This week, I finished reading Walter Stahr’s recent biography of Salmon P. Chase, the Ohio politician and statesman who helped shape American politics in the middle of the 19th century as much as any single man. In particular, Chase stood as one of the exemplars of what has come to be called political antislavery, otherwise known as the effort to end or restrict slavery through mainstream politics rather than social reform or moral suasion.
Here, it’s worth making a brief (and somewhat simplified) explanation of the contours of antislavery beliefs. Today, Americans tend to use “abolition” and “abolitionism” as synonyms for “antislavery.” But there was, in actuality, a spectrum of views on slavery and its place within the political economy of the antebellum United States.
There were those who, as the historian James McPherson wrote in “The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction,” “agitated for immediate, unconditional, and universal abolition of slavery in the United States.” These were the actual abolitionists, and among them there were at least three divisions: the followers of William Lloyd Garrison and his American Anti-Slavery Society; the radical antislavery agitators who broke with Garrison on matters of tactics or belief, like Frederick Douglass; and the abolitionists who chose not to join any formal organization.
The main lines of division among the first two groups of abolitionists involved the role of women in abolitionist organizations and the role of electoral politics in abolitionism. The Garrisonians welcomed the participation of women and refused to participate in elections under what they condemned as a proslavery Constitution. Others rejected the direct participation of women and were divided on the question of electoral politics. And still others, like those associated with Douglass (who also welcomed the participation of women) favored direct involvement with the political process, up to and including voting.
Next to them, on the spectrum of antislavery belief, were mainstream antislavery politicians. “Unlike abolitionists,” the historian Stanley Harrold notes in “American Abolitionism: Its Direct Political Impact from Colonial Times Into Reconstruction,” “most antislavery politicians, including those associated with the Federalist, Whig, Free Soil, and Republican Parties, rarely advocated general emancipation throughout the United States or black rights.”
These politicians were often indifferent toward, and even openly hostile to, the enslaved. Many associated Black Americans with servitude and sought to exclude them from new territories and states. Their opposition to slavery had more to do with the effects of slavery on the status of ordinary white farmers and laborers — and resentment of the enormous and disproportionate power of Southern slaveholders — than concern for the lives and livelihoods of Black Americans.
On the other side of the divide were those who tolerated slavery as an inextricable part of American society, those allied with slaveholders in service of particular political goals, those who were engaged in the slave economy but saw it as immoral (at least in the abstract) and those who embraced slavery as a “positive good” (in the words of John C. Calhoun) and a necessary foundation for a free white society.
Chase, who came to the antislavery movement as a young Cincinnati lawyer defending fugitive slaves in the 1830s and early 1840s, believed that slavery had to end. He was also, perhaps as a result of his close contact with former slaves and free Blacks in Ohio, more egalitarian than most men of his class and station. As governor of Ohio, he supported education for Black Americans, and as Treasury secretary under Abraham Lincoln, he urged the president to support Black suffrage.
If I had to place Chase on the spectrum of antislavery belief and practice, I’d put him somewhere between Douglass and Chase’s political peers in mainstream antislavery politics. Chase viewed slavery as “an influence perverting our government in its true scope and end, as an institution strictly local, but now escaped from its proper limits and threatening to overshadow and nullify whatever is most valuable in our political system.”
He was a staunch pragmatist. Upon joining the antislavery Liberty Party — which had evolved out of the New England Anti-Slavery Society — Chase tried to shift its focus away from agitation and toward persuading potentially sympathetic Whigs and Democrats. “Chase,” writes Stahr, “wanted to distinguish the Liberty Party, a political party, from abolitionism, a moral movement.” He also hoped to “extend the party into border slave states such as Kentucky” and to recruit a presidential candidate who could “attract more than just abolitionists.”
Chase’s resolute (but again pragmatic) opposition to slavery would lead him to support the Free Soil Party in the 1848 presidential election; to try to organize antislavery Democrats in Ohio; to oppose the Fugitive Slave Act in Congress; and to become a founding figure in, and strong partisan of, the Republican Party. He was a rival to Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election and was — while serving as chief justice of the United States — a rival to Ulysses S. Grant in the 1868 contest for the Republican presidential nomination. He was seen, at the end of his life, as one of the nation’s great statesmen, so much so that even Democrats considered nominating him for president.
