Professor Lough's Blog

"The realm of freedom begins where labor ends"

November 26th, 2012

Their Post Mortem (or why we need to read Laura Hollis)

Culture, Economics, Political Commentary, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Religion, by Joseph Lough.

http://townhall.com/columnists/laurahollis/2012/11/08/postmortem/page/full/

If you haven’t already stumbled upon it, I urge you to read Notre Dame University Mendoza College of Business Professor Laura Hollis’ post mortem on the election, not because I agree with all that she says, but because she deploys a rhetoric that we need to respond to more critically and effectively over the coming months and years.

(It just so happens that I received Professor Hollis’ post mortem while I was on a road trip to, of all places, USC where we watched Notre Dame win a berth in the 2012 National College Football Championship game. So the fact that Professor Hollis teaches at Notre Dame had, for me, and for my traveling companion, a well-known corporate tax law attorney, a kind of weird relevance that it might not otherwise have had. In any case, our discussion of Professor Hollis’ scree made the eight-hour post-holiday slog back to San Francisco along Highway 5 somewhat more bearable.)

Here are Professor Hollis’ eleven headings:

1. We are outnumbered

2. It wasn’t the candidate(s)

3. It’s the culture stupid

4. America has become a nation of adolescents

5. Yes, there is apparently a Vagina vote

6. It’s not about giving up on social issues

7. Obama does not have a mandate. And he does not need one.

8. The CorruptMedia is the enemy

9. Small business and entrepreneurs will hurt the worst

10. America is more polarized than ever; and this time it’s personal

11. It’s possible that America just has to hit rock bottom

There are too many choice lines in Professor Hollis’ venting to list all or even most of them here. You can read the post for yourself. So, instead of responding line for line, point for point, to her post mortem, I think we would do better to take a couple of steps back and try to appreciate her commentary in a broader context. (Please read the commentary.)

There are four features of Professor Hollis’ post mortem that deserve our special attention: (1) its grounding in a highly specific Roman Catholic reading of Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics. This is very important not only because the US Supreme Court is now dominated by legal reasoning informed by this specifically Roman Catholic reading of Aristotle, but also because this narrowly Thomistic reading of Aristotle runs counter to the most basic legal principles that guided the framers of the US Constitution and that guided the Court’s legal reasoning for its first two centuries; (2) its grounding not only in Straussian political philosophy in general, but in Schmittian political philosophy in particular. Leo Strauss, of course, was the University of Chicago political philosopher most famous for his unique reading of Thomas Hobbes and Plato’s Republic, in particular his interpretation of the “noble lie” (τῶν ψευδῶν τῶν ἐν δέοντι [ton pseudon ton en deonti]) that Plato surprisingly invites Glaucon to entertain in order to distinguish guardians of the republic from individuals who are not suited to serve as guardians. Strauss wrote extensively on the legitimate and necessary role that lying plays in political discourse. But it is the Schmittian form of Professor Hollis’ rhetoric that is specially noteworthy. In addition to being Leo Strauss’ professor in Germany, Carl Schmitt was also the architect of National Socialist jurisprudence, responsible, in particular, for formalizing Adolph Hitler’s peculiar understanding of the “unitary executive” (see John Yu) – das Führerprinzip – and for establishing the “concept of the political,” based on the Friend-Enemy distinction; (3) its reduction of social, economic, and legal problems to moral and cultural failures; and (4) its categorical rejection of compromise and negotiation and, therefore, its lusty embrace of the logic of “final” solutions.

The Conservative German Catholic
Interpretation of Aristotle and the
American Legal Tradition

Let us take these four features one at a time, beginning with Professor Hollis’ narrowly Thomistic reading of Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics. (For those of you who are so inclined, the position staked out by Professor Hollis is rigorously set out in Marquette University Professor Darrell Dobbs’ “Natural Right and the Problem of Aristotle’s Defense of Slavery,” Journal of Politics 56:1 (1994) 69-94.) I say that Professor Hollis’ reading of Aristotle is narrowly Thomistic because not only does she accept the “natural” hierarchies set out in Aristotle’s Politics – Parent-Child; Male-Female; Master-Slave; Civilized-Barbarian, and so on – but, unlike Aristotle, Professor Hollis situates these hierarchies within a quasi-divine economy according to which the violation of any of the boundaries established by Nature/God also constitutes a violation of the moral law. From this vantage-point, the rough-and-tumble back-and-forth negotiated compromises forged in the Common Law tradition that the United States inherited from Great Britain is nothing short of a great evil since it would appear to accept the notion, if not of full moral, legal, and cultural relativism, then at the very least of moral, legal, and cultural tolerance which stands at the foundation of the British and American legal and political systems. From this vantage-point the infiltration of American law schools by continental legal scholars, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s, holds special significance. (See Christian Stephen Smith’s The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), according to which American legal and political institutions, which are dominated by cultural Protestants, are held responsible for forcing a largely Christian public to accept secular values and institutions.)

