Home > Right-Wing Lies > Apparently Liberals Approve of Slavery and Oppose Working to Better One’s Self. Sounds Legit.

Apparently Liberals Approve of Slavery and Oppose Working to Better One’s Self. Sounds Legit.

June 2nd, 2012

A conservative chastises liberals for being so off-base on conservatism and history:

Built into this response is an intentional misrepresentation of what conservatism is. In essence, liberals look back at history, identify the social changes of which they approve, and define “conservatism” as opposition to those changes, since conservatism is, in this reading, opposition to social change. Thus the hilarious New York Times reference to those seeking to maintain Communism in post-Soviet Russia as “conservatives.”

This doesn’t hold up to very much scrutiny: The abolitionist movement, for example, was populated largely by people who would be viewed with contempt by modern liberals, because they were crusading Christians who sought to write their own interpretation of morality into the law. (Or, in the case of John Brown, militant anti-government activists pursuing Second Amendment remedies.) One of the things I like most about Frederick Douglass is his economic analysis of slavery. In Douglass’s view, one of the great crimes of slavery is that black Americans were denied the profit of their labor and the ability to invest and engage in enterprise. One of his great sources of bitterness was that even after emancipation, black Americans remained excluded from the economy, and therefore unable to better themselves. Lincoln’s views on the importance of a man’s ability to work to better his condition would be right at home on conservative talk radio today.

So, according to this guy, Kevin D. Williamson, we should ignore the essential foundations of conservatism, the most fundamental characteristics which define it so deeply that its very name is a reflection of that foundation… and instead believe that the heroes of the past are conservative because some of their personal viewpoints are similar to what conservatives are talking about today?

Boy, talk about not seeing the forest for the trees.

Not to mention, this guy has his own misinterpretations of liberalism, and his own misjudgments about the religious mainstream. For example, he thinks that liberals would disapprove of abolitionists because they were dedicated Christians trying to bring their Christian morality to the public square. What a one-dimensional perspective this guy must have. Most liberals are Christians, and we have never objected to people allowing their religious beliefs to guide them in making moral decisions–that’s a conservative conceit. After all, how many liberals ever put down Martin Luther King Jr. for doing exactly that? And at the time, you would not have seen many conservatives accepting Dr. King’s cause based on his deep religious convictions, either.

Not to mention that the abolitionists were not trying to codify religious scripture or beliefs (what conservatives try to do with “religion guiding my actions” as a dodge and disguise to accomplish), they were guided by their religious beliefs into making social progress to equality–the exact same thing that conservatives today vilify. Look at the right wing’s vicious attacks against “social justice” movements in American religion today, and you get an idea of this.

Conservatives love to imply the false view that most Christians were abolitionists, that it was the mainstream Christian movement that freed the slaves–and conveniently ignore that they were a minority in the religious community at the time (PDF). They were the like churches today that fight for acceptance of homosexuality; they were not the megachurches with pastors who fight to further discrimination against the minority. The abolitionists were sneered at by conservatives of their time, as similar liberal Christians are sneered at by conservatives today. The fact that these people act on religious convictions have never meant anything in this regard.

Similarly, liberals would not mind religious affiliations at all if the focus were a moral good–and not an attempt to mandate religious practices. If a religious group tried to enforce prayer in schools, liberals would fight them; if, however, a religious group campaigned for legalizing gay marriage or women’s rights, we would march with them. In any of those cases, we would not examine or care whether their motivations were religious in nature; that would not matter.

The citation of Frederick Douglass is even more ridiculous–does Williamson actually believe that liberals were against black people getting paid a fair wage and being encouraged to invest and profit? Really? So why are conservatives hostile to legislation that would help assure that minorities today get paid fair and equal wages today? Why are attempts at fairness that would fit Douglass’ philosophy like a glove so vehemently opposed by right-wingers, with legislation to codify equal treatment denounced as “special privileges”?

Similarly, Williamson’s note about Lincoln’s views about working to better oneself could only be seen as antithetical to liberal values if you have a bitterly skewed and biased misunderstanding of what liberals represent.

But at the core of it all is a deep desire to gloss over basic truths in order to incorrectly claim as one’s own the more respectable icons of history, and to attempt to heave off their own villains as somehow belonging to others. All in an attempt to justify current socially regressive views as being on the right side of history. Santayana be damned.

