The Myth of the Lost Cause: Revealing the Truth About the Civil War

The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, or simply the Lost Cause, is an ideological movement that describes the Confederate cause as a heroic one against great odds despite its defeat. Read a book excerpt:

The ideology endorses the supposed virtues of the antebellum South, viewing the American Civil War as an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life[1] while minimizing or denying the central role of slavery.

The Lost Cause ideology synthesized numerous ideas. Lost Cause supporters argued that slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War, and claimed that few scholars saw it as such before the 1950s.[2] In order to reach this conclusion, they ignored the declarations of secession by the seceding states, the declarations of congressmen who left Congress to join the Confederacy, and the treatment of slavery in the Confederate constitution.[3] They also denied or minimized the wartime writings and speeches of Confederate leaders in favor of postwar views.[4] (See Cornerstone Speech.) Supporters often stressed the idea of secession as a defense against a Northern threat to their way of life and said that the threat violated the states’ rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They believed any state had the right to secede, a point strongly denied by the North. The Lost Cause portrayed the South as more adherent to Christian values than the allegedly greedy North. It portrayed slavery as more benevolent than cruel, alleging that it taught Christianity and “civilization”. Stories of “happy slaves” were often used as propaganda in an effort to defend slavery. These stories would be used to explain slavery to Northerners. Many times they also portrayed slave owners being kind to their slaves. In explaining Confederate defeat, the Lost Cause said that the main factor was not qualitative inferiority in leadership or fighting ability but the massive quantitative superiority of the Yankee industrial machine.[5] At the peak of troop strength in 1863, Union soldiers outnumbered Confederate soldiers by over two to one, and financially the Union had three times the bank deposits of the Confederacy.[6]

Critics of the ideology have stated that white supremacy is a key characteristic of the Lost Cause narrative.[7] Supporters typically portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble and its leadership as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry and honor, defeated by the Union armies through numerical and industrial force that overwhelmed the South’s superior military skill and courage. Proponents of the Lost Cause movement also condemned the Reconstruction that followed the Civil War, claiming that it had been a deliberate attempt by Northern politicians and speculators to destroy the traditional Southern way of life. In recent decades Lost Cause themes have been widely promoted by the Neo-Confederate movement in books and op-eds, and especially in one of the movement’s magazines, the Southern Partisan. The Lost Cause theme has been a major element in defining gender roles in the white South, in terms of honor, tradition, and family roles.[8] The Lost Cause has inspired many prominent Southern memorials and even religious attitudes.

What Jefferson Helps to Explain

A recent article in these pages argued that Thomas Jefferson was so deeply racist that he should be expelled from the American pantheon. But examining the problems this ambiguous figure poses for Americans reveals how the American principles of democracy and equality were entwined with the country’s practice of slavery and racism, and helps to explain why America has had such difficulty creating an interracial society.

.. O’BRIEN’S call to eject Jefferson from the American pantheon is bad on two counts. First, O’Brien seems to assume that the worst parts of America’s past are unconnected to the others. Second, he would deprive the United States of the figure central to what is singular and most admirable about the promise of American life — a promise that is already largely forgotten.

.. he misinterprets Jefferson’s alarm over the power of the federal government. O’Brien’s mistake threatens to vitiate the very aspects of the Jeffersonian heritage that Americans most sorely need. Jefferson’s opinions on the authority of the federal government and on race, O’Brien maintains, are “the two major factors” that warrant his expulsion from his “place . . . in the American civil religion.” But O’Brien mistakenly conflates these issues, assuming that because the South opposed federal power in the Civil War and during the civil-rights crisis of the 1960s, there is a necessary connection between what is often called “states’ rights” and those unsavory institutions slavery and segregation.

.. Far from being an exclusively southern doctrine, however, states’ rights also flourished in New England, and two U.S. Supreme Court justices from Pennsylvania were among its strongest constitutional defenders. Northern anti-slavery radicals used the doctrine to oppose the federal Fugitive Slave Law

.. many slaveowners in the early nineteenth century defended a strong national government as the best bulwark against both slave revolts and the “leveling tendencies” of non-slaveholders.

.. [The association of localism with the support of slavery] was disastrous to American democracy, for it removed the last brake on the movement of consolidation . . . surrendering the country to the principle of capitalistic exploitation. . . . The principle of democracy . . . received a staggering blow from the enlistment of northern liberalism under the banners of a consolidating nationalism.

