But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form.
Is is possible for a “Progressive” to be a Christian? I don’t think so. — jtl, 19
In 2010, Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Angelo Codevilla reintroduced the notion of “the ruling class” back into American popular discourse. In 2017, he described contemporary American politics as a “cold civil war.” Now he applies the “logic of revolution” to our current political scene.
The Democratic Party and the millions it represents having refused to accept 2016’s results; having used their positions of power in government and society to prevent the winners from exercising the powers earned by election; declaring in vehement words and violent deeds the illegitimacy, morbidity, even criminality, of persons and ideas contrary to themselves; bet that this “resistance” would so energize their constituencies, and so depress their opponents’, that subsequent elections would prove 2016 to have been an anomaly and further confirm their primacy in America. The 2018 Congressional elections are that strategy’s first major test.
Regardless of these elections’ outcome, however, this “resistance” has strengthened and accelerated the existing revolutionary spiral. We begin with a primer on such spirals, on the logic of mutual hate that drives them, and on their consequences; move to a general description of our evolution’s driving logic, describe the 2016 elections as the revolutionary spiral’s first turn and the “resistance” thereto as the second. Then we examine how the “resistance” affects the other side, and how this logic might drive our revolution’s subsequent turns.
The Cycle and Us
Corcyra’s revolution in 427 BC, the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War, is a paradigm of revolutionary logic. Thucydides tells us that the citizens’ divisions had been of the garden-variety economic kind. Its Assembly had taken an ordinary vote on an ordinary measure. But the vote’s losers, refusing to accept political defeat, brought criminal charges against their opponents’ leader. By thus criminalizing differences over public policy, by using political power to hurt their opponents, they gave the revolutionary spiral its first turn. The spiral might have stopped when the accused was acquitted. But, he, instead of letting bygones be bygones, convinced the assembly to fine those who had brought the charges. After all, they had to be taught not to do such things again. The assembly approved the fine. But the second use of political power to hurt opponents gave the revolutionary spiral its second turn. Had the original wrongdoers paid up, the problem might have ended right there. Instead, outraged, they gave it the third push, bursting into the Assembly and murdering him. That ended all private haven from political strife. Civil war spiraled into mutual destruction, until the city was well-nigh depopulated.
Thus does Thucydides’ account of how revolutionary logic manifests itself in personal behavior echo through the ages—an account that strikes Americans in October, 2018 as all too familiar: “men too often take upon themselves in the prosecution of their revenge to set the example of doing away with those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity, instead of allowing them to subsist against the day of danger when their aid may be required.”
The more freely to harm enemies, “words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them.”
“Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected … even blood became a weaker tie than party …. The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence … when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one…success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence.”
How near we are to all that, and how far from once-great America!
The American republic’s essence had been self-restraint toward fellow citizens deemed equals. The Constitution of 1787 had been its paradigm. Under its words and by its laws, Americans had enjoyed safety and predictability for themselves and their way of life. But Progressives’ subordination of the Constitution, laws, and institutions to their own purposes and for their own primacy ended all that. The rest of America’s increasing realization that only fire can fight fire has followed naturally.
This is our revolution: Because a majority of Americans now no longer share basic sympathies and trust, because they no longer regard each other as worthy of equal consideration, the public and private practices that once had made our Republic are now beyond reasonable hope of restoration. Strife can only mount until some new equilibrium among us arises.
The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior. With Newtonian necessity, each such exercise causes a corresponding and opposite reaction. The logic’s force comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands. If that were the case, acquiescing to or compromising with them could cut it short. Rather, it comes from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation. It is an inherently endless pursuit.
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The logic is rooted in disdain, but not so much of any of the supposed inferiors’ features or habits. If it were, the deplored could change their status by improving. But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form.
Hence, in our revolution, as in others, which side first transgressed civility’s canons matters only historically. In our revolution, as in others, truth comes to be what serves to increase fellow partisans’ animus against socio-political opponents, and words to mean neither more nor less than what serves the speaker at any given time.
As Thucydides pointed out, once people cease adhering to “those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity,” partisan solidarity offers the only immediate hope of safety. And that, in turn, is because “those general laws” are by, of, and for the good of all. Once people no longer see any good common to all, justice for each becomes identical with advantage. The only good or justice that prevails is the good or justice of the stronger. As Plato points out in Book I of The Republic, far from being a rare phenomenon, this is mankind’s default state.
Hence, among us as well, subjection by force is replacing conviction by argument. Here too, as contrasting reactions to events fan antagonisms into consuming flames like a bellows’ blows, victory’s triumphs and defeat’s agonies’ become the only alternatives
Although understanding our revolution’s logic tells us nothing about how it will end, keeping it in mind sheds light on what is happening at any given time.
The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Pvolitical Ethic. This is the volume that pulls it all together. With reference to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s description of Murray Rothbard’s work, it is a “unique contribution to the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism.” Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.
You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History and The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty