Missouri State Rep. Bryan Stevenson screwed up big time on Tuesday, calling the hideous "Freedom of Choice Act" the "greatest power grab by the federal government since the War of Northern Aggression." My friend Rep. Don Calloway and Rep. Martin Rucker prevailed upon him to apologize, which he did.
With his remarks, Stevenson joined a long line of Republicans who've landed in hot water for praising the nobility of the Confederacy. Worse, his remarks came during the week of the anniversary of Lincoln's 200th birthday, and a week before the Missouri Republican Party's annual Lincoln Days. Nice.
I'll avoid the history debate for now and focus on why this was such a politically obtuse move.
1. Americans have long viewed Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents. (according to Gallup, he ranks third behind Reagan and Kennedy in popularity) If you're going to attack him, go ahead and diss Mom and apple pie.
2. It demonstrates a shocking ignorance or apathy about black people ("I had no IDEA they felt that way!!") and makes it harder for Republicans to credibly appeal to them.
3. Like a violation of Godwin's Law, it diminishes your credibility in future debates. (Of course he's against our 12-cent bond issue. He probably thinks it's worse than slavery!!)
Many of those who praise the Confederacy offer the same rationale as Stevenson: Lincoln greatly expanded the powers of the federal government, helping lead to the growing Leviathan we see today. That's a legitimate academic argument, but trying to re-fight the Civil War makes it much harder for conservatives to win today's battle against not-so-creeping socialism. Enough already.