“Ron DeSantis and the Myth of The ‘Lost Cause’ “

Gun Rights


Either this nation shall kill
racism, or racism shall kill this nation.” (S. Jonas, August, 2018)



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As The Washington Post recently noted:In [the] fight to lead America’s future, [a] battle rages
over its racial past: DeSantis defends his state’s
depiction of slavery; Biden bashes book bans and honors Emmett Till.” Indeed, DeSantis promotes the old
slavery-justification-Lost-Cause argument that slaves (I guess he meant “some”
slaves) learned usable skills, like carpentry. He did not happen to mention that the vast majority of slaves died, in
one way or another, before they possibly could have used any learned skill as
freemen. Funny also is that he didn’t
mention the old pro-slavery saw that they were housed, clothed and fed.

With these kinds of arguments, one wonders why
DeSantis did not use the classic justification of slavery uttered by the First
Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens, in his
famous “Cornerstone Speech“:

governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and
serfdom of certain classes of the same race. Such were, and are in violation of
the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s law. With
us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the
eye of the law. Not so with the Negro. Subordination is his place. He, by
nature, or by the curse against Cain, is fitted for that condition which he
occupies in our system. Our new government is founded on the opposite idea of
the equality of the races. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon
the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the White man; that slavery —
subordination to the superior race — is his natural condition.”

Whether or not DeSantis is a personal racist,
he knows that if Trump leaves the race for one reason or another (like fleeing the country
for one reason or another), just as Trump ran on racism to the top of the
ticket in 2016, he, DeSantis, can do the same thing in 2024. (By
the way, Florida was the third state to secede
from the Union, after South Carolina and Mississippi.) He is thus very clearly positioning himself
to succeed to Position No. 1 should Trump vacate it for one reason of another. If you think that DeSantis is not running
on racism first and foremost — I have yet to see very much in the way of
“dealing with nation’s problems” (real or Republo-imagined) — just look at the
way he is very publicly going after Vice-President Kamala (he pronounces the name Ka-MAH-la)
Harris, describing her as nothing more than “impeachment insurance.”

Which brings me to the primary
subject of this column, that is that DeSantis (and perhaps one or two other
candidates for the GOP nomination when they come to realize how well the
theme that I am about to elaborate on is working for him) appears to be
getting ready to launch, in FULL-THROAT. That is the Resuurection of the Thesis of “The Lost Cause.” And so, the balance of this column is based
on a column that I published on that theme in 2021: “Racism, Historical Fact, and ‘The Lost Cause’



tradition of the use of racism as a political weapon by the Republican Party
can be traced back to its founding in the 1850s on the wreckage (over the issue
of slavery) of the Whig Party (see:Xenophobia
and Racism: They’re in the Republican Party’s DNA
“). As is well-known, the
use of political racism has been brought to its highest peak by Trump and his
key role in transforming the modern Republican Party into the Republo-fascist
Party (see the references for a series of columns by me on this subject
at: Click Here).

As an example of the
use of racism politically, in the most recent elections, in many parts of the
country, racism paid a major part of the Republican “platform.” DeSantis’ favorite, “Critical Race
Theory,” CRT, (which I am sure virtually no Republican, both lay and
political operative/candidate, understands), played a major role. It was used
as a battering, racist, ram by the Repubs. (As it happens, CRT is simply a
method, developed
by a group of academics back in the 1970s
, for studying the role of race and
racism in U.S. history. CRT is not about substance, per se, but about method.)

But given the history
of the U.S., in which, for example, race and racism were built into the
Constitution, the method quickly does get to substance in the hands of many of
its users. (See, e.g., The 1619 Project.) Of course, it
doesn’t have to, but in current U.S. Republican politics, “CRT” has
become shorthand for “they’re indoctrinating our children with all sorts
of stuff that is entirely unfair, inappropriate, unsuitable, and just dead
wrong — we are NOT racists; we just don’t want our children exposed to any
history or evidence that might indicate that we are.”