Of course, not only does this narrowly Roman Catholic interpretation of Aristotle fall well outside the boundaries of mainstream classical scholarship – neither Professor Hollis nor Professor Dobbs are classicists – but, of course, their grasp of U.S. legal and institutional history proves to be deeply flawed. Only if we downplay or completely bracket Aristotle’s social and economic lectures is it possible for us to force a ontologically fundamental rubric onto Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics. To be sure, this was precisely how German scholars interpreted Aristotle in the nineteenth century; and with ever greater vitriol following the twin signal events, first of the Revolutions of 1848-49, and then of the Reichsgrundung of 1870-71. The first of these signal events represented for Roman Catholic scholarship the invasion of French radical thought and practice into German polity; the second of these events, the Reichsgrundung (founding of the nation) on kleindeutsche (lesser German) or “Protestant/Modernist” grounds, set off the cultural struggle (Kulturkampf)between Catholics and Protestants in Germany. Here is where Catholics fault Otto von Bismarck for masterminding a “fake war” with German Austria in order to “manufacture” a Germany with boundaries that favored Protestant Prussia. Catholic cultural conservatives have ever since sought both rhetorically, but also, obviously, militarily to reincorporate “Catholic Germany” (i.e., Austria) back into the Reich. Culturally, however, the impetus behind the campaign to liberate German Austria has always been the conviction that a Germany dominated by liberal Protestant culture was more inclined to embrace moral relativism and political anarchy than a more “balanced” grossdeutsche (greater German) Reich, a Catholic Germany, founded on the “natural” distinctions and hierarchies set forth by Aristotle and then reworked and authorized by Saint Thomas.

What this meant was that from 1849 forward; and then from 1871 forward, conservative German legal and political scholarship committed itself to an interpretation of Aristotle that was invested with all of the political, cultural, and religious struggles of nineteenth century German Catholicism.

It would be truly odd had the framers of the US Constitution in 1787 read their own Plato and Aristotle through the eyes of mid- and late-nineteenth century German Catholic legal scholars and philosophers; which, of course, they did not. What most intrigued the framers were two elements of Aristotle’s Politics (see my Commonwealth: or Why Democrats are Republicans and Republicans are Neither): first, the substantive institutional and material conditions for responsible political decision-making; second, how to protect res publica, the “wealth we hold in common” or commonwealth from oikonomia, the interests of the private household economy or “private enterprise.” As I have laid out elsewhere, there were many outside Constitution Hall who accused those within of favoring of an educated, moneyed, elitist oligarchy and not a genuine democracy. Among those leveling this charge against the framers were, of course, Patrick Henry, Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, and other patriots who happily embraced the label of “anti-federalists.” Such men had absolutely no interest in establishing, much less protecting, things like the federal authority to impose taxes on states, the authority to regulate interstate commerce, the sole authority to regulate currency, execute treaties, preempt state law and state court decisions, and, perhaps most provocatively, the authority to intervene militarily in any state that did not guarantee its own citizens the republican institutions set out in the Constitution. Anti-federalists such as Paine and Adams viewed such heavy-handed, federalist institutions and powers as monarchical.

Where in this document was any guarantee of democracy? Well, the answer of course is that the US Constitution is not about democracy. It is not about the mechanism of representation. It is instead about the wealth we hold in common, about the commonwealth, the Republic. What the framers took away from Aristotle was the absolute fundamental necessity of protecting the wealth we hold in common from private economic self-interest.

