Sean Spicer: Take a “Stand for Christ” and Vote for Me on “Dancing with the Stars”

Sean Spicer, the former Trump press secretary, wants everyone to know that if you vote for him on the ABC show “Dancing with the Stars” you will be taking a stand for Christ.

It all started when Christian Right politician Mike Huckabee tweeted this:

Spicer responded:

Let the record show that evangelical victimization complex has now extended to televised dance competitions.   At this point, I will just let Princeton historian Kevin Kruse respond:

 

The Mueller Report and the Trump Evangelicals

Mueller Report

I spent part of the weekend reading the Mueller Report. Nothing I have written below is new if you have been following the news coverage of the report or read it for yourself, but I thought I would use this space to jot down some of my notes as I processed it.

  • The Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump.  In other words, it is possible that Donald Trump won in 2016 because of Russian help (Vol. 1:1).  Future historians should put an asterisk next to Trump’s victory in 2016.  We may never know how the Russians helped Trump, but they clearly interfered.
  • There are “numerous links” between the Russian interference in the U.S. election and the Trump presidential campaign (Vol 1:1).
  • The Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with the Russian government in its election interference activities (“collusion” is not a legal term), but it certainly came close.
  • The Russian Facebook campaign played to American fears.  These Russian-authored social media accounts and ads were promoted through retweets and responses to tweets by Sean Hannity, Roger Stone, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Michael Flynn.  (Vol I: 26-27).  In other words, these people helped make the Russian interference effective.  (Of course none of these people knew they were retweeting and promoting the work of Russians).
  • The report presents the Trump campaign as chaotic and disorganized.  Several members of the campaign were working with Russia to help Trump get elected.  Some lied about it and got caught.  Others seemed to just get lucky that they did not do anything reaching the level of criminality.  Those who told the American people that there were no links between the Trump campaign and Russia included Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Trump himself.  (Thanks to Lawfare Blog for identifying these names and providing links).
  • It seems like most Trump supporters stopped reading the report after Volume 1.
  • Mueller says up-front that he respected the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and agreed not to indict a sitting President.  Yet he also says his office uncovered “potentially obstructive acts related to the Special Counsel’s investigation itself.” (Vol. 2:1)
  • Mueller reminds the readers that “a President does not have immunity after he leaves office.”  Why would he put that in the report if he did not think a legitimate case of obstruction could be made against Trump? (Vol 2:1). Perhaps the answer comes on p. 2:2: “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.  Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.  The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.  Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” In other words, Mueller may have found evidence of a possible indictment for obstruction, but could not bring an indictment because of the OLC guidance.  As several scholars have shown, including historians Julian Zelizer and Yoni Appelbaum, this is Mueller’s way of suggesting that it is the job of Congress to handle such behavior.  (Also 2:156-182).
  • Volume 2:3-7 reads like Mueller’s case for impeachment:
    • Trump lied about contacts with Russia
    • Trump tried to intimidate former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation into  Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian government. According to Mueller, there is “substantial evidence” to support Comey’s side of this story.  Trump denied that he asked everyone in the room to leave so he could pressure Comey to drop the investigation.  He lied about this.
    • Trump tried to get Jeff Sessions and several other members of the federal government to bring an end to the ongoing Russia investigation.  How is this not obstruction?
    • Trump fired FBI director James Comey and tried to make it look like he was fired for incompetence unrelated to the Russia probe. We now know that Comey was indeed fired because Trump did not like the Russia probe, despite the fact that the FBI director insisted that Trump was not under investigation.
    • Trump tried to get White House attorney Don McGahn to remove Mueller as Special Counsel.  McGahn told Trump that such a request was “silly” and “not real.” He would not do it.  Trump then told McGahn to deny press reports confirming that the president ordered him to have the Special Counsel removed. (2:114)
    • Trump tried to get Corey Lewandowski to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to publicly declare that the Mueller investigation was “very unfair” to him.  Trump also wanted the probe limited to future election interference, rather than focus on the Russian election interference in 2016.  Lewandowski asked White House aid Rick Dearborn to get the message to Sessions.  Dearborn never delivered it.  This is one of many examples of Trump’s staff protecting an out-of-control and incompetent president motivated by his own narcissism, self-image, and personal vendettas.
    • Trump edited Donald Trump Jr.’s statement about a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton to make it appear that the meeting was about adoption.  He and his personal lawyer then lied about the fact that he did this.
    • Trump pressured Jeff Sessions, on more than one occasion, to unrecuse himself from heading the Mueller investigation because he thought Sessions might fire Mueller.
    • After Flynn began cooperating with the Special Counsel, Trump tried to get Michael Flynn to give him a “heads up” about any “information that implicates the president”
    • Trump tried to manipulate Trump Organization executive Michael Cohen’s testimony before the Special Counsel. (2:138, 146)
  • On pages 2:9-12, Mueller lays out the five kinds of obstruction of justice under the heading “The Legal Framework of Obstruction of Justice.”  Wow!  It seems like Trump violated all five of these forms of obstruction.

