Did the South Keep Lincoln Off the Ballot?

If you missed it, the Maine Secretary of State has decided to remove Donald Trump from the ballot in 2024.

This followed the Colorado Supreme Court decision that did the same, though after Trump appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, the Colorado Secretary of State placed Trump back on the Republican primary ballot.

The Supreme Court decided to hear the case today, as I predicted on Episode 897 of The Brion McClanahan Show back in November.

SCOTUS will rule in favor of Trump 5-4. Book it.

Regardless, because the Maine Secretary of State is a Democrat, several prominent conservative historians took to the media to blast the move. Predictably, Victor Davis Hanson labeled it a tactic of the “Confederacy”, because don’t you know Democrats in the South kept Lincoln off the ballot in 1860.

Except they didn’t.

Republicans kept Lincoln off the ballot in the South in 1860.

States did not print ballots before the 1880s. The Parties did all of the work, and without secret ballots, everyone knew who you supported. This allowed for voter intimidation–ask Democrats in Union States during the War–and also led to the eventual regulation elections.

Republicans bargained that they would not get a single vote in the South and therefore did not send any ballots to the cotton States. They were right, and thus Lincoln was skunked throughout the Deep South. He polled about 1% of the vote in Virginia and Kentucky, about two percent in Maryland, ten percent in Missouri, and about twenty percent in Delaware, but overall, as Michael Holt has shown in this excellent book, the election in the South was between Bell and Breckenridge, not Lincoln and Breckenridge.

While historically inaccurate, this type of logic could be used against Republicans in the North. Breckenridge wasn’t on the ballot in New York and New Jersey. Republicans didn’t keep him off the ballot. Democrats did, because Douglas men ran the Democratic Party in those States and refused to allow Breckenridge ballots.

Why didn’t Hanson and the rest of the historically ignorant trumpet this information?

Because it doesn’t fit their R good, D bad narrative. More importantly, it doesn’t allow them to run the South as the bogeyman thesis of American history and to virtue signal about their moral self-righteousness.

Blame Republicans. They never change.

I discuss the ballot issue on Episode 916 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Will This Case Destroy the Tax Code?

I’m back. I hope everyone is ready for a great 2024 and that your year will be healthy, prosperous, happy, and fulfilling.

We know our opponents don’t want any of that for us.

Deplorables don’t deserve good things.

Without question, this will be an interesting year, and perhaps one of the most “historical” in recent memory.

The political theater surrounding the presidential election alone will deserve its own chapter in future historical texts/

If Trump wins, get ready for the real fun.

If he’s kept off the ballot in several States, that will also be quite significant and dangerous.

I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

But today, let’s talk taxes. We’ve turned the calendar to 2024 and the tax man cometh looking for his treasure in a few short months.

A pending Supreme Court case could upend the tax code, at least that is what we are being told.

It wouldn’t change much for the average person, but any action on the government’s ability to tax is significant.

What is a direct tax? What is an indirect tax? What is income?

These questions have been asked since the 1780s and have always been politically driven.

During the Trump administration, the Congress passed a tax law that allowed for the government to retroactively charge people for money they earned from foreign corporations. One American couple has challenged the penalty, They contend that corporate earnings are not realized and therefore cannot be taxed.

The Supreme Court will get to determine the fate of this part of the tax code. It should have been challenged as an ex post facto law, but that is not how the case is being presented. Even some of the Supreme Court Justices raised this point, meaning they could rule the penalty to be illegal while leaving the rest of the code in place.

That will probably be the outcome if I had to guess, and it will be a 5-4 majority that does it.

The Court can’t rock the boat too much.

This might seem like an “in the weeds” discussion, but there are larger historical implications for this case, namely who do we define a direct or indirect tax. The case of Hylton v. United States in 1796 should be our starting point, a case I cover in my McClanahan Academy class, How the Supreme Court Screwed Up America.

I also address it in How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America.

But I also give you a bit of a rundown on Episode 914 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Thomas Jefferson, Conservative

Who is the real Thomas Jefferson?

Historians have attempted to answer this question since “Sage of Monticello” died in 1826.

Jefferson has been the symbol of nearly every political movement in America, even if he would have disagreed with their positions.

He has been described as a radical, a progressive, a liberal, an agrarian, a populist, a libertarian, a conservative, a republican, and a federalist.

Jefferson was first and foremost a Virginian. Modern attempts to attach ideological labels to the man often fail because the real Jefferson was rooted to a time and place, his State.

