Come the Revolution
Rockwell: Good morning, this is the Lew Rockwell Show. And it’s so great to have as the guest of honor, Professor Angelo Codevilla. Professor Codevilla received his PhD at Claremont University. He was born and raised in Italy. He’s the author of 13 books and numerous articles. He’s a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. He is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, and was a visiting professor at Princeton and Georgetown, and he was a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Professor, in 2017, you described contemporary American politics as a cold civil war. Now in your most recent article, you applied the logic of revolution to our current political scene. Can you tell us about that?
Codevilla: Well, look, a revolution happens when people are unwilling or incapable of living as they had. And this certainly applies to this country. There is no more constituency, no more majority constituency anyway for living the way that we have lived for the past 200 years. Primarily because the left has decided that they belong to a superior category of human beings and the rest of us belong to an inferior category of human beings who are not to be treated as human beings. We’re to be treated as, at best, dangerous, benighted, sick folks to be reeducated but certainly not to be accorded equal rights. And so by Newtonian logic, actions engender reactions, and the rest of America has taken note and is saying, well, no, we won’t go along with that. So you’ve got no longer politics by persuasion; you’ve got politics by motivation or one’s fellows, one’s friends against one’s enemies. And that is a nasty spiral. God knows where it will end up.
Rockwell: When I occasionally watch CNN or MSNBC or I listen to NPR, they really seem to hate the rest of us. I mean, they really seem to despise us.
Rockwell: And it’s quite something.
Codevilla: Yes. Well, it’s got nothing to do with Trump. I mean, it’s us that they dislike.
Rockwell: We’re the deplorables.
Rockwell: And they certainly deplore us.
Codevilla: They deplore us, yes, yes. And the point is not to reform us or, no, it’s to take a certain amount of pleasure and satisfaction in deploring others. This is of course, unfortunately, very, very human. But it does have very nasty consequences.
Rockwell: I have a friend who used to be a leftist and he went through Yale as a leftist. And he said the greatest thing about being a leftist is that you know you’re always morally superior.
Rockwell: No matter what decision you make, no matter what you do in life, you’re morally superior.
Codevilla: That’s right. Well, that’s really what it’s all about. And those who don’t get that don’t get what is really going on. This is not about policy. It’s not about what are you going to spend on this or on that, or what are you going to do about this or what are you going to do about that. No, this is about us versus them; them versus us.
Rockwell: And they are a nasty bunch.
Codevilla: They are a nasty bunch. They see no reason to be anything else. And they learned this. This is not something that can be turned off by some leader’s decision. This is not about Bernie Sanders or, you know, Nancy Pelosi or anybody of the sort. This is something that two generations at least have learned in college. They don’t question it. And so more and more people who would otherwise not think quite like that, somebody, say, like Hillary Clinton, who is just essentially an oligarch, or just as we saw yesterday, Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, saying that unless the lady from Atlanta wins that election, why the election is illegitimate. Oh? Where did he get that? Well, very simple, he got that from the fact that his constituency likes that. And so he’s going to give them what they want. It’s not a matter of a decision anymore. This is out of the hands – this is the point I’m trying to make – this is out of the hands of individuals. This is a movement which has its own dynamic.
Rockwell: It does seem like even if some of the Democrats in Congress are not entirely crazy or evil, they’re pushed by their constituents.
Codevilla: Yes, yes, yes.
Rockwell: I don’t mean their constituents in the normal sense but pushed by the Resistance to undertake all these things.
Codevilla: Yes. They are, in fact, their constituents. The Resistance is their constituency. And, again, it’s not a matter of choice on their part. Now, they’re going to profit, just as is happening with Amazon and New York and Virginia is emblematic of how these things work out on a certain level. After all, Communism never was anything about equality. It was about the party, getting the goods for itself and for their friends. So this has nothing to do with any gauzy ideology. The ideological part is hatred. But the result of course is oligarchy, which is of course what the Soviet Union was. And it’s not turning out any different here, you know. You’ve got your hate on one side and the beneficiaries of the hate on the other.
Rockwell: How much of , what was actually the truth about the Soviet Union, have we adopted here?
Codevilla: Well, yes, look, there’s a logic to the way human beings behave. Human beings will find a reason for considering themselves better than others and then they will profit from it. These are not monks. They are folks who enjoy money and all of the things that money can buy, privacy, and – this is an old story.
Rockwell: You know, it doesn’t seem like the ruling class has always been like this. What happened? I mean, how did they — to the extent they have adopted all of this, to what extent? Why did they do it?
Codevilla: Well, the American ruling class of course –
Codevilla: — was always very different. This was a literally diverse bunch of people who had earned their keep in different ways and had different ideas about the world. But then came along the post-1950s educational system, very, very uniform, and it educated a class in a very uniform manner. And it gave them catnip: You are the best, you are the best and the brightest, and all of the others are inferior to you. Well, that’s an easy set of precepts to take. I really am good, huh? I really am virtuous. Look at how un-racist I am and how racist everyone else is.
I remember being in college – I was in college right after coming from Italy and I really did not understand America very well. I came to understand it. When people were going down to – some folks at Rutgers – by the way, that was a good school years ago.
Codevilla: Went down to Mississippi for the civil rights movement and what I noticed is they came back full of themselves. And I said, well, maybe it isn’t that they like the negro so much; maybe they like themselves more. This is about themselves and feeling superior to the rest of us. And anyway, this was something that I could see as an outsider that these people were simply doing these things to feel better about themselves, vis a vis, their fellow man.
Rockwell: It wasn’t just at the elite universities. It was pretty much throughout all of American higher education.