The Bottom Line:

Donald Trump is a liar who clearly obstructed justice.  He has forced others to lie to the American people on his behalf.  Some, like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a self-professed evangelical Christian, lied for the president on multiple occasions.  (That is a lot of slips of the tongue). Others refused to lie for him. The Mueller report reveals that Trump’s presidency lacks a moral center.  He should be impeached.

And what about the court evangelicals and all of those other white evangelicals who still support Trump?  They will double down in their support for the president.  He is God’s chosen instrument and his evangelical supporters will invoke biblical examples of how God’s anointed instruments will always suffer persecution.  They will claim that the Mueller Report is biased (except, of course, the parts that say there was no collusion).  They will continue to stoke the “witch hunt” metaphor.   They will continue to take their marching orders from Fox News and claim that the report proves that Trump did not commit a crime.  They will argue that the country should simply move forward as if nothing happened.  They will ignore the parts of the report that show Trump’s immorality and lies.  Court evangelicalism blinds one to the truth.  For example:

What document are these guys reading?  It can’t be the Mueller report.  🙂

But perhaps a few pro-Trump evangelicals will see the light and finally realize, like Billy Graham eventually did with Richard Nixon, that Trump is not worthy of their support

Free Excerpt from *Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump*

Believe Me 3dWhat is perhaps most disturbing about [Dallas megachurch pastor Robert] Jeffress’s [book] Twlight’s Last Gleaming is the way in which his deeply held passion for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others is neutralized by his political agenda.  The book begins with a foreword by former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: “If you are looking for a sweet little ‘bookette’ that is politically correct and safe to read and share with staunch unbelievers so as not to offend them, then put this book down and keep looking.”  In the first sentence of the first page, Huckabee alienates unbelievers and, in the process, undermines everything Jeffress says in the book about the importance of evangelism.  But Jeffress proves in the pages that follow that he does not need Huckabee’s help in weakening his gospel witness.  Jeffress urges his readers to give up on the culture wars and focus on their “unprecedented chance” in these final days of humankind to “point people to the hope of Jesus Christ.”  Then he spends the rest of his book teaching readers how to more effectively win the culture wars.  At one point in the book Jeffress attributes the steep decline in the number of new converts baptized in the Southern Baptist Church to spiritually weak church members who are afraid to offend anyone with the claims of the gospel.  Jeffress may be correct.  But the possibility that the decline in baptisms is related to the fact that most Americans now associate the gospel with partisan politics does not appear to have even crossed his mind.

Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, p. 128-129.

Trump Has Given More Interviews to the Christian Broadcasting Network Than to CNN, ABC or NBC

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Trump shakes hands with Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network

Ruth Graham has a great piece at Politico Magazine on the love affair between Donald Trump and Christian broadcasting.  Here is a taste:

When “Huckabee” made its debut on TBN last fall, it immediately became the network’s highest-rated show, with more than a million viewers for a typical episode. Unlike every other show the network has produced, it is overtly political and squarely focused on current events. It has a variety component, with musical guests and comedians, and Huckabee occasionally breaks out his own bass guitar on stage. But in its six months on the air, Huckabee has also interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump-defending Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, anti-abortion activist Serrin Foster and former Senator Joe Lieberman. The very first guest on his very first show, last October, was President Trump.

