Angelo Codevilla on the Republic

Dr. Codevilla is one of the more insightful writers on the problems facing us today. I remember his first prominent article on these problems well, and wish it had been better heeded at the time.

Now he warns that we are already past the Republic. This is the unrecognized Empire.
Civics classes used to teach: “Congress makes the laws, the president carries them out, judges decide controversies, and we citizens may be penalized only by a jury of our peers.”

Nobody believes that anymore, because no part of it has been true for a long time. Barack Obama stopped pretending that it is. During the twentieth century’s second half, both parties and all branches of government made a mockery of the Constitution of 1789. Today’s effective constitution is: “The president can do whatever he wants so long as one-third of the Senate will sustain his vetoes and prevent his conviction upon impeachment.”

Obama has been our first emperor.
It's worth revisiting what he had to say in 2010, and comparing it with what he warns of today. Describing the environment that produced the TEA Party as a clash between the pro-American, pro-Christian "country class" and the "ruling class," he warned that what he called the "country class" was not well-positioned for politics.
Certainly the country class lacks its own political vehicle -- and perhaps the coherence to establish one. In the short term at least, the country class has no alternative but to channel its political efforts through the Republican Party, which is eager for its support. But the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class. For it to do so, it would have to become principles-based, as it has not been since the mid-1860s. The few who tried to make it so the party treated as rebels: Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.... Few Republican voters, never mind the larger country class, have confidence that the party is on their side....

The name of the party that will represent America's country class is far less important than what, precisely, it represents and how it goes about representing it because, for the foreseeable future, American politics will consist of confrontation between what we might call the Country Party and the ruling class. The Democratic Party having transformed itself into a unit with near-European discipline, challenging it would seem to require empowering a rival party at least as disciplined. What other antidote is there to government by one party but government by another party? Yet this logic, though all too familiar to most of the world, has always been foreign to America and naturally leads further in the direction toward which the ruling class has led. Any country party would have to be wise and skillful indeed not to become the Democrats' mirror image.
Six years on, the ruling class rules the Republican party as well.
America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Party’s elites into its satellites.

This class's fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever won’t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate.
What is interesting to me is that the voters have given the Republicans control of the elected branches throughout: in the vast majority of statehouses, in both houses of Congress, in governors' mansions, in every electable branch the Republican party predominates. Now, having raised them to the pinnacle of democratically-attainable power, the waves of voters are poised to seize the Presidency -- but not for a figure from the ruling class.

Codevilla's piece slams Trump from start to finish, and calls for a return to small-r republicanism and an end to the cycle of revenge against our cultural enemies. I've been calling for the same thing since 2004, without it being highly persuasive to anyone yet. Let us have the Tenth Amendment, and allow the states to diverge on moral and cultural matters. Let us strip the Supreme Court of its extraordinary power, and the Executive of its power to legislate through the bureaucracy.

Return to the Constitution, or dissolve the Union. Living under an Empire operating under the pretense of democratic legitimacy ought to terrify anyone who understands what that would mean. The cycle of cultural violence can only grow worse if we do not find a way to return to our Constitutional principles, and yet remain bound tightly to those who hate and despise us, who scorn and resent us. Power can only protect you for so long.


Eric Blair said...

While Obama has been a pretty dismal president, he's hardly an emperor.

Grim said...

The formula depends on a party rule that would be absent from a genuine empire: the way he puts it is, having a third of the Senate is necessary to prevent the President from being impeached.

It's actually Bill Clinton who really inaugurated that era, though: I can remember watching the news when the Lewinsky story broke, and hearing one of the Grand Old Anchormen say that 'If he's guilty, he's finished. He'll have to resign.'

Nope. It turns out he could just deny it until it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, and then declare that it had been so long ago we should all just move on and quit harping on it. As long as 1/3rd of the Senate would back him, not law nor custom nor morals could touch him.

And of course, these days, he is himself the Grand Old Man of politics.

douglas said...

Eric, Late Republic then? Not that I'd feel much better about that.

Dad29 said...

Grim, I'll disagree with your "Clinton started it" theory, but not by much.

LBJ (followed closely by Nixon) was the one who capitalized on the legacy of FDR, that being the 'rule by commission rather than law' game. To varying degrees, every President and Congress since LBJ has followed that formula, abetted by SCOTUS one way or the other.

Obozo, assisted by a Congress which practices fellatio with skill and aplomb, merely brought the formula to near-perfection.

Grim said...

Fair enough. Even FDR -- who had a compliant Congress -- had to threaten to pack the courts to violate the Constitution by gaining power to legislate by executive branch fiat.

Still, I think Clinton may fairly be said to be the point at which a minority in the Senate came to be an adequate guarantee of Presidential free reign to violate the law.

ColoComment said...

"...the point at which a minority in the Senate came to be an adequate guarantee of Presidential free reign to violate the law."

Yes. That was the turning point where presidential impeachment became an empty, rather than a serious, threat.

It would take a murder committed by a president (complete with YouTube selfie video gone viral) for the House today to bring impeachment charges or for the Senate to find him guilty.

Dad29 said...

Yes, your estimation of the Clinton get-out-of-jail-free card is right.

free reign

Dammit the word is REIN, like in horses, not reign as in king.

Grim said...

Are you sure that's true in this case? :)

Dad29 said...

Yes. But YOU of all people, should know about horses.

Ymar Sakar said...

It's a regime. Republic vs empire might have made more interesting topic back in 2008 though.

Ymar Sakar said...

Those same walls will protect us, should we ever someday lose.

Grim's 2004 line there might have been more persuasive if those walls had protected the US citizens at Libya, the veterans at the VA under Shinigami Shinseki, and the Tea Party patriots under Hussein's Regime. All Democrat and all loyal to the Left.

4 years after 2004, those walls were protecting Americans all right.

Grim said...

All that happened after. We should have been building the walls higher and stronger when we had the power.

Ymar Sakar said...

Unless Bush was willing to go nuclear on the internal traitors, he never had that power of Will required to rebuild America. America's reconstruction was the job of Americans. One the Leftists understood to be true, but everyone else thought it was about elections instead.

Bush II reached out his hand for Democrat bipartisan deals, and look what happened to the budget in 2006. The Democrats merely used it to enrich themselves, grow a larger war chest, in their war against humanity.

Much of that money would later be spent on lifting the embargo of Cuba. Political favors transformed from budget money in bills.

Ymar Sakar said...

Americans, by focusing their power on politicians and elections, willingly gave up their power and say in their own country. When their power has been focused and pooled in DC, and DC corrupts it into the darkness of evil, Americans have no ability to build taller walls and better foundations.

They foolishly gave up that power to politicians, as they will to Trump or some other facsimile.

They understand in their hearts that they are too weak to wield their own power, that is why they seek leaders to tell them what to do and what Orders to Obey.

The Founding Fathers might have called this losing the Republic by losing the virtues and morality in the people. I would just call it human weakness.