Codevilla: Yes. Of course, stuff starts at the top, you know. Everything starts at the top. You know, of course some people go to Harvard and never get over it. But then –
Codevilla: But then there are people who didn’t go to Harvard and who wish they had. And they’re even worse.
Rockwell: Do you see any hope?
Codevilla: Sure. Sure. I mean, look, the nice thing about the United States, one of the many nice things about the United States of America is literally diversity. I mean, American history is full of people who dissented and then simply went off and did their own thing. Now you do have that in this country. There is a whole subculture, a growing subculture of homeschooling, for example. And as a college professor, I noticed just how superior homeschooled kids were in my classes. I mean, these were the live wires. These were awake. The others sort of slept through things and wanted their grades. These kids were eager to learn and were alive. So there’s a whole subculture of that. And there’s a religious subculture in this country.
Now, you know, the question is: What happens then? Who prevails over the long run? All of these people, these conservative dissenters do reproduce. The others abort. Nobody can foretell the future but, you ask for hope, and the hope, I believe, is in America’s tradition of diversity.
Rockwell: I was working as a congressional staffer the last time they tried to abolish homeschooling.
Codevilla: Oh, yes.
Rockwell: And there was such an unbelievable uproar from the American people that they stopped it.
Codevilla: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
Rockwell: And I’m sure they would still like to abolish homeschooling but they can’t actually do it.
Codevilla: Right, right.
Rockwell: So there’s a great sign of hope.
Codevilla: Well, there is. I mean, people are fleeing the ordinary educational system as best they can, as fast as they can. Again, I grew up in a highly structured educational system, which at the time, by the way, was very, very, very good in Italy. In America, there was kind of a total lack of standards. And at first I thought, gosh, this is awful. But if you think about it, it’s not nearly so bad because it allows those who — it allows certain water to seek its own level. People who wanted to slide, well, they could slide, and they can get their grades and be meaningless and dumb and useless. And those who want to excel, well, they can excel. Nothing stands in their way. All they have to do is not pay attention to what’s going on with the others.
Codevilla: So, yes, there’s plenty of hope. And, again, it has to do with the American tradition of freedom. And if you don’t like the way things are done here, well, you go off and do them differently. There’s an extra cost of course involved but we are wealthy enough to bear those costs.
Rockwell: Certainly when it comes to one’s children, one is willing to bear the cost.
Codevilla: Right. Again, there are those who are willing to do it and they will turn out a certain kind of kid. And there are those who are not and they’ll turn out a different kind of kid. You know, so you do have a separation, which, by the way, for better or worse, or for better and worse, really does mean a kind of clash of different kinds of people in this country. And perhaps the political solution is some kind of federalism as it was originally meant to be. You can call it secession. And you say, well, that’s not good. Well, no, of course not. But it beats civil war, especially this kind of civil war, which would be worse than the last kind. Because in the last kind, people respected each other. Now what you’ve got is mutual disrespect.
Rockwell: And mutual hatred.
Codevilla: And mutual hatred, yes. You didn’t have the hate back then. You had people who fought each other and, you know, were socially friends. What’s going on now is more than political enmity, it’s deeply personal, and that’s very, very, very regrettable.
Rockwell: In the next presidential election, do you think that a looser federation is possible?
Codevilla: God only knows. It depends on who wins. It depends on who wins, of course. You have to have – and how enlightened. I don’t know whether Trump will run or not. I mean, he may very well say, well, I’ve done my thing and I’ve won, America is great again, and so I leave. But Trump or any particular candidate on either side is less relevant than the consensus on each side. And what hasn’t fully happened yet is — the original party, the Democratic Party, is fully in the hands of a revolutionary faction that understands what it’s doing as revolution.
Codevilla: By the way, I suggest anyone who has any doubts about how well-thought-out this revolutionary departure is, there’s a book published by a fellow by the name of Thompson, who is the CEO of the “New York Times,” and the title of the book is, “Enough Said.” And it goes on and on about truth, about the responsibility for truth, truth, truth, truth. And then at the end, it says, but of course the truth is that Michael Brown was murdered by the police and so forth. You know, things that are obviously, obviously, obviously false, and he knows them perfectly well to be false. So what is he doing? He’s saying much what the folks on the left said during the Kavanaugh hearings: Look, this man is guilty of this and that and that. Why? Not because he did any of these things but because we say so. Truth “R” us. Truth is us. And certainly the Republican Party has not begun to recognize what kind of a fight it’s in, that they’re dealing with people who posit a universe in which they are the masters, period.
Rockwell: I think Ann Coulter pointed this out – that the Democrats seem to be winning a lot of seats after the election was over and the Republicans, by and large, are pretty silent, except maybe in Florida.
Codevilla: Well, yes, and in the most egregious cases. Why? Why are they doing it? Because there are all sorts of people out there who believe that they are morally entitled to cheat on elections. It’s the right thing to do.
Rockwell: When they do it, it’s not cheating.
Codevilla: No, no. It’s the right thing to do. Why? Well, because the rest of us are so awful. We can’t be allowed to do these things, whereas, they are not only allowed but mandated to do these things. And it’s not one or two or three or four or five or 10 people. It’s a whole bunch of people.
Rockwell: Yes. Your diagnosis is impressive and correct, I must say.
Codevilla: Well, I wish it weren’t.
Rockwell: No. It’s great to have you on the show. And as always, you give us a lot to think about and a lot to try to achieve in opposition to these people. So thank you very much, and keep writing, keep speaking and keep teaching us.
Codevilla: All right. Well, thank you for having me and best of luck to you.
Rockwell: Thank you, sir.
Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).
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