A generation ago—even a few years ago—this would have been unthinkable. Christian TV was largely the province of preachers, musicians, faith healers and a series of televangelism scandals. Politicians were leery of getting too close. To establishment evangelicals, not to mention the rest of America, Christian TV was hokey at best, and disreputable at worst.

But in the past two years, largely out of view of the coastal media and the Washington establishment, a transformation has taken place. As Christian networks have become more comfortable with politics, the Trump administration has turned them into a new pipeline for its message. Trump has forged a particularly tight marriage of convenience with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which since early in the 2016 campaign has offered consistent friendly coverage and been granted remarkable access in return. Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS. Trump’s Cabinet members, staffers and surrogates also appear regularly. TBN has embraced politics more gingerly—it is still not a news-gathering organization—but Trump has made inroads there, too, starting with his kickoff interview on “Huckabee.”

Read the entire piece here.

Donald Trump, a politician, is now shaping the agenda of conservative evangelical television.  Another example of how politics and culture influence and shape the character American evangelicalism.  Trump should be getting credit as an unofficial producer for these shows.

Trump and Huckabee Do American History

I am not really sure where to begin with this video.

Let’s take, for example, the scene of Lee and Grant shaking hands at Appomattox.  How can this be interpreted apart from Trump’s famous “very fine people on both sides” line after Charlottesville?  I think David Blight might have something to say about this.

What about the ominous music when Trump talks about “our media culture?”  This is yet another appeal to fear, the kind of appeal common among totalitarian rulers and strongmen.

Learn more about Mike Huckabee’s bad attempt at revisionism here.

(Thanks to Brenda Schoolfield for bringing this video to my attention).

Sarah Huckabee’s World

Sarah_Huckabee_Sanders_screenshot_2I was struck by this part of Michelle Boorstein’s Washington Post article “How Sarah Huckabee Sanders sees the world“:

As a girl, she watched her father, Southern Baptist pastor-turned-GOP-governor Mike Huckabee, sidelined when he entered politics. Arkansas Democrats literally nailed his office door shut.

In the years after, she saw conservative Christians — like her family, like most everyone she knew — ridiculed in American pop culture.

As a young woman, she moved to Washington for a government job, and noticed right away, she says, that people in the nation’s capital care more about your job than who you are. “Certainly not like where I’m from,” she says.

Sanders described this perpetual interloper experience from her other world: an elegant, well-appointed office at the White House, where reporters from places such as the New York Times and CNN metaphorically prostrate themselves at her door day in and out, and from where she can receive guidance on the phone every day from her father, long a political darling of conservative Christians, a TV celebrity now worth millions.

Despite my never-Trumpism, I find myself in sympathy with this.  I need to think more about why that is the case.

Read the entire piece here.  See our previous post on Jennifer Rubin’s take on Boorstein’s article.  I resonate with it as well.

Here Comes Mike Huckabee

Huck

In case you have not heard, Mike Huckabee will be hosting a show this October at the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  According to Emma Green at The Atlantic, the show will feature “music, faith, and some good old-fashioned politics.” His first guest will be Donald Trump.

The Atlantic is running Green’s recent (and long) interview with Huckabee.  Below is a taste of the part of the interview where Huckabee actually defends Trump’s character. For many Trump evangelicals, “character” has now become something akin to being “the same in public as you are in private.”  He even defends Trump’s tweets along these lines.

Green: You once wrote a book called Character Makes a Difference, and you’ve observed that “character is that which causes you to make the same decision in public as you would make in private.” We’ve seen evidence not just that the president isn’t acquainted with the Bible, or perhaps isn’t a Sunday school teacher, but that he’s made comments or taken actions in private that don’t necessarily show strong character. Are you troubled by this at all?

