Heavy Sanctions on Iran–and Saudi Arabia–Are Reasonable and Necessary

Donald Trump is a terrible president. Nearly all of his policies are and have been wrong. However, that does not mean that one should oppose a policy merely because Trump supports it. The issue of sanctions on Iran is a prime example. For decades, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on the regressive theocracy. The U.N. did for a time also, before lifting most of them almost two years ago. Trump has been a supporter of strong sanctions, while many liberals argue that they are counterproductive. The debate over U.S. policy toward Iran is unlikely to subside anytime soon, especially in light of recent Gestapo-style tactics deployed against protesters by the Iranian government, tactics that left over twenty demonstrators dead. It is worth recapping some of Iran’s other human rights atrocities:

  1. Homosexuality is a capital crime.
  2. Women are legally forbidden from going out in public unveiled or watching “men’s sports” in stadiums. According to Human Rights Watch, ” Iranian women face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, ranging from issues related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody, to restrictions on dress and even access to sports stadiums as spectators.” Polygamy is also allowed for men but not for women.
  3. Strict laws exist to impede interfaith marriages–Hiddush, an Israeli organization dedicated to promoting civil liberties and equality, gave Iran a 0 for freedom to marry. Lest anyone accuse Hiddush of bias, Israel received a 0 also.
  4. Freedom of speech is almost nonexistent. According to Rod Panjabi, Executive Director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has engineered one of the most repressive environments on the planet in terms of the right to free speech … For decades, journalists, scholars, artists and indeed all Iranians have been forced to navigate censorship, self-censorship, and the aggressive and often arbitrary policing of the public space by a government whose distaste for free speech has long been a matter of identity. As long as these trends persist, Iran will be poorly governed.”
  5. Marital rape is legally permitted, even when the marriage was forced to begin with. Remember this if someone tries to claim Iran has a low rate of rape. It’s easy to claim that rape is rare if your legal definition is narrow, and you look the other way.

These are not benign cultural differences. These are vile, heinous policies and practices that decent people should be sickened by. Many people on the Left have rightfully called out human rights violations committed by Israel. A case can be made for the proposals of the BDS Movement. However, the idea that Israel should be boycotted, divested from, and sanctioned and Iran spared is absurd. It is certainly true that the U.S. had a hand in the current political situation in Iran. The United States government toppled a secular, democratically elected prime minister in 1953 and put a “friendly dictator” in power, which eventually helped lead to the emergence of Iran’s current theocratic government. However, that is not a good argument against sanctions. The fact that America helped create the conditions for the Ayatollah does not in any way mean that America should essentially subsidize this current regime through trade. If anything, this fact increases America’s obligation to promote freedom in Iran through nonmilitary means. If I am wrong, then so is the BDS Movement. After all, the United States has played a role in helping shape current conditions in Israel in a number of ways. So if America’s enabling the Shah of Iran means we have no right to impose sanctions or boycotts on Iran, then the same goes for Israel.

Some opponents of sanctions argue that sanctions will not promote human rights in Iran and that honey would work better than incense. There are several problems with this argument. Firstly, the U.N.’s decision to lift most of its sanctions on Iran has utterly failed to prevent Iran from continuing on the path of oppression and violence. Secondly, history has proven that sanctions can be an effective tool for promoting human rights. In 1986, Congress passed sanctions on South Africa, over Ronald Reagan’s veto. Many conservatives at the time argued that they would ineffective. But within less than ten years, Apartheid had ended. Claiming that sanctions were the only reason would be absurd, but so is claiming that they played no role. Sadly, while certain other Western nations outpaced the U.S. in terms of taking a hard line on Apartheid, the U.N. and European Union have undercut American sanctions on Iran. Thirdly, Americans and all people have a moral imperative not to financially support countries or other institutions that are brazenly oppressive. Harsh sanctions, preferably including a trade embargo, should be maintained against Iran until such time as the country is willing to make substantive steps for human rights.

