OpinionTrending Commentary

Disingenuous Democrat-Media Glee over Hit on Nikki Haley

What led to the [Civil War]?

A common explanation is that [it] was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control of that system that was central to the conflict.

A key issue was states’ rights.

Another factor was territorial expansion.

Causes of the Civil War”, PBS History Detectives

Polls suggest Haley is a stronger general-election candidate than Trump, with Haley leading Biden by 4 points in the latest RealClearPolitics averages while Trump leads the president by 2 points and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis leads by 1 point. [Indeed,] a WSJ poll released hours before this column showed her 17 points ahead of Biden.

Politico, 12/9/2023

Since Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is leading Biden by a greater margin than both Trump and DeSantis it was only a matter of time before the Democrat “News”-media Colluders (hereafter the DNC) organized a hit on her to protect their own deeply unpopular candidate. Since Biden does not have a positive record to tout, the DNC was thrilled when Haley was embarrassed by a “gotcha” question about “the cause of the Civil War.”  Haley stated that it was “basically” about “how the government was going to run [and] freedoms and what people could and couldn’t do.”  Moments later she added that

I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are. … [T]he government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people.  … Government doesn’t need to tell you how to live your life [or] what you can and can’t do. … They need to make sure that you have freedom.

The questioner, who, interviewed by CNN later, would not give his full name or where he was from [what a surprise!], stated it was astonishing to him that she didn’t mention slavery. 

PBS, along with much of what passes for our “news” media, was predictably appalled, complaining that “Nikki Haley didn’t say slavery caused the Civil War.  Now she’s facing a backlash.”  Although Haley did not give the best answer, specifically, the answer expected by the virtue-signaling chattering class, the question was ill-formed. 

Anyone who has successfully studied the philosophy of science knows that there is a false presumption in the question, namely, that there is a univocal cause of the Civil War.  This same false presumption is made by anyone who asks what is “the” cause of cancer, expecting that it is pollution, or red meat, or viruses.  As best we know, there is no such thing as “the” cause of cancer.  There are many possible causes of cancer including diet, smoking, radiation, viruses, genetics, etc.  

And, in fact, the question what caused the Civil War is usually not answered by the simplistic reply that slavery caused it.  Although the DNC appears unaware, there are these things called “books” written by people who actually know something (yes there are still a few around) that discuss the causes (or is it reasons, and are reasons causes?) for the Civil War.  In Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War, History Professor Marc Egnal argues against “the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles” and, “while giving careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement, argues instead that

Economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861. The rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west [rather than north-south] lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns about the country’s westward expansion, and growing ties between the Upper South and the free states led many cotton planters to contemplate secession.

Similarly, Paul Calore, in The Causes of the Civil War: The Political, Cultural, Economic and Territorial Disputes between North and South, argues that the causes include “a chain of events stretching as far back as the early 1750’s” involving not only debates about slavery but “the inequities between an established agricultural society and a growing industrial one … [as well as] protective tariffs [and] the expansionist agenda … [which] led to a fierce sectionalism [and] cultural, economic, political and territorial disputes”.  

Some argue that it was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that threated the balance of power between the North and the South that was the “Cause of [the] Civil War”.  Even though slavery was involved, and I quote, “slavery was only part of it”. 

Further, PBS, in its rush to partisan oversimplification, has not, apparently, digested their own account of the “causes [plural]” of the Civil War,  

A common explanation is that the Civil War was fought over the moral issue of slavery.

In fact, it was the economics of slavery and political control that was central to the conflict.

                        [Also], a key issue was states’ rights.

The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish federal laws they didn’t support, especially laws interfering with the South’s right to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.

Another factor was territorial expansion.

In brief, the causes of the American Civil War were extraordinarily complex, as are most developments in history and the social world.   Discovering and formulating causal connections is difficult enough in the physical sciences but it is notoriously difficult in the historical and social sciences where the very nature of the phenomena, involving human choice and a far greater number of variables, is enormously problematic.  Slavery was clearly involved in a crucial way in the causes of the Civil War, but the causes (plural), if one can even speak of causes in such cases, are quite complex.1  

Haley’s answer was far too abstract, perhaps because giving an accurate account of the causes of complex historical phenomena is far too complicated for a “gotcha” question sprung on television.  My aim is not, however, to defend Haley per se.  She is not my choice for the Republican nomination.  In fact, this article is not really about Haley.  It is about the DNC’s standard strategy for smearing its political opponents.  For Haley’s sin, in the eyes of DNC smear merchants, was not that she could not provide a serious account of the causes of slavery, for the simple reason that their own 7th grade answer is not correct either.  Haley’s real sin, in their eyes, is that her failure to produce their favorite simplistic bumper sticker “answer” can be used as a stick with which to beat Republicans. 

Finally, the DNC bumper sticker du jour is transparently false.  Since slavery existed for hundreds of years in America before 1861-65 without any civil war, the causes of the war had to involve something that changed in the years leading up to 1861 (see the books cited above).  Unfortunately, the DNC is not concerned to enlighten the peasants about such deep and difficult issues or to solve any social problems.  Its aim is only to win elections by playing the peasants with the usual tricks and sophistries. 

            1Indeed, if slavery comes into the causes of the civil war it is as part of the propositional content of an “intentional context”, i.e., what people believe and desire about slavery.

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Richard McDonough

Richard Michael McDonough, American philosophy educator. Achievements include production of original interpretation of Wittgenstein’s logical-metaphysical system, original application Kantian Copernican Revolution to philosophy of language; significant interdisciplinary work logic, linguistics, psychology & philosophy. Member Australasian Debating Federation (honorary life, adjudicator since 1991), Phi Kappa Phi.

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  1. I am no expert on the Civil War but I used to be an avid reader of “novels” with historical backgrounds of the Civil War. I learned a lot. Tho’ the stories were fictional the history holding the stories together was not. It led to some research about what I might have missed in school. I had a better idea of what happened and why. Also had others to discuss what the “history” was in these books. The authors have done a lot of work researching history for us to make their stories sound real and interesting. Too many people don’t like to read, they just want their questions answered – and they want it right now, and what they want to hear is what they believe, not what is truth.

  2. We all know that the leftist media are hypercrits. They jump on Haley for one gaff and remain silent while Potato Joe and DEI Harris cannot string together one coherent sentence.

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