Now as it happens,
accompanying these political strategies and tactics is a (so far) subtle
revival of the post-Civil War “Myth of
the Lost Cause
As a book by that name says:

The Myth of the Lost Cause was a
constructed historical narrative on the causes of the Civil War. It argued that
despite the Confederacy losing the Civil War, their cause was a heroic and just
one, based on defending one’s homeland, state’s rights, and the constitutional
right to secession.

“The Myth of the Lost Cause may have
been the most successful propaganda campaign in American history. For almost
150 years it has shaped our view of the causation and fighting of the Civil
War. As discussed in detail in prior chapters, the Myth of the Lost Cause was
just that, a false concoction intended to justify the Civil War and the South’s
expending so much energy and blood in defense of slavery.”

It was developed in
the 1890’s, declined at about the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Acts
in the 1960, but it has never really gone away. Its persistence in the
political consciousness in certain parts of the country (just guess which ones)
is in line with the hypothesis that in reality the South actually won the civil
war. This is a subject on which I have been
short form) since 2009 (more
recently in 2018
Heather Cox Richardson, Prof. of History at Boston College, published a very
important book on
the subject

My own hypothesis on
how the South won can be boiled
down to this

Chattel slavery is of course long-gone, but for a century it was replaced by
“Jim Crow,” and Blacks are still majorly discriminated against
socio-economically. terms in the South, it existed on a certain level well into
the last century.

Since the end of the War, The Dogma of White Supremacy continued to dominate
the national political stage.

North American Continental Imperialism ended with the accession to statehood by
Arizona in 1912. However, expansion beyond the boundaries of North America
began with the annexation of Hawaii (1898) and has literally or figuratively
continued since.

The “states’ rights” basis of allotting seats in the United States
Senate (which was of course put into the Constitution purely for the benefit of
the slave-holding states) as well as votes in the Electoral College has of
course continued, and current Republican policy is making it even worse.

A major element of Southern politics was the use of the Big Lie Technique.
First that Africans and African-Americans were inferior beings, not
“human.” Second, that the Civil War, initiated by the Forces of
Secession in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, was
about “Southern Freedom.” That of course included the freedom to
maintain slavery, and to expand it into the Western Territories, without too
much in the way of limitations.

At the same time that the CSA was fighting so bitterly and for so long
primarily to defend the institution of slavery, it was able to get several
hundred thousand poor white farmers and laborers to give their lives in the
cause. How? By using the Doctrine of White Supremacy to convince them that they
were indeed fighting for “freedom.”

Central to the “Lost Cause” false narrative, the war was not a
rebellion, but rather a “War Between the States,” or, as a recent
President of the NRA referred to it “The War
of Northern Aggression,” or “Abraham Lincoln’s War,” or
“The War for Southern Independence.”

And now we are seeing
the revival of the “Lost Cause” doctrine, in modern dress, that is,
once again, that the War was really about “states’ rights,” “the
slaves didn’t have it so bad,” and “Southern freedom.” Translated for current times, it is that the states can do whatever the h__l they please. See, e.g., Alabama’s defiance of the
Supreme Court

on voting rights, conveniently ignored by the Republican Right as noted above. (That the
“rights” and the “freedoms” of the CSA included the maintenance and
the expansion of slavery, is conveniently forgotten.) It also included the
elements in item 7 just above, terms which are still being used by a variety of
defenders of the “Southern Way of Life,” such as a fairly
recent President
of the National Rifle Association
. And
it is just like so many of the arguments that many (although not all) Republicans
these days use to support their positions and policies (see “The Big
that are not based on fact.

This is where
DeSantis seems to be going. He is having
a hard time attacking Trump directly. Actually, no-one is but Chris “Doesn’t-have-a-Chance” Christie (and who knows what he is running for). So, oh my. Given that the base of the Republican Base
rests on racism, for DeSantis it’s clearly: “Let’s revive the Myth of the Lost Cause, and at the same time
go after the most prominent Black Woman in the U.S. That should do it.”

(Article changed on Jul 29, 2023 at 10:53 PM EDT)

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