In January 49 B.C., Julius Caesar and his victorious 13th Legion approached a small river in what is now northern Italy called the Rubicon. Fresh from his conquest of Gaul, Caesar was returning to Rome after eight years in the field—a Rome riven by factions and intrigues and boiling on the edge of its second civil war in 40 years.
The Republic was in peril.
Roman law held that no general could reenter Roman territory under arms, and the Rubicon marked the northern boundary of the Republic. To cross it with a legion was treason. Nevertheless, Caesar didn’t hesitate.
“Alea iacta est”—“the die is cast”—he said as he forded the muddy stream.
Caesar returned home in triumph, routed his domestic enemies at Pharsalus, was proclaimed dictator for life—and was assassinated in the Senate house in 44 B.C. by a group of aristocrats who feared for the future of the Republic.
As the saying goes, history may not repeat, but it sometimes rhymes. Civil divisions—and, often, civil wars—occur when the two sides no longer hold the same values in common, chief among them fidelity to their nation-as-founded.
The Roman civil wars began over which side—the Optimates or the Populares—cared more about the preservation of the Republic (which at that point was nearly half a millennium old), and ended with the destruction of the very thing they were fighting over.
From their fight emerged the Roman Empire.
Such a disruptive fate may now await the United States of America, once again riven by partisan disputes so intense that the future of the nation—and the only empire in sight looking uncannily Soviet or Chinese—is at stake. Since 1972, when George McGovern ran against Richard Nixon, we have been engaged in a Cold Civil War. All that’s lacking now is a provocation—and the media is doing its Pravda-like best to provide one.
Refusing to Concede
Flipping the script, a piece this week in The New York Times, the Democrats’ house organ, discusses a possible scenario in which, after a narrow electoral defeat, candidate Biden simply refuses to concede, citing “voter suppression,” something that hasn’t formally existed since Democrats controlled the ballot boxes in the Deep South.
Democratic politicians have gotten into the act as well. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has opined, without evidence, that Trump will emulate Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and find a way to continue in office indefinitely.
“I feel very strongly that he is Mussolini, Putin is Hitler,” Clyburn said. “I believe very strongly that this guy never had any idea about being one to peacefully transfer power. I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair, unfettered elections.”
This is, of course, rich coming from the party that has for four years refused to accept the results of the 2016 election.
For the record, Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator in the 1930s and ’40s, was a revolutionary socialist so extreme that he was expelled from the Italian Socialist Party in 1914. Many of his socialist colleagues later joined him in the Fascist party, which adopted the old Roman symbol of the fasces—a bundle of sticks emblemizing temporal authority.
Fascism, like socialism, is a movement of the left.
“Bull Connor may be gone, but today, we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans,” said former President Barack Obama, speaking recently at the funeral of Democratic politician and civil-rights movement veteran John Lewis. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.”
Left unsaid was that both Connor and Wallace were—like Obama, Biden, Lewis, and Clyburn—Democrats. But why let history stand in the way of a power grab?
At issue is the essential nature of our Republic. From the moment Trump took office, the Democrats and their media allies have been trying to destroy his administration’s legitimacy.
Hoping to bring him down, they have invented all sorts of “casus belli,” including various sex “scandals,” a Russian-produced “dossier” peddled as legitimate by a corrupt FBI, and an innocuous phone call with a Ukrainian politician that somehow became the basis for an absurd impeachment trial late last year.
Those were political provocations. Now, led by the media commissars at the NY Times, the party of “fundamental transformation” (in Obama’s words from 2008) has turned to destabilizing our culture, attacking America’s basic understanding of itself.
The first shot was the false and defamatory “1619 Project,” a grievance-fueled revenge fantasy that declared, without evidence, that the year the first sub-Saharan African slaves arrived by accident in Virginia was the “real” founding event in American history.
The project was swiftly debunked by scholars of the left and the right, but the damage was done—and it has been lasting. The series claimed that the entire reason for the 1776 Revolution was the maintenance and preservation of African slavery, a lie that the NY Times has only partly walked back, even as it’s been disseminated to classrooms around the country.
It’s also proven to be the propagandistic oxygen that caused George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minnesota to burst into the roaring flame of the Black Lives Matter and Antifa violence.
Alas, as our cities burn and statues topple, the larger culture remains too paralyzed by the bogus assertion of “systemic racism” to effectively fight back. Any resistance is now viewed as “racist.”
In the face of no effective opposition (least of all from the cowardly Republicans), no demand for legal or cultural redress is too audacious, up to and including the abolition of police departments, the elimination of immigration enforcement, and the payment of “reparations” to people who never suffered from slavery personally from people who had nothing to do with it—all based entirely on skin color.
Meanwhile, anyone who disagrees is now subject to “cancellation” by the pitchfork mobs of Twitter. Old writings are unearthed and examined in light of today’s pieties; a stray remark here, and a joke there by a hapless executive there, and corporate jellyfish immediately abandon all pretense of dignity and slither away on the tides.
When Bill Maher, one of the few honest liberals left, inveighs against the “cancel culture,” you know that a line, if not yet a river, has been crossed.
In our current scenario, there’s fortunately no dictator in sight. No matter how the left frets and fulminates against Trump, he’s no more likely to seize power at gunpoint than Casper Milquetoast—although should the cardboard cutout of Joe Biden actually somehow win in November, the potential for radical mischief from his explicitly affirmative-action vice president (who will be the de facto president) shouldn’t be underestimated.
Still, we have our Optimates—the aristocracy of the media, academe, Hollywood—and our Populares, the populist-nationalists led by default by a billionaire New York City businessman.
And battle lines are surely being drawn: left versus right, black and brown versus white, blue states versus red, both coasts versus Middle America, and the American past versus the socialist future that our country’s domestic enemies have planned for us.
The death of Americans’ pride in their country, in its cultural, political, and scientific achievements, and in its moral goodness, has been based on a deliberate, malignant Marxist lie that has been uncoiling here for a century, beginning with the penetration of the America media and parts of the government up through World War II, the transplantation of the Frankfurt School communists such as Herbert Marcuse and their doctrine of “critical theory” to American academe in the postwar period, continuing through the Soviet destabilization of the civil rights movement in the 1960s—and culminating in the socialists’ seizure of the Democratic Party.
And now, here we are, just a few hundred yards from our own Rubicon. Will the winner of the 2020 election be the savior of the Republic, or its destroyer?
Washington, like ancient Rome, nervously awaits.
Michael Walsh is the editor of The-Pipeline.org and the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history from the Greeks to the Korean War, will be published in December by St. Martin’s Press.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.