Living With Politics as War

Living With Politics as War, by Angelo Codevilla.

Whoever was surprised by the hate-fest against the National Rifle Association and conservative Americans in general that followed the Parkland, Florida school shooting must not have been paying attention. Over the past half-century, a ruling class formed by our uniformly leftist educational system and occupying the commanding heights of corporate life, governmental bureaucracies, the media, etc. accuses its targets of everything from murder and terrorism to culpable psycho-social disorders (racism, sexism, and so forth).

Leaders, marchers, and rioters speak from identical scripts. They do not try to persuade. They strengthen their own side’s vehemence. They restrict opponents from speaking on their own behalf, and use state and corporate power to push them to society’s margins. While demanding deference to themselves, they mention right-leaning Americans and their causes only to insult and de-legitimize them. …

The west, particularly the English-speaking parts, used to be different:

Political-war-by-accusation-of-crime is common in the world. As a rule — Charles de Gaulle was not the first to note it — “peoples are moved only by elemental sentiments, violent images, brutal invocations.”

But in America, political war used to be rare. The Federalist Papers begin thus: “it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice.”

Was America ever ruled by reason? For the most part, and relative to the rest of the world, yes it was. How did this come to be? In 1816, Thomas Jefferson answered: “our functionaries have done well, because… if any were [inclined to do otherwise], they feared to show it.” In short, America was exceptional because the American people were exceptional.

Today, Americans seem to be regressing to humanity’s sad norm. “Elemental sentiments, violent images, brutal invocations” have become the currency of American public life. Hence, reasoned arguments about the common good have as much chance of getting attention, never mind of giving pause to persons who hate you, as do pearls cast before swine. In politics as in economics, bad currency drives out good.