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The Civil War They Seek

A MAGA neo-Confederate intellectual wants black Americans to just move on.
by Jim Swift
June 15, 2021
The Civil War They Seek
(The Bulwark / Photos: GettyImages)

Writing in American Greatness, the “intellectual” journal of Trumpism, Clifford Angell Bates, Jr. has a proposal for how best to deal with one of America’s original sins, slavery:

Yet how would fostering grievance and a desire for revenge—which is clearly what critical race theory and other varieties of the new woke Left embrace—be understood as producing an environment that leads to civic harmony or common life together? How does it lead to that “cooperative spirit” needed to avoid the forces of faction and division tearing a political community apart?

Clearly, critical race theory and other forms of identity politics that promote grievance and fuel resentment only exacerbate factional strife (stasis). They fuel a desire to punish and seek vengeance, rather than a striving to live together in a community with those who are different in some ways.

Resolving this conundrum does not require continual and eternal contrition by the supposed guilty party but rather a forgiveness by the aggrieved. Until the aggrieved have forgiven and chosen to share a life together, there can only be continual strife and hostility that will move the political community toward violence and civil war.

Let us have no foolishness about this: those who peddle “white fragility” and “overcoming whiteness” are only selling hate and resentment. It is only a recipe for civil war and the dissolution of the republic.

Asking black Americans to forgive the country for slavery seems like a pretty tall order for a guy who is super-duper angry about someone having written a book called White Fragility.

But whatever. Let’s delve into Bates’s views if we can for a second, because I have a sneaking suspicion his “can’t we all just get along” shtick is total bullshit.

In 1999—four years after obtaining his Ph.D. in political philosophy—Bates wrote at his Tripod blog (remember those?) “In a perfect world, I would rather be a Democrat of the old pre 1860 variety.” What odd timing! Don’t click the link, lest you want bonnieblueflg.mid to be automatically downloaded by your browser.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the conclusion of the song that Bates loved so much that he set it to autoplay on his personal website:

Then here’s to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
Like patriots of old we’ll fight, our heritage to save;
And rather than submit to shame, to die we would prefer,
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.

Also at his Tripod site? This:

Oh, and this:

Just . . . interesting.

Bates’s views about politics—again, don’t click that Tripod link—are bizarre, and the grammar and punctuation are not one would expect from somebody with a Ph.D who wasn’t batshit crazy. At first glance, it’s not even clear that English is Bates’s first language. Spoiler alert: it is.

I consider myself a traditional Conservative, following the intellectual tradition of Conservative thinkers like my late professor Mel Bradford and others like Willmoore Kendall and Michael Oakeshott. I am also deeply influenced by defender of Classical Liberalism, like F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. I have also been intellectual shaped by Leo Strauss and his students, although I find their understanding of America to be rather problematic.

I have always had the greatest respect for the Framers of the Constitution of 1787 and the Republican form of government they sought to establish for all times. I follow Willmoore Kendall’s claim that it is only though the preservation of majority rule as established within the Federal System can Republicanism avoid the consequences of the notions of liberal intellectuals who not only despise the government that the Framers gave to the Americans, but also despises the common man and all that he believes in. I find it odd that the left who speaks endlessly about making things more democratic, truely does not want the majority to rule. Rather they seek only the rule of those whom they understand to be “enlightened”. All the rest of mankind, the great unwashed and “unenlighted” are to be ruled with an iron fist. One only has watch how the likes of Mrs. Clinton and Al Gore speak to the American People, as though they were children who had to be eternally governed by their more caring and more intelligent parents. When these people speak of community or “the village”, they do not mean the communities or “villages” that existed before the Welfare State and Federal Intervention destroyed these socal networks, but the Re-education Camps/Concentration Camps. But the forces seeking to destroy our heritage of political liberties do not openly inform us what they intend to do. Instead they mask their agenda by claims of good intentions and higher moral codes. Here Jefferson’s words are all so true: “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance.” [sic throughout]

But back to the AmGreatness item:

Until the African American community embraces forgiveness over slavery and other past harm, then the engine of strife and civil conflict will tear the republic apart. The rub is that this will have to be their choice, as the question of whether they are willing to live together in communion in a shared civic order or not is on them.

Kind of weird to argue, in writing, that blacks have to forgive us for enslaving their ancestors, and if they keep chirping about it, the civil war that we so desperately want will be totally their fault.

Especially if you’re a neo-Confederate fetishist who, rather than living together in communion in post-civil-rights-era America, decamped to Poland.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.