The Monster’s Appeal

Friday, February 10, AD 2017


“Pitchfork” Ben Tillman was a monster.  Governor of South Carolina from 1890-1894 and US Senator from South Carolina from 1895 until his death in 1918, in a time of overt public racism Tillman stood out.  He openly boasted on the floor of the Senate of murdering blacks during Reconstruction to help whites regain political power.  He offered blacks in South Carolina the choice of being helots or extermination.  His racial views are repugnant not only to our eyes, but to many, perhaps most, of his white contemporaries.   He achieved the disenfranchisement of blacks at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1895, a disenfranchisement that would survive his death for almost a half century.

This terrible racism now obscures the main reason why Tillman had such a political hold on South Carolina for a generation and a half, and why he was a very effective legislator in the Senate.  With his racism he combined a radical populism that appealed to small farmers and laboring men who held the balance of power in South Carolina.  He appealed to them against the traditional rulers of South Carolina who seemingly had no answers to the economic challenges that beset the poor of South Carolina.  With his radical message he became a well paid speaker on the Chautauqua Circuit, giving speeches throughout the nation in which he made little effort to conceal his racial views.

The essence and power of Tillman’s economic message was shown at the Democrat convention in 1896 at which bi-metalism, an economic theory that was complete hooey, was regarded as the economic nostrum to cure the nation’s ills.  Tillman gave a brief speech:

When this convention disperses, I hope my fellow citizens will have a different opinion of the man with the pitchfork from South Carolina. I am from South Carolina, which was the home of secession. [Great hissing.] Oh, hiss if you like. There are only three things on earth which can hiss—a goose, a serpent, and a man, and the man who hisses the name of South Carolina has no knowledge whatever of its grand history. But I tell you I do not come from the South Carolina of 1860, which you charge brought about the disruption of the Democratic Party. The war there declared was for the emancipation of the black slaves. I come now from a South Carolina which demands the emancipation of the white slaves. You charge that in 1860 South Carolina brought about the disruption of the Democratic Party. I say to you now that I am willing to see the Democratic Party disrupted again to accomplish the emancipation of the white slaves. New York for twenty years or more has been the one dominant factor and dictator of the National Democratic Party. While we want to thank New York and Connecticut and New Jersey for the aid extended to us in the past, I want to say to you here that we have at last recognized in the South that we are mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, while the great states I have named have eaten up our substance. My friends say this is not a sectional issue. I say it is.

[Great scenes of disorder then ensued, and quiet was restored with difficulty. Many times the senator was interrupted, but he went on:]

I deny utterly that there is any sectional feeling over this silver issue. I have been in the East ten days, and nine-tenths of the voters in those States are for silver. The Democratic and Republican political machines, by the use of money, have stifled the sentiments of the people on this money question.

[References by the speaker to Senator Hill brought a renewal of the storm, and Senator Tillman was obliged to raise his voice to a shout as he ended:]

As Grover Cleveland stands for gold monometallism, we have repudiated him. We are diametrically opposed to his policy, and why should we write ourselves down as asses and liars? They ask us to say that he is honest. Well, in reply I say he signed a contract for bonds in secret, with one of his partners as a witness. Nobody disputes his boldness or obstinacy. He had the courage to overthrow the Constitution of the United States when he overrode the rights of the citizens of Illinois and sent federal troops into this state. You ask us to indorse his fidelity. In reply, I say he has been faithful unto death—the death of the Democratic Party. We have denounced him in South Carolina as a tool of Wall Street, and what was prophecy then is history now. Senator John Sherman’s speech in the Senate in support of the Administration’s money policy was but the certificate of a Cleveland Republican. I tell you that the Democratic Party of the United States will turn out the party in this fall’s election if it dares indorse Grover Cleveland here. I tell you you dare not go before this country after indorsing the Cleveland administration. We of the South have burned our bridges behind us so far as the Eastern Democrats are concerned. We have turned our faces to the West and they have responded. I have only a few more words to say, and I know that you will be asked to do this by time-serving politicians, the men who follow and never lead public opinion. Once again I say to you that we must refuse to indorse the Cleveland Administration or go before the country stultified.

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4 Responses to The Monster’s Appeal

  • Well, he appears to have been a powerful speaker. What happened to his eye? Was it always like that?

  • He lost his eye to an infection as a teenager which kept him from fighting in the Civil War.

