Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did the authoritarian personality come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?
The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?
A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.
Conspiracy theories are not new. Covid-related conspiracies may be new, but conspiracy theories about pandemics and contagious diseases have been around for centuries. Anti-vaccination hysteria goes back decades. The specific group of theories known as QAnon may be new (or maybe not really?!), but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.
We are fundamentally wired to be storytellers. It’s intuitive why this ability might be hard-coded into our brains, as it so clearly relates to survival, self-preservation, and our ability to navigate and succeed in a complex world. We need to be able to understand cause and effect in an environment of many rapidly shifting variables, and storytelling is a framework for weaving coherent narratives that reduce our anxiety about the great uncertainties in the environment around us.
Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs
Conspiratorial thinking is far more common than we think, and can ebb and flow in populations based on prevailing conditions. Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous other cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.
Some of us have been boning up on this topic for about 6 years already, while others are just tuning in now based on the horrors of recent events. It can be overwhelming to come in cold, so here — don’t go it alone! Take this:
Putin’s war against the west
President Biden “declassified” an intelligence analysis many of us had arrived at some time ago: Russian president Vladimir Putin is a cruel revanchist leader who will stop at nothing to claw out a larger legacy before he dies. His goal is nothing less than reconstituting the former Soviet Union and restoring the “glory” of the Russian empire of yesteryear. And for some reason he thinks the world community is going to let him get away with his delusional fever dreams of conquest — as if fever dreams of Mongol domination are still de rigueur.
Putin has hated democracy for a long time — since before the Berlin Wall fell where he was stationed in East Berlin as a young KGB agent, taking the news hard. Now, he has many fifth column confederates aiding and abetting him from within the United States — a number of them brazenly, and openly. It is getting harder and harder for those treasonous types to “hide out” in the folds of disinformation, misinformation, and plausible deniability. The play is being called — and everyone will need to decide if they’re for democracy or authoritarianism.
It is going to become increasingly more difficult to discern from fact from fiction, here in this world that seemingly quickly flipped from a world of The Enlightenment to a world of dark disinformation. From AI to vast propaganda machines, from deep fakes to fake lives — it’s going to require more from us to be able to detect what’s real.
Already we can’t rely on old cues, signposts, and tropes anymore. We’re less credulous about credentials, and trust isn’t automatic based on caste, title, or familiar status markers.
Go slow and look for mimics
Here’s one key to more accurate reality detection: take more time to spot the fake. Don’t judge too quickly, because it can take time to weed out the fakesters and the hucksters — some are decent mimics and can fool people who are in a hurry, not paying much attention, or attracted to some irrelevant other quality about the ersatz knockoff and thus forms an affinity with them based on something else entirely. Some drink the Kool-Aid for various reasons.
Clues of fraud
Those who cling absurdly to abstract symbols are often fakes. And in general, any folks who feel like they are just trying a little bit too hard might be fake. Then, of course, there are the full-on zealots and religious nutbags. These theocrats are definitely faux compassionate Jesus-lovers. What better cloak than the robes of a religious man (or, less frequently, woman)? It’s the perfect disguise.
No wonder so many child abusers hide out in churches of all kinds, from famously the Catholic to the more recently-outed (though not surprising) Evangelical Southern Baptist Church. No one will ever suspect them, or want to confront them if they do. Plus, they have Democrats to absurdly try and pin the blame on repeatedly, despite a lack of a shred of evidence.
We need to know what our opponents are up to. There is much to learn.
Much more to come — stay tuned!
Appeal to violence
Attack the person instead of their ideas.
Issue threats and/or violate boundaries.
argumentum ad passiones
"I feel it (or I feel *strongly* about it), therefore it must be true."
Assert the opposite of reality
Simply state the opposite of what is true
Book banning is a form of censorship in which government officials or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because of objections to content, ideas, or themes.
Believes oneself to be superior and requiring of association with high-status people
Related to supremacy and collective narcissism, this worldview is one of extreme entitlement and expected deference.
