I have to confess; it gets under my skin when people call me a racist.

Most things people throw around in political debates roll right off my back. But the racist charge stings.meandc

It really shouldn’t. When an opponent screams “racist,” or its first cousin “neo-confederate,” it clearly indicates he has no leg to stand on in the debate. It represents ad hominem at its pinnacle. After all, why would you listen to anything a racist says? If my rhetorical opponent can convince everybody I harbor racist attitudes, it relieves them of any obligation to refute my arguments. So, yelling “racist” is really nothing more than a below the belt tactic to score political points.

Never-the-less, it really bothers me when somebody slaps down that race card. Let’s be honest. It’s mean. And as tough-skinned as we might be, meanness can burn.

I experienced this over the weekend.

These days, I generally try to avoid getting too involved in Facebook threads. I really don’t have time. But sometimes it provides an opportunity to feel out the arguments of the opposition. It also serves as a platform for others who might read through the comments. I realize I probably won’t change the mind of the person I’m debating, but I hope that others reading along will recognize the stronger of the two arguments.

With that in mind, I commented on an article by some history teacher from Indiana named Mark Thomas. He wrote an anti-nullification op-ed. Nothing surprising or original. It was typical blathering revolving around Calhoun and segregationists, with the obligatory “neo-conferderate” charge thrown in for good measure. In my initial comment, I pointed out that his history was a bit one-sided because he failed to mention northern nullification of the fugitive slave acts. I concluded with a little challenge.

This is the challenge I always offer up to the federal supremacist so fond of citing Supreme Court cases: read the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and take apart Jefferson’s logic.

Mark responded by inferring that Jefferson’s view was irrelevant because he had “no part in creating the Constitution, right?” and demanding to know “which state legislature ‘nullified’ the Fugitive Slave Act?”

Notice that he didn’t take up the challenge. He went the ad hominem route and tried to marginalize Jefferson. I couldn’t help but point out that Mark Thomas “had no part in creating the Constitution” either, so perhaps we should disregard all of his analysis as well.

I also listed the states that nullified the fugitive slave acts, drawing from the South Carolina Declaration of Causes for secession. The South Carolina delegates listed northern nullification – and they used the word – as a chief complaint. I also restated my initial challenge.

Jefferson’s whereabouts at the time of the drafting and ratification of the Constitution have exactly ZERO impact on the actual substance of his argument. If it is SO wildly off base, refute it. The challenge remains – unravel Jefferson’s logic.

At this point, things turned ugly.

Mike Maharrey , you seem angry.

As for citing South Carolina’s claim to help justify both defending slaver and committing treason, that’s not exactly the level of “evidence” a historian would accept. I’m not sure what type of group this “Tenth Amendment Center” is, but I can sure see why it’s (sic) members get touchy when neo-confederacy issues are exposed to light. Thanks for bolstering the theme of my op-ed piece!

Notice that Mark never even attempted to address Jefferson’s argument. He can’t. So, he slapped me hard across the face with the race card. At this point, I decided to press the issue. You’ll notice that our intrepid historian likes to play coy. He infers that my motives must be steeped in racism, but doesn’t come out and say it. Quite frankly, I find this somewhat cowardly. Just say what you mean! So, I pushed him to explain what he meant by “neo-confederate” issues. After some prodding, he finally showed his true colors – kind of.

Perhaps you should ask Ron Paul for a truly slippery answer to your slippery question. Otherwise, be guided by the saying, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and advocates the same tools used by Strohm Thurmon (sic) and George Wallace…

You have to love the delicious irony of some white guy in Indiana comparing a man married to a black woman with Strom Thurmond and George Wallace. You also have to love the fact that our history expert doesn’t know how to spell Strom’s name.

I lit Mark up pretty good and mentioned that he apparently had no idea what a fool he was making of himself. Had he bothered to take a close look at my profile photo included with all of my posts, he would have noticed the beautiful black woman standing next to me. I mean really, I make a piss-poor racist. At any rate, he tried to back-peddle a little bit – sorta. It seems, at some level Mark realizes that out-and-out accusing somebody of racism is mean. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with that, so he tried to keep it all shrouded in innuendo.

The point of my column was that those trying to pass off frauds, be they requests for money or adherence to debunked notions of nullification/secession, can be easily identified by those with a decent knowledge of American History. As for your identical use of rhetoric shared with ‘historic figures’ who opposed civil rights, if the shoe you’re wearing fits…

This final comment leads me to the crux of this post. It illustrates the base level of political debate in America. In this long thread of comments, Mark never once engages the argument at hand. Notice, he still hasn’t addressed the fact that northern states used nullification and appealed to state sovereignty to fight the fugitive slave acts. This undeniable historical truth obliterates his entire argument. Sadly, this man who proudly wears the mantle of “historian,” writes a blog focused on history and apparently teaches the subject in some school somewhere, appears absolutely oblivious to this indisputable historical fact. He’s either woefully ignorant and needs to invest in some big-boy history books, or he’s intentionally deceptive to protect his point of view.

Either way, he’s pretty lame.

I summed this up in my final comment.

Your argument seems to be that slavers and segregationists talked about nullification, therefore all people who talk about nullification must sympathize with slavers and segregationists. First off, this argument is non sequitur. Second, northern abolitionists appealed to state sovereignty and nullification to protect the rights of blacks. The fact that you seem oblivious to this fact doesn’t reflect well on your credibility as a historian. Quite frankly, I find it offensive that you feel compelled slap down the race card…whether overtly or by innuendo…to make your point. I long ago accepted that I would get tarred with this brush by ignorant people like you, but that makes it no less frustrating when it happens.

With that, Mark claimed victory

Mike Maharrey, thanks for sharing. You’ve enlightened a number of people about the “Tenth Amendment Center.”

Yes, Mark. You got the best of this racist fool, ignorant of American history. Thanks for the lesson.

For an in depth article on the moral implications of nullification and race, click HERE. And for a deeper look at nullification of the fugitive slave acts HERE.