  • The only thing that has changed in the Democratic Party is that instead of openly advocating for the extermination of the black race, its members shackle the people of that race and other minorities to the strangulation of affirmative action and the teat of the public treasury. Other than that, Pitchfork Ben Tillman would do well supporting loony leftist causes with phrases such as, ” We have denounced him in South Carolina as a tool of Wall Street…”

  • I don’t see why America should be immune from the violence prompted by racism that afflicted the Balkans during this same time period and which led to the assassination of Austria’ s empress and of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne.

The Wisconsin Recall Vote

Monday, May 14, AD 2012

I haven’t discussed the Wisconsin recall vote.  It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my disdain for populism that I find recall elections to be complete shams, and this goes whether the affected officeholder(s) are Democrats or Republicans.  Had I been blogging in 2003 I would have said the same for the recall vote that ousted Gray Davis in California.  Voters know going into an election that they are voting people into office for a certain amount of time, and they have to live with the consequences of said vote.  Barring glaring corruption or malfeasance, elected officials should remain in office for the duration of their terms.  If recalls became regular features of the democratic process, elected leaders would never enact meaningful change lest they be booted out of office at the drop of a hat.  And while as a society we have grown cynical and jaded regarding politicians, there is something to be said about stability in office.  After all, we can vote the bums out every two, four, or six years depending on the office – as the voters in Indiana have done with Senator Richard Lugar, who I believe was first elected shortly after New Hampshire ratified the Constitution.

In the specific case of Wisconsin, the unions have led the effort to boot Governor Scott Walker out of office.  It is looking more and more like this will be a futile effort.  What’s more, it looks like the DNC has rebuffed requests by the Wisconsin Democrats for help with the election next  month.  The local Dems asked for $500,000, and so far the DNC has sayed, “NYET!”

Leaving aside your feelings about this recall effort, is this a smart move by the DNC?  Yes, there is this little election coming up in November, and the party’s fundraising hasn’t gone as spectacularly as hoped.  And even though the polls have been close, it is a better than 50/50 proposition that Scott Walker holds onto his seat.  It would arguably be better for the Democrats to funnel their resources where they are needed, like potentially closer than originally thought House elections in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.*

*Okay, that might be the thing of fevered fantasies, but you never know.

That being said, a Democratic victory in June would be a colossal shot in the arm for the party.  Polls indicate that President Obama has a very narrow lead over Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, and this is certainly a state that Republicans could capture in November.  I wouldn’t suggest that there is a direct correlation between the recall election in June and the general election in November, but it doesn’t hurt (usually) to have the incumbent governor campaigning for the presidential candidate.  By bypassing this election the Democrats could be hurting Obama’s chances in the state later on in the year.

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6 Responses to The Wisconsin Recall Vote

  • Paul, you are absolutely right. Recalls solely should be reserved for the most egregious violations of the public trust. Aside from the millions of dollars in unnecessary costs, the recalls of Walker and several legislators by those unhappy with new policies and budget restraints put the so-called democratic process to shame.

    Before the election, Scott Walker made it crystal clear what he was going to do and then proceeded to keep his promises, which included balancing the budget and restoring fiscal sanity to Wisconsin by reigning in public unions’ greed. As a Wisconsinite, I and thousands of others who supported him applaud him for doing precisely what he said he would do.

    I’ve no doubt that come June 5, Walker will once again handily defeat Milwaukee Mayor, union stooge and political hack Tom Barrett handily. The latest polls show Scott leading by about 5 points, a gap that will grow as Barrett’s liabilities are once again revealed despite millions in laundered union dues flowing into Democrat coffers.

  • It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my disdain for populism that I find recall elections to be complete shams

    Don’t you mean ‘inadvisable’? ‘Sham’ suggests a pantomime along the lines of elections to the New York State Legislature (an exercise I certainly hope is rare elsewhere).

  • Don’t you mean ‘inadvisable’?

    I stand by my word choice.

  • yes they should be rare, and I think Walker is great
    ..At least when the other side is trying to do a recall I don’t like…I think that way.
    But when my side (the right side, the good guys) wants to recall ( or impeach) maybe we should look at it. : )

  • I agree, recalls should not be part of the process, unless correcuption is proven. Gray Davis’ recall was expensive and Arnie was no better. In fact, Arnie lied during his run for the short term election. He said he was NOT a politician and NOT going to run for the second term. He did and proved during his second term how much he was a politician; ineffective, a bigot and a lying cheat to his family…I guess there’s cause for all the cynicism and jadedness.