Of course, the fact that Trump’s basic policy on sanctions is largely correct does not change the fact that he is extremely hypocritical about it. For one thing, even by the standards of American politicians, he has been incredibly friendly with Saudi Arabia, a country with human rights policies every bit as bad as Iran’s and possibly worse. Any sanctions implemented against Iran must be implemented against Saudi Arabia as well. For another, Trump shares many of the worst aspects of Iran’s political and religious leaders, from sexism and homophobia to a penchant for violence and censorship. And of course, Trump’s travel ban prevents Iranians who wish to flee their repressive regime from coming to the United States.

I should also make clear that I vehemently oppose any calls to go to war with Iran. Iran has not shown any intention of attacking the United States, and I consider myself to be a military isolationist. But there is a difference between supporting military isolationism and believing that the U.S. should do nothing to promote human rights abroad. Sanctions for brutal regimes are a reasonable, necessary alternative to war.

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Debunking Dinesh D’Souza, Part 2

D’Souza calls Gentile “a man of the Left” and “committed Socialist.” Calling Gentile a man of the Left is an oversimplification. For instance, he was a staunch antifeminist who, as Italian Minister of Education, tried to limit the number of female teachers for male students because women allegedly lacked enough “moral or mental vigor.” He also felt that girls needed fundamentally different education from boys. Fascists, according to D’Souza are “Socialists with a national identity.” It is certainly true that Fascist governments often pursue relatively leftist policies on fiscal issues. One of the biggest problems of this video, however, is D’Souza’s insistence on conflating social and economic leftism. He comes close to unintentionally admitting the flaw in his reasoning, however, when he says that under Fascism, “To submit to society is to submit to the State–not just in economic matters, but in all matters.” Government “gets to tell everyone how to think and what to do.” Let us consider some of the ways in which both Fascism and Conservatism advocate “submitting to the State” and telling “everyone how to think and what to do.” Fascist regimes have generally been determined to suppress homosexuality. Conservatives have and often continue to advocate State control over the lives of gay people, including their ability to marry, adopt children, serve in the military, teach school, or even have sexual intercourse. Both Fascists and Conservatives frequently favor more immigration restriction. Conservatives often advocate bans on flag desecration, a policy also championed by the Nazis and very consistent with Fascism. As referenced earlier, Fascists and Conservatives both tend to support the right of the State to execute people. Fascists tend to support giving more power to the police, especially to control certain “undesirables,” and most of the modern defenses of racial profiling in law enforcement come from the Right. These are just some of the many examples of commonality between Fascism and the Right.

D’Souza describes Benito Mussolini as a Fascist who put Gentile’s beliefs into practice, including his belief in an almighty State. This is true, but calling Mussolini left-wing is an untenable conclusion, unless being “left-wing” includes suppressing homosexuality, promoting traditional gender roles, and reinstating the death penalty in Italy. It would thus be accurate to call Mussolini socially right-wing and fiscally left-wing. D’Souza goes on to lay out examples of support for more government by the American Left. But proving that the Left wants more government does not prove that the Right wants less, so using this to label Fascism as leftist makes no sense. D’Souza states that “conservatism wants small government so that individual liberty can flourish.” Few political statements have been more laughably incorrect. To recap, conservatives have advocated censorship of flag burning and obscene material, stop and frisk, more restrictions on immigration, bans on gay marriage, gay adoption, LGBT military personnel, and “sodomy,” the right of government to execute people, drug prohibition, racial profiling by government officials, telling transgender people which public restrooms they can use, and many other big government policies. And while many conservatives have tried to paint the racially bigoted Democrats of yesteryear as liberals, the states where government-mandated segregation persisted the longest were primarily in the socially conservative “Bible Belt.” In my state of Georgia, the right-wing Republican President of a public college, Kennesaw State University, tried to use his office to punish cheerleaders for taking a knee during the National Anthem. On some issues, such as conscription and runaway government surveillance, both the Left and the Right are divided, whereas the Right would be solidly on the libertarian side of these issues if conservatism truly meant small government.