But, in order to adequately protect the wealth we hold in common, the framers first needed to make sure that those with the authority to make decisions were made of the right stuff. And, here, again, the framers were clearly following Aristotle who believed that citizens could not act responsibly when they were subject to necessity. Aristotle had a very long list of individuals and occupations who were either subjected by others or who had subjected themselves to the “realm of necessity.” In the latter category, Aristotle included businessmen and merchants who had decided to pursue ever more wealth even though they had plenty to live on privately and to share with the public. Those individuals who willingly and not out of necessity had chosen lives of private wealth over public service Aristotle deemed “perverse.” But then there were also those individuals who, not out of choice, but out of necessity, were subjected to lives of labor. Such, thought Aristotle, were laborers, tradesmen, farmers, and, of course, slaves. Needless to say, this left a very small group of people who Aristotle believed capable of acting solely in the interests of the public; yes, men of wealth, but also of education, and good will and good health.

Everyone who has carefully read through the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention or who has read the Federalist Papers will be struck by the framers’ interest in making sure, as nearly as possible, that public servants – citizens and representatives – have no interest in public service save the interests of the public; that they have nothing financially or materially to gain from such service, but also that they have sufficient leisure time, sufficient resources, and sufficient education to, say, spend a number of weeks in Philadelphia doing nothing else other than thinking and acting for the sake of the “general welfare” of the public.

Yes, this was an elitist body. No, it was not democratic. But, yes, it was interested in advancing the wealth we hold in common; and, no, it was not interested in promoting private, economic, self-interest. It was a body as fiercely federalist as it was republican.

What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that those, like Professor Hollis, who advance a nineteenth century German Catholic interpretation of Aristotle and then impose this on the eighteenth century Common Law-trained framers of the U.S. Constitution are fighting battles – against nineteenth century German liberalism, against nineteenth century moral and cultural relativism – that were completely foreign to the interests and objectives of the framers. But, for another, it means that the flag that Professor Hollis and her allies wrap around their anti-federalist, states rights, virulently free market capitalist, anti-elitist, anti-moral relativist campaign is not the Stars and Stripes, but, if anything, the flag of the anti-liberal (and anti-democratic) German Catholic minority.

Yes, to be sure, when, in the nineteenth century, particularly after 1848 and 1871, the United States welcomed a flood of mostly working class, mostly Catholic, Germans onto its shores, the United States was itself transformed, mostly for the better. But, Catholics also brought a brand of cultural conservativism and moral absolutism that was at odds with the semi-official pragmatist, loosely Protestant, culture of the United States.

How Straussianism and Schmittianism have
infiltrated our Legal Tradition
Which brings us to the second feature of Professor Hollis’ post mortem, her embrace of Straussian and, more importantly, Schmittian terms of political understanding. This may, at first glance, seem odd since one of the distinguishing features of Straussian political philosophy is the rejection of the “idealist” Aristotle in favor of the “realist” Plato. Aristotle operated under the false security manufactured by his friend Alexander the Great’s political protection. Under real political conditions, when Athens was ruled by demagogues who manipulated the masses to gain their support, Aristotle wouldn’t have had a chance. Which is why, under real conditions, in order to do what is best for the public, the guardians are obligated to trick and deceive the public into giving the guardians their support. Aristotle’s mistake was to believe that the many would allow the few to openly rule on their behalf. In the real world, the many will demand political and economic power for themselves. Moreover, as the fate of Socrates well illustrates, should the guardians try to rule openly under realistic conditions, the many will have them put to death. Clearly, the framers of the Constitution had drunk the “Kool-Aid.” For they, like Aristotle, also believed that the many would allow the few to rule without resistance. Leo Strauss, distinguished Professor at the University of Chicago, had a different take.

In light of this reading of Aristotle and Plato, Strauss promoted an interesting rhetorical device, which developed into something of a habit. This rhetorical habit always assumed the same form. It goes something like this: Adolph Hitler (like Pericles) rose to power democratically on the economic and moral discontent of the masses; Adolph Hitler would not have risen to power had it not been for the promise of economic and political democracy held out to them by the radical left; had the radical left behaved responsibly, they (like Plato) would have seen that masses are morally conservative and therefore hostile to the atheism and secularism championed by the left; had they appreciated the moral conservativism of the masses, the left would have been wise (like Plato) and would have been content to deceive the masses in order to achieve their good ends; but because the left is not wise (like Socrates) and is idealistic (like Aristotle), the left fanned the flames of hope for economic and political democracy; which played into the hands of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. Better, thought Strauss, to deceive the many, whose lack of wealth, education, and leisure condemn them to blindness, in order to achieve the good, than to unwisely deceive oneself into believing that the uneducated, poor, and needy masses will do good on their own. The latter has always been a recipe for demagogues.