What I find so interesting about Chase is that, as progressive as he was, he was also bound to many of the dogmas of his age. His opposition to slavery and support for Black civil rights (as well as his support, later in life, for women’s suffrage) sat hand in hand with his support for “sound money” (meaning the gold standard) and minimal government. His ambitions for the former slave states — a society of free men and free labor without racial distinctions — were in tension with his Jeffersonian skepticism of bureaucratic centralization and his opposition to military reconstruction in the South.
Even as violence mounted against the formerly enslaved, Chase was confident in the white South’s ability to reconcile itself to the collapse of its racial hierarchy. And he was so devoted to the Union that he favored pardons for and reconciliation with Confederate leaders like Jefferson Davis. The combination of idealism and pragmatism that served him well in the struggle against slavery left him blind to the backlash that would follow the war and continue through Reconstruction.
Which is to say that Chase was an exemplar in more than one way. He was also an almost paradigmatic bourgeois liberal reformer (even revolutionary), who could conceive of the radical expansion of political liberty but whose vision failed him when it came to more robust forms of equality. (This is a problem that still shapes American political life.)
His limitations were, in many ways, the limitations of all the Radical Republicans who sought to remake the United States after the Civil War. Many Americans today will say that if the United States had done Reconstruction right, we could have avoided many of the problems, struggles and heartaches that followed the end of Reconstruction. I don’t know if I agree. But I will suggest this: The failure of Reconstruction was at once the product of external forces — both political opposition and ferocious counterrevolutionary violence — and its own internal contradictions.
To secure the equal status of Black Americans in the South, Reconstruction needed both a powerful national state and an ideology that could support and justify the use of that state on behalf of the formerly enslaved. The former simply didn’t exist, and what I think Chase demonstrates is that even the most perceptive and farseeing politicians of the era struggled with the latter. The question to ask yourself isn’t what would have happened had Reconstruction been effective, but whether it was even possible for it to have been effective.
The U.S. and Iran beef is what politics has become at the World Cup
Over the weekend, U.S. Soccer sent out social-media posts containing an altered Iranian flag. Two lines of Islamic script and the country’s emblem had been stripped from it. A spokesperson for the American team said the change had been made to show support for Iranian women.
Iran has had a torrid first week in Qatar. Its Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, devotes huge chunks of his near-daily remarks to alternately lashing the team’s critics and begging them to back off.
Here was a main chance to change the story, courtesy of their old enemy. The fight is so silly, you’re tempted to think the two teams – who play each other on Tuesday – cooked it up together.
Iran saw the provocation from the U.S. and raised it. It demanded FIFA suspend the American team for 10 games – effectively eliminating it from the World Cup. FIFA ignored it.
On Sunday, in the midst of a U.S. news conference, an Iranian journalist scolded America’s media operation, telling it to “respect international media.”
“This is World Cup, not MLS Cup,” he said.
The presser was cut short.
By Monday, Iranian journalists were pressing American manager Gregg Berhalter to move the U.S. Fifth Fleet out of the Persian Gulf. Shockingly, Berhalter doesn’t have any juice with the Navy.
Berhalter explained that neither he nor his players knew anything about the flag flap, but still apologized for it. No one wanted to hear it. This is what happens when athletes become political advocates. Everyone ends up looking clueless.
FIFA has spent years trying to strip the World Cup of its political symbolism and replace it with a commodified, pop-culture, politics-lite. That would be the sort of politics that gooses viewership, but doesn’t upset anyone.
It hasn’t helped itself by placing the event in military autocracies (Argentina 1978), functional dictatorships (Russia 2018), and developing nations that can’t afford to host it (a few).