Black & white thinking
A pattern of thought characterized by polar extremes, sometimes flip-flopping very rapidly from one extreme view to its opposite. A symptom of many personality disorders.
"I'm not responsible for my bad behaviors: DEMOCRATS ARE!"
Intimidating, harming, or coercing -- usually of someone who is perceived as vulnerable.
Cloying, often superficial or fake charm
Compelling attractiveness that fascinates, allures, or delights
not open to an argument from facts
Having an incongruent value system, or believing mutually exclusive things -- as well as behaving without consistent ethical principles; a sense of randomness to one's approach to life.
Communicate by emotional contagion
Communication is difficult or impossible
Creating unnecessary chaos
Create conflict to get attention and get a chance to get what you want.
Seeks support through an appeal to desires and prejudices of voters instead of rational arguments.
Demand mirroring of their emotions
Denying plain facts
Do not perform emotional work
Envious of others and believes others are envious
Exaggerating one's achievements and talents
Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
Cause you to question your own sanity -- very dangerous to do this to people. The effects are long-lasting and difficult to do; it can take many years to heal from this kind of insidious abuse.
Grandiose sense of self-importance
Hard to give to; reject efforts to give help
high need for closure
Prefers to resolve situations quickly and reduce uncertainty as immediately as possible
Consistently fail to live up to their own stated ideals, and the things they demand of others.
idealize, devalue, discard
The narcissistic abuse cycle
Interpsonally exploitative; takes advantage of others
Lacks empathy; unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Love to play victim and hero
They want your emotions oscillating all over the place, because it gives them more opportunities to swoop in and capture you at a vulnerable moment and earn your trust -- so they can violate it.
Masters of deceptive and misleading stories
They start with the premise they want and work from there -- they are bad scientists, but good lawyers.
Moving the goalposts
Expect loyalty from you while offering none in return
panem et circuses
Nurturing and maintaining enemies
Lying under oath, in court or in a deposition
Their main aspect is fear, from bouts of phobia indoctrination
Play the victim
Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success
Accusing your opponent of doing the thing that you yourself are doing.
Requires excessive admiration
Resist repairing relationships
Just blame Democrats, no matter how absurd
Covert actions; lack of transparency
See roles as sacred and inviolable
Seek enmeshment, not emotional intimacy
Sense of entitlement; expects others to make unreasonable sacrifices
Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes
See the world as with them or against them (splitting)
Take a thing and turn it into its moral opposite
Label a good thing bad so you can smear it, or a bad thing good so you can support it
It is a way of pseudo-argument privileging one narrow type of political view (conservatism) over all others — a view that we must try to divine the “original” intentions of the Founders in our creation and interpretation of the law.
A view that, by the way, the Founders did not share.
Originalism is an excuse framework for denying people the right to self-govern unless approved of by the white aristocratic elite who fancy themselves the Real Americans, over and above everyone else.
It is based on a kind of paternalism over the Founders, whose “perceived shock” at modernity itself would allegedly disallow almost anything the 340 million modern inhabitants of the United States want to do versus what would have been acceptable to the 2.5 million individuals who declared independence almost 250 years ago.
Originalism is a way of allowing conservative judges to play God. It takes the radical ideas of the Enlightenment in our self-governance and twists them back into a form of “received wisdom” delivered by conservative judges’ religious views — in violation of the First Amendment.
Fundamentalist lawyers, judges, and legal operatives often want to drag “original” back even further — to Biblical law. In both cases, the power grab lies in religious nationalists inserting themselves into the picture as the only interpreters of “God’s will” or “the textualist view” (how convenient!), in which they believe the founding documents were theocratic when they clearly were the opposite of that — the Founders talked about it a lot! And many of them were Deists, famously so.
