Dennis Prager and the Coming of Civil War 2

Certainly, we might say that our society is in a political crisis—the transfer of power following our recent election may have been the least smooth such transition since 1861. How we describe this crisis will only become more important over time since it will be up to the brave among us to confront it. The question is, are we in Civil War 2? Of course, this question has to be considered in two forms: first, is the crisis such that it can accurately be characterized as a “war,” and second, even if such a characterization is accurate enough, is it prudent? That is, would characterizing the crisis as a “war” be beneficial toward the end of a favorable resolution?

One of my favorite things about Conservative radio host Dennis Prager is that he is not only satisfied to describe the crisis as a nonviolent civil war, but he is stubborn about doing so. Indeed, he devoted a recent column to the subject that started something of a national dialogue among Conservatives. He followed this with a response in National Review to his critics. One critic, Michael Lucchese, had a writing in The Federalist, which Prager brought to my attention by having him on his radio show—Michael Lucchese—and it is their general debate that will be considered here.

Washington and Political Factions

Lucchese seems to think that he has an ace in the hole in the person of George Washington and reminds us of his warnings against faction in his Farewell Address. For Washington, faction is what gives rise to charismatic demagogues and endangers the Union. But Lucchese seems to take Washington literally, whereas he should take him seriously. Lucchese notes that “since the days of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, American politics have been divided between the Right and the Left,” but Lucchese doesn’t tell us that those days date back prior to Washington’s Farewell Address to when Hamilton & Jefferson were both in Washington’s cabinet. Even Washington picked sides: one of my favorite things about his presidency is that he was able to transcend his Southern origins and support Hamilton’s various reforms and proposals—earning enough vicious rhetoric for himself from the Jeffersonians.

And so a serious reading of Washington’s Farewell Address should see the warnings instead as a prediction. In fact, Washington didn’t want to serve a second term as president and one reason he chose to continue was that he became convinced that his presence in the highest office would give the new government its best chance to delay the brewing political turmoil while it got on its financial feet. A literal reading of his speech tells us that a commitment to the Union and the Constitution and laws are the best antidote to the evils of faction—however a serious account of the circumstances of the time suggests that Washington thought his presence would be more effective.

A young Abraham Lincoln discusses this subject in his 1838 Lyceum address, and concludes his speech with somewhat of a riddle, suggesting that in order to deal with the problems of faction we have to take care to obey the Constitution and laws until we have our Washington. Lincoln, apparently, took Washington seriously and not literally. Actually, Lincoln completes Washington’s speech: he identifies Washington & the Founders as being just such a bunch of demagogues as Washington warns us about. However, Lincoln says that the Founders were a successful group of demagogues precisely because the crisis of the moment focused the ambitions of the country’s talented individuals on the same noble goal. In other words, without crisis—without civil war and without faction—there could be no Washington.

What Would A Violent Civil War 2 Look Like?

So, taking Washington’s warning to be a prediction of factionalism rather than a solution, we have to turn to the question at hand: do we presently have Civil War 2—nonviolent though it may be? In his same speech, Washington says to the American people, “[w]ith slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.” If Washington’s speech suggests a solution to faction, this is certainly one premise on which it hinges. But this is another of his ideas that reveals the ironic character of his speech since he knew that this was increasingly less and less true—especially with regard to political principles, as we’ve noted. But however true it was that Americans in the 1790s had common political principles, it is far less true today.

Instead of a full explanation of the differences in our society, a single example should suffice. In his Federalist writing, Lucchese says that “overdramatic talk is bad for the country”—referring to ideas like Prager’s that we are in a non-violent Civil War 2. But Lucchese recently tweeted, “’Pride Month’ is the worst.” Don’t get me wrong—I can agree with that & actually I commented on his tweet that I have his back. But the Left is such that they actually take greater offense to criticisms of LGBTQ+ than to statements like Prager’s that we are in a non-violent Civil War 2. The Left believes they are at war. Among other things, they think the Right is waging a war against sexual license—and statements like Lucchese’s confirm that for them. Lucchese says that we shouldn’t sink to the Left’s level, but ironically, his mocking of Pride Month is a level to which Prager wouldn’t sink—even if they have similar views on social issues. In spite of Prager’s being stubborn about being in a nonviolent Civil War with the Left, Prager deserves to have a reputation for speaking about his political opponents in a more respectable way than most.

Lucchese notes that Aristotle tells us that citizenship is a kind of friendship, but he should remember that Aristotle identifies both in reference to a view of justice. Aristotle says that “friendship is present to the extent that men share something in common, for that is also the extent to which they share a view of what is just” (Eth Nic 1159b29); and it is exactly views about justice that separate the Right and the Left. Aristotle might analyze our society and conclude that it is really several societies: Leftists aren’t likely to be friends with people that mock Pride Month.

Much of the problem with this discussion is that our frame of reference is limited by Civil War 1—but not all civil wars have to be like that war. Actually, if there ever is a violent Civil War 2 it will bear little resemblance to that original Civil War—the likely resemblance is that it will be started by Democrats and won by Republicans.

The potential for Civil War 2 becoming violent consists especially in the Left’s fanatic conviction that well-policing the most violent people in society is racist since those people happen to disproportionately be young male minorities. It consists more generally in the coming debt crisis which could similarly cripple law enforcement and usher in anarchy. And finally, it consists in the Left’s agenda to prevent people from owning guns. Thankfully, the Second Amendment and Trump’s victory may be an insuperable obstacle with regard to gun control, at least for a while. But control of the police is not centralized in Washington and Leftists have significant control over police throughout the country. When speaking to Prager, Lucchese equated the Alt-Right to Anti-Fa because of the skirmishes at political protests throughout the country. But if it were up to the Right, there would be no such skirmishes, or they would be far fewer. The protests would happen, but they would be well-policed—there would be no need for the likes of Based Stickman. And of course, even if the Left never gets to deliberately neuter the law enforcement, that result seems to be a forgone conclusion since neither party really takes the debt situation seriously.

So, considering that a coming Civil War 2 would be characterized by the anarchy enabled by the political decisions that result in a lack of policing, we should consider that these skirmishes may be harbingers of Civil War 2, even if we should take Lucchese’s characterization of them. We can already find the character of the coming Civil War in our political conflict. As for whether or not it is prudent to refer to “war,” I doubt that the Left finds it any more provocative than criticizing their sacred cows—as Lucchese does. Lucchese says that our situation doesn’t have the urgency that justifies referring to “war,” but the political street fights enabled by deliberate Leftist curtailing of police seem to suggest otherwise.

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