A high-water mark for political tensions created by soccer goings-on was the 1982 semi-final, France vs. Germany. The two nations didn’t like each other going in. They liked each other much less after watching their countrymen kick the tar out of each other for 120 minutes. At one point, the German goalkeeper delivered a flying knee to an onrushing French player, knocking out several teeth.
Afterward, the German – Harald Schumacher – was told about the missing teeth. “I’ll pay for the crowns,” Schumacher said, glibly.
That went over as well as you’d imagine. Tensions mounted to a postwar high. The Germans learned the French hadn’t really forgiven them, and the French figured out they were still piping hot over it.
The situation was only defused when the then German chancellor publicly apologized to his French counterpart. The incident – referred to as ‘The Tragedy of Seville,’ after the city in which the match was played – remains a potent touchstone in both countries.
That was back when politics in sports had guardrails. You only went so far, for fear that a shouting match might become a shooting match.
Those limits have come off in recent years. People feel perfectly entitled – compelled, even – to show up at events such as this and start delivering speeches and tossing around insults.
As usual, FIFA is mostly to blame. By inveigling teams to engage in soft advocacy, it has persuaded the human brands in its temporary employ to speak the sort of truth that makes sponsors comfortable. But once the complaints get anywhere near the money, FIFA becomes a stickler for rules as written.
So, ‘OneLove’ armbands? Out. ‘No Discrimination’ armbands? In.
What does ‘no discrimination’ mean? Who, exactly, are these people who are for discrimination? When’s that press conference, because I’d like to attend it.
‘No discrimination’ means less than nothing, because it pretends to be something. Proper protest is organic. It isn’t approved by the marketing department, then sent off to the printers to be colour-matched and sized for overnight delivery.
After FIFA nixed the armbands, Germany came up with its own stunt. During the prematch team photo ahead of its first game, German players put their hands over their mouths. Presumably, this means they can’t speak their minds. Who exactly this is a shot at – FIFA? The state of Qatar? The World Cup writ large? – wasn’t defined.
And yet, they can speak. They’ve got cameras on them every hour of the day. People are itching to tell their stories. The German players haven’t been prevented from speaking. They’ve opted not to speak because they fear sanction.
So what is it? You’re taking a principled stand, or you’re doing a photo op? You can’t have both.
Now you’ve got USA and Iran taking pops at each other for kicks, hoping a few callbacks to the bad old days will jazz up their current sports chances.
Is it now totally out there to say this stuff ought not be taken so lightly? You want to start an international slapping contest with a sovereign country? Maybe your foreign service should be the one doing that, rather than the guy who runs the Instagram account at U.S. Soccer.
If you’re the United States of America, maybe don’t do that at all. You’re in no moral position to lecture anyone else.
But stripped of actual menace, that’s what politics has become at the World Cup (as well as the Olympics). It’s gamesmanship. It’s theatre. It’s for funsies.
And it can be fun. Until one day, something silly that happens here leaks out into the real world, where everyone doesn’t slap hands and trade jerseys when the game ends.
You feel like protesting the injustice inherent in staging this World Cup in this place? Or how your opponents comport themselves? How about not coming?
Why not apply the same standards of total commitment to your protesting that you do to your play? Otherwise, make room for serious people willing to take actual risks.
Scott Moe continues his embracing of faux-masculine politics
Given my particular age (78) and my propensity to ask my wife what day it is, I am baffled by the path the current Saskatchewan Party is following (or forging) in the Marble Palace. Am I missing something here, or are these events actually occurring?
