civil war deja vu?

During the Democratic primary, my favorite lovable old sourpuss, Jim “I told you so” Kunstler, had taken to drawing comparisons between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. Or, at least he did on one occasion that I remember discussing here. He suggested that Obama had the same amount of experience that Lincoln had when he became President. Anyway, he’s back at it again today. And, this time, he’s fleshing the analogy out a bit more. Here’s a clip:

…Any way you paint this grotesque panorama, it looks like a very new chapter of history for life in the USA. Basically, we are a much poorer nation than we were even a couple of years ago, and we have a much-reduced ability to project our will around the world, or even among our own floundering sectors and regions. Most troubling to me is the question of legitimacy that now hangs over the proscenium like a guillotine blade. Factoring in the old saw that history doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, I think the situation emerging is rather like the crisis of legitimacy that preceded the Civil War. Then, in the 1850s, the nation’s two symbiotic political parties, Whig and Democrat, entered a zone of fatal discredit. The White House had been occupied by a sequence of empty cravats named Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, and so much pent-up mistrust roiled the centers of power that the nation entered a convulsion.

At issue then was the great festering unresolved polity of slavery. The Whig party, in its oafish, craven fecklessness, disappeared so quickly from the scene that an embarrassed God Almighty seemed to have hooked it off-stage in a nanosecond. Into the vacuum stepped an awkward lawyer from Illinois — widely mocked by the coarser elements of what was then called the press as a figure resembling an ape in a stovepipe hat. He accomplished one crucial thing in the process of his emergence: he deployed a potent rhetoric that captured the essence of the crisis and clarified it for all to understand what was at stake — and then the convulsion commenced in earnest.

The Republican Party amounts to today’s Whigs. Their candidate for president, John McCain, is trying to run away from his own party — as one might shrink away from a colony of importuning lepers. I am actually not kidding when I label the Republicans “the party that wrecked America,” because I believe that is truly how the popular strain of history will regard them when (maybe if) the wreckage of their ministrations ever clears. But history doesn’t repeat exactly. The current figure from Illinois, Barrack Obama, has yet to offer a truly crisis-clarfying rhetoric, though he labors under the expectation of being able to do so. Like his long-ago predecessor, he is mocked by the coarser elements of what we call “the media” these days — Fox News and the moron-rousers of talk radio.

Some of the issues yet-to-be-clarified concern the behavior of the American public in the broad sense. We have obdurately resisted the reality of the energy crisis that hangs over everything we do (as slavery hung over the 1850s), from the way we inhabit the landscape to the way we do daily business in our 240-million-plus fleet of cars and trucks that ply the ribbons of asphalt and the lagoons of parking that now run from sea to shining sea where the fruited plain was replaced by the Wal Marts…

So, what I’m wondering tonight is this. Is the Civil War analogy appropriate? Is the process of weaning ourselves from oil going to follow a similar path as that laid out in the 1850’s, as we struggled to end slavery? And if history really is repeating itself, is bloodshed inevitable?

So, that’s what I’m thinking about tonight as our Treasury is being looted by the white collar slave traders of Wall Street. Happy thoughts.

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6 Comments

  1. Lisa
    Posted September 22, 2008 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    My first thoughts are that I’d be more likely to listen if he had spelled Obama’s name correctly…

  2. PR consultant
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Will the coming post-oil realignment divide idiots from the sane? Without question. And, largely, the division will be North/South. So, yes, there is a similarity. It’s hard to say what the precipitating event will be, but at some point the Union will certainly be in jeopardy. You can bet on it. My guess is that California, further along the path to energy independence, will be the first to want to jump out. They won’t want to get into another war for oil.

  3. Posted September 23, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a link you might find interesting – they’re bringing active duty forces back from Iraq to be under the control of the ‘homeland defense’ command, even though there is no current emergency:

    “But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.”

    link: Army Times

  4. kjc
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    interesting to see this post referring to lincoln. a friend of mine sent me this today:

    “i’ve been reading about the Lincoln-Douglas debates — some kind of 150 year notice. most remember Lincoln as anti-slavery, but he was so worried about the abolitionist charge! it was the near equivalent to “soft on terrorism” now, very near… not only wouldn’t he touch it, but when he got to southern Illinois, in the fourth round, he said this: ‘I am not nor have ever been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.’ ”

  5. designated republican
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Lincoln’s opinions on this subject “evolved” quickly in the crucible of the Civil War.

    As for wrecking the nation, keep in mind that it was the Democrat Party that violently promoted seccessionism, states rights, slavery forever, and ultimately the Confederacy. The Democrats “wrecked the nation” long before “wrecking the nation” became fashionable in NYC.

  6. kjc
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    yes, i see that the republicans on the Senate Banking Committee (and their spineless democratic counterparts) “evolved” just today. suddenly the free market is not god and does not know best.

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