November 2012: The Most Important election since 1860 by Thomas Martin Sobottke

Just yesterday, Rick Santorum in his farewell speech bowing so gracefully out of the 2012 campaign, made the strong assertion that this election of 2012 is the most important election the American people have faced since 1860. This morning, in a nationally televised interview on MSNBC, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention also said dramatically that the 2012 election is the most important since 1860. Newt Gingrich has said so. It is a matter of time until Mitt Romney asserts the same proposition.

If Republicans and conservatives are correct, this has terrible implications for the peace and security of the American people, their liberties, and the survival of the United States itself. For in 1860, the Southern portion of the Democratic Party, then the conservative party in the country, refused to accept the election of Abraham Lincoln, Southern states left the Union, Federal facilities were seized illegally, and one was fired upon in Charleston, South Carolina at Fort Sumter. The nation experienced a four year civil war that killed over 620,000 soldiers and unnumbered civilians.
If Republicans are casting themselves in the position of anti-slavery members of their own party and see Mitt Romney in Lincoln’s role in the present election, their grasp of history is weak and poorly informed.

In 1860, the Southern section of the nation, fifteen states that had human slavery, was attempting in that election to strengthen the right to hold slaves by expanding its geographical reach. They wanted a National Slave Code that would support slaveholders who took their slaves into the Federal lands out West. In a broad sense, Southerners were reactionary conservatives, attempting to not only preserve an earlier agrarian society based on white supremacy in the face of the ever growing industrial North, and the revolution in how people lived and saw the world based upon technological change and evolving opinion against the expansion of the “peculiar institution.”

Abraham Lincoln was chosen by the Republican Party in 1860 because he was a moderate on the question of slavery. Yet he was branded a dangerous radical abolitionist by the conservative Democratic opposition both North and South. Even limiting slaveholding to where it already was had become intolerable to Southerners. Even that, was viewed as cause for the revolutionary and treasonous step of secession from the Union.

It is President Obama who has repeatedly been labeled a dangerous radical since he ran for President in 2008, has been called a Socialist, a Communist, a Marxist, a Mau-Mau Anti-Colonial Kenyan Revolutionary. He’s been depicted as a monkey and his impeachment and removal from office has been constantly on the lips of his political opponents. So Obama here is no Breckenridge, the Deep South’s slavery expansionist candidate. He has to occupy the position Lincoln did that year in 1860: a political moderate misunderstood as a radical leftist candidate.

And the Republican Party’s move to the right of the political spectrum, and its emphasis on state authority over that of the Federal Government, its backward tilt to return to an earlier period in American history, say 1950, when white supremacy was assured, and women were relegated to second class citizenship and had little or no control over their bodies, a kind of early Mad Men TV Show made real. Or maybe it’s a return to the Ozzie and Harriet world that the young will only learn of from their grandparents. That is what Republicans now want to preserve.

But the world has shifted underneath their feet, just as Europe abandoned support for slavery in the 1830’s to the 1850’s and the United States was viewed as an increasingly socially out-of-step nation that violated its fundamental principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now, the world and even the United States is becoming an increasingly multi-racial and ethnic society. The old white, suburban, 1950’s style nuclear family, and common assumptions about society in place then are no longer possible. But that is where these people wish and insist that we go It is emphatically stated by their policies on social issues, their frequent missteps on questions of race and gender and class. Today’s slavery cause, full rights for people who find themselves part of the LGBT community truly divide Republicans from Democrats.

An essential part of the Republican idea that this coming election would destroy America as we have known it of course is the growing realization by conservatives that these societal changes have occurred and solidified and the racial and ethnic mix of the nation is also changing. A largely white people’s party of wealth is not suited to winning elections fairly and squarely any longer. Perhaps that is part of the rantings in 2010 of Sharon Angle for “Second Amendment Remedies” and Rick Santorum’s labeling college educated people as snobs, and Mitt Romney’s inability to connect with real middle class Americans.

The Sara Palin’s, Michelle Bachmann’s and Sharon Angle’s, the Evangelical Christian leadership, and the Ted Nugent National Rifle Association and Patriot community represent conservative fire eaters like that of Richard Barnwell Rhett, Edmund Ruffin, and William Loundes Yancey. The moderate suburban element of the Republican Party will follow these people but do not themselves have the fire in their bellies for another American Civil War. At least not yet.