• We’re in a situation at the moment where hospital waiting rooms are filling up and patient beds are becoming as scarce as those proverbial hen’s teeth. The province is only now starting its campaign to “recruit nurses” – in the Philippines, no less, thus continuing past practices we’ve employed with doctors in raiding the health wellness trained resources of one of the poorer nations on Earth that at least had the foresight to train its own citizens with the meager fiscal resources of their own government, and
• While it will take some time for such persons to both come to Saskatchewan and “acclimatize” to the province, our hospital problems only get worse as we are “hit” with a triple whammy of SEASONAL maladies, flu and RSV (syncytial virus), duly accompanied by yet another strain of Covid-19 sating its appetite upon the very young, and
• Due to our propensity of late to accept online versions of reality versus life in the increasingly crowded corridors of our hospitals, and what with uneducated “helicopter” parents accepting disinformation as to the effectiveness and “dangers” to children in getting the Covid vaccine (not to mention the ones – mumps, measles, rubella, smallpox and polio that we’ve been immunizing our children with for decades), thereby increasing the very young and innocent being exposed to such maladies (which is now being documented as occurring in increasing numbers), and
• Since these illnesses are ALL viruses, antibiotic treatment is useless as a “cure”, yet until yesterday (Friday) most of our pharmacies were without even the basic pain treatment remedies that could alleviate the suffering occurring in our ailing children, including baby Tylenol – which, ironically, was produced as a “safe” product years ago and created through the usage of m-RNA technology, thus,
• We ask: WHAT actions are also being taken by the provincial government to IMMEDIATELY address medical staff shortages?
Please note that we’ve failed at the moment to address a more serious and consequential question, that being, WHY is it that we’re losing so many health care workers in the first place, and why isn’t the government working on a plan to actually RETAIN them?
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses President Tracy Zambory, while acknowledging the ethical dilemma of our recruiting health care workers from Third World nations, knows that her membership would throw massive “Welcome to Your New Home” parties for anyone who chooses to come to Canada under such circumstance if it meant occasional relief from typical 60 hour work weeks and double shifting.
What the membership wants, however, is to have a thoroughly incompetent Minister of Health, Paul Merriman, actually draw up a committee of field advisory staff to go to the “front lines” of this fight and CONSULT with nurses, beginning with committing greater resources towards education and training of more recruits.
Thus, having been given a key strategy for tackling this issue, what does Scott Moe propose to deal with its sensibility? Well, in a statement on Thursday widely reported in the Toronto Sun, then restated on his Twitter account he noted that “The Trudeau Liberals aren’t even hiding it anymore, they are coming for hunting rifles and shotguns.”
Wait – WHAT?
As I have intimated in previous columns, the premier’s interests in dealing with issues about which the NDP have more than an ample amount of evidence to point to areas of concern and how to deal with them is literally non-existent. A list similar to what I developed at the start of this column could equally be provided when it comes to the major issues facing provincial educators.
The problem here is that with the extremely contagion rates of the three viruses now causing strain on our health care system, there has to be some manner of “control” exercised in minimizing the potential for distress. The simplest way to deal with that problem is that, at a minimum, at least ask students coming to classes to wear masks. That, of course, would be in turn misrepresented as an enforceable “mandate” (even though a lot of students are already doing just that, especially the younger ones). It would be immediately opposed by the yahoos who support the fringe element of the political spectrum – the Buffalo Party, Maverick Party and the Peoples Party of Canada (not to mention Harper apostle and current Conservative Party leader, Pierre Poilievre) as some mythical violation of their ego-enlarged “freedoms”.
The Sask Party believes such voters are theirs by fiat. Therefore, to avoid being mocked as merely advocating for policies pandering to this collection of misfits, they are seeking “alternative” pathways I refer to as “Chicken Little” to deny the obvious.
The whining about the amendments now occurring with Bill C-21 changes and their reference to assault weaponry are almost comical in that it again reinforces the Sask Party’s fixation with the faux-“manhood” concerns of fighting for a “strong Saskatchewan”. What better manner is there to re-instill the faith in the party’s governing prowess than to be pictured as grasping onto an issue of obvious masculine appeal as the guns used by everyone for hunting or pest control – and pointing their “weaponry” now in the direction of the federal Liberal Party?
Most such policy pronouncements of late promoted by the government have their roots in the reaping of vast rewards caused by the Ukraine – Russia conflict through royalty payments. The party has thus invested much in the creating of the Saskatchewan First Act, its only purpose being to grant further powers to the legislature to stop the federal government from interfering in its exploitation of our non-renewable resources and supposed federal “overreach” – powers it already has under our Constitution.
