The New Caesarism: Read the Book

 

Hello, Ricochet!

I presume that you’ve all received invitations to read what I’ve been publishing lately, haven’t you? Perhaps several times, even? If not, let me know right away. Everyone who contributed to my book campaign should be on my mailing list, but it’s possible your e-mail filters are rejecting my newsletters as spam, or that somehow I’ve accidentally deleted your address. It might help if I send the newsletters from a different address, so be sure to let me know. If you didn’t contribute, but want to be on the mailing list, just send me your address through the contact form on my website.

For those of you who are new to Ricochet, may I invite you? Please have a look, if you think it would be interesting, at the collection of essays I’ve been publishing recently the decline of liberal democracy in the West and the rise of the new Caesarism. When I’ve finished published them all online, I’ll be bringing out a print copy—these essays are chapters of a book. This is a crowdfunded projected of two years, now, one that would have been impossible without the support of Ricochet’s readers. It’s a tremendous tribute to Ricochet, and to its culture of civility and curiosity, that so many of you have not only sponsored the research and writing of a book, but a book full of ideas with which many of you, I know, don’t agree. These are the small things that make me hopeful for freedom of expression and the quality of American political discourse.

As for the latter: I’ve received a number of contributions to the campaign recently from people saying, “I may not agree with everything you say on social media, but I appreciate that you’re polite.” It’s notable that people say this. I think it’s my Ricochet background. I always smile and think, “Yes, that’s the Ricochet Finishing School effect.” In an upcoming essay about political polarization, I’ll be writing about lessons I learned from editing Ricochet—both about how the Internet and other new media technologies have accelerated the process of polarization, but also how to reduce polarization by adhering to a Code of Conduct everywhere on the Internet. I think everyone here will be interested in it.

If you’re just tuning in, or if you didn’t receive the newsletters, and you want to see the whole archive, you can find all the essays in reverse chronological order, here.

I was thinking that perhaps for Ricochet members who contributed to the book, I could do a private Q&A about these essays. Or a Reddit style AMA, even. Would anyone enjoy that? If so, when would be the best time to do it? Perhaps on a Sunday afternoon? Let me know if that interests you. (I could also do a podcast, if any of you would like to interview me about what I’ve been writing.)

For now, liberal democracy needs more saving, so I’m going to get back to work. I’m looking forward to hearing all your comments and questions. (Oh, by the way: I haven’t figured out how to enable comments on the newsletter. I think it’s a feature for paid subscribers, but the newsletter is free, so I can’t enable it. I’ll see if I can sort that out. For now, just leave your comments here. I may take a few days to read them all and reply, but I definitely will.)

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  1. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Welcome back, Dr. Berlinski!  I don’t want to speak for everybody, but I have missed you here at Ricochet.

    I have a suggestion for the Q&A.  Could you do it publicly, or record it as a podcast.  It makes sense to limit the questions to contributors, but I suspect that many others would like to hear what you have to say.

    • #1
  2. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Hi Clare.  Nice to see you.  The subject of your essays are not exactly my cup of tea in reading material.  Here’s my quick take.  I’m certainly no expert in international affairs, but your central thesis, “the decline of liberal democracy in the West and the rise of the new Caesarism” seems seems to my superficially informed eyes a wild over statement, if not a complete delusion.  What western democratic country has a Caesar-esk potentate?  USA?  Germany?  United Kingdom?  France?  Italy?  You can’t possibly be saying that Donald Trump is a Caesar?  I’m at a loss to see any evidence in your claim.

    • #2
  3. John H. Member
    John H.
    @JohnH

    I wonder if, anywhere in the book, is a sentence that reads “Everything that happened afterward – [numerous things in numerous places] – happened in response to [a certain person or a certain action of his].” Not that such a sentence needs to be there. But it would be striking. There is such a sentence in Brian Hall’s The Impossible Country, with the fill-ins being all the burgeoning nationalisms of post-Tito Yugoslavia and a certain speech delivered in Kosovo by Slobodan Milosevic. This appeared near the end of the book, after the author had extensively toured the doomed country, and for all I know accurately summarized all that went into its violent decay.