Mind control is a type of “psychological technology” used by con artists, cult leaders, and influence peddlers of all stripes to try and modify human behavior, to twist it to one’s own nefarious and usually opaque ends. Also referred to as undue influence, emotional abuse, or thought reform, mind control is a set of techniques designed to hack in to the brain’s cognitive quirks, biases, and numerous psychobiological “opportunities to circumvent rational and critical thought.”
Cults are a specific structure of social organization formed through the application of mind control. There are at least 2 “layers” and often many interstitial rings that draw members ever closer to a hidden agenda lurking at the center — the true purpose of the organization that most of the footsoldiers know nothing about, because they work for one of the many “friendly PR faces” tacked on to the outside of the group to disguise the malignancy within.
Position himself (and the group — his extension) as the only safe haven to turn to when afraid: “I alone can fix it!”
Isolate followers from other sources of information — i.e. keep them in the Fox/OANN/Newsmax ecosystem
Arouse fear in the follower — invent invisible boogeymen everywhere! Huge caravans at the border that mysteriously disappear after elections! Evil liberals trying to do their jobs in schools and educate our youth about our history! INFLATION looms as a large spectre every time the left manages to eke out a few pennies from the cold unfeeling hands of the aristocrats!
Rinse; repeat. Stoking fear is “EZ Mode” — it means one of the parties in our two-party system can “de facto secede” from governance by just sitting on the sidelines and heckling all day, waiting for the problems and frustration to boil over so they can harness the abject anger of poor manipulated people into political weaponry, to break their lives on the wheels of history carelessly and for no higher purpose than personal greed and addiction to power, wealth, and status.
This set of books is a lead on how they fuel their political war machine:
Qualities of a Cult Leader
Narcissistic — highly self-absorbed, they demand excessive admiration and slavish devotion to their whims.
Charismatic — they have a way of grabbing attention, whether positive or negative.
Unpredictable — erratic behavior keeps enemies on their toes and fans “on edge” with desire to please Dear Leader.
Insatiable drive — it could be status, money, sex, power, or all of the above, but they feel they deserve it more than anyone else on the planet.
Lack of conscience — they have no shame and will demand things a decent human being would not.
President Biden and Vice President Harris commemorated the 1 year anniversary of the January 6 attack on our democracy with morning speeches and a day of remembrance inside the Capitol rotunda with Representatives and Senators giving a number of moving speeches in their respective chambers. The tone on TV news and blue check Twitter was somber and reflective. The President referred to the violent events of Jan 6, 2021 as a terrorist attack on our democracy, and said that the threat was not yet over — that the perpetrators of that event still hold a “dagger at the throat of America.”
Only two Republicans were present in chambers when the moment of silence was held for the nation’s traumatic experience one year ago — Representative Liz Cheney and her father, Dick Cheney, the former VP and evil villain of the George W. Bush years. That this man — a cartoonish devil from my formative years as a young activist — was, along with his steel-spined force of nature daughter, one half of the lone pair that remained of the pathetic tatters of the once great party of Lincoln.
What do you do if you’re in a 2-party system and one of the parties is just sitting on the sidelines, heckling (and worse!?)? How do you restore confidence in a system that so many people love to hate, to the point of obsession? Will we be able to re-establish a sense of fair play, as Biden called on us to do today in his speech?
The Big Lie is about rewriting history
We don’t need to spend a ton of time peering deeply into discerning motive with seditionists — we can instead understand that for all of them, serving the Big Lie serves a function for them in their lives. It binds them to their tribe, it signals a piece of their “identity,” and it signals loyalty within a tight hierarchy that rewards it — all while managing to serve their highest goal of all: to annoy and intimidate liberals. Like all bullies, their primary animating drive is a self-righteous conviction that “I am RIGHT!” at all times and about all things, and that disagreement is largely punishable by death or, in lieu of that, dark twisted fantasies of death passed off lamely and pathetically as “just joking, coworker!”
The filibuster is an archaic rule that was at first only there by accident, then whittled into a sharp blade of minority rule by Southern plantation owner John C. Calhoun — a man credited with laying the groundwork for the Civil War.
