Is Turnabout Fair Play?

The Congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election scheduled for today shows every sign of becoming a real circus. Whether the efforts of the President and his supporters—namely, to undo what is widely considered to have been a spectacularly fraudulent election—will succeed or not will may be known by the time you read these words. Either way, what is fascinating to watch is the horrified reaction of the dominant establishment.

On January 3, CNN ran an article by Gregory Krieg with the eye-catching title of Republican Efforts to Undermine Biden Victory Expose Growing Anti-Democratic Streak. A masterpiece of breathless and hysterical prose, the screed opens with what is in reality the major fear for CNN and those whose mouthpiece the news station is: “The scattershot efforts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory are coalescing into a movement led by top Republicans, who are determined to exploit a manufactured crisis for broader political gains.” One suppresses other reactions to focus on what is the actual fear being expressed on the part of these folks.

Ever since their meltdown on the election night of 2016, CNN and the other media employed by Trump’s opponents have kept up a ceaseless drumbeat against him. Many of us, who have not always been great admirers of the president, soon tired of the never-ending and often incoherent chorus of disapproval. After all, had we not endured eight years of Obama? Did we not attempt to make the best of what, by the last year of that administration, had become a virtually intolerable situation? In the wake of the riots in Maryland, Missouri, and elsewhere, Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke opined that Obama had “declared war on law enforcement.” My personal Waterloo came when the then-president ordered Federal funding—that is, free lunches for poor children—cut off from certain public schools that refused to allow boys to use girls’ restrooms and locker rooms, etc. The prospect of another four years of such policies is really what defeated Mrs. Clinton. Totally unexpected by the elites or their media minions (hence their shock and unquenchable anger against the Orangeman), it nevertheless reassured half or more of the country that their votes and opinions really did matter. 

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If that same portion of the country comes to believe that the machinery of state is from henceforth irrevocably stacked against them, however (with a combination of massive unchallenged voter fraud and court and senate packing), their anger shall doubtless find other channels. Ultimately, what the CNN apparatchiks and their allies fear is that their victory—regardless of its legitimacy—shall be as little regarded by their opponents as Trump’s victory was by them in 2016. They fear that it shall be their turn to enjoy a never-ending onslaught of legal and extra-legal harassment, such as they meted out over the past four years. During that time, they felt that it was ubercool to say “Not My President;” but decidedly NOT cool for the shoe to transfer to the other foot. Even as those who had relentlessly ridiculed Bush, Jr. back in 2008 suddenly demanded with Obama’s inauguration the complete reverence for His Excellency the President of the United States and their Possessions, so now. Having spent four years attacking the result of one election in every manner possible, they demand respect for “the people’s choice.” It is exceedingly tempting to give them what they fear.

Ordinarily, I would say that that is just the wrong thing to do. Did we live in the United States into which I was born on November 8, 1960—the very date of another arguably stolen election—I would say, as did Richard Nixon, that outing’s loser, leave it alone. As he put it, the doubt in the system and division among the populace that would result from such an act would be far worse for the nation than anything a Kennedy administration could do. How I would love to be able to say, “let’s put aside partisan quarrels, and pull together!” But that was another country, where the sentiments expressed by President Trump at his Mount Rushmore speech would have been a boilerplate for politicians of either party, rather than a rallying cry for one.

The sad truth is that we are indeed two countries now. The two irreconcilable views of the election—fair and free mandate of the governed versus the greatest fraud since the South Sea Bubble—are really only the tip of two irreconcilable world-views. In some ways, one is reminded of the build-up to our past Civil Wars—those of 1775 and of 1860—that divided both families and friends. In his 1900 novel, The Crisis, Winston Churchill (an American novelist unrelated to the British Prime Minister) presents us with a picture of the severely divided state of Missouri, both before and during that second conflict. In a truly heart-rending scene, Yankee Judge Whipple says to his bosom friend, the pro-Southern Colonel Carvel, “I expect that the day has come when you go your way and I go mine. It will be better if we do not meet again, sir.” While the Judge and the Colonel, who are both depicted as virtuous men according to their lights, do have an eventual reconciliation, the situation is a bit harder for those of us living 160 years later.

Although there is indeed a geographical component to our current division, it is not nearly so clear-cut as in 1860 (although to be sure, that era had its contested Border States, its Northern Copperhead areas, and its Southern Unionist zones). One side commands the poverty-struck inner cities and most affluent suburbs of our greatest metropolises, various ethnic enclaves, and an archipelago of college towns. The other holds sway in the rest of the country. Secession is not a likely prospect. Unlike the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922, where command of the Moscow-St. Petersburg corridor gave the Reds control of the country’s major industries, communications, armaments (and so eventual victory), the equivalent holdings of the Left produce little. But what they shall have is the machinery of the Federal government. As against them—well, whatever remains of the rest of the Country that has not been woke.

Certainly, one hopes that the combat remains peaceful. But to do so would require intelligence and forbearance on both sides. Moreover, this would be much more possible if either side could even agree on what “intelligence” or “forbearance” mean. The two gentlemen in Churchill’s novel were both Christians, and admirers of Cardinal Newman’s poetry. Even with such breeding, faith, and education, they fell out for a time in a way that was symbolic of the country as a whole—as it was then. 

I cannot foresee with any accuracy what an open break between the two sides would be like. But I do know from history that there is no conflict so bloody and horrible as civil war and domestic insurrection. This is why the Church has always condemned commencing such, unless—apart from outright danger to the Faith and a good chance of winning—the inevitably attendant evils would still be better than abiding the current governance. That requires a truly evil regime to be in power. Unfortunately, given what they have done already and are promising to do, it seems, for the believing Catholic, anyway, that those whom CNN represents are poised to bring us just such a thing.

Despite the adrenaline rush that surging anger brings us all, we should strive to avoid such a break. If we cannot, we should do whatever our duty may demand of us. To the degree that we can be peacemakers, we should be; to the degree that we must suffer for our convictions, we must. But whatever happens, let us not take joy in mayhem or surrender our consciences to mobs. If, which God forbid, the current conflict comes to blows, may He defend the Right and end that conflict quickly.

Having said all of that, however, there is one other disturbing thought that comes to mind. Infanticide has been a sacred right in this country for almost a half-century. Since then, we have profaned marriage and banished God from the public square—to the degree He was ever there in an effective capacity. I am fearful that we as a nation may deserve no better. Perhaps the “historical reckoning” the “Woke” have been demanding is indeed coming, albeit not as they would wish.

[Photo credit: AFP via Getty Images]


  • Charles Coulombe

    Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.

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