Categories: Right-Wing Lies Tags: by
  1. Troy
    June 2nd, 2012 at 22:14 | #1

    Conservatism is one long exercise in projection these days.

    This is easily visible in their opposition to PPACA, something they themselves proposed in 1993 and their main think tank was a proponent of until the Democrats decided to go with it.


    Is there anything the conservatives are not entirely full of shit on?

    But as I opine here often, it’s not their idiocy that is troubling, it’s that they are so close to regaining complete power.

    I was going to say: “Right now Obama is a single state away — Pennsylvania — away from losing his reelection.” but checking http://electoral-vote.com I see it’s worse than that — with the latest polling he needs to win CO, NO, *and* VA.

    The House is going to be further away from the Dem caucus’ grasp, and of course the Senate is at best going to be a close-run thing.

    The core problem is that we are a nation of idiots. Not entirely, but we’ve got enough running about to make democracy a very dangerous thing — just ask the Iraqis, the ones who are still alive, about how that works.


    shows that only 20% opposed the war going in, rising to 50% 4 years later. 3 out of 10 people were able to change their mind, so they were a lesser category of moron, but there was still 5 out of 10 with their heads up their asses.

    But maybe I blame our block of fundamentalist Christians too much. Yes, they’re wrong on most everything, but Japan too doesn’t have that great of a functioning democracy.

    I don’t know what Japan’s excuse is. I think it comes down to innate conservatism — “got mine screw you” basically.

    Studying how government can work in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Canada but fail everywhere else is necessary I guess.

    I guess a society works best when it doesn’t believe its own bullshit. We’re deep, deep down that rabbit hole now.

  2. Tim Kane
    June 3rd, 2012 at 04:54 | #2

    My understanding of conservativism is that it has only one prime directive: the ever greater concentration of wealth and power.

    It does this by gaining bargaining power advantages.

    But of course this means, by definition, that they always have a problem gaining enough votes.

    As a result, these folks will embrace ANY ideology that helps them achieve the prime directive. In 1860 they embraced liberalism. In 1970 they embraced racism, non-economic single issue voters, radical know-nothing religious fundamentalism. They will embrace ANYTHING to advance the prime directive.

    Their niftiest trick is this: values/morality is a middle class phenomenon – poor can’t afford it and rich don’t need it. As they chip away at the middle class, society suffers a break down in morals. The remainder of the middle class feel threatened at the collapse of values. The conservativesy then campaign on moral issues. The middle class votes for them based, in part, upon moral issues, and then the middle class shrinks some more, causing more breakdown in morals.

    Gargle, rinse, and repeat.

    I don’t see any hope for the country. 8% unemployment means that Obama is going down. Say goodbye to the country as the Republicans serve up another idiot.

    History will peg Obama’s failure to his first month in office, where he pursued too small of a stimulus. He should have used ALL of his political capital on that one thing. Success there would have kept the house in Democratic hands. He could of then attempted health care reform after 2010.

  3. Tim Kane
    June 3rd, 2012 at 05:05 | #3


    Troy: I spent last weekend with friends in St. Louis. I’m here to tell you, I don’t think there is any chance at all of Obama taking Missouri. I was completely shocked at the antipathy for Obama and democrats in general.

    These people are all idiots. It was Republican policies that nearly destroyed global civilization and they still will take every opportunity they can to hate Obama. To be honest, I just don’t understand it.

    If I am lucky, I will find a job that puts me out of reach of the next collapse, because I believe its going to come, come hard, and it is going to be geometrically more lethal than the last. Why do I say that? In part because of my belief in “what goes around, comes around” kind of Kharma. So many people don’t know how close they came to losing everything, and basically think they’ll never lose what they have. So I hope Kharma will put me out of reach of the next great disaster, and I can sit back and watch it unfold. They’ll still say it was the liberals fault too.

    This is an insane society hell bent on self destruction. You can’t stop them, and it won’t be denied. It is, I believe, gathering velocity.

  4. Troy
    June 3rd, 2012 at 07:31 | #4

    While I agree Obama was too timorous in 2009, I think the idea that he could have done anything to save the Dems by 2010 is somewhat dubious.

    And for that matter, it was the Dems who did not want to save themselves. They cut their own throats.

