Within the past couple of years I have become an avid Quora follower of the former Moscow State University-educated Soviet propaganda apparatchik Dima Vorobiev.
Granted, Vorobiev is no red-state conservative populist – far from it – but he does serve up candid views of the late Soviet Union, his part in it, and, even more fascinating, how this legacy continues to play out in post-Soviet Russia and throughout the world.
I found this Quora response especially interesting: How Russia and American views of freedom played out within their respective historical and cultural contexts – and despite both civilizations being essentially blessed with a large, relatively unsettled frontiers into which oppressed individuals could flee exploitation or outright tyranny. As things turned out in Russia, tyranny acquired the means of extending its reach deep into its vast eastern frontier, and, consequently, advancement in Russia historically been defined as the success one has in building literal walls to fend off predators.
Yet, it seems that we in the United States increasingly are cultivating similar practices – but why is that all that surprising given that our elites are now in the practice of staying in power by sowing discord among all the other classes, including even assigning a kind of Kulak classification to the beleaguered white American working class?
They do all of this with the assurance that they can retreat to walled enclaves high in the hills and mountaintops of major U.S. cities and with the full assurance that these walls will be augmented by a formidable array of cutting-edge technologies of robots, drones, sensors and other sophisticated gadgets.
This leads many of us to wonder: How much longer before class aspirations in this country come to resemble those in Russia – when a functional civic society no longer is associated with American success and destiny, when unscalable walls become the chief measure of high status?
This time of year I am invariably reminded of The Wizard of Oz.
You see, during my childhood, we – at least, before the advent of cable, Betamax and VHS – were afforded only a handful of TV stations: CBS-, NBC- and ABC-affiliated local TV stations. Consequently, we were assured of viewing favorite programs – “The Charley Brown Christmas Special,” “Frosty, the Snowman,” and, most significant of all, “The Wizard of Oz” – only once a year.
My parents invariably recalled, far into my adulthood, how I would cry at the end of the “Wizard of Oz,” knowing that a full year would pass before I could view it again. And I can still remember the glee I would feel whenever I spotted one of the early November issues of “TV Guide,” the cover of which typically carried a screen shot from the movie as a teaser for the upcoming broadcast, which invariably occurred on the Sunday evening following Thanksgiving.
Still, despite my sheer fascination with this 1939 classic, I invariably found the last few minutes of the film, when Dorothy and her fellow travelers discover the real nature of Oz, well, rather disappointing and even a bit jarring.
We are exposed all through the film to an entity who seems magical, omnipotent, even godlike, in some respects, only to discover that he was a flim-flam artist from the American Midwest who had employed his wiles and verbal acuity to deceive an entire kingdom.
I was reminded of this childhood reaction reading Victor Davis Hanson’s latest piece on what amounts to the unmasking of the leftist elite class, which once struck millions of ordinary Americans not too long ago as standing at the cusp history – a talented vanguard of this nation’s elite-educated best and brightest who would finally consummate St. Barack’s call for a fundamental transformation of what they regard as a flawed American Experiment.
As Hanson argues so brilliantly, we now have seen the left for what it is: a relatively small legion of weak, immoral, self-serving, sniveling ciphers – not talented or principled people at all, merely mediocre, grasping people not that much different than the mythical Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs, who shortened his name to OZ after it occurred to him that the first letters of his names spelled out “O.Z.P.I.N.H.E.A.D.”
Pinhead, after all, is a self-defeating term for a flim-flam artist with lofty aspirations.
But it’s a term that fits our benighted ruling class pretty well.
The “s” word increasingly is becoming more bandied about in public discourse – and why shouldn’t it? Yes, we really do have to consider several geopolitical threats, notably China, but it is becoming increasingly apparent to growing numbers of American that one size simply doesn’t fit all.
