Essay
09.11.2020

A response to Angelo Codevilla.

This is tyranny.

A free country does not strip its citizens of the right to work by edict. A free country does not dehumanize its citizens with mask-wearing mandates. A free country does not suspend the right of citizens to travel freely within its borders.

In “The COVID Coup,” Angelo Codevilla cuts through the lies on which the authoritarian coronavirus response was built. He makes clear that the initial predictions of death and destruction were wildly incorrect and that the policy solutions proposed in response were totally inconsistent with our way of life. Our experts failed us. Codevilla states the truth: the “pandemic” was never a crisis of such magnitude that it required suspending basic civil liberties for months on end.

The clearest evidence is Sweden, which never locked down, refused to mandate masks, and kept schools open. That nation saw .057% of its population die from the Coronavirus. The United States, on the other hand, despite numerous “interventions” and the implementation of de facto medico-martial law, saw .058% of its population perish. Sweden’s death rate peaked in April and has been in steady decline since. Today they have deaths in the single digits.

In the United States, a nation where 3 million people (0.9% of the total population) die from all causes every year, we upended our entire way of life in the vain hope we could save 0.01% of the population from COVID death. It isn’t working. The percentage of the population that has passed away from COVID in this country has yet to decline to Swedish levels. In fact, our rate is still higher.

Nature laughs at our hubris.

Codevilla was right—this is a coup. Constitutionalism, separation of powers, and the rule of law are all gone. So are the older cultural norms in favor of community, personal choice, and privacy. Authoritarian rule is not a threat, it is a reality. None of this should come as a surprise. Claremont Institute scholars like John Marini, among others, have for years chronicled the rise of the administrative state. Without protest, unelected bureaucrats slowly gathered phenomenal powers over American life. Indeed, the imprisonment of asymptomatic disease carriers without trial in the name of public health goes back to Typhoid Mary in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century.

So, what now? What hope is there for those who reject the totalizing reach of America’s political and corporate establishment? How do we defeat this tyranny?

From Conservatives to Insurgents

Codevilla suggests a truth commission in Congress on the coronavirus response. That would be nice, but it only scratches the surface. Our problems are too deep to be solved with committee hearings in the Rayburn Office Building.

This crisis has been a Great Revealing. It has shown with stunning finality the weakness and uselessness of the established Republican Party, even among many of those who fancy themselves “constitutionalists” and “tea party” conservatives. On the question of whether Americans have any rights the government is bound to respect, even in times of crisis, both parties have the same answer: no. Texas, no less than New York and California, has a governor willing to suspend laws and compel mask wearing by fiat. As with the Iraq War, the 2008 corporate bailouts, and the Patriot Act, too many Republicans got the Coronavirus response dead wrong. They bought the media panic. They misunderstood (or simply outright jettisoned) their supposedly principled defenses of liberty. They choose the easy path of submission to authority over thinking critically. Many such cases.

President Trump’s initial instincts were good. He refused a national lockdown and mask mandate. He wanted the country reopened by Easter. But in the face of massive opposition, Trump demurred. He cancelled rallies and softened on re-opening. The President cannot do everything. He cannot outflank America’s multi-layered medical bureaucracy, battle the media, and squash political enemies in his own executive branch at the same time. Not without help.

We need a rebirth. Old, failed institutions must be swept away. Conservative DC think tanks that proclaim the goodness of constitutional government but won’t denounce rule by emergency edict, state representatives that won’t impeach out-of-control governors, and local news outlets that perpetuate panic and hysteria all deserve to feel the pain. They need to lose donors, voters, and customers. Everyday Americans must once again find within themselves the self-assertion necessary to preserve their rights and their way of life. We do not lack the requisite knowledge of history, law, or fact to argue our case. What we need now is the spirit of freedom fighters, rebels, and outlaws. The American Right no longer needs “conservatives.” It needs insurgents.

The first task for any new Insurgent Right would be to ensure that the federal bureaucratic, law enforcement, and executive powers do not fall totally into the hands of Biden and his masters. President Trump is now the last line of defense for everyday Americans against an onslaught of mandates, edicts, and decrees at the federal level that would transcend all state boundaries and make a recovery of stability and peace in the short term nearly impossible. 2016 was a stick in the eye of America’s elite class. That establishment is out for revenge. Those who wish to stop them must deny them the opportunity to inflict it.