Thus Strauss’ read of the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement, the Black Power movement, and the anti-war movement. Each of these movements was unwise and idealistic, and each risked the invitation of a demagogue to lead the people. Moreover, insofar as none was based on the solid rock of natural moral philosophy (i.e., the Roman Catholic Aristotle), none had a true, legitimate, claim to moral authority. Only the cultural and moral conservativism of the few, combined with the wisdom entailed in political realism, held any hope of saving the modern world from swinging wildly to and fro between moral relativism, collapse, moral absolutism, and collapse.

Of course, Straussians abounded in the White Houses of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Dick Cheney, Carl Rove, and Don Rumsfield were perhaps the best-known Straussians. But then there were lesser-knowns, such as were Richard Pearle, Elliot Abrahms, Paul Wolfowitz, and Alan Keyes. Moving outside of the White House the list gets longer still. This list includes Justice Thomas, Francis Fukuyama, William and Irving Kristol, and Allan Bloom. And this is just the short list.

The point is that while the Aristotle of mainstream classical studies has very little to do with the fantasies and fears entertained by Strauss and his epigones, there is a remarkably good fit between the Roman Catholic Aristotle and the Straussian Plato, both of whom preach a moral absolutism and cultural conservativism that, while maintaining the patina of academic objectivity, are in their entirety the product of debates and controversies over modernism and liberalism that raged in nineteenth century Central Europe. These debates and controversies then migrated to the U.S. in the mid- and late-nineteenth centuries in the minds and hearts of faithful Roman Catholic immigrants who had no other interest than to maintain their traditions in their adopted nation.

But, of course, Strauss was not among these earlier migrations. Instead, he was a part of a later migration, the migration of German Jews and non-Jewish German leftists in the 1930s and 1940s. Which brings us to the second, more narrowly focused dimension of Professor Hollis’ brand of Straussianism. For repeatedly throughout her post mortem Professor Hollis invokes the friend-enemy distinction, a distinction associated less with Leo Strauss than with his mentor, the German legal scholar and architect of Nazi jurisprudence Carl Schmitt. It was Schmitt, the lapsed German Roman Catholic cum celebrated student of Max Weber, who would place the Kulturkampf, the struggle of conservative German Catholics against Prussian Protestant cultural domination, at the very center of his entire understanding of politics. Thus his repeated invocations of 1848 and 1871 in his masterwork The Concept of the Political (1927/32). Here, in part, is Schmitt’s teaching:

The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy. . . . The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible. . . .  The enemy is not merely any competitor or just any partner of a conflict in general. . . .  The friend, enemy, and combat concepts receive their real meaning precisely because they refer to the real possibility of physical killing.

In Schmitt’s view, this friend-enemy grouping, and the concept of the political more generally, were required historically because of the elimination of their original foundation, first in the State Monarch, but ultimately in God. But, since Schmitt was a lapsed Catholic, an atheist, whose only connection to Roman Catholicism was his cultural conservativism and moral absolutism, he could not ground or reground political authority in the Church, much less in God. And, so, good student of Weber’s that he was, he regrounded political authority in . . .; well, “the political.” Here, for Schmitt, was the ultimate absolute. Not the state, definitely not the state; but, rather, the political.

Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy. The political does not reside in the battle itself, which possesses its own technical, psychological, and military laws, but in the mode of behavior which is determined by this possibility, by clearly evaluating the concrete situation and thereby being able to distinguish correctly the real friend and the real enemy.

And it is in her repeated invocation of the extreme condition, the friend-enemy grouping, that Professor Hollis most clearly displays not simply the Straussian, but the Schmittian foundations of her position. If I am in love with another man or if I abort my fetus, I am not simply a gay man or a woman who rejects the pagan physician Galen’s belief (subsequently adopted wholesale by the Roman Church) that the soul is in the male sperm. No, if I am in love with another man I am a moral relativist who rejects all natural law and, therefore, all law. And, if I abort my fetus, I am a murderer deserving to be tried and sentenced as a murderer.