This election is important in the sense that it offers the clearest choice the American people have been given between two alternative views of our nation and who we are for a very long time.

Is deficit reduction and large tax breaks for the most wealthy Americans, where the cuts come in Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, and Social Security to achieve this, and where we cannot wait to go to war with Iran what we want? Or do we continue to work to provide real economic opportunity for Americans by actually putting them to work, raising middle class wages, and keeping what is left of the shredded American dream alive. It is a stark choice. We’ll have to look at that choice from an economic standpoint in a future post here on Struggles for Justice.

If the election of 2012 is comparable to that of 1860, what do Republicans and conservatives do if they lose this year and Obama is re-elected and the Democrats retain control of even one house of Congress?

We must ask if they will accept the decision of a majority of voters or a plurality of voters where the President wins the necessary electoral votes under the Constitution of the United States. Can they respect a Congress where the people have sent more Democrats there than Republican conservatives?

I know that Democrats will accept the results of a free, fair, and democratic election that is constitutionally sound, even if we are led after 2012 back to the 1950’s and the white dominated, morally straightjacketed conformist 1950’s. We promise a lot of breast-beating, tearing at our robes; much gnashing of teeth (what we would call whining, and bitching and moaning in our day). But I think we will respect our system of government and our leaders and permit them to govern us. If we protest it will be non-violent passive resistance. If we go to jail we do so with the respect shown for the rule of law as Dr. King did and taught by being fully willing to accept the penalty.

But what will Republicans, conservatives, and the outer fringes of what is now a reactionary right-wing party in the United States do if they lose? Will they turn to violence, revolution, secession, and defiance of the national government? Is the 1860 point-of-reference a call to some sort of second American Civil War that threatens to destroy the nation? Are we pressed back to what Lincoln said at Gettysburg in November 1863 when he said that the nation’s ability to make democracy itself to work; to survive, was on the line? We will see.

Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
For Struggles for Justice

9 thoughts on “November 2012: The Most Important election since 1860 by Thomas Martin Sobottke

  1. Please don’t ever write democrats will accept a fair election! Have you been in wisconsin for the past year. Im pretty sure they didn’t accept a fair election. I’m positive they didn’t accept 12 fair elections.

  2. Let us hope that the outcome will be what we want but wthout the horrible side effect like the 1860, the good guys and bad guys are here again only the names have changed and party poles have shifted priorities

  3. Erik: The election in November 2010 has never been the issue. Announcing such a huge inititiative, planned well in advance of the election, ending collective bargaining is. There followed conduct and reveleations about Governor Walker’s associates charged with multiple felonies and the passage of the legislation in a manner that is not consistent with Wisconsin law that is the issue here. Had Walker merely balanced the budget and cut education without affecting collective bargaining or revealing himself to be in the pocket of corporations (Koch Industries) he’d be unpopular among Democrats but in no danger of a recall. The original election result was never in question and is not now. Thanks.

  4. The recall was planned a day after he was elected. Collective bargaining was screwing over the tax payer. Admit that WEAC had a basic monopoly on health insurance. Isn’t it amazing how fast districts dropped WEAC. If that doesn’t tell how much they were screwing over the taxpayers, then I don’t know what is. Collective bargaining got the English teacher of the year fired. Do you see no problem with that? Why did WEAC come out with a letter before Walker was elected saying what he would do. Why aren’t Democrats campaigning on Collective Barganing, besides Falk who is just plain nuts, and her plan to raise taxes will screw over everyone. Why would they want to recall Kleefisch, who has brought companies from all over the country to move to Wisconsin. Everything the democrats “rallied” on Walker doing, basically turned out to help Wisconsin. Now they have fake calls of the War on Women. Had the democrats not been shown to be in the pockets of the public unions, Wisconsin wouldn’t have been in the financial disaster it was in!