The South Carolina plutocrat strategized on behalf of wealthy aristocratic ambitions in the 1820s and 30s. Dubbed the “Marx of the master class” by historian Richard Hofstadter, Calhoun consumed himself with an obsession over how to establish permanent rule by his 1% brethren. He was an early proponent of property over people — the original “just business” kind of cold calculating supremacist that would come to typify the darker southern shadow culture of America.
Calhoun came to the conclusion that the Founders had made a grave mistake when creating the nation, and had put in too much democracy and too little property protection. He had a conviction that collective governance ought to be rolled back, because it “exploited” the wealthy planter class such as himself. During his time in the Senate he engineered a number of clever devices for the minority to rule over the collective will of the public — dubbed a “set of constitutional gadgets” for restricting the operations of a democratic government by a top political scientist at the time.
Public choice theory and Charles Koch
Slaveholding Senator John C. Calhoun inspired a series of men in the future to take up the torch of minority rule and its apparatus. James McGill Buchanan combined ideas from F. A. Hayek with fascist strains of Calhoun’s ministrations in the Senate to pack a conservative economic punch with public choice theory.
New lie, same as the old lie. The old lie is that America was never intended to be a democracy — which is doublespeak nonsense. But “conservatives” have been fighting fervently for this original Big Lie since time immemorial.
So: Charles Koch is the new John C. Calhoun. He and his vast navel-gazing empire of “think tanks” and other organs of self-regurgitation have managed to brainwash enough people and operate enough bots to make it almost a coin toss whether the average citizen believes the nation was founded as a democratic republic or an authoritarian theocracy.
The filibuster is one of the strongest minority rule tools in their toolbox.
In half a decade we’ve gone from Jeb Bush making a serious run for president to Marjorie Taylor Greene running unopposed and winning a House seat in Georgia. QAnon came seemingly out of nowhere, but taps into a much deeper and older series of conspiracy theories that have surfaced, resurfaced, and been remixed throughout time.
Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? In an increasingly complex world of information bombarding us as blinding speed and high volume, the cognitive appeal of easy answers and turnkey “community” may be much stronger than ever before.
Emotional repression is the keystone of fundamentalist parenting. The strict application of “Biblical law” as cherry-picked by extremists is inherently contradictory & hypocritical, stunting emotional and psychological growth through corporal punishment and capricious applications of anger for sometimes opaque reasons.
When trusted caregivers apply physical violence to a developing mind, seeds of deep distrust and paranoia are planted. Children learn to “obey” by repressing negative parts of themselves so deeply they fall out of conscious awareness altogether & rule the personality “from below.”
Never being given the required emotional support to transcend the paradoxical human project of reconciling the positive & negative aspects inherent in all people, they become “arrested” at a moment of obsession with punishment as the only solution to every problem. They see the world in very black and white terms — the classic “you’re either with us or against us” zero-sum worldview in which everybody who doesn’t agree with you must be delegitimized and eradicated completely.
The term Christian nationalists brings together a number of radical religious sects seeking to overthrow the democratic republic of the United States and installing a strict theocracy, from dominionists to orthodox Catholics to Evangelicals and many more.
Here are some of the people and groups involved in the modern day movement to establish a Christian theocratic government in America:
Abraham Hamilton III — host of American Family Radio’s “Hamilton Corner” who described the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas as “Satan’s work” that was “immune to legislation.” He went on to claim that the Democrats were “exploiting” the victims by calling for hearings on gun control
The Founders knew acutely the pains of centuries of religious warfare in modern Europe and resoundingly did not want that for their new nation. Many of them moreover knew religious persecution intimately — some whose families fled the Church of England for fear of being imprisoned, burned at the stake, or worse. Is America a Christian nation? Although many Christians certainly have come here, in a legal and political sense the nation’s founders wanted precisely the opposite of the “Christian nation” they were breaking with by pursuing independence from the British.
