Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

It’s time to declare the Confederacy dead and gone with the wind.

The Virginia tragedy is the knell. It shook America with street scenes of violent white male supremacists. Young hooligans claimed the life of a young woman and injured other brave resisters. It was a terrible thing, made worse by the president’s defiant defense of new Confederates.

But it’s over now: the noble, glorious “Lost Cause” and all that, starring Robert E. Lee as the honorable Southern gentleman general.

When a Southern city like Charlottesville, Virginia, considers taking down a statue of Lee, that’s a catalyst for trouble. His myth is always burnished by legions of defenders. The statue stands for racial hatred, pure and simple.

The Confederate battle flag is a racial taunt. The rebirth of Confederate symbols arose at the same time as Jim Crow and lynchings in the South, and then again during the civil rights movement.

Leadership on this front is flowing from mayors and mobilized citizens. Social change can’t be far behind. New Orleans and Baltimore are in the forefront.

Rivers of tears, talk and ink on President Donald Trump and the deadly race riot in Charlottesville, still spill over. The crisis is a defining moment for each of us.

For the longest time people like me thought the Civil War was history. We knew President Lincoln waged it to end slavery, and thought the right side won. We didn’t talk of it in Philadelphia, where I majored in history, as a living thing.

The defeated Confederate general had amazing history publicists. Let’s give no more ground to the owner of Virginia’s plum slave plantation, right by the river. Arlington, it’s called.

President Lincoln seized Lee’s rolling thousand acres for the Union Army in 1861, when the Civil War broke out. Soldiers’ bodies were buried there, in the gardens. So the Union’s blood would be on Lee’s hands. Now it’s the national military cemetery.

Don’t let anyone tell you Lee opposed slavery in his heart. He loved his antebellum privilege, his perch atop the pyramid. An Army officer educated at West Point, he deserted his country and became a traitor or a war criminal. Take your pick.

Charlottesville is a perfect place to have a street revolution on race, because it’s unlikely that neo-Nazis would come to town. Old Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia, watching it rise from his spyglass at home — his mountaintop mansion. The town is scenic and pleasant. They call him “Mr. Jefferson” on the university grounds.

Yet Southern charm can turn dark. Virginia is the leader of the South, so it befits that an army of hate stormed into that state.

It’s been 152 years since “The Surrender” in Virginia. Lee, gleaming in his dress uniform on horseback, rode in on the wrong side of history to meet scruffy Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

By all accounts, Grant gave Lee and the Southern states generous terms. Lee never served time as a prisoner, nor did Jefferson Davis, president of the vanquished Confederacy.

If you read “Gone with the Wind,” shockingly, Ashley Wilkes was in the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan terrorized blacks for decades after the Civil War. Jim Crow segregation also took hold.

Shamefully, Washington’s government workforce had Jim Crow, thanks to President Woodrow Wilson — a Virginian.

A New York editor, a son of the South, says we should not rest until we lay the Confederacy to rest.

Then let’s tell the truth about the Civil War. The storytelling South kept its monumental loss alive: what a shame about Gettysburg’s last act. Southern historians artfully equated the two sides. The Ken Burns documentary didn’t do much better.

Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg was Lee’s reckless, vainglorious stand. Then the 4th of July, another story to tell on our side.

So the “Cause” never surrendered, culturally. White generations handed it down. As Melanie Wilkes says, she’d teach her son Beau to hate Yankees, and his children, and so on.

Lee has torn the nation apart again and done too much damage — dead or alive — up to the present moment. It’s high time to make the Confederacy and its marble statues surrender.

The contested weight of history haunts and hangs over us.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]