Huckabee: Many of the things that have been attributed to him, that he even in fact admitted saying, were things that were 12, 15 years ago—20 years and beyond. Would I like for him to speak every day with the most extraordinary sense of faith? Sure.

But I’ll tell you what I’d rather have. To me, character is if you’re the same in public as you are in private, and I think that in many ways, that’s what’s appealing about him. It’s also what gives a lot of his critics their ammunition. Even his tweets, for example, are very transparent about what he’s thinking, what he’s feeling. But some of the more harsh things that have been attributed to him were things that were said many years ago, and there’s been no indication that during his campaign and during his presidency has he said things that would cause people to just be aghast at what he had said. We’ve had presidents that have done things while they were in the Oval Office that frankly were very destructive and embarrassing. And I don’t think anybody has made those allegations about this president.

Something for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Think About

Sarah_Huckabee_Sanders_screenshot_2

Sarah Huckabee Sanders has replaced Sean Spicer as Donald Trump’s Press Secretary.  Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, is an evangelical Christian.

Most American evangelicals are fond of C.S. Lewis.  Perhaps Sanders has read “The Chronicles of Narnia” series to her children or hopes that they will read it on their own some day.  I imagine that Sanders would embrace much of what Lewis has to say in his classic Mere Christianity.

With this in mind, I hope Sanders gets a chance to read Jennifer Rubin’s short Washington Post piece “The inevitable, fitting end to Spicer’s miserable tenure in the White House.”  Rubin’s “moral argument” is definitely worth considering, not only for Sanders, but for all of us.

Here is a taste:

There is a moral argument, I suppose, for men and women who chose to go into this administration to serve in Cabinet-level or sub-Cabinet positions out of a sense of obligation to the country. (The better argument is that working in this administration inevitably leads to enabling wrongdoing and horrible policy decisions, but I understand the rationale of those who disagree with me.) However, there is no moral argument for going directly into the president’s senior/political staff, which in this administration means defending indefensible conduct, denying reality and encouraging others to lie in defense of the administration. You cannot serve in a dishonorable White House honorably.

Spicer willingly embraced the effort to intimidate and silence the press. He accepted his role in trying to demolish objective reality. He relished the mission to discredit every independent source of information that might contradict the president. In doing so he, more than any predecessor, did harm to the First Amendment and to the White House. He lowered the standard set by administrations of both parties — spin, advocate and sidestep but never lie.

For young, ambitious men and women in Washington and elsewhere, Spicer is an object lesson. Ambition and yearning to be in the “know,” in the center of power (what C.S. Lewis called the “inner ring“), can lead one to cast aside principle, values and simple decency. Lewis described the impulse to be an insider:

And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel. … Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.

Read the entire piece here.

The Game Is Not “On” For Santorum and Huckabee in 2016

Rick and Mike have tracked large numbers of evangelicals in previous presidential elections.  But not in 2012.  David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University, turns to his Facebook followers for an explanation.

Here is a taste:

I posed this question to my online community, which includes a significant number of actual conservative evangelicals, as well as numerous close observers of American politics. Here are their several most cogent explanations, with my comments following.

–“Cruz and Carson tap into a sense of resentment much more so than Huckabee and Santorum.” Me: I can see that with Cruz, less so with Carson, at least most days. But yes, I don’t think anger and resentment are the native language of either Huckabee or Santorum.

–“Huckabee and Santorum are has-beens who have run before” and failed. Me: Yes, fresh faces do seem to do better in American politics. See: Bush, Jeb. But see: Clinton, Hillary.

–“Pro-life orthodoxy is necessary but not sufficient for the values voter today.” Me: Yes, I get that; Huckabee and Santorum basically have only the social conservative agenda, and this election’s social conservatives want more than that. This is a very important development, I think.