The alternative, which Schmitt was sufficiently forthright to call “British” and “French,” entailed the complete rejection of sovereignty as such, and therefore “the political,” and therefore the embrace of moral relativism. In Schmitt’s view, Jacob Burckhardt had gotten it right when he ridiculed “democracy, i.e., a doctrine nourished by a thousand springs, and varying greatly with the social status of its adherents. Only in one respect was it consistent, namely, in the insatiability of its demand for state control of the individual. Thus it blurs the boundaries between state and society and looks to the state for the things that society will most likely refuse to do, while maintaining a permanent condition of argument and change and ultimately vindicating the right to work and subsistence for certain castes.” But what most incensed Schmitt was the “liberal” practice of reducing the political to the economic or the social.

Liberalism in one of its typical dilemmas of intellect and economics has attempted to transform the enemy from the viewpoint of economics into a competitor and from the intellectual point into a debating adversary. In the domain of economics there are no enemies, only competitors, and in a thoroughly moral and ethical world perhaps only debating adversaries.

And, here, in a nutshell is the whole problem of the “British” Elizabethan Settlement, the foundation, not only of British, but of American religious polity; and not merely the foundation of religious compromise, but of political compromise as well. How can it be possible that Protestants and Catholics would live together peaceably in the same nation? Thomas Hobbes knew the answer to this question in his English bones. The answer was Leviathan, the State, not culture, and the Law, and not morality or the political, along with all of the messy compromises, debates, and economic civil wars that such competition and compromise entails.

For Schmitt, as for Hollis, this is simply one of the “typical dilemmas of intellect and economics” into which liberalism inevitably falls; and falls because it has decided not to treat those with whom it disagrees as “the enemy,” but has elected instead precisely to treat him or her as a debating adversary.

Confusing the Moral and Cultural with
the Social, Economic, and the Legal

Which brings us to the third feature of Professor Hollis’ post mortem. Professor Hollis is inclined to translate every economic, political, and social problem into a moral and cultural crisis or conflict. Never mind that Professor Hollis – despite teaching in a Business School – is not an economist; never mind that The Economist, a right-of-center business magazine, Financial Times, a neo-liberal daily, and Mayor Bloomberg, who is certainly not a tax-and-spend liberal all endorsed President Obama because they all found the Romney-Ryan economic proposals completely incompetent and incoherent. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of professional economists favored Obama’s proposals over Romney’s.

The debate over economics is no more a debate over economics than the debate over evolution is a debate over science. Both economics and evolution are moral issues so that when 99% of climate scientists or 85% of economists issue conclusions on climate change or budget proposals, or when physicians issue statements about women’s health or biologists issue statements about evolution, these are not scientific statements, they are moral judgments. And what these moral judgments tell Professor Hollis is that the majority of economists have it in for small businessmen and entrepreneurs; that the majority of health officials are adolescent perverts and that anyone who says otherwise has clearly been duped by the CorruptMedia.

As Professor Hollis says bluntly in heading number 3 of her post mortem: It’s the culture stupid.

But what this means is that we cannot solve our economic, social, or political problems through the implementation of policies informed and designed by climate scientists, economists, biological scientists, medical practitioners, social scientists, and so on. These scientific types are all adolescent moral perverts, claims Professor Hollis, not only lacking any special moral insight into these problems, but completely lacking any moral insight whatsoever. Next to these so-called “experts,” every underemployed, undervalued, undereducated average citizen is infinitely better versed in what truly matters: the moral universe that God has planted in their souls.

In 2012 the numbers were 48% for Romney, 52% for Obama. The numbers are likely to be similar or slightly better for the Democrats in 2016. And, yet, between 2012 and 2016 will be a world of hurt and, more importantly, a well-financed non-stop media blitz trumpeting something like Professor Hollis’ post mortem. And, as Professor Hollis readily admits (number 10): “America is more polarized than ever; and this time it’s personal.” Yes, America is more polarized, in large measure because the political discourse of the Republican Party has been taken hostage by a rhetoric forged out the conflicts between culturally conservative, anti-democratic German Roman Catholics and liberal (although not progressive) Prussian Protestants in the nineteenth century. This rhetoric has not merely gained a foothold in the United States. It has now taken center stage.