Jefferson loved Paris. He admired the New England “ward republics.” He studied Greece and Rome, and spoke highly of the Anglo-Saxon traditions. But none of these contemporary or ancient examples compared to his native country of Virginia.

He traveled as a Virginian and spoke from his “little mountain” plantation in the heart of the Virginia wilderness.

As Clyde Wilson explains in his fantastic new book on Jefferson, “Jefferson begins and ends with Virginia.”

Jefferson the statesman cannot be understood without knowing Jefferson the Virginian.

He drafted the Declaration of Independence only after his fellow Virginians pressed the issue, and he preferred to be back in his country debating a new Constitution rather than stuffed in Philadelphia with delegates from the other States. He borrowed some of the lofty rhetoric in the Declaration from George Mason and insisted that he wasn’t stating any new ideas or principles but simply expressing the American mind.

Wilson explains that much of our misunderstanding of Jefferson is due to historians missing context. Jefferson politely appeared to agree with everyone in person while playfully bantering ideas in his letters. The real Jefferson can only be understood from his actions.

For example, he certainly wished for religious freedom thought action must be taken by individuals in their own States.

Federalism, not “democracy”, and more importantly political decentralization, formed the core of his political world.

He distrusted banks, but in particular banks organized, financed, and administered by men who were not sufficiently republican.

He supported education but not from the “dark Federalist mills” of the North.

When Americans needed an intellectual symbol, they often turned to Jefferson.

Abraham Lincoln attempted to sound more like Jefferson than Hamilton throughout his political career. So did the progressives of the modern era.

Their policies never matched the man they rhetorically idolized, but it shows how Jefferson’s American has outlived Hamilton’s, at least in how we view American politics, even if most who invoke his name do not understand the man.

Real Jeffersonians, not just those who attempted to sound like Jefferson, dominated American politics for the first eighty years of the federal republic, and some could be found well into the twentieth century, particularly in the South.

They have virtually disappeared today.

Which is why Wilson has performed such an important service for the American public. His concise collection of essays provides the answer to “who was Thomas Jefferson”?

Jefferson never considered himself to be an ideological sage and thought such notions were foolish.

But as Wilson writes, “…he was the Virginian statesman who saved the Constitution from the centralizing and rent-seeking agenda of the Federalists and preserved it as had been intended in its ratification.”

If nothing else, Jefferson should be admired for his determined efforts to save America from scheming innovators and dangerous centralizers.

I discuss Jefferson and Wilson’s new book on Episode 911 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Texas Secession!

Secession may be on the ballot in Texas.

At least it may be on the Republican primary ballot.

Proponents of Texas Secession (TEXIT) have gathered close to 100,000 signatures on the issue, meaning the Republican Party may be forced to include it on the primary ballot, as per State law.

This is a big development.

For years, the Texas Republican Party has resisted a grassroots effort to have a vote on the issue. Some Lincolnian legislators have called those who support it traitors who don’t understand either the Texas or United States Constitutions.

They aren’t bright, as I pointed out here.

This is, of course, a minor step forward, and Texas secession faces monumental hurdles. And they need to do it correctly through a State convention.

That said, no one would have thought this was possible even twenty years ago. The Texas Nationalist Movement has worked tirelessly to pull it off, and more people are being educated about the original Constitution.

Why do you think all of the Fonerites on the left have conceded that originalists were right all along, but we have this new Constitution called the 14th Amendment.

They have been making this argument for half a century, but it has gained steam recently because of victories like the Texas secession initiative.

We still need to educate more people on the topic. Most Americans think that secession and violence are synonymous, when in fact there is nothing more peaceful than saying live and let live. “You govern California the way you want, we’ll have Texas for Texians.”

It’s really a win, win.

There are important Constitutional questions that need to be addressed, and I talk about some of those and Texas secession on Episode 909 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Will This Case Destroy the Federal Government?

A paranoid leftist law professor worries that the Supreme Court will destroy the federal government.

That is if a pending case is decided in the way he fears.

You see, this professor thinks that originalist “cherry picking” of the Constitution is going to undermine the regulatory state. What will we do without the SEC, FDA, OSHA, or a host of other unconstitutional federal agencies?

Who will keep us safe from harmful vaccines?

Or ensure that crooks don’t steal money from financial markets?

Or prevent workplace accidents?

Better yet, what will Congress do if it can’t punt every bit of its Constitutional responsibilities to the executive branch?

How would we go on?

His entire article contains the very tactics he accuses the other side of using:  “They sprinkle in a few historical quotations, refuse to engage seriously with historians’ findings, and then declare that their right wing [or left-wing in the author’s case] policy preferences are dictated by the authority of history.”