    I do not by the way expect the book at hand to mention Yugoslavia’s successor states, any more than I expect it to, oh, I don’t know, examine why a Bolivian president would go into Mexican exile. These are just my interests.

    • #3
  4. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Hi Claire. It’s a slippery slope from engagement (necessary) to enabling (unhelpful) to appeasement (bad).  How did/do you navigate this when researching this book?

    • #4
  5. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Manny (View Comment):
    You can’t possibly be saying that Donald Trump is a Caesar?

    I take it you don’t follow Claire on Twitter…

    • #5
  6. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):
    You can’t possibly be saying that Donald Trump is a Caesar?

    I take it you don’t follow Claire on Twitter…

    No. I don’t even have a Twitter account. I remember her being a Never Trumper. If this is what she’s referring to, then it is delusional. 

    • #6
  7. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Hes way more Gracci than Caesar.

    • #7
  8. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    Manny (View Comment):

    I take it you don’t follow Claire on Twitter…

    No. I don’t even have a Twitter account.

    Well here’s a few recent tweets, for context:

    • #8
  9. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    • #9
  10. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):
    Hes way more Gracci than Caesar.

    Heh. Except for the part about granting rights to non-Romans, but I get your point. 

    I look forward to reading the book. The decline of liberal democracy is a great ache. It seems the result of the leaders of liberal democracies becoming disassociated from the citizen class, confusing their election to exalted positions with a confirmation of their self-conception as the wise tribe that guides the dim masses, and finding novelty and purpose in reforming the culture of the plebes. 

    • #10
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Hard pass. Period.

    • #11
  12. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    Seeing those tweets.
    I think the the author is BS crazy.

    • #12
  13. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):

    Documents released by Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s office reveal Millions funneled to Hunter Biden and the John Kerry Family.

    And the answer of the dems, and their twitter enthusiasts, is that President Trump should be impeached?!

    Talk about a cult ….

    • #13
  14. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Hi Claire.

    As one of your first contributors congratulations on finishing your project.

     

    • #14
  15. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Hes way more Gracci than Caesar.

    All three came to the same end when they challenged the Deep State of their  day.

    • #15
  16. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I wish he were Caesar. 

    Then there would not be Antifia – the military would put paid to those thugs across the nation. 

    America would be on the cusp of 20 years of Civil War, of course. That would suck. But, on the other side is Augustus and a grand Empire. 

    Faster, Please. 

    • #16
  17. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Kevin Schulte (View Comment):

    Seeing those tweets.
    I think the he author is BS crazy.

    I think she’s wasting her time writing a book that is fundamentally flawed.  Even if Trump is the worst president the country ever had, he was duly elected.  He’s up for re-election next year.  The Supreme Court stops many of his mandates.  Congress has not passed others.  How could he be a “Caesar”?  Where has liberal democracy been undermined and where is it declining?  Sometimes intellectuals go down a path that just doesn’t cohere with reality.  It’s an intellectual day dream.  Or perhaps a nightmare.

    • #17
  18. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Manny (View Comment):
    Where has liberal democracy been undermined and where is it declining?

    Look at the shenanigans of the Obama administration and our Deep State and that’s where you will find the real undermining of the Republic.

    • #18
  19. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    As an early contributor, I’ve been receiving and (mostly) reading your essays.  There’s interesting information there.

    But.

    You appear to have the same view of America in general and Trump in particular that my French in-laws do: utterly twisted.  I recommend taking advantage of your U.S. citizenship to spend a couple years re-acquainting yourself with your country of origin.  Preferably in a small-to-medium town in flyover country.

    { I used “country of origin” deliberately.  I don’t know that the phrase home country still applies. }

    • #19
  20. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Ricochet feels like home again with Claire Berlinski posting.

    Claire,

    Welcome back ! So good to see a post from you here.

    I’m really enjoying the essays of the book in progress. Keep writing for us.

    Ansonia (Angie)

    P.S. I would love you to be interviewed on a podcast on Ricochet to answer questions on what you’ve written so far.