.. In opposing the growing power of a centralized government dominated by big capital, Jefferson anticipated much in our political and economic system that we now regret.

.. Commentators are concerned today about a widening gap between rich and poor, and the concentration of political and corporate power; Jefferson and his supporters argued long ago that the national state was in danger of becoming the creature and servant of an emerging national economic elite.

.. Whereas the left acquiesced to the wage system, confining its efforts to ensuring higher wages and generous social security, Jefferson insisted that the wage system itself was profoundly undemocratic and exploitative, by definition stripping workers of their economic independence.

.. whereas conservatives today simultaneously espouse the free market and “family” and “community” values, Jefferson dreaded capitalism precisely because it reduces individuals to abstractions — anonymous buyers and sellers whose claims on one another are determined solely by their capacity to pay.

.. the political economy of corporate capitalism, which the United States has embraced since the late nineteenth century (when, as the historian Charles Beard has written, Jefferson’s America “had become a land of millionaires and the supreme direction of its economy had passed from the owners of farms and isolated plants and banks to a few men and institutions near the center of its life”), represents a repudiation of his principles and the triumph of those of his political enemy, Hamilton. Indeed, as his detractors gloatingly point out, Jefferson is the great loser in American history.

.. Jefferson, deeming wealth second to other social ends, advocated the small family farm.

.. Jefferson replaced the timeless assumption that most men would labor in dependence on a few landowners, masters, and employers with the astonishing proposition that (white) men should control their own working lives. As long as these men had the option of making a living on their own farms, Jefferson reasoned, they could not be forced into an exploitative wage-labor relationship. Such independent citizens could participate directly in a political process based on local self-rule. Just as important, true community life could develop, because economically self-sufficient and roughly equal citizens would not need to pursue selfish interests at the expense of the common good.

.. federal farm programs — supposedly designed to support that bastion of Jeffersonian economic autonomy the family farm — have long channeled government support and loans disproportionately to the richest farmers, who have effectively become adjuncts to multinational agribusiness.

.. If, as O’Brien urges, Jefferson is removed from the American pantheon, then we will have no figure to remind us of the democratic promise we lost in pursuing Hamilton’s vision.

.. many commentators, including at times O’Brien, to treat slaveholding as if it were no more than a fashion of the times and therefore a relatively inconsequential aspect of the Founders’ lives. It considers the Founders essentially as twentieth-century liberals who happened to own slaves.

.. O’Brien prefaces his chapter on Jefferson’s racial views with a well-known quotation from Samuel Johnson. Johnson, who was hostile to the American Revolution, asked rhetorically and sarcastically, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of negros?

.. Not only did a slaveholder draft the Declaration but a slaveholder — Madison — drafted the Bill of Rights and was the principal author of the Constitution. Americans elected slaveholders to the presidency for thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of that office’s history. Indeed, it is impossible to understand how the Founders conceived of liberty, equality, and self-government without reference to slavery, which deeply and disturbingly embedded itself in their consciousness.

.. American revolutionaries voiced their determination not to become “slaves” of Britain

.. Furthermore, Jefferson first proposed that the Great Seal of the new country depict “the children of Israel in the wilderness, led by a cloud by day and a pillar by night” (the same imagery, ironically, that black Americans applied to their own plight)

.. a principle which naturally and spontaneously contrasts with slavery. In no country on earth can the line of distinction ever be marked so boldly. . . . Here there is a standing subject of comparison, which must be ever perfect and ever obvious. . . . The constant example of slavery stimulates a free man to avoid being confounded with the blacks. . . . slavery, so far from being inconsistent, has, in fact, a tendency to stimulate and perpetuate the spirit of liberty.

.. Knowing full well what they had done to Africans by enslaving them, America’s revolutionaries would not permit the same to be done to themselves in any form.

.. In 1860 the Alabama statesman William L. Yancey matter-of-factly explained the foundations of American democracy to a northern audience. “Your fathers and my fathers,” he said, “built this government on two ideas: the first is that the white race is the citizen, and the master race, and the white man is the equal of every other white man. The second idea is that the Negro is the inferior race.” Yancey’s remarks strike us today as outrageous, but his interpretation of the basis of American democracy and equality among whites is uncomfortably close to the truth.

