It is not less true because it is a truism to assert that politics is downstream of culture, insofar as it is understood in the widest sense, e.g., how people live together in society. The Founders created the Constitution as a framework for a people living under a system of ordered liberty. A constitution that was, as John Adams wrote in 1798 in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia, "made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Thus, a republic of ordered liberty presumes a moral people. In the case of America, our morality is derived from fundamental Judeo-Christian values and natural law tradition, in which every citizen has inherent rights, conferred by God, nature, or reason. These tenets upon which our republic is based, was articulated even before Adams’ letter in 1788 by James Madison in a speech before the Virginia Ratifying Convention when he stated that, "To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea."
This is why in our constitutional republic, examining the role of the Federal Government regarding certain issues, is not just religious or moral in nature. Issues such as promoting abortion; propagating homosexual and LGBT values throughout academia down to grade school; fomenting racial hatred by enabling and enshrining the BLM movement; and instituting legal protection for industrial-scale voter fraud with HR1.
Lessons from Antiquity and Our Own History
What is the meaning of the founding of a new nation-state-- whether the Roman Republic in 509 B.C. or America in 1788? Certainly, it entails a constitution and laws, but more fundamental is a solemn, quasi-religious commitment to revere the miraculous event of its founding to succeeding generations.
Whether at its founding or 200 years later, the strongest of the ties that bind a citizenry to their republic is a regard for the precious patrimony shared equally by naturalized citizens and by descendants of the Pilgrims. The heroes, symbols, mementos, icons, and national holidays that celebrate and memorialize the nation's founding are as important as political ideas in making and preserving a nation, especially an immigrant nation – multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious as both the Roman Republic was and America is.
When the powerful epoxy glue of a shared heritage (Americanism) is dissolved, the center will not hold and things fly apart. Time and again, history has shown that when the centrifugal force of religious, ethnic, and racial tribalism will overcome the centripetal gravity of civic republicanism.
In the case of contemporary America, a tarnished founding becomes a mere antique relic. Ideological enemies—such as Marxists and authoritarians of all stripes – will work ceaselessly to blacken the image of our nation’s founding, so that the republican ideal of ordered liberty is rejected for new, sinister, dystopian gods, whose first principle is almost always atheism. Think of Bolshevik Communism (1917-1991); Chinese Communism (1949-present); German National Socialism (1933-1945) which amounted to a quasi-racial-religious pagan cult.
Over the last six months, we have seen the DOJ and FBI--with the aid and comfort of a subservient agitprop media--create a transparently false narrative about the January 6th Capitol protest. It morphed into a demonstration but was falsely portrayed as a violent, seditious riot that almost toppled the Republic. However, careful, courageous reporting has put the Capitol riot into proper perspective, showing that the FBI routinely uses "informants, lies, and leaks to frame people, causes, and political opponents of the regime." Nevertheless, as Mark Twain once quipped that while history may not repeat itself “it does rhyme”, and in light of recent sinister developments in a vengeful authoritarian Biden regime, we must ask what can we learn from the collapse of the Roman Republic about the fragility of the republican ideal in America?
The Demise of the Roman Republic
Tiberius Gracchus was elected Tribune of the Plebs in 133 B.C. and proposed reclaiming lands from wealthy senators, which would then be granted to soldiers. The commission he created to oversee redistribution of land consisted only of himself, his father-in-law, and his brother Gaius, all the while being completely mindless of the political resentment his actions aroused among the patricians by cutting constitutional corners.
Even sympathetic senators were agitated by the proposed changes, as they feared that their own lands would be confiscated. Soon their fear fermented into distrust and paranoia, and senators arranged for other tribunes to oppose the reforms. Tiberius Gracchus, for his part, appealed directly to the people, overriding the republican, representative form of the constitution.
In the minds of both sides, the righteousness of their positions trumped the sanctity of the republican ideal where the rule of law was considered the golden rule. Tiberius Gracchus had gamed the system with a rigged commission, while the senators obstructed his re-election and gathered an ad hoc force and eventually had Tiberius Gracchus and 300 of his supporters clubbed to death. This was the first open bloodshed in Roman politics in nearly four centuries. The passionate, political partisanship of both sides had severed the attachment to the Republic’s founding in 509 B.C. and to its republican ideal.
Ten years later in 123 B.C. Tiberius' younger brother Gaius also became a Tribune. Gaius, who was a better politician than Tiberius, was thus considered more dangerous by the senatorial class. He gained support from the agrarian and urban poor by reviving the land reform program. He got much of his legislation passed, including his own unconstitutional re-election to another one-year term as Tribune.
However, when Gaius' planned to extend rights to non-Roman Italians, it was vetoed by another Tribune and the Roman poor, who were protective of their privileged Roman citizenship, turned against him. When a mob was raised to assassinate him, knowing his death was imminent, Gaius committed suicide in 121 B.C. and 3000 of his supporters were subsequently arrested and put to death in the proscriptions that followed. Almost all his reforms were undermined before any of them could be fully enacted.
In only 11 years, Roman republican culture became morbid and then died, and within one generation, political victory came to mean only one thing: the use of violence and military force as a first, not last, resource. The winning side generally proscribed and slaughtered the leaders of the opposition, so that the Roman Republic had long been dead by the time of Caesar's dictatorship in 44 BCE.
Lessons from the Death of a Republic That Still Rhyme Today
One of the more surprising but important republican ideals our Founding Fathers adopted from Antiquity was an unwritten political imperative: thou shalt not transgress certain red-line limits. Power is to be transferred by honest elections. The 213-year battle between Roman plebeians and patricians during the Conflict of the Orders (500-237 B.C.) saw bitter conflicts, where the constitution of the Roman Republic was often pushed to its breaking point. Eventually, it was the was distrust between the parties which frayed and ripped asunder the Roman political compact and lead to political paranoia by 133-121 B.C.
A similar set of circumstances occurred in our own history when the U.S. passed the Sedition Act of 1798 a mere 10 years after the nation’s founding. This event shook the Republic, as President John Adams used the Act to prosecute and jail Democrat-Republican newspaper editors and publishers, who supported Vice President Thomas Jefferson. Opposition to the Sedition Act in turn engendered the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions a year later which were secretly authored by Jefferson and Madison, respectively, and called the Sedition Act out for being unconstitutional.
When this sort of mistrust and the crossing of political red-lines or compacts becomes rampant in a nation, it is not long before, as the demise of the Roman Republic showed us, ideological rivalries turn into actual strife. Referring to Russian October Revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin stated that “there are decades where nothing happens; and then there are weeks where decades happen”, e.g., societal collapse occurs in a very short time after long social stability. When the "republican idea" is debased and defiled, time is not on the side of patriotic citizens. The only choice now for Congressional Republicans is to return our Republic to the American exceptionalism of ordered liberty or to submit an authoritarian polity like American Marxists who would like to replay that revolution, and openly welcome societal collapse as a prelude to collectivist tyranny, which they envision as a utopia on earth. The choice is between ordered liberty or despotism or tyranny.
Photo Credit- bibliatodo.com