The best alternative would be what some have proposed in Britain to stave off Scottish and conceivably even Welsh secession: the transformation of Britain into a rather loose federation sovereign states, with the central government in Westminster assigned a few all-union responsibilities. It may be that we will undergo a similar debate in this country as the national fabric becomes more frayed.
I’ll not mince words: The Supreme Court, having arrogated to itself a responsibility constitutionally reserved to the states, deserves a lot of blame for the ravaging effects that the abortion issue has had on public discourse. This issue arguably would be a lot less psychologically charged if it had been left to state legislatures to resolve.
I will carry the argument a step further: I contend that the court, by insinuating itself into every facet of American life, has undermined the deliberative capacity of states and localities in many ways. One could argue that this is a symptom of just how impossibly large and unwieldy the federal union has become.
The abortion issue not only has morphed into one of most contentious issues in America but has but also, certainly over the last 50 years, has sparked a considerable divergence of opinion over what exactly defines life.
Moreover, one could make the case that the wide divergence on the issue, which arguably was exacerbated unnecessarily by the Court’s 1973 ruling, also serves to underscore that the Framers were right from the start about country simply being too culturally diverse to be governed centrally.
Within the last century, the court ostensibly has expanded its purview at least partly based on the argument that Congress and state legislatures simply aren’t equipped to resolve such contentious, multifaceted issues. Yet, why should we assume that a court of nine legal specialists is any better equipped to resolve such a complex issue?
Fifty state legislators, comprised of thousands of people who arguably have far more knowledge of local concerns and aspirations of ordinary Americans, strike me as far better equipped to deal with such a damnably and emotional charged issue as abortion.
To re-affirm what I have stated time and again on this forum, I am a Southern nationalist. And if that doesn’t strike the average reader as strange enough, I’ll add that I am the rarest of Southern nationalists: I am one who wants to dispense with the perennial fixation with the Lost Cause and “saving Confederate money” (on the basis that “the South will rise again”). I choose instead to concentrate on the South as it exists today, more specifically, how it has changed during the last 150-plus years.
I have held to this view for the last quarter century, ever since sitting down with 40 distinguished Southerners to organize the rather ill-fated League of the South. Though I was small and marginalized voice among this august group of scholars and writers, I was certain of one thing: that the South would not rise again on the foundation of the Lost Cause, the old Confederacy. I argued instead that whatever merged from meeting should function as both a think tank and clearing house for secessionist and radical decentrist ideals. In fact, I even argued that it was not necessarily in the South’s interests to secede ahead of the other regions or, at the very least, to demand radical autonomy from the rest of the country.
Yes, the South is different enough from the rest of the nation. Yet, even then, such deep cleavages were forming between what is now known as blue and red America that a new constitutional arrangement sooner or later would have to be worked out, not only to resolve this impasse but even to avoid another civil war. And emerging reality essentially would work to free up the South to pursue its own destiny.
I essentially argued that all we had to do was to work assiduously to popularize concepts of neo-secessionism and radical decentralization. The deep cultural and political fissures forming within the country – recall the League organized shortly after the 1994 GOP congressional sweep – essentially would complete the work for us.
It wasn’t to be. There was a handful of diehard Confederate restorationists on hand who would carry the day for the Lost Cause narrative. They believed that the anger welling up over the growing assault on Confederate symbolism and heritage would supply a sufficient center of gravity for a new Southern nationalist movement.
They were proven wrong within the next 5 years.
For my part, I went along with it, albeit rather grudgingly, until 1999. Shortly thereafter, I broke with the League and developed a web presence known as “Home Rule for Dixie!” that made the strong case for the wholesale abandonment of the Confederate restorationist narrative, calling instead for an entirely new approach to Southern self-determination that factored in all the changes that had transpired since the collapse of the Confederacy in 1865.
I argued that there were legions of contemporary Southerners who never would be won over to be Lost Cause narrative but who could be persuaded that the 15 historically cultural Southern states, which included historically Unionist West Virginia, ultimately could be won over to the argument that the South represented the best of what remained of fraying American Republic. It would, over the course of time, constitute the declining Republic’s moral and cultural lifeboat.