  • I agree. How many elections have happened in which the candidate that won went against every ounce of my belief’s. We would be in recall mode non stop. The whole thing here in Wi is so wrong and I think it borders on the diabolical. I know it does. Gov Walker has only done what he said he would do and this group of in house and out house rabble rousers has cost our state millions of dollars in wasted time and energy. I pray that Gov Walker wins and I hope this bunch of malcontents goes home and does whatever they do when they are not agitating the heck out of everyone they come in contact with. If we Catholics or pro-lifers had done the types of things these people have done to get their way we would be sitting in jail, or under the litigation from RICO.

Palin, Steele, & Populism

Friday, March 13, AD 2009

Daniel Larison on why conservatives have been critical of Michael Steele, but defended Sarah Palin:

Steele does not have the benefit of a verbose, mistake-prone counterpart to distract us [like Palin did with Biden], but even if he did the reaction to Steele would have been nothing like the response to Palin. In other words, Steele’s blunders on substance are treated as badly damaging and activists insist that they require immediate correction, while Palin’s blunders were spun as imaginatively and desperately as any politician’s answers have ever been spun. This is a bigger problem than pushing unprepared leaders into the spotlight–it is a clear preference for one kind of style, namely the combative pseudo-populist act, over whatever style Steele has at the expense of any consideration of the merits of what these leaders say. The takeaway is that Steele is being ripped apart for making statements that are not terribly different from Palin’s campaign statements on the very same issues, and somehow she is still considered a rising star by the very activists who are ripping Steele.

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15 Responses to Palin, Steele, & Populism

  • I think John Henry’s explanation is much better and more substantive than Larison’s. As John notes, these are very different circumstances. But more importantly, Sarah’s “flubs” were essentially awkward moments during interviews, whereas Steele’s flubs indicate that he holds positions at odds with pro-lifers. It’s not just style, it’s substance.

  • Precisely, Paul. First he says we’re getting tough and pushing the mooshy moderates out. Then flubs bigtime on this CNN show quickly cancelled because no one watching but host and immediate family. But enough to cause ruckus. Specifically- he was baited to dump on Rush. Bad idea to The Base. Then this Catholic school grad started weebling and wobbling on abortion. Now backpedalling and What I Really Meant-ing and oh dear if GOP can’t strike it rich in 2010 why open the doors in the morning. Sarah’s gaffes come from not being accustomed to scrutiny by chattering classes. Next time around she’ll handle it better. Steele is still questionable.

  • John Henry, Paul, and Gerard may be on to something.

    I am just trying to hide my face whenever Mr. Steele stumbles in an interview. Maybe he isn’t polished when answering questions on his feet. Maybe he is just getting adjusted to being under the spotlight.

    Probably we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Stop piling on him and defend him to the hilt. Hopefully Mr. Steele will get his sea legs while being under the spotlight.

    He is human so mistakes can happen. Maybe he’ll be a stud-GOP-Pro-Life-Catholic and deliver both houses of Congress to the Pro-Life camp.

    He should be given the benefit of the doubt. He’s articulate, educated on the faith, and photogenic. All powerful variables that we need to advance the pro-life agenda.

    We should definitely circle the wagons around him, rally to his side, and fight like Macabees. He’s one of our own and we shouldn’t stand idly by while others rip him apart.

  • Possibly, Tito. But the flubs have got to go. Saw Jim Cramer defending his very existence to Jon Stewart last evening. By the 20 minute mark was getting painful. Was prepared to yell at screen see what your lib New York friends think of you now Jim and imagine what Rush endures every single day so knock off the mea culpas and go back to work. Memo to Mr. Steele- no more interviews. The GQ piece was done by Lisa DePaulo- tabloidy journalist who worked her way up from Philadelphia magazine by making current Gov. Fast Eddie Rendell look dopey. And he’s a Dem. Mr. Steele and Mr. Cramer- they do not like you. And they never will. Get over it.

  • I think John Henry nails it:

    People would be defending Steele a lot more if he had been drafted as a national candidate in the middle of a high stakes campaign; and he would be forgiven a lot more if he seemed inarticulate but sound on principles rather than potentially fudging on principles.

  • I don’t entirely buy that Steele is flubbing. In the sense that he isn’t clearly articulating what he wants to say – maybe he is flubbing. But that depends somewhat on what he wants to say!