.. The great plantations, of course, depended on a tremendous labor force. At first this force had been composed mostly of indentured servants, who were poor, landless whites — a situation that replicated the problems of inequality and social control which had bedeviled England for centuries and had led to Bacon’s Rebellion, in Virginia, in 1676.

.. English political thinkers were obsessed with the threat that an unruly and undisciplined lower class posed to republican government. In America, however, slavery solved this problem.

.. When black slaves took the place of lower-caste whites, Americans achieved a society in which most of the poor were safely held in bondage.

.. Augustus John Foster, an early-nineteenth-century English diplomat, helped to answer Samuel Johnson’s query: Virginians, citizens of “the leading state in the Union,” could “profess an unbounded love of liberty and of democracy in consequence of the mass of the people, who in other countries might become mobs, being there nearly altogether composed of their own Negro slaves.”

.. Even Abraham Lincoln had a dream for the United States that was at once egalitarian and tragically limited. It was to be a place where “white men may find a home . . . an outlet for free white people everywhere, the world over — in which Hans and Baptiste and Patrick . . . may . . . better their conditions in life.”

.. As W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, even the most economically exploited whites were “compensated in part by a . . . public and psychological wage. . . . because they were white.”

.. To Jefferson, blacks were crudely sexual creatures, and he presented as a fact, requiring no evidence or support, their sexual preference for whites, which was as great as that of “the Oranootan for the black woman over those of his own species.” Such fears, which led Jefferson to argue that the freed slave had to be literally “removed beyond the reach of mixture” or he would soon be “staining the blood of his master,” seem to have formed the core of the prejudice against blacks shared by nearly all white Americans.

.. where is the man of all those who have liberated their slaves, who would marry a son or a daughter to one of them? and if he would not, who would?

.. Emancipated blacks, he argued, “would never rest satisfied with any thing short of perfect equality” — which meant “amalgamating” blacks and whites, a fate to which, he held, whites would never accede.

.. a multiracial society cannot embrace as a “prophet” a man who believed that free blacks had no place in America. But by this criterion virtually every major white political figure from the Revolution to the Civil War must also be denounced — including Madison, Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Francis Scott Key, and Lincoln.

.. For others the motivation to expatriate African-Americans sprang not so much from a low view of blacks as from a low view of whites.

.. The “horror” felt by whites at the “idea of an intimate union with the free blacks,” the Maryland colonizationist Robert G. Harper wrote despairingly in 1824, “precludes the possibility of such a state of equality, between them and us, as alone could make us one people.”

.. Blacks would thus have to leave the United States if they wanted to claim their right to the pursuit of happiness.

.. Although it is tempting to dismiss the colonizationists as unimaginative and trapped within the confines of their times, some of them — especially Madison, Clay, and Lincoln — are among the most politically imaginative Americans ever to have lived.

.. Whether whites could overcome this prejudice and achieve racial equality — not whether blacks’ capabilities were inferior — formed the crux of the argument between the colonizationists and the abolitionists.

.. Most abolitionists, as evangelical Christians, believed that people could be cleansed of their sins through direct access to God and hence “born again” into a life of holiness. Through Christianity, they held, white Americans could subdue their seemingly fixed and insurmountable racial fears and hatreds. Colonizationists were far more pessimistic.

.. Madison was certain that a healthy society demanded the “compleat incorporation” of blacks. But he could not see how such an ideal could be achieved, because he, too, was convinced that the “objections to a thorough incorporation of the two people are, with most of the whites, insuperable.”

.. Madison argued that if free blacks remained in America, the divided society that would result would never be at peace with itself.

.. black Americans continually reminded the advocates of colonization, “This is our home and this is our country. Beneath its sod lie the bones of our fathers; for it some of them fought, bled, and died. Here we were born, and here we will die.”

.. Jefferson, of all people, should have known how intimately and indelibly blacks had affected American life. His first memory, after all, was of being carried by a slave.

.. Jefferson listed his slaves in his Farm Book as members of “my family”; some were literally related to him. His mulatto slave, Sally Hemings, whether or not she was his mistress, was his wife’s half-sister. Monticello was always a black-and-white household.

.. Jefferson obviously did not think it unnatural that his granddaughter loved this black man more than any other member of her “family” except her mother.