–“Ben Carson, because he’s black. Supporting Carson could therefore ease racial tensions…and ‘prove’ that there are no diversity problems within the Republican Party.” Another person suggested that the same kind of thing was happening with Cruz, vis-a-vis being Latino. Me: Now that’s a fascinating idea. I do think that most white evangelicals want to feel good about their anti-racist commitments, that the bad old days of racism are fully overcome. But does that really explain the success of Carson and Cruz among white evangelicals?

Read the rest here.

David Barton Is "Pulling Us All Back In"

Paul Harvey, one of the deans of the ever-growing field of American religious history, wondered back in 2012 if David Barton’s influence among evangelicals and the Republican Party was on the wane due to the failure of his book The Jefferson Lies. 

Here is a taste of what he wrote at Religious Dispatches:

And yet, perhaps the summer of Barton’s discontent suggests a cresting of his influence, and the ability of legitimate writers and scholars of various political persuasions to come together in defense of basic norms of reason and credibility in a way that seems increasingly impossible in the political realm.

Now, about three years later, Harvey laments how Barton still appears to be going strong.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion & Politics:

Last Thursday, Bloomberg Politics reported that David Barton will be heading a super PAC supporting presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Named “Keep the Promise,” the political action committee and its affiliated groups already have a highly successful track record of raising money (reportedly $38 million thus far)…Keep the Promise issued a statement saying that “Barton’s involvement is an important step signaling that the effort will not be run by a D.C. consultant but by a grassroots activist.” 

Given Barton’s close relationship to former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee, some expressed surprise that he had cast his lot so fully with Cruz. But the Texas connection here between Cruz and Barton is strong, and Cruz has made appearances at conferences organized by Barton through his organization WallBuilders. Moreover, in the early primary scrimmaging it appears that Cruz has outmaneuvered Huckabee in securing a place as the frontrunner in the implicit primary of the evangelical right. Cruz is unlikely to move far enough beyond that base to threaten seriously the frontrunners for the nomination, but he is securing a significant stake in the Republican political future. 

And Barton has emerged as central to that long game. What might that suggest about the future of the Republican right? 

For one thing, it certainly means a doubling down of the Christian Nation rhetoric on which Barton has built has career as an ideological warrior, and on which Cruz… is staking his career as a political warrior…Whether it can ever translate much outside of that world remains a question. But the adoption of the rhetoric of religious liberty, in court cases against the Affordable Care Act and elsewhere, seems a promising vehicle to carry this struggle. 

But all this may have a more limited valence within that world than the politician Cruz or the ideological entrepreneur Barton may think. For one thing, while Cruz built a reputation earlier in his life as a serious constitutional scholar, Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and lawyer who made nine appearances before the Supreme Court, his association with Barton threatens to undermine his credibility among serious conservative thinkers and scholars who have dissociated themselves from Barton and urged Christians to do likewise.* The well-connected evangelical scholar John Fea, on his blog, has intimated that he has been receiving messages from veteran Christian conservatives precisely to this effect. 

On the other side, Barton will be making an appearance with Huckabee at an event sponsored by “The American Renewal Project” at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth this fall, suggesting his continued networks of influence (not to mention the significant influence of David Lane, one founder of the Project and a Christian right activist within the Republican party). And with his association now with big-time money coming into the super PAC supporting Cruz, the comeback is in full evidence. Barton is making Banquo’s ghost look like a quitter. 

Some of that is because of the skill of Barton and WallBuilders at ideological entrepreneurialism. Barton’s intent is not to produce “scholarship,” but to influence public policy. His game is to inundate public policy makers (including local and state education boards as well as Congress) with ideas packaged as products that will move policy. In the past, Barton’s proof-texting, by contrast, supplies ready-made (if sometimes made-up) quotations ready for use in the latest public policy debate, whether they involve school prayer, abortion, supply-side economics, the Defense of Marriage Act, or the capital gains tax. The more recent controversies over religious liberty seem to have provided new issues for the cause. Cruz has an intellectual view ready-made for presenting a position strongly appealing to Christian conservatives on these present-day controversies, and Barton has the historical analogies (some true, many not) to buttress the case. 