Contrary to the disinformation spread by Christian nationalists today, the people who founded the United States explicitly saw religious zealotry as one of the primary dangers to a democratic republic. They feared demagoguery and the abuse of power that tilts public apparatus towards corrupt private interest. The Founders knew that religion could be a source of strife for the fledgling nation as easily as it could be a strength, and they took great pains to carefully balance the needs of religious expression and secular interests in architecting the country.
Americans sought religious freedom
The main impetus for a large percentage of the early colonists who came to the Americas was the quest for a home where they could enjoy the free exercise of religion. The Protestant Reformation had begun in Europe about a century before the first American colonies were founded, and a number of new religious sects were straining at the bonds of the Catholic Church’s continued hegemony. Puritans, Mennonites, Quakers, Jesuits, Huguenots, Dunkers, Jews, Amish, Lutherans, Moravians, Schwenkfeldians, and more escaped the sometimes deadly persecutions of the churches of Europe to seek a place to worship God in their own chosen ways.
By the late 18th century when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, many religious flowers were blooming within the 13 colonies. He had seen for himself the pitfalls of the experiments in which a unitary control of religion by one church or sect led to conflict, injustice, and violence. Jefferson and the nation’s other founders were staunchly against the idea of establishing a theocracy in America:
The founding fathers made a conscious break from the European tradition of a national state church.
The words Bible, Christianity, Jesus, and God do not appear in our founding documents.
The handful of states who who supported “established churches” abandoned the practice by the mid-19th century.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that his Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom was written on behalf of “the Jew and the gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu and the infidel of every denomination.” In the text he responds negatively to VA’s harassment of Baptist preachers — one of many occasions on which he spoke out sharply against the encroachment of religion upon political power.
The Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for holding foreign office.
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
There is a right-wing conspiracy theory aiming to discredit the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” by claiming that those exact words aren’t found in the Constitution.
The phrase is echoed by James Madison in an 1803 letter opposing the building of churches on government land: “The purpose of separation of Church and State is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
The 1796 Treaty of Tripoli states in Article 11: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” — President George Washington first ordered the negotiation of a treaty in 1795, and President John Adams sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification in 1797, with this article widely interpreted to mean a reiteration of the purpose of the Establishment Clause to create a secular state, i.e. one that would not ever be going to holy war with Tripoli.
The Founders were Deists
For the most part, the prominent Founders were Deists — they recognized the long tradition of Judeo-Christian order in society, and consciously broke from it in their creation of the legal entity of the United States, via the Establishment Clause and numerous other devices. They were creatures of The Enlightenment, and were very much influenced by the latest developments of their day including statistics, empiricism, numerous scientific advancements, and the pursuit of knowledge and logical decision-making.
They distrusted the concept of divine right of rule that existed in Europe under monarchies. We fought a revolution to leave that behind for good reason.
They disliked the idea of a national church, and were adamant about the idea of keeping the realms of religion and politics independent of each other.
Thomas Paine lamented that “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”
Paine also pushed the envelop even further, asserting his belief that the people would eventually abandon all traditional religions in favor of the “religion” of nature and reason.
Mythology has it that “reckless Democratic spending” is to blame for the ballooning of the national debt — though the historical record shows otherwise.
In fact, the conservatives‘ beloved demi-god Ronald Reagan was the first President to skyrocket the debt, thanks to some bunk ideas from an old cocktail napkin that linger to this day — the Republican monetary theory in a nutshell is (I shit you not) that we should take all our pooled tax money and give it to… billionaires. Because, you know, they’re clearly the most qualified people to make decisions affecting the 99% poor people. Supposedly they’re the smartest folks to entrust with our money.
