Why the Left Fears Tom Cotton

Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton / Getty Images

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.

Maybe this outrage is just the naïveté of today's politicians and "reporters," who consider themselves more noble than our nation's Founders.

More likely, though, it's a calculated attempt to tar Cotton's character. The same was true when New York Times staffers raised selective outrage at Cotton's op-ed calling for order in the streets, or when left-wing journalists called his opposition to D.C. statehood a racist "dog whistle."

Now, as Cotton has worked to delegitimize the New York Times’ crown jewel, the 1619 Project, the left is seeking to delegitimize him. Labeling Cotton a racist creates a chain of "evidence"—made up of allegation and insinuation—to be used later.

Cotton should wear these latest attacks as a badge of honor. Shouting "racist" is the progressive left’s most powerful, and perhaps only, weapon against those who won’t take a knee, and Cotton—even in contrast to his GOP colleagues in the Senate—has been standing tall in this new culture war.

Published under: Tom Cotton