The die is cast. Jonah Goldberg recalls these immortal words
of Julius Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon, entering Italy with his army and starting the civil war with Pompey Magnus that would begin to put the lid on the coffin of the Roman Republic. Caesar's tremendous victories against overwhelming odds are one of the most fascinating parts of the man's story. Pompey was the greatest general alive, having destroyed the pirates of the Mediterranean and temporarily pacified the eastern empire. He controlled Rome, had legions of trained soldiers at his disposal, and was backed by the Senate and the noble classes. Yet, outnumbered seven to one, Caesar managed to annihilate Pompey's forces and make himself the undisputed master of Rome. As Goldberg points out, it is very much because Caesar and his legions had but one choice: victory or death. Caesar was fighting for his very existence; Pompey's soldiers had other options.
He declares the recent election for the 26th congressional district of New York to be a political Rubicon (though, it is worth noting as Pete does below
, that the 26th, like the historical Rubicon, is just part of a larger problem). Taking aim at Republican plans to fix our entitlement programs and avert the coming crisis that will result of out-of-control spending, the Democrats are going all-in, waging everything on their offensive against this plan. Unable to defend unpopular or difficult-to-explain policies like Obamacare, the Libyan Civil War, outrageous gas prices, and how much the boondoggle of a stimulus package didn't fix the nation's economic woes, their only defense is an offense-- one that worked in New York.
The 2012 and 2016 elections may likely be some of those rare events that fundamentally reshape the American political regime. The question of the role of the Constitution rightly understood in American politics has been brought to the forefront of the national debate, a century's worth of history culminating in a fight between federalism and progressivism for the political soul of the nation. Like the elections of 1800, the 1830s, 1860, the 1900s, and the 1930s, the results of these elections may set the tone for political debates in this nation for decades to come. The Democrats, realizing that the threat Ronald Reagan first posed to the progressive regime has finally grown powerful enough to potentially restore a constitutional order, are scrambling now to do all they can to save that which was built by Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama. It is no mere coincidence that the ascension of the first powerfully progressive president since LBJ coincided with the rise of grassroots constitutionalism in opposition to that, and the Democrats realize this. Some, recognizing the progressive miscalculation concerning American attachment to that piece of parchment, have started the all-too-late enterprise of trying to reclaim and redefine
In that endeavor, though, they will likely lose. Though the progressive establishment gained intellectual control of the American academy fifty years ago, the depth of their philosophy has greatly shallowed. Gone are the John Deweys and other great philosophers of progressivism, the intellectual extent of the modern academy being unhealthily narrowed to specialty subjects like Gender Studies or other aspects of so-called sociology. Conservatism does have the upper-hand on philosophy, and has since the 1960s, and it will be difficult for the Left to claim constitutionalism for itself. This is why some, like Pete Stark and Nancy Pelosi, appear flabbergasted and dismissive when the subject is raised, and why rather than seeking to defend their policies in light of this debate, they are on the attack. They realize, perhaps better than many Republicans do yet, that the current fight is for the shape of our political soul. They realize that whichever party loses in 2012 or 2016 will either be destroyed or at best forced into a long age of minority. A realignment of our politics and political parties is on the horizon, and the Democrats are putting it all on the table for their survival.
Republicans need to realize this too. They need a standard-bearer capable of both making the principled argument and inspiring people; they need policymakers capable of both strengthening the constitutional order while recognizing political realism. They, too, need to be prepared to match the Democrats and go all-in in order to reposition themselves as the party of optimism, of liberty, of prosperity, of hope, and of the future. They can start by not stooping to extremist fear tactics and continuing to trust in America's ability to have a clear and serious discussion on our political life. As Goldberg points out, it's their choice to be either Pompey or Caesar in this fight. The Rubicon has been crossed, the die has been cast, and we are moving towards political realignment. It's an exciting time to be paying attention and involved.