In 1932, when Adolph Hitler had only just been elected and when representatives in the Reichstag were still fairy evenly divided between far right (National Socialists) and left of center (Social Democrats, Liberals and Communists), Carl Schmitt articulated the following, in my view, extremely compelling argument. The progressives, Schmitt argued, still believe that the National Socialists are simply “debating adversaries.” The progressives did not yet realize that the National Socialists were playing for blood. When the progressives said “let’s compromise,” the National Socialists could say “O.K.” But, when given the opportunity, they will eliminate their enemy. Of course, the progressives didn’t view themselves as “the enemy.” But, according to Schmitt, this was the advantage that the National Socialists enjoyed over the progressives.

Here is how Schmitt put it:

Nothing can escape this logical conclusion of the political. If pacifist hostility toward war were so strong as to drive pacifists into a war against nonpacifists, in a war against war, that would prove that pacifism truly possesses political energy because it is sufficiently strong to group men according to friend and enemy. If,
in fact, the will to abolish war is so strong that it no longer shuns war, then it has become a political motive, i.e., it affirms, even if only as an extreme possibility, war and even the reason for war. Presently this appears to be a peculiar way of justifying wars. The war is then considered to constitute the absolute last war of humanity. Such a war is necessarily unusually intense and inhuman because, by transcending the limits of the political framework, it simultaneously degrades the enemy into moral and other categories and is forced to make of him a monster that must not only be defeated but also utterly destroyed. In other words, he is an enemy who no longer must be compelled to retreat into his borders only.

This is Schmitt’s rhetoric. But it is also Professor Hollis’ rhetoric. It is the rhetoric of moral absolutism and cultural conservativism. And it is the rhetoric of the leadership of the current Republican Party. It is not sufficient that women not be compelled to abort their pregnancies. All women must be compelled not to have abortions. It is not sufficient that I am free to love and marry who I want. All people must be compelled only to marry members of the opposite sex. It is not sufficient that I can purchase private health insurance. All people must be compelled to purchase private health insurance and no government should ever offer a public alternative. Thus Professor Hollis and her political allies, reproducing the very logic of mid-twentieth century central Europe, are compelling Americans with whom they disagree to retreat behind borders that require their very elimination.

Take no prisoners; Leave
no witnesses

Professor Hollis sees this, as Schmitt saw Weimar Germany in the 1920s, as an all out cultural war. If only she can provoke progressives to abandon their commitment to the rule of law and to the integrity of public institutions, then she will have achieved her goal. We then will have adopted her logic of the political. But let us say that we stick by our principles. Let us say that law school after law school fields a faculty of professors who (for the sake of academic freedom) are permitted to completely mischaracterize a thoroughly federalist constitution as anti-federalist. Let us say that federal court after federal is packed with jurists who have been so poorly schooled in legal history that they truly believe (as John Yu truly believes) that the Führerprinzip (or “unitary executive”) is a solid American principle, rather than, as it truly is, a feature of central European administrative law. And, let us suppose that no matter how the Democrats polling numbers improve, a significant minority of Americans – and the vast majority of the military hierarchy – come to believe that liberalism is contrary to the founding principles of our nation (which apparently include the Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek’s complete misreading of the concept of Liberty).

More than one half of the nation believes that we are still working within a constitutional framework. Yet, a significant minority sincerely believes – because folk like Professor Hollis has convinced them – that we are now operating outside of the Constitution. What this means is that, according to Professor Hollis, we are approaching “rock bottom.” We are nearing what Schmitt called the “extreme case.” And, when we reach that “rock bottom,” then existing law no longer holds good. Instead, it will be whoever can successfully establish the friend-enemy distinction will have occupied the higher ground and will be poised for victory, irrespective of whether or not they form a democratic majority.

Having read Professor Hollis’ post mortem and several other post mortems like hers, I am convinced that nearly 48% of Americans believe that we have already reached “rock bottom.” That is to say, nearly 48% of Americans feel that we have reached the extreme case where extra-legal, extra-constitutional action is justified.

So, what are we to do? And my answer is, I am not sure. What I am sure is that we need to take post mortems such as Professor Hollis’ with absolute seriousness. They are principled. They have a long history. They are backed by scholarship and scholars. They are feeding one of the most impression and well-financed propaganda machines ever in history. And, perhaps most terrifying of all, because their supporters believe absolutely in the moral and cultural superiority of their mission, they are willing, even eager, to die fighting for its victory. That is what Professor Hollis is saying. That is her warning to us.

We need to hear her warning. We need to know this. We need to reflect critically upon what it means. We need to talk earnestly with one another about it. And we need to organize tirelessly.

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