His hysterical language and emotive response are common among progressive activists, but this piece is borderline insane.

No federal court is going to destroy the federal regulatory apparatus, not even the SCOTUS at this point.

John Roberts would never let that happen.

But it is red meat for hand wringing progressives who read the silly Atlantic Magazine.

And of course it made for great Podcast fodder,

I discuss it on Episode 907 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

An Activist Historian’s Bad Take on “Insurrection”

If you’ve been listening to my show or reading my emails for even a few weeks, you know I am very hard on establishment activists…historians.

And for good reason.

They are destroying both the “profession” and more importantly traditional America.

Most of these “experts” make glaring mistakes on a regular basis. Their goal is never to understand. They want to wield history like a sword and require strict obedience to their interpretations of the past.

Heretics will be ostracized.

It’s better just to never be in their worthless company.

Take for example University of Virginia Professor Elizabeth Varon.

Varon has spent her entire career promoting the Righteous Cause Myth.

Fairy tale would be a better description.

Her first two books took the traditional path to a tenure track job: race, class, gender.

Coupled with an anti-Southern bias, they were certainly red meat for the dopes who run university presses in the United States.

She then wrote one decent book, Disunion!, where she argued that fear over the dissolution of the United States was an important factor in American politics for decades. This wasn’t a new revelation, and of course she wrote it to show that Southerners were on the “wrong side of history” in 1860 and 1861, but nevertheless it had some merit.

The next two are pure Righteous Cause drivel, and her latest on James Longstreet shows where the establishment activists are headed.

Why couldn’t all Southerners be like James Longstreet, the Confederate who became a Republican?

You see, Varon is one of these activists who argues that the only problem with Reconstruction is that it did not go far enough.

She also scribbles opinion pieces for various leftist publications that attempt to convince brain dead Americans that everything conservatives want to do in America is based on race.

Or hate.

Or a desire to force racism and hate on everyone else.

Better yet, all of these things can be tied to the South, except James Longstreet who rejected Southern sins of race and hate.

Even Donald Trump should have listened to James Longstreet and said he was sorry for being an insurrectionist.

Trump’s sin is that he did not genuflect to people like Elizabeth Varon. He showed no remorse for being a racist hate monger who told people to protest against the government.

Like the Rump Republicans during the American Reign of Terror in the 1860s, these people want your head.

Just look at what they did the statue of Robert E. Lee.

I bet Varon danced around her living room with a box of wine after reading the Washington Post story about the event.

Lee wasn’t executed in the 1860s, but the wokies executed his statue in 2023.

Good enough.

But of course, this all makes for great Podcast fodder, so I have a bit of fun at Varon’s expense on Episode 905 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Are Progressives “Liberal”?

I have been teaching the progressive movement in college classes for over two decades.

Progressives always had one goal: power.

They were born in the Deep North and found a political home in the early Republican Party. They were also smart.

Progressives thought locally and acted locally, particularly in the late 19th century when the movement seemed dead.

You see, “national” politicos thought they killed the movement in the 1890s. Conservatives Grover Cleveland and William McKinley won the presidency in 1892 and 1896 respectively.

Progressives appeared to be shut out. They never are. Progressives are the most aggressive political thugs in American politics. They never quit.

Why? Power.

By 1900, the Republicans placed an open progressive, Teddy Roosevelt, on the ticket with McKinley, and when he was assassinated in 1901, progressives had their man in office.

That didn’t matter as much, because for the preceding two decades, progressives had transformed State politics by running for local office and joining local civic organizations.

National election victories were great, but controlling the States was even better. This didn’t mean they had success everywhere, but they were able to make some gains in virtually every section in America, even in the South.

Thus, when Hillary Clinton announced in 2008 that she was a “progressive”, it seemed American politics had come full circle.

You see, Wilson and Roosevelt damaged the term in the early 20th century with open attacks on business and troubling American involvement in European wars. Coupled with the growth of communism–they too were progressive–along with Hitler’s and Mussolini’s open embrace of the term–and progressivism again seemed dead.

Along came the “liberal.” Liberals were just people interested in free speech and free ideas. They loved capitalism but wanted to trim its abuses. They were also anti-communist.

Except they clung to much of the same dogma as progressives.

By the 1980s and 1990s, Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich had made liberal a dirty word, and so progressives just went back to calling themselves what they had always been.

This doesn’t sit well with “moderates” on the left. They miss the days of being called a liberal.

