JB: I'm John Batchelor. This is the John Batchelor Show. Good evening. Michael Vlahos, my colleague of Johns Hopkins, Michael and I continue our conversation about the new American civil war if it is, because the salient fact always and always since the Romans invented civil war 2000 years ago and more, is that you cannot tell you're in a civil war at that time.
It's afterwords such as the Congress declaring the American Civil War in 1907! There is always another way of explaining it to yourself as you're moving through the crisis. Michael, a very good evening to you. These last days, we've had what you'd have to say are strikingly salacious versions of regicide, challenging the president of the United States, our King, our elected King, on the basis of, at this point, campaign finance violations. However, the general sense is that those who have been investigating Donald Trump's presidency since before he was sworn in, since the fall of 2016 when when Barack Obama was president, those investigating have been looking for a tool to unseat him from power. Now the tool looks to be the midterm election of 2018 in which goes the regicidal theory the Congress, the House of Representatives, will be empowered with a majority in the hands of the Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and then...
A very good evening to you, Michael. Regicide side is often a turning point in a run up to a civil war. Certainly the revolution was a challenge to King George and we asked George Washington to be king afterwards. He chose not to be. He chose to be an elected king and invented the office. And in 1860, after Abraham Lincoln's election, that king was rejected and the south chose its own king. So this regicidal period, if it is we're in, is it another step towards the worst possible Michael. Or are we looking for a remedy. Good evening to you.
MV: Good evening John. There are, as always, different advantages from which to view this increasingly corrosive or corroded situation in our national life. And I think it's worth noting that although American myth has come to enshrine the American Revolution as a struggle against King George and of course the election of Abraham Lincoln as a black Republican was the tipping point that pushed the south into secession. It nevertheless remains, I think, worth remembering that the struggle in the American Revolution was against Parliament and the struggle of the American Civil War arguably, that is to say the 1860s, was also a struggle within an American government dominated in many ways by the legislature. And I've just been reminded of that going through Kenneth Stamp's wonderful history of some years back entitled American 1857 and the weakness of the presidency with presidents like Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan was front and center and it was really driving, towering figures of the Senate, like Douglass, who were moving the nation forward toward conflict.
What's interesting about where we stand today is thanks to the FDR revolution and the Cold War that followed, we have had as a nation almost a century of the president as Emperor. An elected emperor to be sure but of course the Roman emperors were all acclaimed by the Republic in good fashion by the Senate and the people of Rome, right? So we have an elected Emperor. But that emperor can seize legitimacy and has authority only when supported by all the main constituent elements of the res publica, which still exists, like the Senate, and more and more in later antiquity the army. But what the Curiales and all the rest the leaders of the big cities in the east all of that played into the mix of Roman politics and what is in contrast really quite worrisome today is that the United States has created a reified and unchangeable system of two parties and the orderly transfer, through of an election process that all accept and embrace, has been replaced in the last of four or five elections. Maybe not that many. Maybe only since the later 70s culminating in say the last four or five elections.
JB: Well certainly Nixon is a good place to start because that was a regicide.
MV: Yeah and there were worries and even in 1980 but certainly everything came front and center after Bush the first was succeeded by Clinton and the elections since then have been incredibly contentious. But now, more than simply the process of power being transferred from one major faction to the other, now there is the notion that that it's all a war between these two power centers that increasingly find themselves unable to work together. And that also increasingly represent two visions of America that are rapidly moving apart like an expanding universe. They're fleeing from each other and their agendas. And in fact their very identity are defined in contrast to the other. As we've discussed many times and as a result, the election becomes a focal point of conflict and each election has to be passed or surmounted. Almost as though it's some giant National Hurdle and if that hurdle isn't made then the nation itself collapses into conflict. And we're at a point now where that is all but the prevailing reality in American life and American politics.
JB: We have separate realities Michael, the nationalist and the globalist, the red and the blue, the coasts and the flyover country, separate realities. And they're viewing the events of these last days with with different understandings of the end product. The then the globalists believe that Trump is an interruption in their power and a challenge to their authority and their well-being. So they mean to remove him despite what you have you logically you are going to replace him with a Republican who is just as conservative as Trump is going to make the same the same sort of choices for the Supreme Court. But that doesn't matter. Trump himself is the goal for the globalists remove him and we'll restore order to the way things ought to be. That's globalism.
On the other hand, the Nationalists do not want to go back to what we had under Barack Obama. Even George Bush and certainly in the 20th century. The nationalists want a completely different understanding of their relationship with the government--with the central government--and want authority turned back to the states and turned back to the clans, back to the the identity groups, and in the country. There are many hands and identity groups. And Michael, you're not offering and I'm not blaming you because I don't have it either. You're not offering a path for this to be solved. You're saying that it's existing now and that the reluctance in the media, New York Times, Washington Post, the major television networks et cetera, the reluctance is to recognize what's in front of them. We don't want to go back where both sides want. We want to win.
