There’s no such thing as a “popular” revolution.
Indeed, since the Opposite Rule of Liberalism never fails, you can be sure that the louder the Revolutionaries talk about The People, the higher up the food chain they, the Revolutionaries, actually are. Pick any “people’s” movement you like. Just off the top of my head, you’ve got Mao, Kim, and Lenin (sons of the minor nobility or equivalent); Castro and Che (failed law student and failed medical student, respectively); Abimael Guzman (philosophy professor; of course his movement was psychopathically violent even by Communist standards); all the way back to Marx and Engels themselves (a failed philosophy professor from a long line of rabbis and the son of a factory owner, respectively). Hell, take it all the way back to the first true Revolutionary, Oliver Cromwell — he talked a good game about the rights of Englishmen, did that descendant of Henry VIII’s chief minister, but he ended up as England’s first military dictator since the Romans ran the place….
But that’s boring, because we’ve seen the same show far too many times. The interesting ones are the so-called “conservative” revolutions — the ones by the Elite, for the Elite, against another segment of the Elite, in the name of the Elite. So far as I know, there have been only three of them: The two American Revolutions (1775-1783 and 1861-5), and the Meiji Restoration. Let’s focus on the Second American Revolution, as it’s the most relevant to our times.
They don’t teach it this way in college (for obvious reasons), but the Civil War was a revolt of the Elites. Put polemically, but not unfairly, The American People were offered four choices for President in 1860:
- tacitly pro-slavery;
- fanatically pro-slavery; or
- fuck you.
These were embodied by John Bell, Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and Abraham Lincoln, respectively, but the names on the tickets really didn’t matter, because it all boiled down to two options: Some flavor of politics as usual, or fuck you. And here’s the important part: The vast, vast majority of the country voted for politics as usual. “Fuck you” got 39.82% of the vote, which by my math means that 60% of a country that would soon be conducting the largest military mobilization yet seen in the history of warfare wanted things to keep going as they were.
In fact, it’s worse than that. As much as I hate to credit him with anything, Barack Obama was right — He truly was a Lincolnesque figure, in that Lincoln was vague to the point of incoherence about his origins, aims, and platform, too. A vote for Lincoln wasn’t a vote for disunion; it was a thumb in Dixie’s eye, no more. In other words, it was a vote to put the ball in the South’s court — an electoral-college version of the double dog dare. We voted for “none of the above,” pro-slavery people, now whatcha gonna do about it?
We know the answer — they haven’t yet forbidden us from teaching the fact that secession happened sorta-kinda-quasi democratically — but for obvious reasons they don’t teach that the secession conventions were all rigged in favor of the fire-eaters, and even then the motions barely passed. Which, again, means that “politics as usual” was nearly the default position of guys specifically summoned to discuss ending politics as usual. If you want to say that the Civil War was started by about twenty guys nobody’s ever heard of, with names like “Louis T. Wigfall” and “Laurence M. Keitt,” you won’t hear much argument from me.
Since this is the Internet, and therefore the merest mention of the Unpleasantness of the Mid-19th Century makes everyone lose their shit, I’ll spell out my point: Though the Great National Divorce was already well advanced by 1860, and most Americans, North and South, were spoiling for a nasty custody fight, it took lots of detailed, coordinated action by a group of fanatically dedicated Elites to actually get it started. Guys like Maxcy Gregg, who wanted secession specifically so he could go kill him some Yankees, and Edmund Ruffin, who actually fired the first shot at Ft. Sumter.
And since ditto, I’ll further elaborate: This isn’t some alt-history, neo-Confederate fantasy about the CSA peacefully coexisting with the Yankee Empire. The fight was gonna happen, and it was gonna be nasty no matter what (the phrase “nasty custody fight” is redundant; there’s no other kind). But the specific form the fight took, its precise timing, was almost entirely due to the conscious, deeply cogitated decisions of specific men….
…..the very men who had the most to lose if their decisions turned out to be wrong. Sound like anyone we know?
History’s second rep is always a farce, remember? Just like in 1860, it won’t be the Republicans who start the shooting. It won’t be The People, and it sure as hell won’t be the “Alt-Right,” or whatever we’re calling it now, who when it comes to action are far less real and effective than the Ineffectual Dork Web crowd they so love to mock. It’s the other guys who will do it — the entrenched Elite, the people with everything to lose, who will for some unfathomable reason stake everything they have on the outside chance of getting a little more. Slap a big fire-eater beard on Peter Strzok — there’s your modern Wigfall, Keitt, Ruffin, whatever. The Opposite Rule of Liberalism, remember? I’m not at all worried that Trump will launch a bloody coup if he loses the 2020 election; I’m terrified that Joe Biden will.Loading Likes...