The “Home Rule for Dixie!” concept sparked a lot of acrimonious debate in the Southern movement before its effective collapse a few years later. After concluding that my message likely was premature, I abandoned the effort in 2003.
Since the 2016 presidential election, I am now more convinced than ever that such a movement not only is viable but likely foreshadows how events will play out in the future.
One of the nation’s premiere conservative intellectuals, Victor Davis Hanson, apparently shares a similar view. Hanson, a Straussian conservative, believes that the South and the rest of Red America, far from representing the region of the country where Lost Cause rhetoric and animosities still are being nursed, now comprises the well-spring of American values and virtue and possibly even the foundation on which these values will be re-affirmed and renewed. Hanson even goes so far to argue that the “New North” has become the Old South, and the New South the Old North.
It many ways, his argument comes very close to the one I made a generation ago through the “Home Rule for Dixie!” effort.
As Hanson contends, the New North in many ways embodies the racial exclusivity, single-party hegemony and single-crop economies ascribed to the South a half century ago. And amidst all of this, a remarkable sorting-out effect is ensuing in which the South and other red states have begun to bear the hallmarks of a functional America.
As Hanson argues:
It seems that Hanson essentially has arrived at the same conclusion I did a quarter century ago: that the South, despite all its historical blemishes and setbacks, really does represent the most redeemable part of America – truly the most viable part, the moral and political lifeboat.
The South is going to rise again, albeit in a distinctly America form, though embodying those traits that, generally speaking, have set the region apart from the rest of the country: civility and unwavering devotion to faith, family and personal liberty.
I urge every one of the visitors to this site to read Ryan Grimm’s excellent article in The Intercept assessing the recent GOP victories in heretofore blue Virginia.
While you are at it, commit this term to memory: “cultural traditionalists.” This is the segment of voters very likely to comprise the hinge on which American electoral fortunes will turn over the next decade.
Bear in mind, too, that the article, albeit unconsciously on Ryan’s part, confirms some of the points I have struggled to make over the last generation about the future of the South within the larger American cultural and political matrix.
It may come as news, maybe even a shock, to some of my readers, but the fact remains that Abraham Lincoln won – not only the Civil bWar but also the struggle for American identity, certainly in terms of which side of the great political division that emerged during the 1788 constitutional debates would get to impose its indelible mark on this country in how it regards and governs itself and how it defines citizenship.
I have mentioned before that while I chose to label this website within the larger context of American identity, I remain a rather unrepentant Southern nationalist, though, I should stress, a maverick one.
More than a quarter century ago, I attended the founding meeting of the League of the South and was also a founding member of Southern Party as well as author of its inaugural document, the Asheville Declaration.
I don’t regret my initial association with those organizations, though I do possess regret, a deep well of regret, in fact, over the turns both organizations ultimately took. They confused low-hanging fruit for political reality and they have paid an egregiously high price for this tunnel vision.
They cast their lot with a segment of the population that is becoming increasingly more marginalized and even reviled by the national elites: for lack of a better term, Confederate memorialists.
Consequently, the League and the Southern Party effectively have been consigned to political oblivion, banned from social media and figuring prominently on left-wing watch lists, widely regarded, if they are even noticed, by many, if not most, rank-and-file Americans as white nationalist fringe groups.
As I have argued before on this forum, it didn’t have to be this way. The League of the South started out with good intentions. It aspired to function as a reservoir of intellectual talent – a think tank, of sorts – as well as a rallying point for contemporary Southerners interested in articulating a regionalist/nationalist vision for the 21st century.
It was not preordained to travel down the neo-Confederate track, and with twenty-plus years of hindsight, I am more convinced than ever that avoiding this option would have placed both efforts onto a solid political trajectory toward significant success.
The handful of academics who conceived the initial League of the South effort were spot on in one assessment. They perceived even then that the country already was in a parlous state, rife with political and cultural divisions that have since mutated into the intractable impasse that many pundits on both ends of the spectrum now characterize as Civil War II.
They should have capitalized on that; in fact, they should have focused entirely on that. It is now the pink elephant in American life that no one can ignore any longer, not even the so-called Legacy Media. Indeed, the full embrace of this hard reality a generation ago would, certainly by now, have ingratiated the movement with a much wider demographic. They would have occupied moral high ground not all that far removed from Churchill, who had expended so much political capital in the 1930’s warning about the Nazi threat.
Yet, both expended most of their precious political capital for a mess of political pottage – Confederate heritage and restorationism – fretting about heritage violations and dredging up elements of the Lost Cause canon when they should have been concentrating on the here and now, crafting a political vision for the present-day South, one fully cognizant of the changes that have swept over the region over the last 150.
All Southern partisans of whatever ideological stripe must face up to the fact that Lincoln left an indelible imprint on both American and Southern identity and culture – period. There is no getting around that and this forlorn hope of restoring the Confederacy within the defeated 11 Southern states is entirely that – a forlorn hope.
This is why if the South rises again it will occur within a distinctly American context rather than a Confederate one. To express it another way, the South will rise only when enough cultural traditionalists of whatever ideological stripe conclude that the South constitutes the only solid ground on which the American Experiment in self-government and individual liberty can be sustained.
That is why I have advocated for the last 20 years to put Confederate Lost Cause ideology aside and to build a self-determinist movement constructed from the things that define the 21st century South. The success of any future Southern regionalist movement will hinge on his well it articulates and expresses growing concerns about the fissures forming on the country’s cultural and political landscape.
Indeed, success will rest in large measure on how well such a movement assesses and acknowledges the cultural and political change that has swept across the South over the last century and a half. Such a movement will take root and thrive only when millions conclude, however painfully and reluctantly, that the South represents the American Experiment’s only viable cultural lifeboat.
Only on this foundation can we begin to build the elements of a new Southern indentity drawing both from facets of its past as well as the unavoidable realities of its present and future.
Incidentally, Ryan’s article in The Intercept constitutes a very good basis – a primer – for articulating that vision.
I have always been one of those really odd misfits: a partisan Southerner who has always harbored a profound admiration for the firebrands of what is now known as “the Old Right,” those almost exclusively Midwestern and Western political leaders, many of whom identified with Progressivism, who hewed closely to the principles outlined in George Washington’s Farewell Address.
They regarded the United States as an undertaking not only conceived in liberty grounded in the principles of the 18th century Enlightenment but also one sworn to oppose intervention and imperialism at every turn.
America, after all, was the outgrowth of a coalition of sovereign States, former colonies, that had broken free of the most powerful and extended empire in history. It was emerging even in Washington’s presidency as one of the most singular nations in history, one that soon would be regarded as history’s most successful post-colonial enterprise.
Why would these former colonials want to squander it all by building an empire of their own? That essentially was Washington’s reasoning as well as that the Old Right tradition that was most prominent in the years between the two world wars.
I was discussing a similar topic earlier this week with a relative. Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address not only is significant for what it warned about but also how it characterized the United States and how Americans historically have regarded themselves: as a people for which the task of empire-building not only was an entirely new and alien concept but also inimical to Ameican experience and identity.
That is why I read with great interest this article about the protests that spontaneously broke out among American troops in every theater of operation in the months following World War II.
If there is one thing that I have learned through my long reading of history it’s that old habits really do die hard. A burst of revolutionary idealism was released in 1776 and it has never dissipated. And even the Old Right, which many people had assumed had exited the American political arena after the Pearl Harbor attack, has staged a remarkable comeback, certainly within the last 30 years since the Pat Buchanan presidential insurgency.
It is remarkable to think that in two days this seminal world event – the fall of the Berlin Wall marking the collapse of Soviet communism, arguably the greatest event of the last half of the 20th century – will have occurred 32 years ago, though it is now significantly forgotten.
Even more remarkable to me is the fact that a rising generation of Americans led by intellectual nonentities such as Ocasio-Cortez now embrace socialism with opeb arms, despite its being seemingly consigned to the ash bin of history three decades ago.
I recall that day so very long ago as it it were yesterday: As a Cooperative Extension professional I was returning from a visit to South Alabama and stopped off in Montgomery to visit my favorite used bookstore.
NPR was being broadcast on on the store’s sound system. There was talk of some opening of the Berlin Wall, though likely one that would not occur for several weeks. After purchasing a couple of books, I jumped into my little red Nissan truck and sped north up Interstate 85. When I entered the living room my wife was glued to the TV as ecstatic East and West Berliners danced arm in arm atop the Berlin Wall. My jaw dropped. It is a memory I will take to my grave.
Within a year or so of that event, one who emerged as one of the decades most fashionable and preeminent thinkers of the 1990’s, a neoconservative policy wonk named Francis Fukayama, even went to far to argue that the fall of Eastern European socialism served as a confirmation of Hegel’s dialectic – that supple, pro-market liberal democracy represented the end of history, the working out of humanity’s historical contradictions.
To many around the world, the United States, most notably its costly two-generational struggle against global communism, seemed entirely vindicated.
Thirty-plus years later, all this headiness seems so dated. And even more remarkable to me is how American life has come in many respects to closely resemble facets of the old Soviet Union and its Eastern European straps, replete with a nomenklatura that not only brazenly enriches itself but also its sons and daughters – one that even calls out a class of despised Kukaks (i.e., working class whites) as the direst threat to enlightened thought and and what our rulers now blandly describe as “our democratic values.”
In true Soviet fashion, dissidents not only are spied on but even consigned to prisons for months without being served habeas corpus, while a compliant media, on the elites’ behalf, sweep all of this incipient tolitarianism under the rug. And amidst all of this is a disenfranched population of tens of millions of ordinary, fed-up, put-upon people who, much like the Soviet masses decades ago, invent mordant jokes not only about the corruption of their ruling class but also how all of this is covered over by Legacy Media pixie dust
Millions yearn for the day when these corrupt nabobs finally will be served their long-awaited comeuppance – and, quite frankly, why shouldn’t they?
Speaking as one who loves American history, the thought has occurred to me time and again: We have never been as united as we think we are. It was a major concern of the constitutional framers and, apart from a few factors in history that have created the illusion of unity, we remain a very pluralistic polity, culturally and politically, and we simply have to find a way to create new political structures to ensure we remain adequately equipped against geopolitical threats such as China but that also ensure that we don’t end up beating out each other’s brains.
If you have been a frequent reader of this forum, you are likely aware that I have come to describe all what is unfolding in the United States as our very own “Gorbachev moment.” Recall that some 30 years ago the ill-fated refomer of Soviet society? Mikhail Gorbachev tried to negotiate a union treaty to hold things together but events got ahead of him. Boris Yetsin, president the Russian Soviet Republic, signed a compact with his counterparts in Byeloerussia and Ukraine that resulted the breakup of the Soviet state.
As this article attests, we seem to be approaching a similar impasse in the United States, reflected in the growing number of ordinary Americans who express an interest on secession.
For now, our leadership class remains conspicuously silent on the topic of secession. But the inevitable “the Emperor hath no clothes” moment inevitably will arise. Sooner or later, some prominent American, perhaps a governor or senator from either a blue or red state, simply will have to state frankly, “Something’s got to give.”
This is when the facade will crumble.
Then, pehaps, we can hope for some sort of modus vivendi that holds the country together to fend off geopolitical threats, though while ensuring that domestic power is returned to states or, perhaps more realistic, compacts of states, that we can be assured of sufficient insulation from our increasingly malignant and consolidating ruling class.
I have to say that after roughly 30 years of preaching the merits some form of secession, full-fledged or lite, as a solution to this nation’s intractable problems, it’s gratifying to see a growing number of Americans, prominent Americans, including those associated with major cultural institutions, picking up the banner.
The group that has weighed in the most and, well, rather improbably, is the Straussian-inspired Clarement Institute in California. Historically speaking, this institution, in keeping with the ideals of its intellectual guiding light, Leo Strauss, has extolled civic nationalism and generally held up the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, as the architect of this civic nationalist vision.
Given that fact, the Clarement Institute undoubtedly will strike many as an unlikely bearer of neo-secessionism. Yet, in one notable respect, it supplies the perfect impetus for this struggle – first and foremost because it is far removed from any neo-Confederate association.
Allow me briefly to share my own experiences with this. Speaking as one who had been plugged into this movement over the last few decades primarily through paleoconservarive and paleolibertarian connections, I have noticed a rather frustrating, if not appalling, tendency to pursue low-hanging fruit rather to cast a wider net.
The League of the South, originally known as the Southern League, essentially a brainchild of paleocons and paleolibs, set out not only with good intentions but also workable ones. The original intention, or so it seemed to me at the time, was simply to reconstruct a constitutional case for modern secession drawing on the talents of a handful of truly eminent, albeit somewhat obscure, paleocon and paleolib writers and academics.
Granted, they were in for a long slog. Even so, they initially gathered some respectful media coverage and even managed to publish a couple of very thoughtful opinion pieces in major newspapers. A couple of more mainstream columnists, notably George F. Will, even offered a respectable comment or two.
Yet, rather predictably, the League wondered off the reservation – that is to say, the reservation of respectable discourse. The League’s founding in the mid-1990’s corresponded roughly with the raging battle over the display of the Confederate battle flag in public venues, notably the Alabama and South Carolina capitol buildings, as well as the incorporation of battle flag motif into the Georgia and Mississippi flags.
At some point early in its founding, the League’s leadership embraced the Southern Heritage activists. In fact, they embraced them so closely that the League quickly became as inextricably linked with the Lost Cause as any descendant group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy.
I had used my small influence within the ranks to argue against this. We were going after low-hanging fruit when the top priority should have been creating a space within which neosecessionism could be discussed as openly and dispassionately as possible and within as wide an arena as possible – a national arena.
Yet, incredibly, the League was drawn into the daily warp and woof of heritage activism, attracting large numbers of people whose preoccupation almost solely was with the battle flag, which became a virtually endless topic of discussion and obsession. The League would pay an egregiously high price for this shortsightedness.
By the late 90’s an effort was made to break out of this impasse through the formation of a Southern Party, an effort that aimed to be disruptive, namely by advocating peaceful secession as the keystone of its platform, one which, in many ways, incidentally, anticipated the nationalist/Republican agenda of the present day.
Yet, this movement quickly succumbed to heritage activism too.
Following the collapse of the Southern party, I effectively exited the Southern movement and conceived my own alternative idea that was dubbed “Home Rule for Dixie,” one that advocated an entirely different approach to Southern identity and secession. I called for nothing less than the abandonment of neo-Confederate dogma entirely.
As I contended, any new expression of Southern identity and secession not only must be built from the ground up but also on new foundations, actually predominantly American ones. As I and a few others in the Southern movement had realized, most contemporary Southerners, while immensely proud of their region as well as being Southern, simply no longer related to the Old Confederacy in any meaningful way. No, for Southerners, any Americans, for that matter, to be won over to the merits of secession, the arguments would have to be marshaled within a distinctly American context and with the firm assurance that American values, including racial tolerance and good will, would be preserved.
This is why I salute the valiant Claremont Institute. It not only has taken up this banner but has resolved to carry on the struggle within a context and employing language that more Americans can understand.