All of this is fascinating, for it shows that the left’s “big tent” isn’t really that big.

At the same time, both “liberals” and “progressives” think government should expand and use it’s considerable muscle to control American society.

Again, power.

This all made for great Podcast fodder. I discuss the terms on Episode 904 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Has the Middle Class Been Forgotten?

In 1883, sociologist William Graham Sumner coined the term “The Forgotten Man” in a lecture at the Long Island Historical Society in Brooklyn, New York.

This lecture was later published with a collection of essays after his death in 1910.

Sumner correctly argued that the American middle class was being squeezed by those at the top and those at the bottom. Those at the top received government welfare through subsidies and what we generally call “corporate welfare,” while those at the bottom gained through government handouts.

The middle class paid for it all without receiving any tangible benefits.

Socialists would argue that government created jobs were the benefit, but most Americans don’t work for the government, even if so much of our economy is subsidized. The percentage of Americans receiving government benefits in any form in 1883 was far lower than today.

This is the disconnect in American society and why so many Americans in the middle class have become disillusioned politically.

Why keep voting for someone else to grab their paycheck?

Additionally, decades of government subsides for the top and bottom have eroded American culture. Consumerism, cancel culture, wokism, corporatism, etc., have atomized and secularized American society.

Middle class Americans feel lost because they work hard, pay their bills, do the right thing, even when it hurts, while they watch those at the top and bottom skirt the same system. White middle class Americans feel the pinch even more, as the establishment media hammers the “systemic white supremacist” narrative while promoting an agenda at odds with traditional American societal norms. Just take a peak at the Christmas trinkets at your local big box store or the casting for any Netflix, Disney, or frankly any modern television or movie production, including commercials or major sporting events.

The agenda does not line up with the primary audience.

Better clothes and more things doesn’t make anyone happy long term. Comfortable, yes, but not happy.

Sumner focused almost entirely on the economic ramifications of the warfare State, but the warfare State has also created the social justice State.

If Jefferson and the Old Republicans rightly feared the fusion of government and finance capital, modern middle class Americans should worry about the three-headed hydra of government, finance capital, and corporate society along with their willing proponents on the federal bench.

The warfare social justice State would not exist without the federal courts.

Of course, this all makes for great Podcast fodder, so I attempt to answer the question, “Is the Middle Class Forgotten” on episode 903 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

Why Don’t Americans Want to Join the Military?

Young Americans are refusing the join the military. In fact, for several years in a row, the military has fallen short of its recruitment goals.

The question is why.

Newsweek provided some answers, and surprisingly, were generally spot on.

But they missed the larger picture. We take it for granted that the United States needs a standing army over nearly 1 million men and women.

The United States spend more money on the military than the next ten countries combined.

It has become a huge industry and it makes people like Nimrata Haley rich. It also provides jobs, which is why Republicans keep the money flowing into their districts. Of course, it’s been this way since St. Abraham’s war on the South. He had to pay people just to fill out the Union ranks for much of the war.

In other words, it’s just another version of government welfare, only you could die to receive it, particularly when the United States has boots on the ground in 178 countries. That’s over 150,000 soldiers in over 750 foreign bases, and this doesn’t count off the books activity like CIA destabilization operations.

To put that in perspective, when the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, it had roughly 125,000 men in the standing army.

That number ballooned to over 4 million during the war, and while Congress disbanded much of the regular army in 1920, it never reduced it to prewar strength, and since World War II, the United States standing army has never fallen below about 1 million soldiers.

It’s amazing what a progressive foreign policy will do.

To “keep the world safe for democracy”, fight totalitarians abroad, contain communism, and destroy an “axis of evil,” Americans have shed a lot of blood and been soaked for trillions of dollars.

It has also allowed for massive social engineering. Military recruitment has gone woke, and so their efforts to draw new soldiers from generally conservative families and groups is now broke.

Young Americans are wondering why they should go fight and die for an American empire that does not support them. And those that are already woke won’t fight for a racist, sexist, bigoted society.

Leftism is a disease worse than cancer. It cannot be destroyed, never goes into remission, and the prognosis is always fatal.

But the issue provided good Podcast fodder, so I cover it on Episode 901 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

African Founders and Albion’s Seed

I’ve often been asked a variation of the same question:

“If you had to choose one American history book to recommend, what would it be?”

The answer is simple: David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed.

I don’t make this suggestion lightly. There are other fascinating and important works to consider, but Fischer presents a compelling tale of early American culture that cannot be ignored.

Culture matters, and Fischer explains that white American society has never been a monolithic “nation” in the traditional sense.

