Hegel said a lot of baffling things, many of which underscore Walter Bagehot’s observation that “in the faculty of writing nonsense, stupidity is no match for genius.”
But every now and then, Hegel nailed it. A case in point, I believe, is his declaration, in “The Philosophy of Right,” that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the coming of the dusk.”
Gnomic? Yes. But we know what he means. Wisdom, insight (aka “the owl of Minerva”) arrives at the end, not the beginning, of our explorations.
Søren Kierkegaard was a ferocious critic of Hegel. But I suspect he would have approved of this apothegm. His own formula—that life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forward—trespasses into the same epistemic territory.
How does this apply to our understanding of the Big Event that is upon us? I mean, of course, the 2020 presidential election.
Everyone, no matter what his political affiliation, is saying that this election is a crossroads. Both sides agree, though they agree about little else, that two radically different visions of America are on the ballot.
For the left—I won’t say “for Joe Biden” because he is only nominally on the ballot—the issue turns on a project of repudiation. Old America—the America of the Founders, the country that championed federalism and strove for the decentralization of power—that country is for them the embodiment of racist, patriarchal, capitalist inequity. It must be destroyed in order to be saved.
For the right, embodied now by Donald Trump, old America is the cynosure. Limited government, ordered liberty, equality of opportunity—these words name ideals to be cherished, not evils to be repudiated.
I believe that most people—most Democratic voters as well as most Republican voters—are unaware of the gulf that separates these two views.
Above all, most people discount the radical, uncompromising nature of the left.
I live in a moderately leafy Connecticut suburb of New York. Most of my neighbors are Democrats. Many sport Biden-Harris signs, laboring under the misapprehension that Biden would be president if he won the election.
Many also sport Black Lives Matter signs, though I know, from information and belief, that they have no clue about the radical nature of that racist, anti-free-market, and explicitly Marxist movement.
These Eloi-like citizens, especially the women and low-testosterone men, hate Trump because he’s crude and (they say) “authoritarian.”
They thrill to wretched articles like one in The New Yorker offering advice on “What Can You Do If Trump Stages a Coup?”
Denying a Trump Victory
Over at The Federalist, Joy Pullmann has gathered a bouquet of this sort of activist porn, in which various Soros-subsidized, black-clad, would-be revolutionaries dream about “mass mobilization” to make sure Donald Trump leaves the White House after the Nov. 3 election.
“Trump has shown that he will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power,” reads one statement. “Trump will not leave office without mass mobilization and direct action.”
Nowhere is any evidence adduced about how Trump has “shown that he will stop at nothing to maintain his grip on power.”
But these groups everywhere declare that they will do “whatever it takes” to remove the bad orange man from the White House.
But what if Trump, you know, actually wins the election?
He can’t. And if he does, it won’t count.
Listen to this statement gathered by Pullmann: “At some point in the days following the election, Trump will almost certainly either attempt to declare outright victory or attempt to invalidate the results of the election. That is the start of the coup.”
So what happens next?
“We need to show that we’re ungovernable under a continued Trump administration. … That can mean blocking traffic at major intersections and bridges, shutting down government office buildings … or blockading the White House.”
But, you again ask, What if Trump wins fair and square?
Super loud siren blast, followed by a full minute of ear-splitting static …
Didn’t you listen? Trump cannot win. If he does, he didn’t. If he says he did, it’s a coup. And how does one respond to a coup? Pullmann quotes from a document that worked up its advice following the direction of the Bill Kristol-endorsed Transition Integrity Project.
“We’ll keep it going until Trump concedes,” they promise. “We could be in the streets throughout the fall and into the winter—maybe as lots of rolling waves of action or possibly as a few major tsunamis! In other parts of the country, as vote counts conclude, our focus will turn from protecting the vote counts to themselves being ungovernable.”
Sound like fun? There’s more.
“As it becomes clear that Trump’s coup is failing, institutions and the elites will start to abandon him – or we will approach them as part of the problem. Either Amazon will shut down AWS for the Trump loyalists in the government or we’ll shut down their fulfillment centers. Either governors will tell their National Guards to stand down or we’ll shut down their state capitals as well. Over time, Trump will grow increasingly isolated and his empire will crumble down around him.”
But if Trump Wins
To be frank, I don’t think this will happen.
I think Trump will win on Nov. 3 (or shortly thereafter, after the fraudulent votes have been sorted through) and that the people writing this sort of thing will go nuts.
Then police will arrest some scores of activists and the hangers-on will be frightened and discouraged and trudge home grumbling about how unfair life is.
It won’t be the end of Trump Derangement Syndrome. That’s bred in the bones of these folk. But a goodly amount of air will have been let out of that party favor.
The exact lineaments of what awaits us are unclear. We have to live our lives forward, after all. But soon enough, we’ll be in a position to make that sweeping backward glance. The owl of Minerva will do her thing.
If Trump loses on Nov. 3, he’ll leave office on Jan. 20, as ordained by the Constitution. The country will then be in the hands of the radical left and we’ll come to know firsthand what authoritarian tyranny is really like.
But if, as I expect, he wins, there will be much wailing and gnashing of liberal teeth, but widespread peace and prosperity will dull the pain and transform the anguish into the guilty pleasure of histrionic self-indulgence.
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “Who Rules? Sovereignty, Nationalism, and the Fate of Freedom in the 21st Century.”
The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. As a nonpartisan public charity, The Epoch Times does not endorse these statements and takes no position on political candidates.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.