Update January 2021: “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause”
“The Lost Cause” is the odd phrasing of white nationalists who believe they should still be allowed to continue their mission of slavery and genocide in America, yet don’t want to say so obviously.
The Cult of the Lost Cause had its roots in the Southern search for justification and the need to find a substitute for victory in the Civil War. […] The propaganda the Lost Cause adherents were peddling was not only benign myth, it was a lie that distorted history, sought to rationalize lynching, and created a second class of citizenship for African-Americans.
Losers writing history need a “substitute for victory”.
Hate groups can’t just come out and say they believe in racist violence — without facing massive opposition and ridicule — so instead they fight unfairly by cooking up complex victimization conspiracies painting themselves as victims; they falsely narrate “law and order” claims and give complex plot twists that demand America be run only by “their” man (Trump).
…psychology research has shown greater degrees of certain cognitive quirks among those who believe in conspiracy theories—like need for uniqueness; needs for certainty, closure, and control; and lack of analytical thinking. But the best predictor of conspiracy theory belief may be mistrust, and more specifically, mistrust of authoritative sources of information.
Certainty and control seems like when President Nixon was aiming for when he used phrases “War on Drugs“, “Interstate Highway System” and “Urban Renewal” instead of saying he planned to start an endless race war (which historians since have clearly documented if you follow the links I just provided).
This goes back even earlier in America. When white supremacists in the 1900s sought to murder someone they didn’t say so overtly and instead framed it with possession of an “illegal” substance to cook a “legality” of racism:
The Oregon chapter began when the Klan salesman, Luther Powell, arrived from California looking for new recruits. He sized up the state of affairs in Oregon and decided he would make the lax enforcement of prohibition his first issue. Anti-Catholicism would later prove more productive, but for Powell’s first organizational meeting the prohibition issue was good for 100 new Klansmen, including lots of policemen.
This is the background to those believing a complex series of “unfair” events are “evidence” that a democratic election was won by their unpopular white supremacist leader, despite incontrovertible the proof to the contrary:
…appeal of this conspiracy theory to racists isn’t subtle. It’s a way to deny the legitimacy of Black voters without coming right out and saying it. This isn’t just a conspiracy theory about Trump’s fragile ego. It speaks directly to long-standing right-wing fury at minority voting rights. Historian Jeffrey Herf notes another historical precedent at play, comparing Trump’s conspiracy theory to the ones that rose up in Germany between the first and second world wars…
You might have also noticed that both Woodrow Wilson and Trump ran campaigns of “America First”, which is no coincidence. “The Lost Cause” was a KKK political platform that manifested under “America First” banner of Wilson. Today it represented basically the same platform (remove blacks from government, create a nation ruled by white men only).
Ten U.S. Army bases are still named in honor of Confederate generals. Donald Trump has strenuously resisted any effort to rename these bases, saying that they are “part of a great American heritage.” But what heritage are they commemorating exactly?
Naming these bases was one of the crowning achievements of those who sought to perpetuate the Lost Cause. A revisionist history that gained popularity in the 1890s, the Lost Cause recast the Confederacy’s humiliating defeat in a treasonous war for slavery as the embodiment of the Framers’ true vision for America. Supporters pushed the ideas that the Civil War was not actually about slavery; that Robert E. Lee was a brilliant general, gentleman, and patriot; and that the Ku Klux Klan had rescued the heritage of the old South, what came to be known as “the southern way of life.”
A principal goal of the Lost Cause was to reintegrate Confederate soldiers into the honorable traditions of the very American military they had once fought against. Members of the Lost Cause movement had lobbied to have newly built military bases named after Confederate generals several times without success. But during Woodrow Wilson’s second term as president, they found a more hospitable reception. Thanks to Wilson, the Lost Cause ideology came fully into the mainstream, reaching the apex of its influence as America entered the First World War.
In other words, immediately removing Confederate general names from Army bases would help stop this madness of the white nationalists in America and their Lost Cause revisionism.
Hopefully someone like the American hero Silas Soule would have his name on a base instead, as I find few seem to have heard of him despite his amazing life and service to his country.
At this day and age it should not be hard to argue that slavery and genocide are wrong, yet the Trump family are a symptom of Americans who think of ways to bring them back… (how many Americans have died from COVID19 and was it not an act of genocide?).
Those Americans of the Lost Cause ilk who long for a return to their causes of slavery and genocide are now peddling conspiracy theories as their political ticket back to power.
A Frederick Douglas May 30, 1871 speech comes to mind, eloquently destroying the “Lost Cause” as the wrong side, in opposition to the Right Cause.
But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has been displayed in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forget that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves between the nation and the nation’s destroyers. If today we have a country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.
And also let’s not forget when the Senate voted unanimously to simply expel its members who joined a pro-slavery rebellion against it.
January 10, 1862, the Senate voted unanimously to expel Missouri’s two senators, Waldo Johnson and Trusten Polk, for “sympathy with and participation in the rebellion against the Government of the United States.”