The Civil Cold War: What’s It All About?

by John J. Tierney, Jr.  |  November 27, 2018  |  ARTICLES

A new acronym has crept into the vocabulary to describe our societal situation. A "Civil Cold War" has been used to describe the rapidly-growing schism between what may be called the "progressive" wing of society versus the "traditionalists." Such expressions are hardly new, but the term "Cold War" both separates today against the real, "hot" Civil War that took 720,000 lives and saved the Union and the more recent "Cold" war with world communism that saved civilization. Thus, the stakes are profound but the conflict is mostly nonviolent. It is also local: only America's future is at stake, not the world's (yet).

Is this "war" credible, or is it just another journalistic word-game? Certainly the acrimony is there. Rarely since the "real" Civil War has society witnessed the cultural/societal divides that separate the Trump resisters against those who either voted him in -- or Hillary out. Sometimes it appears near-theatrical: Hollywood vs. the "deplorables," Kanye West vs. all black pundits, CNN vs. Fox, The New York Times/Washington Post vs. The Wall Street Journal. It is also consuming the culture, infecting sports, talk shows, and even comedy, where the president seems the butt of all humor. The annual correspondents dinner has now excluded humor altogether. The Post announces daily that the "end" is near: "democracy dies in darkness" at the top of page one, day after day, after day, after day... The next election is already being forecast as (per usual) the "most important" in all history.

Certainly, hyperbole is at play. Doomsday, after all, is newsworthy, but there is the absurd. Trump is regularly compared to Hitler as if we are about to invade France.

There is, however, a critical element absent, i.e. what's it all about? What are the stakes? Throughout history, there was purpose to impending doom; it was real. Hitler did invade France (and everybody else), but today's atmosphere seems almost invented, surreal. Perhaps the most damaging charge against the President is that he won due to Russian "meddling" in the 2016 campaign.

Any slightly positive Trump reference to Vladimir Putin is widely condemned as near-sacrilegious. This requires a lack of perspective so incredible as to defy thought. Josef Stalin massacred ten million Russian farmers who resisted collective farms. He also eliminated thousands of political opponents and put thousands more in concentration camps ("gulags"). His agents stole U.S. atomic secrets at will. Stalin was an American ally in World War II, was provided billions of aid dollars, and, at war's end, was given east and central Europe by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democratic icon. It is generally estimated that Mao Zedong eliminated about 60 million Chinese dissidents in the Great Leap Forward of the 1960s. President Nixon and advisor Henry Kissinger signed the Shanghai Accord with the same Mao in 1972. The policies of both Presidents were generally applauded and, now, stand as positive landmarks in U.S. history. Both Nixon and Kissinger began arms control talks with one of Stalin's successors, Leonid Brezhnev, another widely-approved initiative. Both Roosevelt and Nixon made many endearing remarks about their Russian opposites, Roosevelt's even embarrassing to his best supporters.

Can the "Civil Cold War" explain away such massive mental distortions that dominate this country's attention? Are local and party hatreds so embedded that all reason escapes? Or, to use Shakespeare, is this "much ado about nothing"?

Throughout history, progressives and dissenters against the status quo have announced some design, a purpose, and a vision for the future. It was never enough to just condemn; they had to build, to make a new and brighter future. They were revolutionaries. America was the first in history to start this. The French Revolution took it to a higher extreme, began The Great Terror, and ravaged Europe. Marx, himself, condemned Capitalism but provided hope for the "workers of the world" ("proletariat") to "break their chains." Even Hitler promised a "Thousand Year Reich," but he finished just 988 years short.

Marx gave the world a "Manifesto." Jefferson gave us a "Declaration." These are probably the two most influential documents in human history. Only one was right.

Ironically, America has never produced a lasting philosophy of its own. Even the thoughts behind the Revolution were English: Locke, Hobbes, Adam Smith. Marx is still the most influential thinker in modern history despite there never being a true "Marxist" revolution. Marx, himself, once declared, "I am not a Marxist," but there have been many Marxist "movements," including those occupying today's political culture. They are neo-Marxist hybrids, which have substituted the proletariat for group, racial, gender, and class identity. They reflect the thoughts of the Italian "cultural Marxist," Antonio Gramsci, and the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and its campus spokesman, Herbert Marcuse. Their net effect is to divide and target, particularly male Caucasians ("dead white males"), held responsible for all deficiencies and the variety-garden of ideological "ism's" associated with them. These, as well, are foreign-born.

In response to a question on what was produced in 1787, Benjamin Franklin once said, "a Republic, if you can keep it." With the Civil Cold War now becoming "uncivil," the jury remains out.