Albion’s Seed empirically verifies John Taylor of Caroline’s argument that saying there is an “America for Americans” is like saying there is a “Utopian for Utopians.”

Southern exploration of cultural divergence in nineteenth century America was no mere rhetorical exercise. “White” had a cultural undertone defined by region and origin.

The Virginia elite may have found common cause against the British with their Puritan neighbors in Massachusetts, but their widely antagonistic folkways were destined to produce conflict once the common enemy in George III was banished from American society.

Jefferson’s desire to protect Southern boys from the “dark Federalist mills of the North” recognized culture more than politics.

This made federalism the natural cornerstone of American society. And it worked for a few decades until the innovations of the “nationalists” destroyed the uneasy truce between the States.

But if white American society could never rally around a common set of folkways, what about black Americans?

Race seemed to allow for the establishment of a rigid social order in America. Without hereditary aristocracy, the yeoman or mechanic could easily mix with the merchant or planter, but not so for for slave or the free black American who was readily identified by his skin tone, even in the North. Jim Crow was, in fact, born in New England.

White Americans bristled at less desirable Europeans entering the United States. Catholic Irish faced as much opposition in Northern cities as free blacks from the South when they arrived in New York City. But whereas Europeans could, perhaps, hide their cultural identity, black Americans could not. Race created a simplistic dichotomy, at least for political purposes, and therefore for centuries, historians, journalists, and politicos have tended to treat the black American population as a static and monolithic set of victims of “systemic white supremacy” without agency.

This has resulted in the 1619 Project and a growing demand for reparations.

Thorough studies of slavery bucked those trends, most importantly Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese, but even he treated the American black population as a “nation within a nation.”

Race mattered more than culture.

David Hackett Fischer has corrected this problem. His latest book, African Founders, applies the same empirical analysis to black America as Albion’s Seed. He even classifies this book as a companion to that study.

Fischer weaves the main themes of Albion’s Seed through black American society, and by default creates a different racial narrative.

Africa is a continent with regional and cultural diversity, and Americans knew it, even when purchasing slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In other words, “African-American” has as much meaning as “European American.” Both terms fail to recognize important regional identity.

Black Americans in Virginia differed from those in South Carolina, just as white Americans in North Carolina differed from those in Connecticut.

And even within States, black Americans boatmen who lived around the Chesapeake Bay watershed had little in common with those who lived and worked in the rest of Virginia.

Like Genovese in Roll, Jordan, Roll, Fischer emphasizes that these cultures were not always forced from the top, but rather brought from their respective homes in Africa, and in many ways contributed to American society as much as imported British folkways, particularly in the South where Fischer argues that black American leadership developed in earnest. Regional white American culture influenced black Americans, for example Quaker conceptions of “reciprocal liberty” filtered into Pennsylvania black society, but black Americans formed their own cultural identities.

The earliest slaves in this region arrived from modern Nigeria, and unlike their counterparts from other areas of the African West Coast had differing notions of power and liberty. In other words, they were not as docile as those eventually brought to the lower South.

He does identify some elements of African culture–speech, music, and religion–that crossed regions and individual customs, but like in Albion’s Seed, those broad cultural traits were secondary to the important regional black American cultural norms.

Fischer presents this material to spark questions in an effort to understand, not as a polemic or a critique. That is true job of the historian. In his mind, the work offers a bridge between the positive Whig histories that dominated the profession for decades and the more recent negative efforts of modern historians which can only be described as “useful” stories of past oppression and written in order to spark “activism.”

If his conclusions are accurate in both books, then the entire basis of a monolithic black or white American society needs a reexamination. Furthermore, such an analysis tends to promote reconciliation and continuity rather than conflict, a position typically lost in modern American society.

Like the 1619 Project, Fischer would seem to agree that black Americans believed in a “proposition nation” that was rejected by most Americans until the middle of the War for Southern Independence. In fact, Fischer suggests that black American notions of freedom have been more readily adopted in the modern era than earlier British patterns. But unlike the 1619 Project, his story of black American society is one of strength and innovation, not victim-hood and oppression.

In the end, African Founders presents a picture of American history at odds with modern scholarship and therefore demands review, study, and critique, but in a profession that now lacks much of the academic rigor that drove the publication of this work, the question becomes, will anyone care? Judging by the generally frosty reception by the establishment profession, probably not. Reconciliation doesn’t sell for loud mouthed, snarky activists.

I discuss Fischer’s new book on Episode 900 of The Brion McClanahan Show.