In an America that was a few Cabinet members away from a coup, we remain slow to recognize what revolutionary times look like. Many still spend time on Twitter pointing out the latest mainstream media double standard or the ludicrous spectacle of Pelosi and Schumer wearing kente cloth scarves. As if by pointing out these foibles we’ll return to some shared version of fairness or commonality. The flagship newspaper of the United States embarked on a campaign to radically redefine American history, quite literally to rebrand and misdate our founding. If you are ever unsure about how far down the rabbit hole we are, come back to that fact.
Long term we’ll need to grapple with what it means to no longer have an objective media and confront the grim prospects for our body politic. We’ve got a number of other governing crises we’ll need to tackle as well, here at the beginning of our roaring twenties. But in the short term, as left-wing political violence again takes center stage and left-led territorial uprisings and mob action again rock our country, we must instead clearly focus on the risks between now and the end of the year.
The unstudied and unreported on wave of leftist populism that swept our country over the past decade is now surprising us. Now that they’ve hit our streets they receive not coverage, but cover, from both major news networks and senior politicians. Those governors and mayors are deliberately tolerating, and sometimes encouraging, a lawlessness we haven’t seen in modern times. These politicians are smart people, with two specific aims: 1) achieving the ends the ballot box could not provide, and 2) further subverting the allegiance of their constituents away from traditional authority and towards a cruder form of justice that will see policing, courtroom verdicts, and Republican-led administrations as illegitimate. We are staring down a legitimacy crisis before we even get to November.
Words like “occupy” and “resistance” matter but lest you fear civil war, you shouldn’t, not yet. It’s disunion you should fear and what many are pushing towards, whether they are aware of it or not. In the immediate term, into the vacuum left by legitimate authority will be counter-organizing efforts, those pushed too far by the widespread and illegal sacking and destruction of our historical symbols. Americans around the country are asking themselves: what statues or historical symbols am I not willing to let the mob tear down? Which monument am I willing to stand against the zealots and be group-assaulted on YouTube for? And how many of my friends feel the same way?
By refusing to recognize and deploy legitimate authority, this process of retributive violence goes in only one direction. A generation of radicals has decided our institutions are no longer deserving of their respect. That does not bode well for our internal stability come November, but even before then we should understand this moment in part as an advance signaling that the radicals won’t accept another four years of a Trump presidency, no matter what the people’s will is. Replacement or revolt.
This isn’t a Cultural Revolution, as many are saying. The Cultural Revolution already occurred. What comes next is the scary part.