Had D’Souza labeled Fascism as a mix of leftist economics and rightist social policy, he would have been correct. Some liberals have taken a step too far by trying to tie Fascism with libertarianism, when they are diametrically opposed ideologies. But labeling Fascism as left-wing is just as inaccurate.

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Debunking Dinesh D’Souza, Part 1

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to write about right-wing filmmaker and author, Dinesh D’Souza, and it won’t be the last. In August of 2014, I wrote that, “It has been obvious for years that bigotry is D’Souza’s bread and butter.” Earlier this year, I wrote that he exemplified the tendency of many conservatives to want to both accurately point out the Democratic Party’s racist history and also defend the worst aspects of that history. It might be said that historical distortion is also D’Souza’s bread and butter. We were reminded of this on December 4, when he uploaded a video for the right-wing “PragerU” entitled, “Is Fascism Right or Left?” After an introduction bashing the Left, D’Souza states that it is vital to look at the political thinker who originated the idea of Fascism, Giovanni Gentile. Fair enough. He goes on to explain that Gentile wanted a political system in which individuals willingly subordinated themselves to the government. According to D’Souza, “Like his philosophical mentor, Karl Marx, Gentile wanted to create a community that resembles the family, a community where we are ‘all in this together.'” But suggesting that Marx had a similar view of government to that of the Fascist Gentile, as D’Souza appears to be doing here, is deeply problematic. Marx indeed favored a temporary “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a way of implementing his Communist vision, and most Communist regimes effectively eliminated both “temporary” and “proletariat” from the equation. Nevertheless, it is also true that one of Marx’s longterm goals was the abolition of the State. According to SocialistWorker.org–an outlet many conservatives would lazily label as “pro-big government”–“Throughout his life, Karl Marx argued that for socialism to be realized, the state would have to be done away with.” This puts him in stark contrast with Fascists, who sought to permanently grow the State.

D’Souza goes to say, “It’s easy to see the attraction of this idea. Indeed, it remains a common rhetorical theme of the left.” He cites a couple of examples that he believes prove his point. For one, “At the 1984 convention of the Democratic Party, the governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, likened America to an extended family where, through the government, people all take care of each other.” The analogy, however, is deeply flawed. Both liberals and conservatives see an expansive role for the State, a point we will return to later. As I demonstrated in a series of blog posts back in February, the Democrats in 1984 were running against right-wing Republican President Ronald Reagan, who favored    censorship, Selective Service, the War on Drugs, massive federal spending, government restrictions on gay rights (even supporting sodomy laws in the 1970s), raising the drinking age to 21, and gun control. In fact, Cuomo lost his governorship, partly because he opposed the right of the State to execute people, a position few fascists or conservatives would agree with. Even if we look solely at the vision for America as “an extended family where, through the government, people all take care of each other,” this fails to implicate the Left or exonerate the Right. Conservatives, for example, are much more likely than liberals to believe that it is appropriate for teachers in “government schools,” to spank students, while liberals who favor spanking are more likely to see it as solely the right of parents rather than government employees. Dennis Prager, the conservative pundit who founded PragerU, wrote in 2010, “I do not believe that only parents may physically respond to a child. Teachers, for example, should be permitted to do so — I was physically dealt with by a number of teachers, and in every case, I deserved it. I also did so as a camp counselor — to great effect. And so should the man whom the child in the ad smacked. In an ideal world, all adults raise all children in some way.” I do not know what is more disturbing to picture–Dennis Prager spanking other people’s kids or Dennis Prager being a camp counselor. In any case, this is an example of the “It takes a village mindset” that is far more popular on the Right than the Left.

