is that most Americans tend to be fairly conservative in nature, and the party takes advantage of that by staying just within the boundaries of the “bad smell test”. If voters paid more attention to concrete “issues” that might be of interest to themselves rather than to vague scare tactics about “other people not like us”, then the two party system might just shake itself out again.

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