Police associations have also condemned the setting up of the Saskatchewan Marshals Service, preferring that such monies instead by directed towards expansion of existing law enforcement forces and training specifically designed to handle the types of investigatory services such a force would be expected to perform.
Faux-masculine grasping or the production of non-content in proposed legislation that confirms the existence of a gravitational vacuum in the legislature is only my way of introducing a gallows sense of humour as to the direction in which the Saskatchewan Party wants to move this province. The problem is, given the current unpopularity of Premier Moe and his party and the direction being taken by their policy agenda, one can only wonder if the actual victim of such policies will become a stifling of democratic freedoms and the ability of our citizens to redirect us away from this dangerous creep towards autocracy.
How Your Politics Could Affect Your Job Prospects
A study a few years ago from Penn State came to the fascinating conclusion that the increasing political polarization of society is affecting our mobility. The last few years have seen a clear divide emerge between the politics of big cities, and those of rural regions, and the study suggests that this ideological divide may be discouraging many people from making the rural-urban migration.
“We found that the places that were most likely to exhibit same-party preference in movement are counties that are politically extreme,” the researchers explain. “What we saw was that movement from very Democratic or very Republican counties tended to be isolated to migration to other counties that are politically similar.”
Research from the Kellogg School suggests that political differences might also have an impact on our careers once employed by a firm. The researchers find that our political views have a distinct impact on our careers, including whether we’re hired for a job or not.
In some ways, this makes sense, as the Penn researchers found, politics plays a part in where we live but also increasingly who we’re friends with and the people we date. It stands to reason, therefore, that it would play a role in our professional lives too, especially when companies place such an emphasis on culture and social cohesion at work.
The study found that business owners at small and medium-sized firms are much more likely to hire someone if they’re also members of the same political party as them. This also translates into benefits when they are hired, including better pay, more promotions, and a longer average tenure with the firm.
Indeed, the impact was so strong that the study found that it was more influential on our career outcomes than any other factor, including our gender, our race, or our skills. The phenomenon was so striking that workers were 50% more likely to belong to the same party as their employer than one would expect if they were randomly assigned.
What’s more, employees who were “politically aligned” were, on average, paid nearly 4% more than their nonaligned peers, and were also more likely to get promoted. Sadly, this political concentration appears to be worsening.
Research from Harvard Business School suggests that executive teams are growing more and more partisan. The researchers looked at the political allegiances of bosses across America and found that 69% align themselves with the Republicans, versus just 31% with the Democrats. The analysis revealed that the likelihood of partisanship grew by around 7.7% between 2008 and 2020. What’s more, this trend was around twice that seen across the population more broadly.
The Kelloggs research suggests that this growing partisanship at the top of our organizations is highly likely to be trickling down across the workforce. This is worrying, as while research from ESMT suggests we increasingly want our leaders to be politically and socially active, this is perhaps not quite what we had in mind.
Does it matter?
This political homogenization is likely to have a significant impact on the workplace. A few years ago research from University College London found that it is making us poorer judges of talent.
The research found that when we know the political leaning of our colleagues, we tend to rely heavily on those with the same political identification as ourselves rather than relying on the skill level of the people in question.
“When we examined participants’ impressions of the co-players we found they overestimated how good the politically like-minded were at the shape categorisation task. This misperception drove the participants to seek advice from the politically like-minded,” the researchers revealed.
This was followed by research from the University of Chicago, which showed that politically diverse teams were usually more effective. The researchers examined contributions to over 200,000 Wikipedia pages to explore whether contributions from politically diverse people resulted in higher quality pages than more partisan teams.
“This study doesn’t say we can always get along,” the authors explain. “But if we’re diverse along political lines, it actually means that we bring separate perspectives, and when we’re able to work together, then we’re able to produce a more complete and balanced perspective. If we’re imbalanced, then this study also suggests how bad it can be.”
So, while it may be prudent for job seekers to keep politics out of their resume as much as possible, it’s also beholden on managers to do a much better job of ensuring their decisions are not clouded by their political sensibilities.
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