For another example, D’Souza recalls that, “Nothing’s changed. Thirty years later, a slogan of the 2012 Democratic Party convention was, ‘The government is the only thing we all belong to.’ They might as well have been quoting Gentile.” As a left libertarian, this quote raises the hackles on my neck. But there are three problems with using it to tie leftism to Fascism. Firstly, calling it a “slogan” for the DNC is questionable. The statement was part of an approximately five-minute video touting Charlotte, North Carolina, where the 2012 DNC took place. During the video, former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt says, “We are committed to all people. We do believe you could use government in a good way. Government’s the only thing that we all belong to. We have different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state and our nation.” Calling every quote in a video a slogan seems shaky, but we’ll concede D’Souza’s point here for the sake of argument. There are two other big problems for him, however. For one thing, Hunt seems to be using the term “belong to,” to mean “hold membership with” as opposed to “be the property of.” After all, he compares it to church or club membership. Few people would argue that someone is the property of their church or club. For another, Jim Hunt is hardly a flaming liberal or leftist but rather is generally understood as a moderate Democrat. In the 1972 Election, he took great pains to distance himself from the Democratic presidential nominee, George McGovern, saying, “McGovern was way too liberal for me.” Hunt favored capital punishment, with 13 people being executed in North Carolina during his administration.

 

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Symbolic Speech vs Business Discrimination

Someone ought to alert the media. For decades—if not longer—many conservatives have insisted that “symbolic speech” is not protected by the First Amendment. On issues ranging from antiwar armbands, to pornography and flag desecration, they have long argued that if it’s not spoken words, it isn’t protected by the First Amendment. But now, it has become a common right-wing argument that the First Amendment actually extends far beyond what even civil libertarians believed when they defended the right to armbands, pornography, flag desecration, and other forms of expression. Now conservatives are aligning with more consistent libertarians to argue that the First Amendment gives businesses the right to refuse service to the public, provided that this service involves any kind of artistic expression. The argument that antidiscrimination laws can violate free speech has come up before regarding photographers who refuse to take pictures for same-sex weddings. It has also been made in defense of bakers who insist that their religion forbids them from making wedding cakes for gay couples, including Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker whose case was recently argued before the Supreme Court. The argument goes that cakes (and photographs) are an artistic expression and that forcing bakers and photographers to serve customers equally, regardless of sexual orientation, is therefore a violation of their right to free speech.

There are several problems with this idea. Firstly, bakers are not being forced to or forbidden from creating any type of cake that they want, in accordance with their personal artistic vision. But if they choose to make cakes, they should not be able to refuse to make them for customers based on sexual orientation, race, gender, or other immutable traits. This is different from what civil libertarians generally define as censorship, banning forms of expression entirely, at least in certain venues. The ACLU aptly summarizes this distinction by stating, “The Colorado anti-discrimination law doesn’t tell the bakery how to make its cakes. What it says is that if the bakery chooses to sell cakes, it can’t refuse to sell them to certain people based on their sexual orientation.” If a baker were forced to include political messages on a cake (generic platitudes about love and marriage don’t really qualify in that regard), that would be a free speech violation. In this scenario, a baker would be forced to explicitly endorse a political message that they disagree with. But providing a service to customers is not the same as making a political message, and it is certainly not an endorsement of their “lifestyle.”

Secondly, arguing that bakers have a First Amendment right to discriminate necessitates creating such a broad exemption to antidiscrimination laws as to risk gutting them. Any number of services provided by businesses could be exempt from antidiscrimination laws based on qualifying as artistic expression or symbolic speech. A barber could claim that haircuts were a form of artistic expression and that they had a right to refuse to cut women’s hair. An advertising agency could refuse to advertise black-owned businesses. A carpenter could refuse to make furniture for gay customers. In fact, since films are clearly an art form, filmmakers could refuse to cast any nonwhite actors for any roles. To be clear, businesses should enjoy very broad First Amendment protections. For example, distasteful as it may be to many people, video game companies and television networks should be free to include whatever content they and their customers see fit. But these examples are different from that of anti-gay bakers, because they involve businesses being allowed to choose what they want to create, not which customers they want to serve.

Finally, this argument creates an unnecessary conflict between anti-discrimination laws, which have existed in some capacity in at least some parts of the United States since the nineteenth century, and free speech. It has long been understood that while people have the right to hold whatever hateful or bigoted beliefs they want and express them in a host of ways, they are not allowed to discriminate based on race and gender if they operate a business open to the public. Why should that be any different for LGBT Americans, as increasingly more states and cities include them in antidiscrimination laws? (The federal government should also include LGBT Americans in its antidiscrimination legislation but has not thus far.) As the ACLU has demonstrated for decades, it is perfectly possible and indeed necessary to stand for both antidiscrimination laws and freedom of speech. We do not need to sacrifice one to save the other.

