Commentary: A Deplorable Strategy Beyond 2020

by Angelo Codevilla


Regardless of who wins in 2020, the mega-issue that drove the 2016 elections will grip the country more intensely than ever.

From President Obama on down, the political, educational, media, and corporate establishment had long since taken for granted that placing the opinions, interests, tastes, and the rights of the rest of America on the same plane as their own amounts to “false equality.” They had come to regard us as lower beings. No matter whether they attributed our purported inferiority to our alleged racism, sexism, etc., or just plain stupidity, they negated the possibility of common citizenship with us. The moment that Hillary Clinton’s reference to those disinclined to vote for her as “deplorables” and “irredeemables” made this unmistakable, Donald Trump’s victory became possible.

The people who voted for Trump, many despite reservations about him, did so seeking a shield against insult and injury from above. But the 2016 results confirmed the ruling class in its judgment, and emboldened it to act in “resistance” and in ways no one had ever imagined.

Ordinary Americans in voting for Trump got a loud voice on their behalf, but no shield. Between 2016 and 2020, we have been pressed as never before to bow to the ruling class’s ever-escalating demands for conformity to its whims—such as to pretend that we join them in accepting that men can be women, and women can be men, on pain of dire social and economic consequences.

Not even the monsters depicted in Darkness At Noon, in Nineteen Eighty-Four or in Animal Farm, never mind Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China, or Hitler’s Germany, ever demanded such subrational submission.

Superficially, the ruling class’s “resistance” since 2016 has focused on Trump. Our temptation to focus on fights regarding Trump has obscured the fact that their objection is to us. The instant after the 2020 elections, whatever happens, there will be no excuse for not paying due attention to the real question: What will become of us? What can we, what must we, do for ourselves?

Dreadful Prospects, Regardless of the Outcome

Were Donald Trump to be reelected in 2020, as is likely, there is no reason to think his second administration would loosen the ruling class’s tightening grip on our lives any more than the first did. Were any Democrat to win, we can be certain that the demands on us would escalate, and the government’s choke hold on education, speech, religion, medicine, law, and all manner of administration would tighten further.

In either case, after the 2020 elections ordinary Americans will have to deal with the same dreadful question we faced in 2016: How do we secure and perhaps restore our fast-diminishing freedom to live as Americans? And while we may wish for help from Trump, we have to look to ourselves and to other leaders for how we may counter the ruling class’s manifold assaults now, and especially in the long term.

Since 2016, the ruling class has left no doubt that it is not merely enacting chosen policies: It is expressing its identity, an identity that has grown and solidified over more than a half century, and that it is not capable of changing.

That really does mean that restoring anything like the Founders’ United States of America is out of the question. Constitutional conservatism on behalf of a country a large part of which is absorbed in revolutionary identity; that rejects the dictionary definition of words; that rejects common citizenship, is impossible. Not even winning a bloody civil war against the ruling class could accomplish such a thing.

Going Our Separate Ways

The logical recourse is to conserve what can be conserved, and for it to be done by, of, and for those who wish to conserve it. However much force of what kind may be required to accomplish that, the objective has to be conservation of the people and ways that wish to be conserved.

That means some kind of separation.

As I argued in “The Cold Civil War,” the natural, least stressful course of events is for all sides to tolerate the others going their own ways. The ruling class has not been shy about using the powers of the state and local governments it controls to do things at variance with national policy, effectively nullifying national laws. And they get away with it.

For example, the Trump Administration has not sent federal troops to enforce national marijuana laws in Colorado and California, nor has it punished persons and governments who have defied national laws on immigration. There is no reason why the conservative states, counties, and localities should not enforce their own view of the good.

Not even President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would order troops to shoot to re-open abortion clinics were Missouri or North Dakota, or any city, to shut them down. As Francis Buckley argues in American Secession: The Looming Breakup of the United States, some kind of separation is inevitable, and the options regarding it are many.

Who Will Lead? And Lead Where?

One year hence, the practical political problem for we “deplorables” has to do with leadership, looking toward 2024. The chances that appreciable numbers of us might follow anyone like Mitt Romney are negligible. What sort of person, with what sort of attitude, with what sort of priorities shall we seek?

