Thursday, November 02, 2006

Midterm Elections

The situation: a deeply unpopular Republican President, derided viciously in the press as an unsophisticated backcountry rube and an ape, during a divisively unpopular war considered an idiotic wasteful mistake and quagmire in which nothing but defeat was emerging; and the Democrats, backed by disgruntled generals, running on a platform of "cut and run" (with the approval of the major foreign powers), were poised to sweep into power in the midterm elections.


How about 1862?

The President was Lincoln, but the script is identical.

Democrats. Treasonous surrender-monkeys for 144 years.

Only Divine Providence saved the Union, in the form of a "September Surprise" (things moved more slowly in those days) in which Lee's secret orders for a decisive thrust towards Harrisburg which would have sealed the Union's doom, were found in a field, wrapped around some cigars, by troopers from Indiana. This allowed, finally, a moderate Union military victory to finally hit the papers, and Lincoln was able to then give the Emancipation Proclamation speech which he was waiting to do from a position of strength, which changed public opinion narrowly to the cause of righteousness -- at least long enough to swing the election of 1862.

Gloom would descend again when Lincoln himself was up for election again in 1864.

The story of the 1860s is so parallel to today as almost to defy belief.

One could even snarkily say:

Republicans. Stealing elections to save the country since 1862.

Except the claims of strong-arm tactics back then were, you know, true, and of a wholly different quality than of today.

And yet, the Nation went on, and it was the less bad of the two possible outcomes.

This will be lengthy, so bear with me. Now on to the evidence of parallels.

First Lincoln.

Talk about The Chimp? "Ape" Lincoln was the original Chimpy!

And his social graces were lacking; he would be the anti-Kerry:
New York was convulsed with amusement because at the opera he wore a pair of huge black kid gloves which attracted the attention of the whole house, "hanging as they did over the red velvet box front." At an informal reception, between acts in the director's room, he looked terribly bored and sat on the sofa at the end of the room with his hat pushed back on his head. Caricatures filled the opposition papers. He was spoken of as the "Illinois ape" and the "gorilla." Every rash remark, every "break" in social form, every gaucherie was seized upon and ridiculed with-out mercy.

And for example, this article from 1996 reviews some depictions in the press:
By far, Lincoln was the most frequent target of scorn: "From first to last," noted the initial editorial, "I have maintained the utter incompetence of Abe Lincoln."3 One week later, the writer predicted, "As long as Lincoln is suffered to remain at the head of affairs, there is no real hope for America."4 Although "Our Own Manhattan" decried, quite justifiably, the quality of Union generals, including McDowell, Little Mac, Pope, Burnside, and Hooker, he reserved his most potent contempt for the commander-in-chief.

Simply to suit the purposes of the miserable dotard, the superannuated wood-cutter, Abe Lincoln.... Abe has made a bet of half a million dollars with the American representative of the house of Rothschild, that Charleston will not fall before the 22nd September. Of course he means to win.... Our peculiar exercise of private judgment in choosing as our ruler not a statesman, not an orator, not even a gentleman, has already cost us half a million lives and a national debt, the largest ever created in so short a time, which we have not the remotest intention of ultimately repaying.
Shades of Halliburton! And a busted budget!
The man Lincoln is possibly "honest," but a more helpless nincompoop was never raised down in Illinois.... Any citizen of ordinary intellect would have contracted to crush the rebellion in ninety-one days. The plain truth is, that Lincoln and his men do not really desire to put down the South. No, Sir. It pays them too well.... Abe has really been purchasing property down South; that he has bought a plantation in Louisiana; that, as soon as circumstances permit, Mrs. L. will be sent away, and her place supplied by a bevy of African belles; and that the chief overseer, with unlimited powers of using the cow-hide, will be our intelligent ... friend, Horace Greeley.
War profiteering!

Even the famous Gettysburg Address couldn't please anyone; so what could Bush possibly say?
In the aftermath of Gettysburg, the Comic News's special correspondent derided Lincoln's ability as a speaker [in giving the Gettysburg Address]. "The language of Abraham Lincoln, President of the Minor portion of the Dis-United States of America, is commonly of so vulgar a nature as to be, in the language of the Comic News Police Reporter, 'totally unfit for publication.' Mr. Lincoln has made himself almost hymn-mortal by his disgusting song-singing on the flat of Gettysburg, and for further immorality he must get his character improved, or he will never be recognized as a genius by the genial correspondent of the Comic News."
And whereas the earlier Morgan exploited the rural simpleton, awkward oaf, incompetent buffoon, and inept president imagery, the later version imputed more malevolent motives. Themes of blood, death, tyranny, intimations of war crimes, and even the propriety of hanging Lincoln exemplify the more hostile content.
Abe lied, people died! Gitmo!!!