 

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Ben Shapiro Tries To Prove That the U.S. Wasn’t Partly Founded on Slavery and Fails Miserably, Part 2

Shapiro next addresses the infamous Three-Fifths Clause in the Constitution. Here, he actually makes a correct point: the clause dealt with counting slaves, who obviously could not vote, as part of state populations, for purposes of Congressional representation. Had slaves been fully counted, slave states would have amassed even more political power. Had they not been counted at all, Northern Congressmen would have had a freer hand to pass antislavery legislation. Five-and-a half years ago, I warned about the decision by many liberals to focus on the Three-Fifths Clause when this was playing into the hands of people like Shapiro. Nevertheless, Shapiro fails to demonstrate that the Constitution was not proslavery, as he does not even bother to address the Fugitive Slave Clause. Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 stated that, “No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.” This, in effect, meant that a slave who ran away from, say, Virginia to a free state like Massachusetts or Pennsylvania was required by federal law to be returned their their master. In order to enforce this clause, George Washington signed a new federal fugitive slave law in 1793. He admits that the Constitution forbade Congress from outlawing slavery for twenty years but emphasizes the fact that Congress banned it almost as soon as the twenty year limit had elapsed. But of course, there is a huge difference between abolishing the African Slave Trade and abolishing slavery itself. And many Virginia slaveholders such as Jefferson had economic motivations to ban the importation of slaves from Africa. In his book, Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson, Finkelman describes how Virginians felt that importation of slaves from outside the state decreased the financial value of every individual slave. After all, an important law of economics is that supply decreases demand. Having already amassed a large labor force of enslaved blacks, Virginia’s powerbrokers decided that it was in their best interests to support ending the African Slave Trade. James McHenry, a slaveholding Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention, wrote privately, “That the population or increase of slaves in Virginia exceeded their calls for their services.” Hence, a ban on the African Slave Trade “would be a monopoly” for Virginia.

Shapiro goes on to try to refute the idea that America’s economy was built largely on slavery by pointing out that the South’s slave-based economy was far weaker than the North’s industrial wage labor-based economy. This is true as far as it goes, but it fails to take into account the extent to which the North and South were economically linked. Both depended on each other for trade, which was made possible not only by the North’s industrial products but also the South’s slave labor products. This is a key reason why many Northern industrialists opposed the abolitionists and Radical Republicans. In fact, Eric Foner has argued that rural Northern communities tended to be more sympathetic to emancipation and civil rights in part because of big Northern cities’ “commercial ties to the South.” In 1858, James Henry Hammond, a proslavery South Carolina Senator, secessionist, and incestuous child molester, used the previous year’s economic panic to bring up this economic codependency. He boasted that, “Fortunately for you it was the commencement of the cotton season, and we have poured in upon you one million six hundred thousand bales of cotton just at the crisis to save you from destruction.”

Shapiro brings up the multitudes of Americans who died in the Civil War, concluding, “So no, America wasn’t founded on slavery. It was founded in spite of slavery. And we fought the bloodiest war in American history to end it.” It is refreshing that he admits the South seceded over slavery–while also supporting the display of the Confederate Flag on war memorials. Unfortunately, he lumps together the South’s reason for seceding and the North’s reason for stopping them. It is indisputable that the primary cause of Southern secession was a desire to protect slavery, and those who try to argue that it was simply one of many major causes argue against the historical record. However, the North did not go to war primarily to free slaves. While many abolitionists supported the war mainly as a vehicle for emancipation, abolitionists were only a small percentage of white Northerners. And while Abraham Lincoln, like the majority of his fellow Republicans, was morally opposed to slavery and played a key role in ending it, he was also willing to allow slavery to continue in the South if it would prevent secession. (He did, however, refuse to sign on to any compromise that would allow slavery to expand into the West.) Historian Bell Irvin Wiley once estimated that only about ten percent of white Union soldiers fought to free the slaves. In 1861, the United States Congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution asserting that the North was not fighting the war to interfere with “established institutions” of the South. So in essence, it would be more accurate to say that America was founded partly on slavery, the federal government actively supported slavery for three quarters of a century, and a large portion of the country broke away to continue slavery.