    • Erik:

      I don’t objectr to your supporting Governor Walker. I’m proud you hold an interest in doing so. But the November election contained no plans for recall simply because Scott Walker did not target Collective Bargaining until he was actually giving his innaugural address on 5 January 2011. Perhaps, some insiders were talking of recall soon after that but not in November or December at all. As to why the English teacher of the year was fired or layed off, a $1.6 billion cut in state funding to school districts around the state is responsible for that. WEAC does not screw the taxpayer nor did AFSCME. Wisconsin teachers went from 14th to 25th in teacher pay relative to other states from 1993 to 2004. After that things did not change significantly. The Wisconsin Employment Relactions Commission has statistics of arbitrated labor disputes under the Mediation-Arbitration Law enacted in 1971 after the Hortonville Teacher Strike. It put in place arbitration intstead of strikes and they became non-existent in Wisconsin from then. The arbitrations under the Med-Arb law over a period of some forty years were about 50/50 even between labor and management winning the disuptes. If you knew the process you would see how it limits what school districts can do to teachers, but it also restrains what teachers can demand in pay and benefit cost increases and still win in arbitration. Private sector pay far outpaced that of comparable employment in the public sector. In recent years, teachers made real concessions in health coverage to control costs. AFSCME with the State Workers took furloughs without pay PRIOR to Walker being elected. When Governor Walker took office in January 2011, a two percent pay increase was on the table. State Workers had had their pay all but frozen the previous two years. Nobody is screwing the taxpayers. Quality State services, and municipal services we all depend on cost money. So does a quality education.

      As to the budgetary disaster, nearly all of it has to do with the sharp shrinkage in state tax revenue between 2008 and 2012 during the greatest economic depression since the 1930’s. Though Governor Doyle did direct a couple of hundred million dollars more toward maintaining our excellent education system in Wisconsin, that money went primarily to keeping that English teacher of the year employed and not layed off.

      I admire you and respect our differences of opinion. But such discrepancies of facts need to be pointed out for the education and enlightenment of readers of this blog. I am sure you heard a great deal from people eager to defend the Governor. Walker’s great achievements of 2011 were to balance the State budget and for the first time in decades lower property taxes in Wisconsin. By themselves, those are great achievements. But they have come at a great cost and will continue to. You don’t cut a billion and a half dollars from education every two years without a direct effect on that area of public services. It is as simple as that. Wisconin residents have decided in November 2010 to make big cuts in education. So be it. But Walker did not run on ending collective bargaining. In fact, there is no evidence that collective bargaing adds greatly to tax burdens. But what it does do is give public servants some voice in the workplace, not a dominant voice, but one neverthelss. It also prevents employers from taking drastic action against the interests of workers. Workers without collective bargaining rights lose their place at the negotiating table altogeher. Now public units of governments can dictate to employees.

      Please provide accurate citations from well-respected newspapers, state agencies and the like for these charges you’ve made. I have no doubt that there were things said right after the 5 January 2011 Walker Innaugural Speech. But between the first tuesday in November the previous year, and then, there was simply disappointment and dismay the election had been lost to Walker by Democrats which is perfectly understandable. If Walker had NOT ended collective bargaining, something he said nothing about publicly in his entire campaign, there would not have been enough to get a recall election much less the suggestion of one. Walker campaigned saying he would bargain toughly with State Employees Unions not end bargaining entirely.


      • In June 2010, BEFORE Walker was elected, the teacher of the year was laid off.

        The state public employees, excluding teachers technically got a 6% raise when Walker took office, by not taking furlough days, as those unpaid days accounted for 6% of their working hours.

        The cuts in funding to education, haven’t caused class rooms to get large, or schools to perform worse. Class sizes have increased the smallest amount in the past 10 years. Schools are performing bettter, or the same as before. Even WEAC’s data says it.

        The website was started on November 2, 2010. The day of the election

        How WEAC Screwed the taxpayers:

        WEAC made it so they could charge basically what they wanted to any school district that WEA was involved in.

        Here are a few list of schools and the money they saved by switching providers

        Hartland-Lakeside- 690,000
        Pewaukee- 378,000
        Menomenee Falls- 1.3 Million
        Kaukauna 1.9 Million
        Oshkosh- 1.3 Million
        Saukville- 1 Million

      • I stand corrected and duly chastised. But so many Wisconsin residents were not thinking of recall and were not going to sign the petitions in November 2010. These before election recall supporters were in the distinct minority to say the least and they did not share their plans with my Union, with me, and so many people I know. Those folks with the recall could not have hoped to have gotten a smidgen of support for it just because Walker got elected. I veiwed the election as free, fair, democratic, and settled until the Innaugural Address made clear that the Governor had lied to me on a fundamental issue of concern to so many Wisconsin residents.

        I sure wish we got six percent raises. I did get an eight percent raise in the 1986-88 bienium but it was mainly to offset inflationary increases of 10-13% that had occured the previous four to six years.

