Under the Microscope
by Glynn Wilson
The history of the Civil War has never really interested me that much compared to the American Revolution. Neither has the Great Man theory of history interested me nearly as much as the study of science and nature.
But just like in life we can’t ultimately escape death or taxes, I can’t seem to get through life as an American or a Southerner without facing the baggage left over from the Civil War — and the man-centric view of history.
I would rather be camping out in the Great Smoky Mountains photographing birds in the wild.
But since Birmingham Congressman Artur Davis has thrust this race for governor upon us a year and a half ahead of time, like a lot of men before him whose ambitions drove the agendas of their state or nation, it is impossible NOT to spend some time thinking about these things.
To read the full column, visit our sister blog, The Locust Fork News-Journal.
America Just Elected Its First Black President
Are the people of Alabama ready for an African-American governor?
by Glynn Wilson
ATLANTA, Ga. — Some historians say the final battle of the Civil War was fought at Sayler’s Creek, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1865. Try bringing that up in a political bar like Manuel’s Tavern in downtown Atlanta, however, and see how fast you can start an argument.
While everyone knows that Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at the Appomattox Court House, effectively ending the war, many an expert would argue that the old, lingering causes of the war survived in people’s attitudes long after the fighting on the bloody battle fields came to a gentlemanly end.
Ask the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, those who had to fight those battles all over again in the 1950s and ’60s.
Then there are thinkers and writers who will tell you, if you give them half a chance over a few shots of whiskey or a few pints of dark beer, that the election of George W. Bush in 2000 effectively erased the Union’s victory in the war and was finally, at long last, a victory for the old Confederacy. Putting aside the issue of election theft and the Supreme Court, ponder the idea that Bush came into office in large measure by the hands of mostly white voters from the old Confederate states of the Deep South, with some help from middle America and parts of the West.
Since Obama’s election even the TV pundits will tell you the only base left for the national Republican Party lies in the old states of the Confederacy, thanks in part to the scorched earth strategies of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, whose marches to Washington and Baghdad with Bush scarred the national character almost as much as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s fiery “March to the Sea.”
Then consider that while Bush’s campaign coffers may not have been filled by the profits from cotton, hand-picked on plantations worked by slaves, the mega corporations that mostly supported his candidacy were interested in keeping wages low and gutting the rights of juries in courtrooms to punish corporate crimes against working people, humanity and the earth. Bush got most of his money to run in 2000 from oil and other energy companies, including Exxon Mobile and Southern Company, as well as insurance companies and the pharmaceutical giants. He came into office — in the world prior to 9/11 — with the prime objective to pass national “tort reform,” the watchword for stopping juries from rendering multi-million dollar judgments against multi-national corporations.
Rove had already accomplished that feat in Alabama — once known as the top state in the country for large jury awards against corporate malfeasance — by helping the Republican Party orchestrate a political takeover of the state Supreme Court.
If you ask just about any academic expert who studies the demographic numbers from public opinion polls and election results, you could say Americans finally fought the final battle of the Civil War on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Symbolically, it took another Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, to put together enough of a national coalition to defeat Confederate attitudes once and for all.
Jim Gundlach, a retired Auburn Sociology professor, harbors a special fascination for the “age” variable in public opinion research, mainly for the story it tells on an issue like public attitudes on race and the chances of electing African-American candidates to national and statewide office.
He ran the model on Obama’s candidacy before the election and predicted that the best he could possibly do in a national race was to win by about 7 percent, if he ran a flawless campaign and the other side stumbled (can you say Sarah Palin?). And Obama hit the number almost right on the dot, winning by about 7 percent nationally in the popular vote.
If you run the same model in a state like Alabama, where Birmingham Congressman Artur Davis is making noises about running for governor, what you find is that the state is at least a decade away from fighting the final battle of the Civil War. It will take that long, according to the numbers, for the younger and more progressive population to overtake the older diehards on the race issue, who will finally die off in substantial enough numbers for a black man to have a chance of moving into the governor’s mansion in Montgomery, in the city where the Confederacy was launched in 1861.
“People do not change their minds on core issues in their lifetimes,” Gundlach says. “That’s a fact.”
To read the full investigative news feature, go to our sister blog, The Locust Fork News-Journal