    It seems pretty clear to me that Steele believes that the fiscal and economic policies of the GOP are ‘winners’ and that the ‘values’ positions are losers. So he is doing his best to soft pedal values and reach toward the middle. Steele clearly wants to put all value issues aside. He only wants to give them just enough lip service to not lose votes he thinks the GOP owns anyway.

    Any hope we might have ever had for the GOP should be promptly forgotten. It is time to seriously work on finding another way to move forward!

  • GNW_Paul,

    I think you’re probably right about Steele, although even he seems confused about what his real position is. That said, I find your conclusion puzzling. Here’s the sequence as I understand it:

    1) Steele sounds squishy/incoherent on pro-life issues.
    2) Steele is widely denounced by the GOP rank and file.
    3) Ergo, you argue, pro-lifers should abandon the GOP.

    Setting aside other legitimate grievances for the moment, could it be that Steele, rather than the GOP base, needs to go?

  • John Henry,

    If only it were just Steele. Looking back to the primaries, it is clear that a large portion of the power structure (money) in the GOP is right there with him. If they are upset with Steele, it is only because he hasn’t managed to not make it obvious that values voters are considered a liability.

    Besides, I don’t think our association (in the public view) with the most extreme elements in the GOP (anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-regulation – again the extremes) does Catholic and family values voters any favors.

  • The GOP is the only game in town for pro-life voters. That is not an opinion but simply a statement of fact. Third party options are an exercise in futility and the Democrats are a lost cause on abortion.

  • Donald,

    You are right.

    Which is exactly why the GOP figures they can sideline us and our issues without losing our votes.

    We need to change the game. Not saying it is easy. But the first thing is the acknowledge that the GOP leadership doesn’t give a rip about us or our issues. They just like our votes.

  • GNW_Paul,

    It depends on what happens the next 4-8 years, and who the candidates are. As bad as Bush was on many issues, I think Roberts and Alito were good picks (time will tell). If so, pro-lifers are one vote away from returning abortion to the states, which in turn creates more opportunities for more restrictions on abortion and ultimately less abortions.

    If the GOP nominates McCain/Steele-style candidates, then pro-lifers have little incentive to turn out for the GOP (a large part of the enthusiasm for Palin in many circles was her perceived strength on pro-life issues). But if it’s someone like Huckabee or Jindal who appears to be genuinely concerned about pro-life issues, then I think pro-lifers have good reasons to support the GOP. In the meantime, even some Congressional Republicans might be useful to oppose piecemeal implementation of FOCA-type legislation. To be clear, I don’t think FOCA is going to pass, but I think some aspects of FOCA may be included in other legislation.

  • The answer is clear. WE can not let the GOP meander into the pro-death camp, it is not time to “wait and see” what the GOP will do… it is time to stand up and LEAD the GOP to be more strongly in the pro-life camp. Get involved in your precinct, district and county. These are relatively small organizations, it only takes a few of us with loud voices to move them into a stronger pro-life position.

    When the primaries come around help the most pro-life candidate in each position from dog-catcher to POTUS any way you can. With a 100% pro-life leader and the evidence of Obama’s pro-death position laid bare, go after your liberal Catholic friends, confront them on the hypocrisy of supporting Obama after his evil actions.

  • Agreed with all of the above, but adding that we should also do everything in our power to keep the highly endangered species of Pro-Life Democrat from becoming completely extinct.

    Pro-life is an issue that CANNOT be allowed to become the exclusive “property” of a single political party. At the very least, there should be as many pro-life Democrats as there are pro-choice Republicans.

    I do not think the Democratic Party is necessarily a lost cause on the abortion issue, at least not in the long term, especially with Hispanic voters (who tend to be either Catholic or evangelical Protestant) becoming more and more of a force. One thing’s for sure, writing off the Democrats as a lost cause isn’t going to improve things.

    Please note that I am NOT talking about the wishy-washy Doug Kmiec kind of “pro life” Democrat, I mean genuinely pro-life Democrats, like the late Bob Casey Sr., and Glenn Poshard. (Imagine the grief we Illinois residents would have been spared for the last 10 years if only we had elected Poshard governor!) Yes, I know Casey is dead and Poshard is out of politics, but all the more reason to start working on getting more people like them in the game!

