Josh Marshall

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The reason Confederate statues stand in America are twofold.

Those erected in the aftermath of the Civil War were permitted, even endorsed, by Union politicians and periodicals as a means of appeasing the vanquished in a conflict that killed more Americans than any war before or since. It was, of course, bizarre reasoning, as the statuary became more than just participation trophies for traitors but also served as vestiges of slavery, states’ rights and supremacy for the conquered to cling to.

The more recent Confederate monuments in the U.S. are clearly meant to communicate white dominance. It’s questionable at best that they would have been allowed to exist at all were it not for the many similar tributes already dotting the nation. The original sin made possible the many even darker ones to follow.

Two excerpts follow.

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From “Some Thoughts on Public Memory” by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:

What is little discussed today is that the North and the South made a tacit bargain in the years after the Civil War to valorize Southern generals as a way to salve the sting of Southern defeat and provide a cultural and political basis for uniting the country with more than military force. That meant the abandonment of free blacks in the South after the mid-1870s. It is important to see this not only as the abandonment of the ex-slaves of the South. It is difficult, but necessary, to pull away the subsequent history to realize that it was entirely possible in the aftermath of the Civil War that the US would be condemned to perpetual warfare, insurrection and foreign intervention. But if the opposite, the United States that went on to become a global superpower, is what was gained it was gained at a terrible price and a price paid more or less solely by black citizens.

However one judges that past, knowing its full history leaves no reason or rationale for continue the valorization of Lee. He was a traitor and a traitor in a terrible cause. That is his only mark on American history. Whether he was a personally gentle man, nice to his pets or a good field general hardly matters.

Even this though leaves the full squalidness of Lee’s legacy not quite told. There is the Lee of the Civil War and then the mythic Lee of later decades. Today the battle over Lee’s legacy is mainly played out over the various statues depicting Lee which still stand across the South. The notional focus of this weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville was a protest over plans to remove a Lee statue. But those statues don’t date to the Civil War or the years just after the Civil War. In most cases, they date to decades later.•

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A 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle letter to the editor from a Union veteran:

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Donald Trump, who impetuously got into politics hoping to get a tugjob in the toilet adjacent to the Lincoln Bedroom, is Barry Goldwater at a Gathering of the Juggalos. 

One of the happiest turns in the media world in 2015 was a wonderful talent like James Poniewozik becoming the TV critic at the New York Times. It may not be his favorite assignment, but the writer stifled his gag reflex long enough to review the awfulness of last night’s Pants-Off Dance-Off known as the GOP debate. What follows is an excerpt from his work and one from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.


From Poniewozik:

Mr. Trump turns subtext into text, whether it’s about immigration or torture. Republican candidates had sent certain messages to voters for years, and now the party hears them coming back from Mr. Trump translated, or perhaps decoded.

On Thursday, his opponents made plenty of substantive, detailed attacks on him, and maybe they worked, but tying them to questions of character risks underscoring his reality-TV-style directness.

But what’s the alternative? Mr. Rubio tried speaking Mr. Trump’s language at the previous debate, and afterward. He mocked, he taunted, he said that Mr. Trump may have wet himself. It worked, or it didn’t — Mr. Rubio didn’t have a great Super Tuesday. And at this debate, he seemed a little sheepish about having tried it. He was still on the attack, but in his own language.

It seems the best way to beat Mr. Trump is to make him small, and the best way to make him small is to beat him. Maybe Thursday’s media whirlwind was the start of that — who knows anything anymore? — but it made the debate, the news cycle, the world, all about him, Trump Trump Trumpity-Trump. It was done, to borrow the hashtag of the social-media movement against him, in the spirit of #NeverTrump, but the practical effect was #AllTrump, #AllTheTime.

The Republican Party hung a giant target on Mr. Trump’s back. But that meant he ended the day reassured, for the umpteenth time, that his was in fact bigger.•


From Marshall:

There was one point maybe in the 3rd quarter hour of the debate where Rubio and Trump were basically just yelling at each other. It was very messy. Trump was clearly unable to dominate the stage. And yet, as I watched, I thought: this is not doing Marco Rubio any good. It may be bloodying Trump but not to Rubio’s benefit. They knocked him off his perch a bit but they looked like ridiculous animals wrestling with him on the ground.

The other thing I wonder about tonight is the effect of Fox News’ attacks on Trump. Trump’s the frontrunner. His dirty laundry is only now really getting a close look from the press. It makes sense that the moderators would press him more than the others. But it went well beyond that. They were out to get him. No one could watch this debate and not get that. Given how much Trump’s base constituency is driven by resentment against ‘establishments’ and perceived unfairness to themselves and those they support, will this redound to Trump’s benefit? Will it at least not hurt him? I think it’s definitely possible.

I have little doubt that the cross-country exchange with Romney today actually did help Trump. If you’re for Trump, you’re against the establishment and all it stands for. Romney is the establishment wing of the establishment and even the attack itself was fairly feckless. It only confirms Trump’s message. On a stage he owned, a short while later in Maine, Trump mutilated Romney in his response. I’m much less sure this debate helped Trump in the same way.

My cautious, initial take is that all the attacks combined didn’t do much if anything to shake Trump’s support. But they may have started to put an actual ceiling on that support. It may have stopped him from building on his current numbers. I’m truly not sure.•

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