In the midst of the present grotesque attempt by the Deep State managerial class to overthrow a president and negate the results of the 2016 elections, some writers and commentators have reached back into American history for precedents. Indeed, there have been instances when one branch of the American government attempted to overawe, subvert, and even displace another branch, and essentially to destroy the precarious balance of powers established in the Constitution.
But the present “silent coup,” with all its zealotry, its prevarication and madness, is unique and unparalleled in many ways. In particular, there is an incredible fanaticism in the present effort to unseat a duly elected president not seen in the United States for well over at least a century, to, as it were, “put the [Trump-inspired] genie that threatens the managerial elites back in the lamp.” Not even during the Clinton impeachment hearings, nor the Watergate crisis—not during the raucous debates over the Vietnam War nor the potential for revolution during the Great Depression—have we witnessed the specter of perhaps one-third, maybe more, of our population wallowing in the real, palpable and often violent lunacy that we see currently.
This state of affairs did not simply spring up like the Greek goddess Athena, from “Zeus’s head, full-grown and clothed in armor.” Those we behold today arrayed against us, those we confront who call themselves variously “progressivists,” “democratic socialists,” “anti-racists,” and so forth, have been carefully groomed and incubated over decades by a pervasively noxious environment. They are the products of an educational system which is rotten through-and-through (especially in higher education), they experience conditioning daily from large and constant doses of media and entertainment which are ideologically driven and geared to support the template, and they live in a poisonous society which confirms and ratifies the views and ideas that have been instilled in them.
At the base of this ongoing process is the triumphant “Idea of Progress” and the identification by the Progressivists with it. It is they, and in particular their academic minions and educators, who have made their causes synonymous with an inevitable and ineluctable “progress.” Anyone opposing their designs and programs is labeled anti-progressive, reactionary, bigoted, and worse. Thus, for the history of the United States (and even before its establishment) there has been a constant struggle between the “forces of reaction” (read here: “Southern slave-holders,” “anti-feminists,” “racists,” “white supremacists,” “male chauvinists,” “anti-gay Christians,” and so on) who have stood in the way of inevitable “Progress,” and those “on the [right] side of history” who represent enlightenment and freedom.
Recently (August 10), The New York Times began its expansive and ongoing 1619 Project to coincide with 400th anniversary of the introduction of slavery into the American colonies. With a long range goal of completely revising American history and the Founding, the Times and its stable of historians asserted that real American history must be reconfigured to date from the as yet unexpiated sin of slavery.
The cornerstone of this never-ending Progressivist movement is the magic talisman: egalitarianism. For that, Progressivists cry in loud voice and demand that the “oppressed” receive complete and full “equality.”
Far too many times so-called conservatives and Republicans, and certainly “Movement Conservatives,” buy into this template and join this narrative, and by accepting its fundamental premises and parameters they inevitably lose any debate, and remain, as the Seventeenth Century English essayist Sir Thomas Browne wrote, “prisoners of the errors to which they proclaim their opposition.”
This is particularly true of those denominated “Neoconservatives,” whose genealogy draws heavily from their intellectual history and foundations over on the progressivist Left. During the late 1950s, 1960s and into the 1980s the Neocons, largely but certainly not entirely consisting of socialist and Marxist Jewish intellectuals centered around New York and a few other large Eastern cities, began moving “right.” In part, it was an opposition to Stalinism and Soviet Communism (and the perceived persecution of Russian Jews) that steered important thinkers like former socialists Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol into the ranks of the Conservative movement—and their votaries into the Republican Party. But though they brought their fierce and at times acute critique of Communism with them, they did not relinquish their philosophical commitment to the same “Idea of Progress” which remained at the heart of their belief system and praxis.
Accordingly, American history had to be re-written and re-interpreted ex post facto to be consistent with the narrative of a struggle between the “reactionaries” and those epigones of always-expanding equality and democracy (including in foreign policy). In so doing, the Neocons implicitly accepted the terms of debate, in many cases the very same terminology, as their supposed opponents over on the further Left. And, like those Progressivists, they brought with them an implacable hostility to the Confederate South and its traditions which they considered irredeemably “racist” and bigoted.
Unlike many older conservative writers (e.g. the late Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver) now the Union cause, 1861-1865, and Abraham Lincoln were incorporated as Icons in the new Pantheon of (revised) American Conservatism. The Confederacy—John C. Calhoun and John Randolph of Roanoke (who had been featured in Kirk’s monumental Conservative Mind as a pivotal conservative thinkers)—the superb Southern Agrarian writers—and the brilliant Mel Bradford were exiled, expelled from the “movement.” Just as with the more extreme Left, the Neocons embraced the “Idea of Progress” template and an egalitarian narrative in which there was no room for dissent…even if the entire American founding had to be “re-interpreted” to somehow make it agree with their views.
Thus, Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade’s 2018 mini-series, “Legends & Lies: The Civil War,” in which he canonized “Saint” Abraham Lincoln, who “end[ed] the immoral institution of slavery in America,” while he condemned the “defeated South’s attempts to rewrite history by denying slavery was the root cause of the Civil War.”
Or, the specter of former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove declaring that his favorite historian of the War Between the States and slavery is the Communist historian Eric Foner. Although they may disagree vociferously over how much change or what kind of change is needed, or who should be president or what laws should be enacted, their agreement historically, on the reading of American history, should be extremely troubling—and revealing—for conservatives.
Is it likely that such leaders of the current “Conservative Movement”—who share so much in common with their supposed enemies—can mount a vigorous defense of President Trump? Indeed, where are the Republican opponents of the current farce parading before us: secret Congressional “star chamber” hearings, brazen connivance by the media (including at times Fox News), faked stories, manipulated headlines, items taken out of context or suppressed….? Will they—can they—stand up to the enemies of the Constitution, the Inside-the-Beltway Establishment to which far too many of them belong?
That remains to be seen.
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as State Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English, on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations.