Is America in a state of undeclared civil war? Maybe more than one?
An article from The New Republic suggests that Trump's conservative backers see the president as their commander in chief in an undeclared civil war pitting them not just against liberals and America's liberal tradition but also against moderate conservatives - George Will, David Frum and those of their ilk.
The Trump wars are still raging among conservative intellectuals. Indeed, the divide between Never Trump writers and broader pro-Trump conservatives remains as wide now as it was during last year’s elections. In National Review on Tuesday, syndicated columnist Dennis Prager argued that this battle isn’t over the president himself, but competing visions of America. Whereas pro-Trump conservatives “believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake,” anti-Trump conservatives have a less Manichean view of politics.
The great conservative English thinker Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) expounded on the dangers of thinking of political activity as analogous to military life. While war might be necessary, it is a centralizing activity that is inimical to conservatism as Oakeshott understood it.
“War has accustomed the subjects of modern governments to the experience of having their wealth, their property, their occupations, and their activities managed by those in authority,” Oakeshott explained in posthumously published lectures. “It has reinforced all those other circumstances from which the single, independent, centralized powerful government of modern states have sprung. It has been a generator of ‘equality’ more important than any other—the equality of the besieged.” In another set of lectures, he said that the analogy of military leadership “has little or nothing to offer to subjects engaged in enterprises of their own choosing and who are disposed to want to choose their opinions and beliefs for themselves and to change them when they feel inclined to do so.” In Oakeshottian terms, conservatives who see politics as a war led by generals (be it Trump or anyone else) have already lost because conservative virtues of privacy and individualism can’t exist in wartime.
Prager struck a Schmittean note in calling for conservatives to follow Trump into battle, as did Townhall columnist Kurt Schlicter in a Monday tweet declaring war on liberals:
"Why did I (since Cruz dropped out) and still do support President Trump?
Because fuck liberals.
In his response to Prager, Atlantic writer David Frum flipped the wartime metaphor by noting that conservatives have very good reasons to worry about Trump’s Russia policy. Frum tweeted that he did not believe America was facing a civil war. “Meanwhile I fear that those who *do* believe this false claim about their own country are failing to defend America against a foreign threat,” Frum added. “It’s the sin that enabled Vichy: hating your domestic political opponents so much that you collaborate with the foreign invader.” By Frum’s account, pro-Trump conservatives are so consumed by hatred for their domestic foes that they are willing to turn a blind eye to a hostile intervention in an American election by a foreign power.
We win, they lose.
Nothing else matters.
Nothing else matters.
🗡️— Kurt Schlichter (@KurtSchlichter) May 29, 2017"