And so Ted Cruz’s candidacy—along with Hobby Lobby, Kim Davis, and debates over the Affordable Care Act—have given David Barton new life in the public eye, and new political relevance. Cruz brings intellectual credentials and conservative fire to the table, but he also brings a strong faith in original textualism and the desire for his party to nominate a “true conservative.” 

The irony, of course, is that Barton’s lack of respect for the contingency and complexity of the past is the opposite of what would be held by any “true conservative.” As long as David Barton has nine (or more) lives, Edmund Burke will be rolling over in his grave. Historians and many thoughtful conservatives want him out, but Barton keeps pulling us back in. 

On Mike Huckabee’s Use of Abraham Lincoln

Several GOP presidential candidates have stepped-up to defend Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Leading the charge on this front is Mike Huckabee.  When Davis was released from prison yesterday Huckabee was there to celebrate with the law-breaking clerk as she came onto the stage to the blaring sound of Survivor’s 1982 hit “Eye of the Tiger.”  Yes, you read that correctly.  The theme song from the movie Rocky III.  Watch it here.  (The word on the street is that Survivor was not happy with Huckabee’s choice of music).

Huckabee is using Davis to give his presidential campaign a boost.  (Apparently his campaign workers kept Ted Cruz away from the rally so the Texas senator could not take any of the credit for Davis’s release). 

Davis has become an icon for the Christian Right.  The GOP candidates with strong connections to the evangelical community cannot stay away from this story.  Davis just might become the “Joe the Plumber” of this election cycle. Stay tuned.  I am guessing there will be a question about her during the next GOP debate.

But I digress.

What I really want to write about is the way Huckabee has drawn upon American history in his defense of Davis’s illegal actions.  He compares Davis’s resistance to the Obergfell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage with Abraham Lincoln’s supposed resistance to the Dred Scott vs. Sandford decision (1857) on slavery.

Unfortunately, this historical analogy does not work.  Kevin Levin, proprietor of the excellent blog Civil War Memory, debunks Huckabee’s shoddy use of the past.  Here is a taste:

Huckabee argues that Kim Davis is following in the footsteps of Lincoln, who he believes defied the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dred Scott.
It should come as no surprise that at no point has Huckabee offered textual evidence or reference to a specific moment in Lincoln’s public career to support his claim:
“Look, you would have hated Lincoln, because he disregarded the Dred Scott 1857 decision that said black people aren’t fully human,” Huckabee said when host Joe Scarborough questioned him about his support of Davis. “[Lincoln] disregarded [Dred Scott] because he knew it was not operative, that it was not logical.”
“You obey if it’s right,” the former Arkansas governor said on “This Week.” “So, I go back to my question, is slavery the law of the land because Dred Scott said so? Was that a correct decision? Should the courts have been irrevocably followed on that? Should Lincoln have been put in jail? Because he ignored it. That’s the fundamental question.”
The level of ignorance at work here is staggering. It doesn’t take much to locate Lincoln’s very public view of the Dred Scott case as well as his understanding of the judicial review. You can find it in a speech he gave in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois on June 26, 1857.
And now as to the Dred Scott decision. That decision declares two propositions-first, that a negro cannot sue in the U.S. Courts; and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories. It was made by a divided court-dividing differently on the different points. Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision; and, in that respect, I shall follow his example, believing I could no more improve on McLean and Curtis, than he could on Taney.
He denounces all who question the correctness of that decision, as offering violent resistance to it. But who resists it? Who has, in spite of the decision, declared Dred Scott free, and resisted the authority of his master over him?
Judicial decisions have two uses-first, to absolutely determine the case decided, and secondly, to indicate to the public how other similar cases will be decided when they arise. For the latter use, they are called “precedents” and “authorities.”
We believe, as much as Judge Douglas, (perhaps more) in obedience to, and respect for the judicial department of government. We think its decisions on Constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control, not only the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country, subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution as provided in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution. But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it to over-rule this. We offer no resistance to it.
Read Levin’s entire post here.