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Rebut of D'Sgracen D'Saster points to a earlier radical-right power grab

A Twitter thread by historian Kevin Gannon (Twitter handle: @TheTattooedProf) pulling apart a common conservative trope claiming Abraham Lincoln as their kind of conservative just because he used the word in a speech.

The unspooled thread is below, and look carefully at 11 and 12. Lincoln saw the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act and 1857 Dred Scott decision as laying the groundwork for pro-slavery radicals to roll back all anti-slavery laws across the nation. What immediately came to mind is the maneuvering by their modern counterparts to roll back whole swaths of law about civil rights, labor protection, environmental protection, safety nets, etc. and return us to the Gilded Age, where Robber Barons could step on anybody who got in their way local laws could put state power behind the whims of the local preachers.

In reply to convicted felon, Trump pardon-abuse beneficiary, and conservative wingnut propagandist D'Sgracen D'Saster (or something like that):


Unrolled Thread:

Kevin Gannon
2 hours ago, 22 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter

1/To no one's surprise, the reality behind this all-too-convenient "Lincoln was on MY side" quote is a bit more complicated. Let's take a look, shall we?

2/ The quote D'Souza extracts here is a favorite of Right-wingers today, because it seems to let them claim Lincoln ("the chief and real purpose...is eminently conservative" ) as their progenitor and mascot; hell, there's even a Founders reference! YAY.

3/ D'Souza and his ilk love this quote because it gets them some Lincoln street cred without having to acknowledge race or slavery. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. What's the context for this quote? SO GLAD YOU ASKED...

4/ This quote is from a speech Lincoln delivered in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 16, 1859. In it, Lincoln was trying to counter conservative and Democratic attacks on the Republicans as wild-eyed abolitionists and racial egalitarians. Here's the speech:

5/ Here's the extended passage from which the quote is extracted. A quick perusal of the surrounding text (I know, that's a lot to ask of D'Souza, but bear with me) shows us the issue is more complicated than the Lincoln-was-one-of-OUR-type-of-conservative folks have framed it.

6/In the beginning of the speech, Lincoln makes his purpose clear: to refute the charge that, during the previous year's Lincoln/Douglas debates, that he called for Black suffrage. This was a damaging accusation for someone seeking conservative white support (sound familiar?)

7/The first big chunk of the speech is AL painstakingly laying out evidence that, no, he is no wild-eyed abolitionist egalitarian, and that he was actually *against* Black suffrage. He quotes extensively from his own speeches in the 1858 debates in order to tell his audience:

8/ That's why Lincoln pounded the theme of "conservatism" so hard in this, & other, speeches. He was trying to position his party as the real heirs of the Founders, as opposed to the fire-eating proslavery Democrats-the *real* radicals. This was esp urgent after John Brown's raid

9/ That's why it's VERY telling that D'Souza has edited the quote as he did. Look at what's missing: "the original tone...of the original framers themselves." What's the ellipses for? "IN REGARD TO THIS ELEMENT OF SLAVERY". That seems...important?

10/ What Lincoln is doing here is arguing that proslavery Democrats-led by radical white southerners and assisted by northern allies-were embarked on nothing less than a subversion of the Constitution and the Republic by undoing the sectional balance between slavery and freedom.

11/Here's the passage right before the part D'Souza cherrypicks his quote. Lincoln posits that this subversion emerged with the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, and found its most virulent expression with the 1857 Dred Scott decision and its attack on the Free states.

12/ This radical proslavery plot, Lincoln argues, would use the Dred Scott decision's logic to topple northern state sovereignty, and allow the "right of property in man" to become universal, making the northern & western Free states the next frontier for a universalized slavery.

13/ For Lincoln, the "chief purpose" of his party, then, was to stand as a conservative bulwark against this aggressive proslavery coup attempt. He noted that the Founders and subsequent generations had fashioned, out of compromise, a rough balance on the question.

14/ Now, however, process was underway that would explode that balance, plunge the nation into "discord" and war. For Lincoln, the Republicans were the surest defense; they would restore "the original tone" of the Constitution & Founders by not abolishing, but limiting, slavery.

15/ Lincoln then spends much of the rest of the speech attacking the idea of "popular sovereignty" as nothing more than a 5th-column method of instilling slavery in the new territories, contrasting it with the 1787 NW Ordinance, where the "Founders" barred slavery in those lands.

16/THAT's the purpose of Lincoln's embrace of "conservatism" and positioning it as the Republicans' lodestar: not to abolish slavery and bring racial equality--heck no, Lincoln took pains to say--but to limit the spread of the slave system and its threat to free white labor.

17/ Without this "conservative" brake, the doomsday scenario was near, Lincoln warned: slavery would be universalized. Free whites would have to compete with slave labor. State sovereignty would be destroyed. Southerners would rule the republic like they did their plantations.

18/ So was Lincoln saying that he was a "Conservative" as today's Right-wing "intellectuals" (HA!) would define the term? Of course not. That's why D'Souza edited out the reference to slavery in his presentation of the quote. The full quote has far different implications!

19/ Lincoln asserted a "conservative principle" for his Republicans to challenge a minority faction dominating government policy, and to condemn that faction's trampling of state laws by its imposition of a radically un-egalitarian legal and legislative agenda on them...

20/ ...Lincoln's claim of conservatism was meant to fight that minority of proslavery politicians' attempt to use the iron fist of legislative procedure and parliamentary chicanery to chain the majority to policies a majority of them opposed. I WONDER WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR

21/ So the moral of the story is, as usual, D'Souza didn't do the reading, deceptively edited a quote that actually implies the opposite of what he thinks it does, and in the process, calls our attention to just how *un-Lincoln-like* today's "conservatives" really are.

Coda-@HC_Richardson dismantled this argument the least time D'Souza tried it, and you should check that thread out, too, if you're interested in this topic:
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