". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Netflix *House of Cards* + A *Scandal* - ous Note

By now it shouldn't be spoilery to make an observation as to a somewhat implausible plot point in the Netflix House of Cards.

A sitting Vice President resigns in order to run for an office in his home state.

Have you ever heard of such a thing in the history of the U.S.?

Only twice.

The first time was at the end of 1832, when John C. Calhoun, at impassable loggerhead with his President, Andrew Jackson. Among other conflicts (including the Easton affair), Jackson had finally found out (likely thanks to that political sure-foot, Van Buren) that while he was up to torturing and hanging British officers in the Floridas, the then Secretary of War under President Monroe, the same John C. Calhoun, attempted to persuade Monroe to at least censure Jackson for these activities. This was the end for Calhoun's dearly held ambitions to be POTUS himself.

Jackson never forgave what he considered betrayals or insults.  As he and Calhoun were also both Scotch-Irish, born in the same Carolina mountains during the revolutionary era, both Presbyterians, there was not going to be any give here.

Calhoun returned to South Carolina, where he'd already been elected to his home state's vacant Senate seat due  to the resignation of Robert Hayne. From thereon Calhoun became the great slave power nullifier and secessionist, reversing every principle he'd held earlier in his life and political career.

His consequent attempts to have South Carolina secede after failure to nullify the new tariff bill failed. This was partially due to Jackson sending down an "O no you don't!" military force, and partially due to what Calhoun recognized thereafter: South Carolina couldn't go it alone, he and his state needed the support of other states for secession, which not even sister state Georgia had given in his struggle with Jackson.

It became Calhoun's strategy thereafter to unite the South in opposition to the North, utilizing slavery, the slave trade -- and most of all, to spread the doctrine that there was no reason to  hold moral doubts about slavery, as did the Founding Fathers.  Instead he preached Slavery as Positive Good For Everyone Everywhere, and thus its right to expand into all parts of the United States and any territories it wished to expand into.  This effectively widened the regional rifts already showing.  Jackson as popular and political national figure was so huge that  he, implacable Unionist, bestrode both sides of the rift, thus it took some time, but in the end, as we see to this day, Calhoun was successful in his quest.

The second time a sitting Vice President resigned, it was Spiro Agnew, who was  loose cannon and embarrassment to the hated Nixon regime, embroiled in lies, Vietnam and other criminal activities that included initiating the destruction of the U.S. Post Office and our then very effective medical system.

Under these circumstances, one has difficulty believing in this House of Cards resignation. Particularly as in our political system the VP isn't a power base.  At best it can be a stepping stone to an easy Presidential nomination by one's party, but often such a nomination leads to unsuccessful campaign and election (see Gore vs. Bush).

But we expect Our Frank Underwood is expecting to make this very move. *


* We also expect Scandal's FLOTUS, D-Mellie Grant, to body block Frank's expectation most effectively, particularly since Frank's a Dem from South Carolina. Recall, the Democrats of Calhoun's time, up until the Civil Rights era of LBJ, was a very different animal.  Who ever has heard of such a thing since the days of John C. Calhoun?  --  -- a powerful Democrat out of the Palmetto state?.

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