Angelo Codevilla’s “After the Republic” paints a portrait of an America in a moment of great risk. This is a “sustained moment,” however—sort of like a snowflake that gradually falls from the sky, but ultimately settles in precisely such a way that it finally starts an avalanche:
No one running for the GOP nomination discussed the greatest violation of popular government’s norms—never mind the Constitution—to have occurred in two hundred years, namely, the practice, agreed upon by mainstream Republicans and Democrats, of rolling all of the government’s expenditures into a single bill. This eliminates elected officials’ responsibility for any of the government’s actions, and reduces them either to approving all that the government does without reservation, or the allegedly revolutionary, disloyal act of “shutting down the government.”
Rather than talk about how to restrain or shrink government, Republican candidates talked about how to do more with government. The Wall Street Journalcalled that “having a positive agenda.” Hence, Republicans by and large joined the Democrats in relegating the U.S. Constitution to history’s dustbin.
Because Republicans largely agree with Democrats that they need not take seriously the founders’ Constitution, today’s American regime is now what Max Weber had called the Tsarist regime on the eve of the Revolution: “fake constitutionalism.” Because such fakery is self-discrediting and removes anyone’s obligation to restrain his passions, it is a harbinger of revolution and of imperial power.
The ruling class having chosen raw power over law and persuasion, the American people reasonably concluded that raw power is the only way to counter it, and looked for candidates who would do that.
When I attended the Napa Institute this summer I made a mental note of its talk about preparing its attendees for “the next America.” The next America is a secular America, but it turns out that it might also be a radically political America in a way that we haven’t experienced so far. “Political” in the sense of drenching every part of society in the putrid waters that Washington itself was built upon. “Political” in the sense of making everyone’s private actions a cause for public spectacle. “Political” in the sense of worse.
Never before has such a large percentage of Americans expressed alienation from their leaders, resentment, even fear. Some two-thirds of Americans believe that elected and appointed officials—plus the courts, the justice system, business leaders, educators—are leading the country in the wrong direction: that they are corrupt, do more harm than good, make us poorer, get us into wars and lose them. Because this majority sees no one in the political mainstream who shares their concerns, because it lacks confidence that the system can be fixed, it is eager to empower whoever might flush the system and its denizens with something like an ungentle enema.
Yet the persons who express such revolutionary sentiments are not a majority ready to support a coherent imperial program to reverse the course of America’s past half-century. Temperamentally conservative, these constituencies had been most attached to the Constitution and been counted as the bedrock of stability. They are not yet wholly convinced that there is little left to conserve.
I’m excepting these sections mainly in order to put them here as a sort of bookmark that I’ll return to in the future. To what extent will any of them be right? I don’t know, but it will be interesting to find out.
We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.