I now turn to the book, What Ifs? of American History, subtitled Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been.

I will combine excerpts from two essays, in their outline of the situation. The first "What If?" is about what if Lee's order's hadn't been lost and then found by the Union -- the dissolution of the United States was then highly likely.

The second, discusses the development of the "Northwest Conspiracy" of Democrats to take over the "Northwest" states (now the Midwest) and declare a second Confederacy, because of Lincoln's shifting war aims, and what would have happened if not for an informant in the secret Confderate-sympathizing Democrat militia, the Sons of Liberty.

Any events I quickly summarize are in brackets.

The situation in 1862. Or is it 2006?
Dispirited Union troops retreated to the defenses of Washington to lick their wounds.

This startling reversal caused Northern morale to plummet. "The feeling of despondency is very great," wrote a prominent New York Democrat...His words were echoed by a New York Republican... "Things look disastrous... I find it hard to maintain my lively faith in the triumph of the nation and the law"...

Lincoln lamented privately: "It seems unreasonable that a series of successes, extending through half a year, and clearing more than a hundred thousand square miles of country, should help us so little, while a single half-defeat should hurt us so much."

Unreasonable or not, it was a fact. The peace wing of the Democratic party stepped up its attacks on Lincoln's policy of trying to restore the Union by war. Branded by Republicans as disloyal "Copperheads", the Peace Democrats insisted that Northern armies could never conquer the South and that the government should seek an armistice and peace negotiations. Confederate military successes boosted the credibility of such arguments. And worse was yet to come...[in the form of Union defeats in TN and KY.]

Rather than give up and negotiate a peace, however, Lincoln and the Republican Congress acted dramatically to intensify the war.
Bush, take note!
Northern morale continued to fall. "The nation is rapidly sinking just now," wrote a NY diarist... "Disgust with our present government is certainly universal."

Democrats hoped to capitalize on this disgust in the upcoming congressional elections. Republicans feared the prospect. "After a year and a half of trial," wrote one, "and a pouring out of blood and treasure, and the maiming and death of thousands, we have made no sensible progress in putting down the rebellion...and the people are desirous of some change." The Republican majority in the House was vulnerable. Even the normal loss of seats in off-year elections might eliminate this majority. And 1862 was scarcely a normal year. With Confederate invaders in the border states, the Democrats seemed sure of gaining control of the House on their platform of an armistice an dpeace negotiations.

[The British and French were looking for an excuse to recognize the Confederacy and force an armistice for access to precious cotton]
No blood for cotton!
The US consul in Liverpool reported that "we are in more danger of intervention than we have been at any previous period...They [the Europeans] are all against us and would rejoice at our downfall."
But with the loss of the Special Orders, Lee's movements were known, and he was turned back at Antietam, saving the day temporarily. Providence would also have to intervene again later, at Gettysburg.

But Democrats were seething for many reasons, leading to the curious Northwest Conspiracy. Many in the border states of Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois were very disgruntled at the Republicans and their freeing of slaves -- something they hadn't signed up for:
Thus was the Northwest Conspiracy born...The plotters proposed to take these crucial states out of the Union and set up a third nation -- the Northwest Confederacy...

The plan called for auprising by 100,000 angry Democrats in these states during the summer or fall of 1864...
But why?
This visionary scheme grew out of the frustrations of the Copperhead movement, in particular anger over the fate of the first leader of the antiwar forces in the Midwest, Ohio congressman Clement Vallandigham. He was arrested by Gen. Ambrose Burnside in 1863 for making supposedly treasonous speeches and tried before a military commission. The trial was a farce. The federal judge advocate general had judicial as well as prosecutorial powers.
He was deported and ended up in Canada.
Beneath the heartland, Democrats' hostility to the war was something deeper and less recognized -- the extralegal tactics of the Lincoln administration, especially in Indiana and Kentucky, where the Republicans created something very close to military dictatorships that manipulated elections and used terror tactics to retain political control. By 1864, the Democrats of KY and IN were a seething mass of rage in search of a target...
Once in control of KY, Republicans armed the people of Appalachia, the Cumberland "knobs," as they were called. These folk had a long history of hatred for the pro-Southern aristocrats of the Bluegrass...Tens of thousands of resentful KY Democrats vowed to get even at the polls.

