Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Since the election of Donald Trump the “partisan divide” has escalated into a “Civil War,” according to many commentators. “The Fight for Washington” headlines a PJ Media column. The _New York Times_’ Thomas Friedman says Trump’s election was a political “Pearl Harbor.” The intelligence community is rumored to be at “war” with Trump. Progressive Democrats have organized a “Resistance,” as though their party is occupied France during World War II.
Apart from the hyperbole, such descriptions are essentially right. The problem is, too many Republicans don’t know they’re in a war.
That’s because many establishment politicians and pundits still cling to fantasies of “bipartisanship,” “civility,” “decorum,” “good manners,” and the “rules of good behavior.” Senators obsess over upholding “Senate tradition” and its sacred “rules,” and they miss their cloakroom bonhomie and gym-locker joviality with their Democrat counterparts. They bemoan the “partisan divide” and the failure to “reach across the aisle.” They agree with Obama minion Cass Sunstein, who has a new book out decrying what he calls “partyism,” a psychological disorder almost as bad as “racism.”
They all should be made to read the history of democracy starting with ancient Athens, and then write out Madison’s Federalist 10 a hundred times on the blackboard. A country as diverse as America has always been divided into “factions” whose “passions and interests” conflict with those of other factions, often creating a zero-sum conflict. To paraphrase Plato, every faction is by nature at war with every other faction, and peace is just a word.
Moreover, empowering the common people whatever their levels of education or social mores means free political speech will be anything but decorous or good-mannered. As Aeschylus said, “Free men have free tongues.” More typical of traditional democratic political speech is the vile description of Thomas Jefferson by a disgruntled writer Jefferson had hired to smear his rival John Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character.” The vengeful journo called Jefferson a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
The “decorum” and “civility” ritually praised by Republicans are the political version of the disastrous ROE’s that have cost the lives of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve watched for years as the Republicans fought by Marquess of Queensbury rules while the Dems donned brass knuckles and swung blackjacks. While some of our Senators fretted over “traditions of the Senate” and lost “bipartisanship,” Don Obama and his Luca Brasi Harry Reid filled the Senate chamber with legislative IEDs––Obamacare, now circling the drain; an $800 billion “stimulus” that spent from half a million to four million dollars on each job it created; the job-killing Dodd-Frank regulatory hydra that so far has cost $36 billion, and record-setting deficits and debts. All the while our country’s economy stagnates and our enemies and rivals flourish at the expense of our security and interests. And these Republicans still wonder how Donald Trump bested 14 Republican primary rivals and defeated the Democrats’ off-brand Eva Peron?
Then there are the “fifth columnists,” those NeverTrump Republicans of such lofty and pure principle that, like David Niven in The Bridge on the River Kwai, they will give cover and support to the enemy’s skullduggery and attacks. There’s Bill Kristol, saying if the choice is between the “deep state” and Trump, “prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” Sure, Bill, keep the country in the hands of an anonymous, unaccountable cadre of unionized saboteurs in bed with the progressives, and then wonder why our freedoms are being eroded, our economy bankrupted, and the Constitution shredded by tyrannical technocrats.
Or how about John McCain giving a speech in Germany. He makes an analogy between Trump and Hitler by mentioning Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, part of the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. “What would von Kleist’s generation say,” McCain intoned, “if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all too familiar for them. And they would be alarmed by it.” That vicious and historically ignorant comparison will get McCain a pat on the head from the DNC, Slate, Media Matters, the Times, and the Post, who will laud his “principle” and “statesmanship,” and then take him to the political cleaners, just as they did when he ran against their messiah in 2008.
And what would a war be without propaganda, disinformation, and hoaxes, the equivalent of World War I atrocity stories about bayoneted babies in Belgium. You can’t keep up with the litany of fake news emanating from the Dem’s P.R. firm, otherwise known as the mainstream media. Here’s a recent doozy: according to the AP and other media, Trump was set to order 100,000 National Guardsmen to round up illegal aliens. Not true. But the big prize goes to the disinformation surrounding the attack on ex National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and the suggestions that, as The New York Times headline screamed, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” This despite the _Times_’ own admission, buried deep in the story, that no evidence existed to support the smear in the headline. And by the way, the FBI has no plans to further investigate Flynn.
That information didn’t stop the Dems and their media flunkeys from saying these ginned up “scandals” were “bigger than Watergate” ––the same exaggeration used about Trump’s raucous pummeling of the media during his recent press conference. The best-in-show award for media lapdog hypocrisy, though, goes to Dan Rather, who called Trump’s performance a bigger “Constitutional crisis” than Watergate. Yes, the same Dan Rather, who was caught reporting a fake document about George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service a few months before the 2004 election, and was fired by an embarrassed CBS. These purveyors of preposterous propaganda remind me of the comical “Baghdad Bob,” the Iraqi press officer who during the second Iraq War claimed in televised reports that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of a smashing victory even as American tanks were a few hundred feet from his cameras.
Despite such obviously fake news, Flynn was still brought down in part by the anonymous “insurgents” and “secret agents” infesting the national security bureaucracies. They leaked the classified information that was used to create a miasma of innuendo and smears that the media exploited. Along the way, the real big story was ignored: classified intelligence was willingly leaked to reporters––a felony punishable by ten years in prison––all for professional and political payback. Even more frightening is the evidence that intelligence agency employees colluded in a campaign of “disinformation” more typically used against a foreign enemy. Which, of course, Donald Trump is in the minds of the progressive party faithful, as were George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon before him.
The cliché attributed to Trotsky is still true: The Republicans may not be interested in war, but war is interested in them. Their serial failure to recognize they were at war with progressives is why Donald Trump got elected––“He fights,” as Lincoln answered when asked why he appointed the scruffy, hard-drinking U.S. Grant the Commanding General of the army. So now their strategy should be simple: “We win, they lose,” as Reagan said of the Cold War.
Right now we have perhaps the best chance ever to roll back the century-long dismantling of the Constitution and its protection of individual freedom, a vigorous civil society, and the sovereignty of the states. If Republicans blow it because they don’t want to get their hands dirty by fighting like progressives, they will end up where Thomas Jefferson correctly predicted he’d put the Federalists: “an abyss from which there shall be no resurrection.” And they’ll take the rest of us with them.