Skip to main content

It's great that Ta-Nehisi Coates now has an occasional op-ed column at the Times.  He's a great, thoughtful writer (especially when compared to the execrable Friedman, Brooks, Douthat and Dowd, and the merely silly Frank Bruni, Dowd wannabe).  But his Obama and his Discontents column today is a flawed attempt to use turn on its head Obama's argument  for compromise using the Emancipation Proclamation as an example.

Briefly, Obama made the point that, because the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in states in rebellion, it would have been excoriated by, e.g., the Huff Post (and of course, in diaries here) with headlines like "Lincoln sells out slaves."  Coates' answers that the "Professional Left" of the 1860's (i.e., Frederick Douglass, Wendell Phillips) praised the Proclamation despite its obvious limitations.  Therefore, argues Coates, Lincoln did not alienate the Huff Posters of its day.

Coates misses the obvious point that the focus could also easily be on a comparison between today's left and the abolitionists -- that Douglass and Phillips rationally saw that compromise was required, unlike today's firebaggers et al.

For example, the Health Care bill for the first time extends health care as a right, and insures millions of uninsured.  It is not single payer and does not have a public option, but, like the Emancipation Proclamation, it is an historic step toward universal care.  Under Coates' comparison, the Phillips's and Douglass's of today would applaud this measure, even if it doesn't free everyone from the "slavery" of private insurance.

Like LIncoln with the Proclamation Obama believes in the art of the possible.  Unlike Lincoln, he is viciously attacked for this by the Phillips and Douglass of today.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site