    To understand 2008-2010 you have to understand 2001-2007, and 1992-2001 for that matter.

    This morning for another discussion I made this chart after somebody mentioned the 1970s:


    This compares job growth from 1965-1985 (blue) vs. 1992-now (red).

    history is rhyming, but the lyrics are bad news.

    The 1970s have a bad rap, but between 1965 and 1980 there were 50% more jobs for everyone, compared to 25% job growth in the similar period between 1992-2006 (and the 2002-2006 period required the unsustainable mortgage bubble to get us there).

    The Carter-Reagan recessions hit in 1980, but those were engineered by the Fed to try to cool the raging inflation (which was being caused by all this job growth!).


    the red line in that graph is pretty clear in showing how the Fed caused the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s.

    But look at 2010-2012 in the above chart — the Fed is in Japan-style ZIRP and the economy is still stuck in a rut (and apparently turning over now).

    To cut this short let me link to something that says what I’ve been saying, that Krugman et al don’t really understand what’s going down all that well either.


    We just can’t dump money into the economy via stimulus, we need “perestroika”.

    More affordable housing, medical care, and transportation. Just throwing money makes these more expensive, not less.

  5. Luis
    June 3rd, 2012 at 10:47 | #5

    My understanding of conservativism is that it has only one prime directive: the ever greater concentration of wealth and power. … these folks will embrace ANY ideology that helps them achieve the prime directive. In 1860 they embraced liberalism…
    Actually, I think you have a detail wrong there. They did not embrace liberalism. You are noting that it was the beginning of the Republican Party and tie that, as most automatically do, to conservatism. However, the parties have shifted over time.

    Take, for example, this bit from Republican President Teddy Roosevelt’s farewell speech:
    Regulation, not obstruction, wider participation in the fruits of labour, federal control of interstate business, shifting the burden from the poor to the rich from employee to employer.
    Does that sound conservative to you?

    The Republican Party itself started as an anti-slavery coalition. It was not so clearly liberal or conservative, but certainly was not the conservative party of the late 20th/early 21st centuries. It was free-market, but primarily as opposed to slave-society. They promoted:
    rapid modernization, including a national banking system, high tariffs, the first temporary income tax, many excise taxes, paper money issued without backing (“greenbacks”), a huge national debt, homestead laws, railroads, and aid to education and agriculture.
    Federal banks, taxes, infrastructure, and subsidies to education and farmers–again, not what you’d expect from a ‘conservative’ government. As I said, not clear-cut–it would become more socialist before it became more conservative.

    The main point here is that this is another bit of misinformation by Republicans, another attempt at revisionist history–to claim Abraham Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves as a conservative achievement by conflating the historical Republican Party with ideological conservatism.

  6. Troy
    June 3rd, 2012 at 11:19 | #6

    Does that sound conservative to you?

    Actually TR had drifted off the reservation by then.

    Republicans were always pro-Business over pro-Worker. Even Lincoln was a railroad lawyer, LOL.

    After he ceded the Presidency (having served nearly 8 years) to Taft in 1908, TR was dismayed by how his former VP had turned out and was persuaded to run in 1912 against him.

    His Progressive message was good enough to beat Taft but not enough to get Wilson (who as a Southerner and proper Princeton Establishment man had states-rights / social conservative electorate sewn up).


    The Progressive party’s platform is an interesting read:


    The main point here is that this is another bit of misinformation by Republicans, another attempt at revisionist history

    They are very brazen about eliding the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy yes. Almost Orwellesque in their avoidance of this rather ugly shift they had to do to remain relevant.

    Alas, they’re a bit more than relevant now. They’re going to destroy my country and there’s not a damn thing I can do but watch. Living the simple life in Izu 7/8 timezones away suits my http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynicism perhaps, but all this could get pretty bad before it gets any better (and us hitting a speed bump or two probably isn’t going to do Japan and its trillions of capital holdings in the US any good).

  7. June 3rd, 2012 at 21:12 | #7

    Very interesting comments and links. I’m starting to get nervous about the voting law changes, if that will be enough to affect election results. By the way, thanks to you Luis, I dusted off my Romertopf and used it again after many years. Now that my mother-in-law is increasingly toothless, it’s nice to have a sure-fire method of making extremely soft food.

Comments are closed.