.. Mechal Sobel writes, “Blacks were holding white babies, giving them their first and most significant eye and body contact. They were physically caring for them and teaching them their first words. . . . They were their mammies, aunts, uncles, and playmates, as well as their servants.

.. Slaves, often subject to arbitrary punishment, learned to be hypersensitive to other people’s moods — a skill they passed on to the children in their care.

.. Throughout American history whites learned an enormous amount from African-Americans in language, religion, storytelling, music, manners, and cuisine — so much so that, as Ralph Ellison recognized, “Most American whites are culturally part Negro American without even realizing it.”

.. “the white Southerner is the man he is because he has lived among Negroes, and they are the people they are because they have lived with him.”

.. Swedish sociologist and economist Gunnar Myrdal called “the American Creed“: the ideals, enunciated chiefly in the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, of “the essential dignity of the individual human being, of the fundamental equality of all men, and of certain inalienable rights to freedom, justice, and a fair opportunity,”

.. “If after we have made such a declaration to the world,” a New Jersey man wrote in 1780 in a typical fit of self-criticism, “we continue to hold our fellow creatures in slavery, our words must rise up in judgement against us.”

.. In short, the American creed, to reverse the plea of the abolitionists, demanded that the African-American be recognized as a man with certain elemental rights, but it did not — and does not — demand that he be treated as a brother.

.. The evangelical Christianity that persuaded abolitionists that blacks could be incorporated into American society because whites could be redeemed was alien to the Enlightenment philosophy of the American creed.

.. Jefferson predicted in 1822 that Unitarianism would become the American religion at the very moment when the country was undergoing the Second Great Awakening, in which evangelical Christianity permanently transformed it.

.. , America’s Founders were advocating a bland and neutral deism at what the historian Gordon Wood calls “the time of greatest religious chaos and originality in American history.” Methodist membership doubled during the decade in which Jefferson made his prediction; Baptist membership increased tenfold in the thirty years after the Revolution. Evangelical movements would eventually comprise two thirds of the Protestant ministers and church members in the United States — more than 35 percent of all Americans.

.. Between the Revolution and the War of 1812 Virginians freed more slaves than they did at any other period before the Civil War.

.. Virginia’s white evangelicals became convinced of the sinfulness of slavery because of the shared spiritual life of whites and blacks.

.. Even if Jefferson, who represented the acme of political and cultural sophistication, believed that blacks and whites could never join together in society, Baptists and Methodists — black slaves and lower-class whites — were in fact trying to create an interracial society.

.. In a society stratified by rank, precedence, and racial caste, common people embraced evangelicalism

.. The churches that these early Baptists and Methodists formed were close-knit biracial communities. Often black church members outnumbered white members, and blacks preached to whites. (In fact, nearly a third of all Methodists in America in 1800 were black.) Blacks and whites embraced one another as “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ:

.. Christianity “curbed [slaves’] self-destructive tendency toward hatred. It left them free to hate slavery but not necessarily their individual masters,”

.. antebellum “white” evangelical churches in the South remained biracial. In a society that forbade blacks to testify against whites in courts of law, for instance, blacks’ testimony in church was heard and accepted and could even overrule whites’

.. “in the churches slaves were treated more nearly as equals than anywhere else in the society.”

.. evangelical Christians were the only whites who as a group offered a biracial vision for America, however fleeting — a vision rooted in emotion and religious conviction rather than in progressive political reasoning.

.. the civil-rights movement in the South of the 1950s and early 1960s took its inspiration, leadership, and rhetoric from evangelical Christianity. Its leaders recognized that the success would rest less on a change in the laws than on a change in the hearts of white southerners.

.. Although northern liberals often saw this as an impossible — and irrelevant — goal, Martin Luther King Jr. always spoke of himself as a southerner

.. When southern whites’ hearts did change, it was not because they recognized that they were in political error but because they had “learned to value blacks as a spiritual people too much,

.. “Amazing Grace,”

.. The author, John Newton, was the captain of a slave ship who forsook the slave trade for the ministry after God instigated a “great change” within him.

.. The song’s message — that man is essentially wretched and powerless to effect his own redemption, but with God all things are possible — neatly reflects the stark yet ultimately hopeful tenets of evangelicalism, arguably the quintessential American religious experience.

