This week’s guests-
Doris Kearns Goodwin is my least favorite credible historian.
Let’s get least favorite part out of the way first. She’s my least favorite because she’s a constantly sycophantic toady to power who has never met a Beltway trope or a piece of Villiager conventional wisdom that she was not willing to parrot or at least let pass unprotested.
Doris is a conservative historian, thoroughly unchallenging and well conected and thus trotted out frequently by talk shows (including Jon unfortunately) as a veneer of respectability.
Is she respectable? Well, more than those idealogues and cretins you see trotted out by the racist and fascist right wing. She might come to decide Barack Obama was a bad President (and he was) but she would never compare him with Hitler where I, a less credible historian, might.
Oh you want to get into it? Torture, assassination by association, Gestapo-like Security State, undeclared wars of aggression. Q.E.D., and don’t bother telling me he had no agency, he and his ‘Just Us’ department actively worked to thwart every effort at accountability. That’s what we call accessory after the fact.
But she’s not totally unhinged from reality and as an example of historical reality and how it plays out over time I give you the underlying causes of the War for Slavery.
There was a time in the mid ’60s when the Civil Rights Movement was peaking and the centenials of this and that were being celebrated. In secondary schools and some colleges the prevailing narrative is that it was the growing economic might of the North and a fear for diminishing political influence that were the prevailing causes of the War of Southern Rebellion.
Some far out historians (probably pot smoking dirty hippies) suggested that the two precipitating forces were the economic value of Black Human Beings as property and flat out racism. Now they had plenty of contemporaneous primary sources that said just that in unmistakable black and white but no said the historical establishment, the North was as fully implicated in the Institution of Slavery as the South and it couldn’t possibly be.
Well, the elite North was (which it would do not to forget) and the average person was just as racist as those in the South, but what they also saw was an economic system that, even if they couldn’t articulate it as directly as we do today, Slave Labor would drive Free Labor out of the marketplace. The resentment against the Fugitive Slave Act wasn’t driven entirely by altruistic sympathy for the poor downtrodden Black.
At the time (the 1960s not the 1860s) most historians denied that Slaves had any economic value at all and argued the South was trapped in a dying system. Modern historians almost universally accept that the South was wealthier than the North and was poised to add to that disparity on the Cotton Trade and expansion of Slavery. The South was not all picking and grinning, many Plantations sported Factories and Ironworks, all staffed by Slaves.
Doris Kearns Goodwin blows with the breeze, neither the best or worst, just another hack but at least a credible one.
Senior Black Correspondent
Tonightly we will be talking about Cecil The Lion with our panel Rory Albanese, Baratunde Thurston, and Bobcat Goldwait.
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