Trump’s tenure at the helm keeps the Left’s cultural revolution at bay. It thwarts the liberal establishment’s attempts to seize interminable emergency powers at the national level, buying patriots four more years to prepare and regroup.

Publicly predicting electoral doom and gloom, buying into opposing demoralization psyops, and publicly bad-mouthing Trump when he is surrounded by enemies does no good. This election will be close, no matter what the polls say. Trump has a motivated base. MAGA flags, signs, and bumper stickers dot the American landscape. Biden has nowhere near that level of personal support. Trump can win but he needs allies, not just fair-weather friends.

The Long and Local Game

But this new Insurgent Right must form the backbone of a new political establishment that will exist long after Trump is gone. Our focus should be local. The Right can learn a valuable lesson from this pandemic: regional health officials have nearly unlimited power and total job security. These powers must be seized from the hands of ideological leftists. The new Insurgent Right must take over local bureaucracies, city councils, youth sports leagues, Boy Scout troops, churches, and schools. If we are to have spaces of freedom in the future America, we must carve them out.

Winning at the national level will be difficult. America’s corporate media has unparalleled power to worm inside the brains of the people. Social and mass media give America’s true rulers the ability to bombard their subjects with propaganda 24 hours a day. But there is hope. In-person community and friendship have power that no talking head on T.V. can rival.

In a time when we are told incessantly to “stay home and stay safe,” we must go out and stay social. In a time of social distancing, face-to-face friendship is an act of rebellion. The secret handshake of the dissident is…the handshake.

These communities are of pressing need right now in America. It is increasingly clear that coronavirus restrictions will last not just for months but years. In April, the New York Times argued the coronavirus response would take on the character of a years-long siege. That was less a prediction than a statement of intent. Re-opened schools, political rallies, and communal gatherings will remain for most Americans a distant prospect far longer than any of us would have thought back in March. Even when our elites tell us the “pandemic” is over, the fear of one’s neighbors and fellow citizens will remain firmly habituated for millions.

As we draw closer to the election and re-enter flu season, we can expect the hysteria, media fear mongering, and political turmoil to reach even greater intensity. We should expect a return of wide scale lockdowns and restrictions. When this happens, everyday Americans must preserve, in ways both big and small, the life and norms that we used to have. We must accept nothing less than the total restoration of our way of life.

America Reborn

Trust busting is the final and most important task of the Insurgent Right. The movement for liberty must dedicate itself wholly to the annihilation of political and economic oligarchy. The corporate behemoths must be shattered. The super-wealthy titans that slurp up ever-greater swaths of our civil life must be cut off at the knees. We cannot allow worn-out libertarian orthodoxies about the unfettered free market to fool us—it’s been clear for a long time that limitless corporate power is unhealthy and unamerican. When Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and George Soros are no longer billionaires—when their businesses are broken up and their fortunes are taxed down to size—America will be a better, freer country. Converged economic power and authoritarianism go together.

The choice is clear—we can have liberty or we can have plutocrats. We cannot have both. Vehement enforcement of anti-trust laws and confiscatory taxes on the super elite will make space for a healthy and patriotic capitalism that puts economic power firmly back into the hands of the middle class. The tendency of the coronavirus response has been to empower big business. Since January 1, the 5 biggest stocks in the S&P 500 are up 35%. The other 495 are down 5%. This is a dangerous state of affairs.

Walmart alone has a market capitalization of $371 billion. That’s more than 25 times the total GDP of Mongolia. Insisting that Walmart can do whatever it wants to humiliate its customers because it is a “private business” is absurd. Global multinational conglomerates have assumed powers previously available only to nation-states. Monopolies are anathema to free markets and free peoples. Since the 1970s, the productivity of the American worker has grown by 70% but wages have grown a mere 11%.

Virtually every Fortune 500 company in America, with only a handful of exceptions, pulls hard left. There is no anti-American cause they will not fund and no insane cultural and sexual revolution they will not loudly support. America’s super wealthy have declared war on their customers and on their small business competitors. This demands a proportionate response.

The path forward for the Insurgent Right is clear—re-elect Trump, take back local government, and crush the oligarchs. The prospects of success are good. Americans deep down know they should not have to live muzzled like rabid dogs in constant fear because our self-fancied rulers have decreed it so. The coronavirus crisis has provided a great opportunity for rebirth and rebounding.

The coup is over, but the counter-revolution has just begun.

is former Marine officer and current student at the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College. He is a 2020 alumnus of the Claremont Institute's Publius Fellowship.

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