Since what the ruling class does is driven by its identity, whoever would lead us “deplorables” must leave no doubt that his own, at the very least, is in opposition to theirs. In other words, he has no desire to join the ruling class, or to be liked by them, that he understands the harm the ruling class has done to America, and that he is on the side of those who wish to save and repair what is possible to save and repair.

That means a combative attitude. Donald Trump has been all too combative—in generalities. But we are looking for leadership in many fields of socio-political combat. Specific leadership requires attitudes regarding specific problems, such as education and infrastructure. Whoever would be followed will have to explain at what he (or she?) is angry, why, and what kind of action he encourages.

To lead is to show the way, to explain what is to be done and how it’s to be done, and to do it passionately.

Since whoever claims to care about everything cares about nothing, we will take seriously only persons who have cared enough about causes to expose themselves to slings and arrows on their behalf—as Charles de Gaulle put it, to “pay with their own coin.”

In 2016 and since, we have learned that our ruling class has amassed the power and developed the taste to revel in making us miserable. We have also learned that to avoid this, we must undo or separate ourselves from them, their structures, and priorities. Knowing that they regard us as illegitimate, we have no choice but to return the favor. Living as we do in revolutionary times, we—and whoever would lead us—must act accordingly.

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Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).
Photo “Donald Trump Sewing Flag” by





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4 Thoughts to “Commentary: A Deplorable Strategy Beyond 2020”

  1. walt39

    When a nation becomes extremely polarized as Professor Codevilla notes — the left’s believed superiority to deplorables IS their identity and they’re by no means benign in expressing their feelings — separation is logical.

    The trouble is that equitable separation requires negotiation which implies each party accept the other as an equal. But if the left considered us equal we wouldn’t be having this discussion: Our Constitution provides mechanisms for working out disputes between equals.

    The left sees — AND WILL INSIST ON — a future in which they dictate terms of surrender and decide the punishments to be imposed for our deplorable-ness.

    If you’ve ever tried to negotiate with the left you have your own examples.

    What we’ve got here is a cat that needs a bell. Professor Codevilla recognizes that implicitly but doesn’t give the difficulty full credit. While statesmen may indeed seek the least bad outcome and try to cool things down, the left seems entirely willing to burn the whole works in order to prevent anyone else winning any of the nested contests in which we’re involved.

    Leadership, yes, we need it. Partly because of the ‘burn it down’ tactics he has faced, Trump has been only part of what we hoped for. Whether someone with a clearer sense of direction, and more specific focus would do better we cannot know know.

    A major issue is the the entire leftist leadership are felons in one way or another. On the day before the election of 2016 they thought they would all be rewarded for their loyalty to a higher cause than the U.S. Constitution and Almighty God. Two days later the truth was otherwise and we’ve now had three + years of cornered rats willing to do literally anything to escape and if possible punish to destruction those who put them in that spot.

    There’s no telling how this plays out. Clearly there is no easy way and how we even avoid the spilling of vast amounts of blood isn’t plain. Sure, capitulation will LOOK easier at every step but 100 million or so citizens of other countries tried that in the last century and wound up dead. I cannot see a reason to think our leftists are nicer than theirs were.

  2. […] to reality, as every sensible person knows. They are to a significant extent forms of what Angelo Codevilla calls “subrational submission,” or conformity to the political diktats of a leftist ruling […]

  3. Kevin

    Going back to the original intent of the Constitution could be a reality if our citizens, primarily the younger citizens understood the original intent. Unfortunately we have allowed our education system to be coopted and it doesn’t even teach the brilliance of the original intent.

    Add to it that self-respect and self-determination are lost qualities among a large portion of our society, and the road seems impassable. BUT, it is passable!

    Take back control of our education system from the Educational Industrial Complex! Not just in isolated pockets of home-schoolers, but wholesale, by eliminating all of the “fluff”. Education requires a student and a teacher. The rest is wasted overhead!

    1. Betty J. Ziesel

      Kevin – Hear! Hear!