.. it also embodies the creed enunciated by the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, which promised that black and white America could become one people: “There is power enough in the religion of Jesus Christ to melt down the most stubborn prejudices, to overthrow the highest walls of partition, to break the strongest caste . . . to unite in fellowship the most hostile, and to equalize and bless all its recipients.”

The Real Reason for Republicans’ Silence on Donald Trump

Their fellow legislators have silently accepted his outrages in exchange for policies they’ve always wanted.

At his inauguration Mr. Trump said his presidency was about “transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American people.” But he and his allies in Congress are transferring power to Wall Street, fossil fuel companies, the chemical industry and other special interests, and are stoking an anti-populist bonfire to incinerate protections for consumers and workers.

.. On Tuesday night the Senate, with a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, followed the House in voting to overturn a rule that would have allowed consumers to file class-action lawsuits against banks and other financial institutions, rather than be forced to take their disputes to arbitration.

.. Mr. Trump signed an executive order allowing insurers to sell skimpy health insurance plans that do not protect people with pre-existing conditions and that will destabilize the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces.

.. His administration shortened the open enrollment period when people can buy insurance policies for next year, and slashed spending on advertising and outreach efforts.

.. Congress overturned a rule restricting the ability of coal companies to dump their mining debris into streams and other waterways, threatening rural communities, forests and wildlife.

.. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, rejected a staff recommendation to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to developmental problems in children, and started the process to overturn the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era proposal to reduce planet-warming emissions from power plants.

.. Congress repealed a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that sought to expose and limit corruption by requiring oil and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

Where the Confederacy Is Rising Again

When the review finally takes place, likely in the few months right before the November elections, Texas lawmakers will find themselves in a tough spot: They will be forced to either deny historical truths about the Confederacy, or potentially face the wrath of a devoted, active and organized subset of conservative Texans.

.. Throughout this tempest, the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, an aging army of deeply religious, federal government distrusting, neo-Confederate true believers, has emerged as a steadfast defender of Confederate iconography. The Texas SCV only claims about 5,000 members, but their ideology carries significant weight in the state.

.. Levin pointed to the words of Confederates themselves, particularly Texas’ Ordinance of Secession. The document, which officially separated Texas from the Union in 1861, declared that African-Americans were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” It says that Texas seceded because non-slave-holding states “demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy.” The document does not mention tariffs or any state right other than the right to own black people.

.. “They were fighting for states’ rights, not slavery.” According to Toungate, before secession, the federal government mistreated Southern states by issuing unfair tariffs. “Thirty thousand blacks fought for the Confederacy because they loved their masters,” Toungate argued, offering the fact as proof that “slavery could not have caused the war.”

.. Levin pointed to the words of Confederates themselves, particularly Texas’ Ordinance of Secession. The document, which officially separated Texas from the Union in 1861, declared that African-Americans were “rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race.” It says that Texas seceded because non-slave-holding states “demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the Confederacy.” The document does not mention tariffs or any state right other than the right to own black people.

Toungate waved off the document when I showed it to him later. “People have a distorted view of the Confederacy because liberal Northern historians wrote the history books,” he insisted. But these are primary sources, I noted, the words of the Confederates themselves. Toungate went silent for a beat, and then changed the subject. “I’m sick of the federal government wasting money,” he said, and “people living off welfare.”

.. “A lot of these people have ancestors that fought for the Confederacy and that personal connection, of course, colors how they view the event,” he said. Slavery, after all, was abhorrent. Who wants to admit that their family members fought to preserve it?

.. The SCV’s rejection of unequivocal historical fact, can, in part, be attributed to what psychologists call motivated reasoning,” says Sander van der Linden, a Princeton University psychologist and director of the school’s Social and Environmental Decision-Making Lab. When people are emotionally invested in a belief, says van der Linden, they are inclined to accept information that confirms pre-existing beliefs and to dismiss conflicting evidence.

.. Neo-Confederate adamancy is as much about reactionary politics and identity as it is about history. It’s a declaration of values, a way of seeing the world, and its prevalence divides along political lines. Polls show that Democrats tend to view Confederate symbols, such as the battle flag, as emblems of racism, while Republicans more often see them as representations of Southern heritage.

