Senator Tom Cotton speaks in front of chart.
Image from U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's official web page

Analyzing attacks on Cotton

Editors at the Washington Free Beacon assess the political left’s attack on Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.

It is alarming how quickly, and shamelessly, the left and its media allies have concocted their latest smear against Senator Tom Cotton.

In an interview with an Arkansas paper about the historically illiterate 1619 Project, Cotton said (correctly!) that slavery was “the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”

Cotton’s argument is not controversial: The Founders believed they could not have both abolished slavery and united a country. But the constitutional architecture they built laid the groundwork for its abolition.

Lincoln himself saw it that way, describing the Constitution as the “frame of silver” which enveloped liberty for all, an “apple of gold,” and famously linking the struggle of the Civil War to a “new birth of freedom” that renewed and expanded the Founders’ promise of liberty and equality among all people. The principles were there, even if the sad realities of 18th-century politics prohibited their full realization.

In our current cultural moment, this anodyne point has provoked several days of outrage from the left, with dishonest partisans twisting Cotton’s use of the term “necessary evil” and suggesting he believes slavery was morally justified.

The outcry is so thin in its justification that it suggests the left is hell-bent on discrediting the senator from Arkansas because they fear him—at least they are right about something.

The attacks have spread predictably, moving from the left-wing media to the mainstream and then to Democrats in Congress, as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) cited it on the floor of the House. The grifters at the Lincoln Project are simply calling Cotton a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

Reader Comments