Republicans responded with brute force. On July 21, 1862, Union general Jerry T. Boyle threated to arrest any Democrat who had the temerity to run for office against the admin's slate...The Republicans carried the state in the 1862 midterm elections by stationing troops around polling places. When a Democrat showed up to cast his ballot, he was often told by the officer in command that he would not be responsible fo rhis safety if he voted...

These tactics carried KY for the Republicans and helped give Lincoln his narrow margin of control in the House in 1862.
Karl Rove, are you listening? That's Old School. Somehow "hanging chads" just don't get my attention compared to what this nation has successfully endured in the past.
When the state Democratic convention met in Frankfortin Feb 1863, Col. Gilbert marched the 44th Ohio into the meeting hall and dispersed the assembly at bayonet point...No less than 17 newspapers were smashed up by mobs, often with soldiers in uniform helping out or watching with warm approval.

When leading politicians...protested these tactics, they were arrested and held in various federal prisons where they endured verbal abuse and semistarvation until they pledged allegiance to the federal government.
That's one way to deal with the MSM and its lackeys.

Democrats won the state of Indiana and immediately voted to cut off war funding. The Governor dismissed the legislature and ruled by decree for the rest of the war, using money supplied directly from Lincoln's government.

How about that!

Talk about "shifting rationales" for war!
After the Emancipation Proclamation, disaffection with the Lincoln administration in both IN and KY became intense...2,300 men deserted from IN regiments in Dec 1862...the western army was 'demoralized until it is worthless...Soldiers are deserting every day.'

Democratic newspapers published letters denouncing 'Old Black Abe' and his proclamation. The editors saw the document as a perversion of the war's original aim to preserve the Union. Democrats regarded it as a double cross because Lincoln had previously promised not to interfere with the institution of slavery.
Once again, Abe lied, people died!

From then on, things spun out of control in the border states politically. The Democrat convention in Indianapolis of 1863 was a fiasco, in which an actual melee broke out and Federal troops ran the delegates out of town with cannon and cavalry.

By 1864,
Nobody, including Lincoln himself, thought he could be reelected. Divided and discouraged Republicans began talking about finding another canddate...There was a near certainty that the Democrats were going to nominate General George C. McClellan, the man Lincoln had dismissed as general-in-chief. If he won, "Little Mac" made it clear that his first act would be to call for a negotiated peace with an independent South.

The possibility...filled many minds with demoralizing gloom.
Shades of Wesley Clark!

This all led to secret societies and militias forming in the border states, that developed treasonous political ideas -- including the uprising plan of the Sons of Liberty to converge on Chicago and release Confederate prisoners by the thousands to form an army. The plot was unraveled by an informant and, paradoxically, the low ebb of Lincoln's popularity made many think no uprising was necessary to defeat the Republicans in 1864.
Hines and a handpicked group of ex-Morgan cavalrymen met nothing but disappointment when they attempted to organize the two regiments of the Sons of Liberty for action...General Carrington sent cavalry ranging through the state, arresting Dr. Bowles, Dodd, Milligan, and dozens of other Sons of Libery leaders. More than 30,000 rifles and pistols were seized, along with tons of powder and ammunitions. In a few weeks between 300 and 400 minor leaders were under lock and key...
Then Sherman would take Atlanta, raising everyone's spirits just in time for Lincoln to be re-elected.
The Republicans used the Sons to bolster their 1864 election campaign...

For years they had been trying to smear the Democrats with the treason label. The Northwest Conspiracy seemed to prove it...The accusation that the Democratic party was disloyal remained a favorite cry for Republican orators until the Spanish-American War.
And once again, apparently!

To make one final connection with today, what of the head conspirators? Convicted by military tribunals, Lincoln agreed for the sake of healing to pardon them after the war. But with his untimely death, Andrew Johnson who then became President knew nothing of those plans.

Forced then to appeal, the Milligan mentioned above would be immortalized in the postwar Supreme Court decision of 1866, ex parte Milligan, which factors into the issue of illegal combatant tribunals at Guantanamo today -- the connections just get stranger!

Having served a year or so hard labor, their convictions were voided on procedural grounds, the Supreme Court adding to its opinion that otherwise they were "scoundrels who deserved to hang."

Milligan would sue for wrongful imprisonment, and was awarded an insulting $12 in damages.

And today history is repeating.

But as Tragedy, or Farce?