MV: Well this is where the contrast with the US and the civil war is quite helpful. So after the election of 1856, during the Kansas Nebraska debacle that was totally mishandled by Buchanan the then president, the Democrats, who who really owned all of government at that point, two houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency, they blew it over Kansas and they overreached. And as a result the Democratic Party itself began to split apart. And yet throughout this entire period of the later 1850s, there were still lots and lots of important people in the elites on both sides who really wanted to re-establish some kind of American core sense of identity and patriotism. And it was also considered a possible to come up with compromises and very possibly had Buchanan been smarter over what was going on in Kansas, the country might have survived the election of 1860 and not had a civil war. Although that was going to happen in all probability at some point.
Now today what you have is a situation where where the battle lines have been drawn and the othering has reached the point where both sides are are using the word traitor. The Red is doing so in a kind of backhanded way talking about the absence of patriotic unity and belief among Blue, while Blue is directly pushing for the j'accuse of traitor.
And this creates a language that cements that division and tends to move in in the direction of a confrontational choice that would be sparked by a constitutional confrontation of some kind. Like obviously right now impeachment and this is the problem with an imperial system in which the Emperor must represent one of the two completely divorced national identities and is thus therefore completely unable to represent the other. And that only intensifies the conflict. So we're at a point now where an election in the United States is the most dangerous situation that the nation can confront constitutionally. And we saw this in 2000 and in many ways we're seeing it as a result of the response by Blue to the 2016 election and it is a sign of a society that is not able to work any longer and for which the remedies that exist are structurally factored out. In other words we've already structurally become two separate national identities. And the imperial structure of rule, of authority and legitimacy, is now not simply an element in driving the crisis ahead, it is actually one of the key dynamics making for a kind of crisis coming to a head, a kind of touchstone, that leads to the actual real violent conflict that lies ahead.
JB: I'm speaking with Michael Vlahos of Johns Hopkins. We're discussing the new American civil war if it is and the regicide around as if that's the way we can speak of it fairly. We will not know until long after perhaps long after Michael and I are no longer talking. I want to turn this to a subset of regicide in these last hours, the Democratic Senate suggesting that the Supreme Court nomination of Mr. Kavanaugh will not go forward because, yes, all parts of government, all three parts of government are now trembling. I'm John Batchelor. This is the John Batchelor Show.
JB: I'm John Batchelor and this is the John Batchelor show. Michael Vlahos and I are discussing a new American civil war if it is. We cannot tell but certainly the language is...intemperate.
I mean to be understated here. For example, in The New Yorker, which I read routinely as a rallying point for the most literate of the regicidal thinkers, this line from The New Yorker about the rally that the president held in West Virginia in these last days, during the crisis, for the attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, running against Senator Joe Manchin a Democrat (a centrist Democrat). The New Yorker writes: "Trump said that he would campaign for as many days as he was allowed even if he had to slip away from the Secret Service to do it." The quote from Trump is used here: "'A blue wave in November means open borders which means massive crime' Trump said. 'A red wave means safety and strength.' Safety above all for Donald Trump."
Even the president, Michael, recognizes that we are at a crisis point here. He recognizes that a blue wave will mean that the regicide accelerates. I want to turn this to the Supreme Court because strikingly, the minority leader Mr. Schumer of New York, joining several senators, most notably Mr. Booker of New Jersey, to say that the nomination hearings which are scheduled to begin after Labor Day for Judge Kavanaugh to be associate justice Supreme Court, will not be held, should not be held, could not be held, may not be held, in any way you want to put it because the president lacks legitimacy to appoint a member to the Supreme Court, Michael. Yes. Yes that's a direct challenge from the Senate that would hold the trial for impeachment in the event of a blue wave. You see how it neatly comes like a Hollywood ending.
MV: Well things come to a head through a familiar tool, a kind of perverse deus ex machina. A device that comes into play within the American constitutional context and that's called nullification. And nullification can take many forms, and nullification that is the rejection of a state law--I mean a federal law by a state--is not a completely settled law. And nullification has been a signal, the canary in the coal mine like cliché, of something is about to happen or we're reaching a point where this is a dire warning. And the nullification options exist for both Red and Blue at the moment. And I think the the nuclear option that was developed in the last administration in Congress and the argument of Booker and Schumer, also the threat of California to exercise nullification of certain federal laws, all of these are really important straws in the wind of of the way in which the conflict could move. And at this point it would be worth trying to understand better what the tipping points might be that would lead to an actual conflict and how that path might unfold potentially in the next few months depending on how the election turns out in November.
And just as I was talking about America in the late 1850s potentially being in a position to to postpone the ultimate crisis over slavery, to kick the can down the road as they love to say, it was going to happen eventually. And is this going to happen here. It's already been locked in. The question is what the path the exact path would be.
JB: Accident is always available. Michael Vlahos of Johns Hopkins. I'm John Batchelor. This is the John Batchelor Show.