Commentary: Angelo Codevilla and Revolutionary Logic

by George Rasley


In 2010, Claremont Institute Senior Fellow Angelo Codevilla reintroduced the notion of “the ruling class” back into American popular discourse. In 2017, he described contemporary American politics as a “cold civil war.”

Now in an essay “Our Revolution’s Logic that should be a wake-up call to every conservative in America Codevilla applies the “logic of revolution” to the escalating “Resistance” to the results of the 2016 election and says its sentiments’ spiraling volume and intensity have eliminated any possibility of “stepping back.”

The 2018 Congressional elections are the Democratic “Resistance” strategy’s first major test. Regardless of these elections’ outcome, however, this “resistance” has strengthened and accelerated the existing revolutionary spiral says Prof. Codevilla.

In an erudite review of Thucydides’ account of Corcyra’s revolution in 427 BC, the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War, Codevilla outlines a paradigm of revolutionary logic and elucidates the striking parallels with today’s American political dynamics.

Revolutions, says Codevilla, turn upon the logic of mutual hate that drives them, and on their consequences, and the consequences for constitutional liberty are already driving us away from our constitutional republic’s essence:

The American republic’s essence had been self-restraint toward fellow citizens deemed equals. The Constitution of 1787 had been its paradigm. Under its words and by its laws, Americans had enjoyed safety and predictability for themselves and their way of life. But Progressives’ subordination of the Constitution, laws, and institutions to their own purposes and for their own primacy ended all that. The rest of America’s increasing realization that only fire can fight fire has followed naturally.

Prof. Codevilla is pessimistic about the future because a majority of Americans now no longer share basic sympathies and trust, because they no longer regard each other as worthy of equal consideration, the public and private practices that once had made our Republic are now beyond reasonable hope of restoration. Strife can only mount until some new equilibrium among us arises.

And here, in Codevilla’s analysis, is why the continuation of our current revolution is inevitable and unavoidable:

The logic that drives each turn of our revolutionary spiral is Progressive Americans’ inherently insatiable desire to exercise their superiority over those they deem inferior. With Newtonian necessity, each such exercise causes a corresponding and opposite reaction. The logic’s force comes not from the substance of the Progressives’ demands. If that were the case, acquiescing to or compromising with them could cut it short. Rather, it comes from that which moves, changes, and multiplies their demands without end. That is the Progressives’ affirmation of superior worth, to be pursued by exercising dominance: superior identity affirmed via the inferior’s humiliation. It is an inherently endless pursuit.

The logic is rooted in disdain, but not so much of any of the supposed inferiors’ features or habits. If it were, the deplored could change their status by improving. But the Progressives deplore the “deplorables” not to improve them, but to feel good about themselves. Hating people for what they are and because it feels good to hate them, is hate in its unalloyed form.

And, Codevilla notes that, while this Progressive superiority is strongest among Democrats, it has its roots, not just in the Democratic Party, but in “a remarkably uniform, bipartisan, Progressive ruling class; that it includes, most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials; that it had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society, whose commanding heights it monopolized; above all that it has contempt for the rest of America, and that ordinary Americans have no means of persuading this class of anything, because they don’t count.”

Editor’s note: It is our view that among Republicans the most perfect example of this phenomenon is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

The 2016 election’s primaries, concluded Prof. Codevilla, were all about the American people’s search for means of de-throning increasingly insufferable rulers. Even on the Democratic side, many bridled at their self-serving unaccountability.

But since the Democrats are the party of government, it was clear that protection from and vengeance against the existing power structure would have to come from the nominal opposition party.

Yet, as we say almost daily, the Republicans were very much part of the problem. That is why 2016’s real struggle took place within the Republican primaries, the most enduringly significant fact of which is that Jeb Bush, the candidate most closely identified with the Progressive ruling class, spent some $150 million and secured only three convention delegates. Americans in general, and Republicans in particular, were looking for the polar opposite.

Codevilla says Donald Trump was out of central casting—seemingly a caricature of what the ruling class said about its opponents. But his angry contempt for the ruling class is what got him the chance to be the alternative to the ruling class. And that is what got him elected President of the United States.

Brevity demands that we but summarize Prof. Codevilla’s review and analysis of the post-election “Resistance” to the Donald Trump presidency – but its facts are all too well-known; the attempt to destroy Brett Kavanaugh being only the most recent and vile example of Progressives’ transgression of the traditions and mores that made America work since the last Civil War.

Two things stand out in the conclusionary sections of Our Revolution’s Logic.

First, the revolutionary import of the ruling class’ abandonment of moral and legal restraint in its effort to reverse election results cannot be exaggerated. Sensing themselves entitled to power, imagining themselves identical with legitimacy, those general laws to which all alike can look for salvation in adversity—here the US Constitution and ordinary civility—are small stuff to them.

Second, Partisan dirty tricks are unremarkable. But when networks within government and those who occupy society’s commanding heights play them against persons trying to unseat them, they constitute cold civil war against the voters, even coups d’etat. What can possibly answer such acts? And then what?

If Prof. Codevilla is right, that the US Constitution and ordinary civility—are small stuff to our Progressive opponents, and it is hard to argue that he is not, we think the logical answer to the question “And then what?” may be found in our article, “Where’s John Brown When We Need Him?”

Today, conservatives and other peaceful normal Americans find themselves in much the same position as Free-Soil settlers found themselves in Kansas in the years 1856 to 1858: Our homes and businesses are under attack, we are harried in public, we are violently attacked by politically motivated killers, our media and communications are destroyed, and government officials seem powerless to defend us or in some cases are even leading the attacks.

Today, as the violence against Republican elected officials and their supporters escalates it seems all our leaders are prepared to do is to once again counsel turning the other cheek, making me wonder, as John Brown did, where’s the leader who will fight back?

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George Rasley is editor of Richard Viguerie’s and is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns. A member of American MENSA, he served on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, as Director of Policy and Communication for Congressman Adam Putnam (FL-12) then Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, and as spokesman for Rep. Mac Thornberry now-Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Image “Angelo Codevilla” by The Cleremonte Institute.










Reprinted with permission from

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