        Thanks for educating all of us on the plans of Democrats to recall Walker before his election to office. They simply left almost all of us out of the loop. You would think they would tell the voters that recall was coming before the election was held. And it was I who wanted to remove the Governor from office when he began his shennanigans in January of 2011. To my suprise almost a million other state residents who vote had the same idea!

        As to saving money by abandoning WEA Insurance, that is true. But insurance companies that get a contract with school districts will low bid them and later raise rates after they are well established. Also, the insurance coverage is not the same between plans. One reason WEA is more expensive is that it covers just about everything. The others do not and so they are cheaper.

        If the entire purpose of government is to save the taxpayers money we ought to do away with government and the rule of law at all levels and then no none is taxed one penny for anything. I am really quite tired of having to apologize for wanting to support my family as a teacher for so many years. Erik, please understand deep into your very core that public servants such as teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, snow plow drivers, and clerks and department workers do help make our Wisconsin run. We pay taxes just as high as you do when taken as a percentage of our income. We gladly do that. We are active in our churches and communities to try to help make them better. We are citizens of the United States and the State of Wisconsin too. We do not live to simply “screw over” the taxpayers.

        Who does that best? You got it. Corporate interests in all fifty states. I am proud of some 31.6 years and more of public service to the communities in Wisconsin where I have lived, worked hard, and paid my taxes always.

        Once again, even if there were some Democrats quietly thinking recall on November 2, 2010, that did not reflect the views of hundreds of thousands of voters like me who voted against Scott Walker as is the right of any liberty loving American citizen. The right of universal manhood suffrage, now applied to women and minorities as well, gives us all the power to make choices about who we wish to serve us. You made the choice for Scott Walker. I respect that.

        Nobody pressured me into wanting to recall Scott Walker. It was entirely my idea and I gratefully signed on to the efforts of so many others. My decision to sign a recall petition if it came around was made in February 2011 and NOT November 2011. I can certainly inform you that the election campaign of Walker did NOT highlight his intention to end collective bargaining for public employees. It was simply not a part of his set of campaign initiatives. Other things were and I was not going to recall him over them. His subsequent behavior from 5 January 2011 and onward put me in mind of the recall. I’ve taught about this Progressive Era innovation of Fighting Bob La Follete in Wisconsin in the opening years of the 20th Century in my civics and history classes over a whole generation of Mukwonago students. That it came to mind for me independtly of the suggestion of others was no accident or the result of the big Union thugs telling me what to do. It was the obvious and lawful response to a man who had betrayed the public trust in so many ways in January and February and March 2011 and now beyond.

        It’s interesting that this group mentioned in the internet article on November 2, 2010 was so far ahead of the curve. Thanks for providing the citations for all of us. I mean it. You are a great contributor to comments on this blog. But I will stand for the recall of Governor Walker on my own steam. It is the second recall petition I have signed in my lifetime. In 1981 I signed the recall petition of Dane County Cirduit Court Judge Archie Simonsen, who said a teenage rape victim deserved it because she wore such sexy clothing. He doubled down on that comment and made more comments unbefitting the judge who was sitting on that very case.

        Recalls should be rare. In both cases I was sorry to have to sign the petitions for them. If Governor Walker had not revealed his being in the hands of the Koch brothers and their Koch Industries, had not suddenly announced to the State on 5 January 2011 that collective bargaining was ending, and the legislature over his signature had not passed the law ending it such as they did one night late in the evening and locking the doors to the legislature against the Constitution of our State, and he had not had so many friends and associates indicted in an FBI Federal John Doe probe into breaking campaign laws where over a dozen felaonies have already been generated and the Governor himself is still under investigation, maybe then I would have resisted signing the recall petition.

        He campaigned on making public servants pay more for health and pension benefits. OK. He stupidly turned away over $800 million in stimulus money and 4,800 new jobs. OK. He wanted to bargain tough with us. OK. He was and is required to balance the state budget. More than OK. It is his Constitutional duty and I applaud him for that. He also managed to lower property taxes. I applaud him for that. So I am not entirely opposed to him.

        I remain concerned about the $1.6 billion budget cut to education in Wisconsin, the largest in the fifty states. It is going to slowly erode the quality of the education available in our State. The 2010 laying off of the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year was not the decision of my Union at all or anybody who worked with the person. Erik, the Mukwonago Area Schools budget has been as tight as a …(you fill in the blank) for all the 27 years I worked there. Other school districts all over the State have been in the same predicament for years. So it does not surprise me.

        Best wishes.

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