Except it’s not true, as year after year and study after study shows. Nor for all their finger-waggling at Democrats over the national debt has the GOP turned in a balanced budget since Nixon. Republicans are the most gigantic hypocrites on economics writ large, but particularly so for the national debt — with Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and Trump all turning in record debt increases, primarily through tax cuts for the wealthy and the Gulf and Afghanistan wars.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton balanced the budget, created a surplus, and reduced the debt during his 8 years in office, and Obama inherited the deepest recession since the 1929 Great Depression.
The financial crisis of 2008-09, itself caused by the reckless Republican zeal for deregulation — this time of financial derivatives — was a wholly GOP-owned debacle that the next president paid for politically. Nevertheless, President Obama had the debt again on a reduction path as a percentage of GDP — but then Donald “I bankrupted a series of casinos!” Trump oozed his way into the highest office in the land.
During the Trump administration, Republicans patted themselves on the back for giving a $2.7 trillion tax cut to billionaires for no reason, while the economy was relatively hot already (after being rescued by Obama). Not only was no progress made on diminishing the debt, but the national debt actually increased (both nominally and as a percentage of GDP) under Trump’s first term even before the sudden arrival of a novel coronavirus caused it to leap into the stratosphere like a 21st century American tech oligarch.
Only when President Biden arrived on the scene and took the helm of fiscal and monetary policy did the national debt begin cooling off once again — all while dramatically and quickly scaling up covid-19 vaccine production and distribution and passing over $3 trillion in Keynesian legislation meant to get the dregs of the middle class reoriented to a place on the map vis-a-vis the 1% once again.
Republican national debt bullshit
I am hereby calling bullshit on Republicans’ crocodile tears over the national debt, which they suddenly remember only when a Democrat is in town and summarily ignore while their guy is in the hot seat burning through cash like it’s going out of style.
We need to have a better collective narrative for Democratic success on the economy. The Republicans are no longer the kings of the economic world — if they ever were. It feels more like smoke and mirrors each passing day, with climate change denial, the Inflationary Boogeyman, and other GOP Greatest Hits playing ad nauseum on the AM social media waves.
Here are at least a few things to remember about the national debt, that Republicans generally get wrong:
wars are very expensive
booms in social services are expensive too; but not as expensive as wars
there is not any perceivable truth in the old GOP party line that Democrats always overspend and Republicans are always thrifty
Reagan and both Bushes presided over two of the biggest spikes in public debt in recorded history, outside of FDR who had both the Great Depression and WWII to contend with
Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy, and Truman all decreased the debt
be wary of graphs that don’t “normalize” to GNP — it’s an attempt to “lie with statistics” by obfuscating the roles of inflation and the growth of the economy itself
there is more than one way to look at and evaluate the level of public debt
But you don’t have to take our word for it — just ask the Vice President of the Confederacy what his reasons were in 1861:
The new [Confederate] constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution . . . The prevailing ideas entertained by . . . most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. . . Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of . . . the equality of races. This was an error . . .
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner–stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.
— Alexander H. Stephens, March 21, 1861, reported in the Savannah Republican, emphasis in the original
More ways we know the Civil War was about slavery
The state secession declaration documents mention the words “slave”, “slavery”, and “slave-holding” over 150 times, along with a number of related words including abolition, abolitionist, race, African, white race, and negro among yet others.
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is almost identical to the US Constitution; in most of the several places that had been modified, the subject of the change regarded slavery and the claimed rights of Southern white men to own black human beings as a captive labor force.
Contemporaneous speeches given by Southern leaders at the time leading up to the war and during the war uniformly named the question of slavery as the core animus for their fight.
The Confederates rejected the idea floated internally of enlisting blacks to replace the much-drained manpower of the South even though the final year of the war — despite ample evidence of the capabilities of black fighting forces as evidenced by their use by the Union to rout Southern Armies in bloody battle after bloody battle.
The secessionists even hampered their own ability to get diplomatic recognition, by refusing to clarify any sort of end date for slavery or apologia for the moral failings of the peculiar institution to a Britain and France who saw the practice as barbaric by that time. In other words, they chose slavery over independence when push really literally came to shove.