Streetwise Professor

June 24, 2021

Gibbering Joe Validates the Founders’ Fears

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:55 pm

Virtually everyone in the Founding generation had one fear: Tyranny. They did not want to replace one tyrannical government with another. On this Federalists and Anti-Federalists agreed. The difference was that the Federalists believed that the Constitution had adequate safeguards against tyranny, but the Anti-Federalists did not.

One manifestation of the dread of tyranny was a deep suspicion of standing armies, which were viewed as the enforcers of tyranny. Another was a veneration of an armed citizenry, not least because it was a check on tyranny, via the threat of armed resistance. Indeed, these two things went together: a large standing army could overawe even a well-armed citizenry.

Yesterday Gibbering Joe Biden expressed the sum of all the Founders’ fears:

In other words, the armed citizenry is powerless against America’s massive standing military. Meaning that there is no check on tyranny. To which the Anti-Federalists would say: told you so.

Biden’s remarks, delivered in a drugged out way that wouldn’t be shocking if Hunter Biden had uttered them but is still disconcerting when Joe does, were revealing on many dimensions.

One of these–remarked upon by many–is his apparent willingness to use, or at least to threaten to use, nuclear weapons on Americans. Rather staggering, no?

Another is his apparent belief that F-15 pilots, and other members of the US military, would be willing to carry out orders to use massive force against Americans. I wouldn’t be so sure. Although an intent to ensure it may well explain the ideological offensive being waged against alleged “extremists” within the military at present.

Another, sickly ironic one, is the complete disconnect between this rhetoric and the rhetoric regarding January 6. The Babylon Bee says it better than I could:

No, really, it is just too much. On the one hand, Biden and the Democrats say that armed resistance against the government is futile, but on the other hand, they say that unarmed resistance by a motley group at the Capitol was the greatest assault on American democracy since Pearl Harbor, and amounted to an insurrection that threatened “our democracy,” i.e., to overthrow the government.

Pick one. They both can’t be true.

There is a broader lesson here. The Founders and their 18th century vision–including their fear of state tyranny, their desire to center as much government as possible at the lowest level possible, and their belief that a revolutionary public is the last check against tyranny–is a 21st century Rorschach Test. A large number of Americans embrace it fervently. A large number of Americans loathe it. Indeed, that divide is a succinct way of summarizing the current American political fault line.

Clearly, most of the ruling class and the “elite” fall in the loathers camp. Most of the embracers are non-ruling-class “deplorables” whom the elite despises and wants to crush.

The ruling class and the “elite” sacralize the state, and especially the federal government. Unlike the Founders, who saw government as a necessary evil to be constrained, limited, and checked by a watchful–and if need be, revolutionary–citizenry, the ruling class and the “elite” have effectively adopted Mussolini’s credo: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

And this is understandable, because l’etat, c’est eux. They control the state. They utilize the state to amass power and riches. A threat to the state is a threat to them. And as Biden indicates, they are willing to use all means necessary–including nuclear weapons, apparently–to defend that position.

This elite sacralization of the state is another way in which the US is converging to Putin’s Russia. The only difference–for now–is that Putin and the Russian elite explicitly express their veneration of the state above the people, and explicitly say that the people exist to serve the state. The American ruling class does not say this in so many words. But the idea is implicit in their rhetoric–like Biden’s rhetoric yesterday, and the unceasing rhetoric flogging January 6. More importantly, it is implicit in their deeds.

The 21st century ruling class has rejected the vision of the 18th century ruling class–which happens to be the vision of the 21st century ruled class. That is the real divide in today’s America, and why the country is in a pre-revolutionary condition. The visions of the ruling and the ruled are completely incompatible. That can only end in the submission of one side, or the failure to submit by either culminating in armed conflict.

And if it comes to conflict, the ruling class shouldn’t be so sure that military might is sufficient to prevail. Hasn’t worked magic in Iraq or Afghanistan, has it? Nor did it in Southeast Asia decades ago.

At the end of the Civil War, a great fear in the North was that Southerners would resort to guerrilla warfare. Some Confederates (e.g., Edward Porter Alexander) advocated it but Lee demurred. But if the current house divided does not stand, that’s exactly the kind of conflict that would occur. And although the military might not lose such a war (assuming it agrees to fight it), it has never proved able to win one.