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Ben Shapiro Tries to Prove that the U.S. Wasn’t Partly Founded on Slavery and Fails Miserably, Part 1

You never know exactly what to expect when a man who opposes Titles II and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while taking pro-government positions on many, many, many different issues decides to tackle the issue of American slavery. But you know it probably won’t be good, and Ben Shapiro did not surprise us there. On November 21, he released a video running at slightly over three minutes called “Was America Founded on Slavery.” A caveat is important here. I would not attempt to argue that the United States was founded entirely or primarily on slavery in the way that the Confederacy was. What I would argue is that the United States was founded partly on slavery in the sense that slavery was a fundamental aspect of America in the 18th and much of the 19th century from a social, political, and economic standpoint and that it received active federal support through the U.S. Constitution.

Shapiro starts off with a major logical fallacy by stating that this “myth” of America being founded on slavery has been used “to justify everything from affirmative action to federal transfer payments to low-income minorities. It’s used as a scapegoat for elevated levels of black crime and for black educational under-performance.” I don’t know what “federal transfer payments to low-income minorities” are, since reparations have virtually no chance of ever passing and are opposed even by most liberal politicians. It’s possible he’s referring to public assistance programs, but these programs transfer money to poor people of all races. In any case, proving that the country was “founded on slavery” is not actually essential to making the case for affirmative action, let alone for making the case that slavery is the root cause of aggregate racial disparities in crime and academic performance. Rather, these arguments are more based on an indisputable fact: African Americans were subjected to slavery for two hundred years, and this has left a major impact on modern America. (There was also little things like Jim Crow and de facto segregation that came after slavery, but we’ll leave those alone for now.) Shapiro then states that slavery was “common at the time of the founding” in other countries. This is a non-sequitur, because the claim he’s responding to is that the United States was built on slavery, not the fringe, straw-man claim that only the United States had slavery. He correctly states that the South seceded to protect slavery but goes on to reiterate that other countries practiced slavery and that some Africans participated in the Slave Trade–again, important information to know but not very relevant to assessing whether or not America was founded on slavery. If I were to claim that America was founded on capitalism, someone could not refute my argument by stating that many other countries have had capitalist economies.

Shapiro then points out that the United States was one of the early countries to ban the African Slave Trade. He circles back to this point later, so I won’t dwell on it yet, but he quickly goes on to make a point that weakens his own case and then a trio of factual errors. He claims that Britain gradually abolished slavery in 1833, Denmark in 1846, France in 1848, Brazil in 1851, and the United States in 1862. While he is correct that Britain passed gradual emancipation legislation that outlawed slavery over the following decade and that France abolished it in 1848, he is wrong about Denmark, Brazil, and America. Denmark outlawed slavery in 1848, Brazil in 1888, and America in 1865. (In fairness, 1846 is often wrongly listed as the Danish year of emancipation, so I don’t think Shapiro should lose points, so to speak, for that part of his statement.) The fact that Britain, Denmark, and France all outlawed slavery a generation before the United States did shows that America was not on the cutting edge of freedom with regard to this issue. And in fact, other countries that outlawed slavery well before the United States include Chile, Mexico, and Sweden. Ironically, Brazil’s late emancipation could have supported Shapiro’s contention that America was not uniquely reactionary on slavery had he not misstated it.  He goes on to mention nations such as Saudi Arabia that continued to allow slavery long after the United States. While this is a good refutation of attempts to romanticize Islamic countries, it once again does little to answer the question of whether the United States was founded on slavery.