    Although I consider myself Republican, if given a choice between a Bob Casey Sr. type of pro-life Democrat vs. a pro-life Republican, I’d choose the Democrat, because I think pro-life Democrats are in greater need of support.

  • That’s a good point Elaine. As I’ve written elsewhere, I would be happy to vote for a pro-life Dem; unfortunately, there is frequently some false advertising involved (e.g. the current Sen. Casey). Still, it’s important to support genuinely pro-life Dems whenever possible. As the African-American experience with Democrats and urban education shows, it’s never good for a political party to not have to worry about your votes.

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Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

Thursday, February 5, AD 2009

As the election becomes more a matter of history than immediate emotion, it is a good time for sober analysis of what went on in the 2008 election. Yuval Levin has a very good analysis in Commentary Magazine of the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin’s candidacy. In framing the controversy he makes an interesting distinction:

In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.

Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance.

Addressing how Palin’s candidacy turned this cultural fact into a firestorm, he says:

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12 Responses to Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

  • But she’s winkin’ at you, DC, as she holds that hard-metal, big semi.

  • It’s an interesting article. I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    I would definitely agree that the deep philosophical underpinnings to modern US conservatism, sadly have been little expounded of late.

  • In retrospect, she was too soon, too late. The McCain campaign was trucking along on its own speed- designed to become as moderate and milktoast as possible when she joined the team. Then September 15- the Sunday that triggered the Great Financial Sector Meltdown. Any incumbent party would have also melted down. The vicious, borderline insane attacks by Chattering Class members should be saved by her upcoming campaign and used for political literature three years hence. Meanwhile she looks better and better each day. More tax troubles for Obamaites. Senate hearings into nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary cancelled. This after US Today reported Solis’ businessperson hubbo just settled with various gummint agencies for about 16 years worth of tax liens. Mindful of complaint by Casey Stengel when the Ol’ Perfesser managed woeful 1962 NY Mets- “can’t anybody here play this game?” As though there was conspiracy within DNC to bring our Sarah to forefront. Or more like vetting of Cabinet officials consists of rubber stamp use.

  • Interviews hurt her image — at least, I became less impressed.

  • I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    Agreed. And note, the Democrats have in turn grabbed on to “tax cuts” for “most Americans” as well.

    Actually, I doubt one could define economic populism very clearly because it’s fairly contradictory.

  • DC,

    maybe it’s easier to define what is NOT economic populism:

    – taxpayer funding of large corporations
    – taxpayer funding of activities that most people find objectionable (abortion)
    – taxpayer funding activities that most people find of little value (the arts)

  • I’d agree with that.

    And I think the following are probably populist as well:

    -Keep American jobs from going overseas.
    -Tax the rich but leave money in “ordinary people’s” pockets.
    -Reign in “Wall Street” up help “Main Street”
    -Generously fund “worthy” programs but never “waste”

  • DC,

    populism is sometimes right, as in my example, and sometimes wrong as in yours (except maybe the first one)… in my opinion anyway.

  • But having finally gotten voters to listen, neither Palin nor McCain could think of anything to say to them.

    And is that because Palin actually had nothing to say or because she was horribly mismanaged by the McCain campaign? We really don’t know yet. I agree with DarwinCatholic that if she can present the nation with a coherent worldview and vision her national career is far from over, despite the disdain of the elites. I have a sneaking suspicion that the elites won’t be looking so good 4 years down the road. Heck, we’re barely into The One’s first term and they’re not looking so hot right now. Palin is supposedly dumb and Nancy (“500 million unemployed”) Pelosi is a rocket scientist? The Dems love taxes, but apparently actually paying them is for the little people. When Andrew Sullivan’s obsessions with Palin’s uterus and Keith Olberman’s goofy swooning over The One qualify them for membership in the “cultural elite,” it’s pretty clear that the bar is set pretty low.

  • My wife and daughter are members of Team Sarah, as is my mother-in-law, a life-long Democrat. I think Palin has a bright political future, especially if, as I think likely, the Obama administration crashes and burns.
    Even she couldn’t save McCain, who, after the convention, faced an economic collapse combined with a dithering campaign to tranform him into last year’s Bob Dole. In 2012 or 2016 Palin will be able to run her own type of campaign and I think she will prove a formidable candidate.

  • Matt,



    There should be one on the second sentence of the article. (Though I’d originally failed to provide it and added it a few minutes after publishing.) Sorry about that…