And in Texas—the epicenter of anti-government angst, the home of the last two Republicans elected president

.. One book published by McGraw-Hill Education, features a section titled, “The South Secedes,” which states that “the majority of Southerners viewed secession as … a necessary course of action to uphold people’s rights.” The section does not list specific rights.

.. a member of the state board of education said that the standards listed slavery third because it was a “side issue to the Civil War.”

The Texas Education Knowledge and Skills guidelines for teaching the Civil War offer a crystal-clear example of how the state curriculum politicizes history

.. In his book, Race and Reunion, Yale historian David Blight argues that after the Civil War, Southern whites coped with crushing defeat by justifying why they had seceded. Reluctant to admit the Civil War was fought over slavery—a moral anachronism in much of the world at the time—many Southerners framed the war as a fight for states’ rights. Blight argues that Southern whites worked, through memorials and monuments, to etch the false narrative in the nation’s collective memory.

.. With 13 large Greek columns and 26–32 Confederate flags, it will be the largest Confederate monument built in a century, according to the SCV.

.. It is impossible to miss: an 8-foot statue of Jefferson Davis atop a 23-foot-tall granite base with four 7-foot bronze Confederate soldiers standing at his feet. The inscription etched into the memorial’s base dedicates the sculpture to Confederate soldiers who “Died for state rights guaranteed under the Constitution.” “The people of the South animated by the spirit of 1776,” it continues, “to preserve their rights, withdrew from the federal compact in 1861. The North resorted to coercion.”

.. The July 2015 letter in which Democratic lawmakers asked for a review of the Capitol’s pro-Confederate monuments calls out that plaque’s statement as an “outright falsehood.” In an email to me, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, one of the letter’s signatories, said that it is undeniable that the memorials are “part of an effort to rewrite history.”

“The Texas Capitol — the face of our state government,” said Ellis, “ought not to celebrate individuals whose notoriety stems from their service in defense of human slavery.”

.. But Toungate and the other Texas SCV members I spoke with vow that removing or altering the memorials would mean surrendering to politically correct, liberal distortion.

“You’ve been listening to Northerners who have moved down here and are raising Cain about Texas being racist,” Toungate said. “Confederate men were good Christians, and they don’t deserve to be treated like dirt.”

The Supreme Court Extremism of Clarence Thomas and Chuck Grassley

.. like many Republicans, he’s having a hard time explaining why he will not even give a hearing to Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Court. In defense of his position, Grassley gave a speech on the Senate floor that was close to breathtaking in its intemperate incoherence. The speech was an extended attack on Chief Justice John Roberts, who had recently expressed the unexceptional view that the Court should stay out of partisan politics as much as possible.

.. This hostility to Roberts comes in the face of the Chief Justice’s down-the-line conservatism in nearly every other case of his decade in office. Roberts joined the majority in Citizens United and in Shelby County (which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act), and he dissented in Windsor, the case that invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell, which brought same-sex marriage to all fifty states. The decisions Grassley disagrees with are “political,” whereas the ones he likes are, presumably, just good judging. The crudeness of Grassley’s attack on Roberts, from a senator who claims to want to avoid a politicization of the court, is astonishing.

.. the Court approved a voting-apportionment process—currently used by every state—that requires all legislative districts to have an equal number of people. Conservatives had demanded a system where states could require districts of equal numbers of voters, so state legislators could ignored the numbers of non-citizens, children, disenfranchised felons, and others not eligible to vote in every district.

.. The Court responded to this obvious injustice by finding that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, courts must require that districts be drawn according to the principle of one person, one vote. No Justice has challenged this basic idea.

Now Thomas has done so, writing that the Court “has failed to provide a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle because no such basis exists.” His opinion excavates, as Thomas often does, his understanding of what James Madison intended when he wrote the Bill of Rights. In Thomas’s view, this history amounts to an almost total abdication by the Framers in favor of the rights of the states. By ruling that the Constitution requires the states to follow a one-person, one-vote principle, Thomas writes, “the Court has arrogated to the Judiciary important value judgments that the Constitution reserves to the people.”

.. In his opinion, Thomas ignores racial discrimination—and thus the central reason the Court, in the nineteen-sixties, imposed the one-person, one-vote rule. Thomas’s blindness to the realities of American life—and concomitant obsession with his understanding of the Framers’ intent—reflects his bizarre jurisprudential views.