He goes on to claim that from its founding the United States “tried to come to grips with slavery and phase it out.” While the first part of this statement is correct, the “phase it out” portion is nonsense. For his first piece of evidence, he cites Vermont’s passage of antislavery legislation in 1777. But of course, Vermont does not represent the United States as a whole. It also never banned interracial marriage, legalized gay marriage legislatively when even most Democratic politicians opposed it, has an openly Socialist Senator, and voted less than 30% for Donald Trump. He then brings up Thomas Jefferson’s much-vaunted attempts to put language in the Declaration of Independence attacking slavery/the African Slave Trade. Unfortunately, Jefferson’s words did not match his actions. He was a lifelong slaveholder who had slaves whipped for running away/disobeying him and tried to discourage a neighbor from freeing his own slaves. While some people have argued that Jefferson could not free his slaves because of debts, historian Paul Finkelman deftly dismantled this argument a quarter century ago: “Throughout his life Jefferson was profligate. He bought and bought and bought. Had freeing slaves been even a mildly important goal, he might easily have cut back on his consumption and lavish life-style. That he did not suggests where his priorities lay.” In any case, Shapiro scores a shot into his own goal, so to speak, immediately afterwards. He claims that Jefferson’s initial language on slavery was removed from the Declaration because Southern colonies would have otherwise refused to vote for independence, and the vote had to be unanimous. In his effort to excuse Jefferson, Shapiro actually concedes that this country would not have been founded had slavery not been permitted to continue. What more evidence do we need to say that America was partly founded on slavery?

 

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Can We Please Stop Pretending Lindsey Graham is Reasonable and Moderate Now?

So since Lindsey Graham was whinging recently about how unfair it is that the media portrays Trump as a kook, even though he called Trump a kook last year, I thought it would be nice to recap some of the many, many times Graham has come down against civil rights and in favor of authoritarianism:
1. Voting in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in all 50 states and reiterating his support for the amendment in 2008. While he stated in 2015 that it would be unwise for Republicans to try to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage, he reiterated that he disagreed with the ruling and still opposed same-sex marriage.
2. Consistently voting against anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people.
3. Has repeatedly refused to take a definitive stance on whether or not transgender Americans should be allowed to serve in the military.
4. In 2011, he with regard to the display of the Confederate Flag at the South Carolina Capitol, “The statehouse has resolved this in a bipartisan way,” and suggested that Republican presidential candidates “who brought that up wouldn’t be doing themselves any favors.” Even after the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting, he initially refused to endorse taking down the flag until public pressure forced him to.
5. Has consistently voted to ban flag desecration and cosponsored a proposed constitutional amendment against it with conservatives such as Jeff Sessions in 2015. (Maybe he’s only OK with unpatriotic displays when they glorify slavery?)
6. While Bob Jones University had an official policy in place restricting interracial dating by students, Graham received an honorary degree from the school. When New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli introduced a resolution criticizing the school for racism, Graham called it, “political grandstanding.”
7. Has stated that children born in the U.S. should not automatically be considered citizens if their parents are illegal immigrants. He expressed this stance in 2010 and reiterated it in 2015.
8. Consistently opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
9. In a speech to the all-male Hibernian Society of Charleston, he promised that, “white men who are in male-only clubs are going to do great in my presidency.”
10. Stated during his 2002 Senate campaign that he opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt.
I am, of course, happy to provide citations for all of these stances if anyone would like. Suffice it to say, Lindsey Graham is the Dolores Umbridge of American politics. He is not substantially different from Trump and is in some ways more dangerous due to the misconception that he is moderate and reasonable. The idea that he is a moderate Republican shows the extent to which the term has lost its meaning. Time was, a moderate Republican was someone who supported civil rights. Nowadays, “moderate Republican” is becoming a term for anyone who opposes Trump. We have seen people with racist/sexist/anti-LGBT records, such as Graham, Bob Corker, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney, George and Jeb Bush, Ben Shapiro, Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg, David French, William Kristol, and Erick Erickson get portrayed as reasonable Republicans simply for opposing Trump. We should make common cause with Rockefeller Republicans, libertarians, and socially moderate Neocons who are willing to stand against Trump, but we can’t just label everyone who dislikes Trump as an ally.

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