Pray that it doesn’t come to that. But such an outcome cannot be precluded, given the ruling class’s sacralization of the state and its corollary: growing tyranny.

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  1. Why does the 2nd amendment start with the words “a well-regulated militia” and not “a well-armed citizenry”?

    Comment by aaa — June 25, 2021 @ 5:24 am

  2. “a deep suspicion of standing armies”: the Founders were the intellectual heirs of 17th century Englishmen so of course they disliked standing armies. But they didn’t adopt the English/British solution (i) keep your army small (they put nothing in the constitution to limit its size), (ii) split responsibilities – in Britain the army answered to Parliament, the Navy to the Crown. (Hence Royal Navy but never Royal Army.) Nowadays of course both answer to the Cabinet but it was a decent trick in its day.

    Kaiser Bill reputedly dismissed the British Army as a contemptibly little army but that was the whole point.

    Comment by dearieme — June 25, 2021 @ 6:09 am

  3. dearie,
    Didn’t the British crown house it’s army upon the populace when and where it desired? Tally Ho! Hark forrard, after the fox! Pip pip.

    Comment by Donald Wolfe — June 25, 2021 @ 7:37 am

  4. It wasn’t the crown’s army it was parliament’s. Didn’t you see that? Anyway, I don’t know the answer but the problem couldn’t have been severe because the army was always tiny.

    Comment by dearieme — June 25, 2021 @ 8:18 am

  5. “You couldn’t buy a cannon.”
    Of course you could, you feckless turd.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — June 26, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

  6. Amazing that you seem to have woken up to the ever closer resemblance of the U.S. to Russia (and China and Turkey and …) only recently.

    Eisenhower recognized how the State was transforming itself and mutating after its extraordinary growth in the Second World War. He tried to stop it and failed (Aaron Friedberg is excellent on this). It’s akin to metastatic cancer. You can’t stop it. Trump couldn’t stop it. Nobody can stop it.

    Yep, it’s the stuff of nightmares and horror movies. So best to sit back, relax and grab the popcorn 🙂

    (And, by the way, it’s not quite accurate to describe the mob on Jan 6 as unarmed. Not cudgels and pitchforks like in the old Frankenstein movies, it’s true, but they did come armed with bear spray and flagpoles which they used to beat cops into submission and hospital. Whatever happened to Blue Lives Matter??!!??)

    Comment by Simple Simon — June 27, 2021 @ 9:45 am

  7. Regulated in 18th century English also meant supplied. Regulated meant equipped as per legal requirements; this was expanded into an organized and unorganized militia. The latter could be called up at any time and it was expected that most would be able to equip themselves. As regards heavy weapons, e.g cannons, private merchant ships usually carried artillery of some sort and could be issued Letters of Marque allowing them to attack and take enemy vessels in time of war. Note these could be issued even when formal war had not been declared. For example the fighting in the West Indies with Republican France in 1797-8-9.

    Comment by Sotosy1 — June 27, 2021 @ 11:17 am

  8. No cops were sent to the hospital by attentions of the crowd on January 6.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — June 27, 2021 @ 1:04 pm

  9. @Christopher Hunt

    It’s quite amazing. Cop shoots unarmed black man in the back. Cop claims he was in fear of his life and people say “Sure! We believe you. Cops good, trustworthy people”

    Capitol cop says he was tasered and beaten on January 6. And people say “Liar!! Fantasist!! Antifa Commie traitor!”

    Hilarious 🙂

    Comment by Simple Simon — June 29, 2021 @ 3:31 pm

  10. @Sotos1. Yes, people repeatedly apply anachronistic definitions to words in the Constitution, especially 2A. The militia was basically conterminous with “the people.” It was the people in arms, and a self-governing people was expected to defend itself against enemies foreign and domestic. The complementarity of this conception with the aversion to standing armies is clear.

    Comment by cpirrong — June 29, 2021 @ 6:13 pm

  11. Putin and the Russian elite explicitly express their veneration of the state above the people?
    I’ll bet that they show far more respect for the common Russian people, than does the regime here.

    Comment by kaishaku — July 3, 2021 @ 3:20 pm

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