    • #20
  21. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Kozak (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Hes way more Gracci than Caesar.

    All three came to the same end when they challenged the Deep State of their day.

    Well, they certainly think of themselves as the Optimates.

    • #21
  22. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):
    Where has liberal democracy been undermined and where is it declining?

    Look at the shenanigans of the Obama administration and our Deep State and that’s where you will find the real undermining of the Republic.

    Agreed.

    • #22
  23. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I like new new book cover. I don’t see the leader of China on your cover – he qualifies. I read the links (sometimes) when they come through to me via email. You write:

    Since 2016, I’ve been working on a book about the New Caesars, the rise of illiberal democracy, and the death of freedom.”      Then you describe the recipe – the formula that the “new Caesars” follow: all absorbing more power through wars, gaining territory (land grabs), trashing freedom (of speech, religion, peaceful protests, of the gay community), jailing journalists, even making their enemies “disappear”.

    You lump Trump into this club (the whole premise that started this venture). So far, he has championed all faiths, raised  economic opportunities and wages for all, dumped the healthcare mandate tax, trying to get out of endless wars, trying to find a way to work with some of these “Caesars” while sanctioning the hell out of them, renegotiating unequal trade deals, moved our embassy to Jerusalem, and has stood as a firm partner with Israel, made patriotism nothing to be ashamed of – unlike Obama who went on the America apology tour (now we have to check our white privilege and are teaching school kids to be ashamed of our history – both the good and bad), told Iran what they could do with the “deal”, and trying to enforce our borders with the laws that are on the books.  He stands up for the unborn, law enforcement, the military, and promotes conservative judges who stick to the Constitution instead of legislating from the bench.  During the last administration, how many officers were attacked vigilante-style?

    Obama did the opposite of all of those things – he created an education system that removed creativity, created a drug epidemic with open borders, created safe spaces and trigger words, so why isn’t his picture on the book, because he is the face of the new Democratic socialist party of the U.S, and why kids are brainwashed to be afraid of everything.  There is no more free speech, he replaced that with political correctness and fueled gender and race wars.  Discredit the media and trash the Constitution?  I live in the US – the media trashes Trump, not the opposite.  That’s why he steps around them and calls the MSM fake news – they are and they know it. What journalist does their homework and presents truth??   The Democrats want to literally alter the Constitution in several ways.  Have you seen your home state of California and what has happened to it??

    Thinking back what life was like before Obama – seems like Disneyland in comparison.  There is no more liberal democracy and that did not start with the election of Trump.  I’d really be interested in your response.

    Also when does the Go Fund Me end?  How will you get the book out – still piece by piece and does it evolve or is it now written in stone?  Best wishes to you and kitties.

    • #23
  24. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks


    Phil Turmel (View Comment)
    :
    I recommend taking advantage of your U.S. citizenship to spend a couple years re-acquainting yourself with your country of origin. Preferably in a small-to-medium town in flyover country.

    She might find people who regard Trump’s actual actions and behavior as irrelevant, and while they know what he is, they are more concerned with what he is not. He does not spearhead a political movement that wants to eliminate your industry, or your car, or your single-family home, or your family vacation, or your hot shower, or your gas stove, or your reliable electricity, and also wants you to suffer public obloquy if you say men cannot bear children. 

    Like I said, I want to read the book, because I don’t know what Caesarism means in the context of Trump. I can understand the use of the term in 2016, when he said some careless things that suggested an authoritarian mindset (but a mild form compared to, oh, Actual Caesar), and when his advocates like the American Greatness website were actively hoping for him to be an American Caesar, b/c the rotten state of the Republic meant a Caesar was inevitable, so he’d best be one of ours.

    If I’d started writing a book that painted Trump as a Caesar in 2016, though, I would have begun to revisit my thesis at some point. What do we mean by Caesarism? One man rule + militarism + expansion of the state? Has Trump started wars? Cancelled elections? Nationalized anything? Or have we seen deregulation, which weakens state influence, and tax cuts, which give the citizen more freedom to dispose of their property as we see fit? Have his judicial nominations been more disposed to follow the Constitution, or disregard it to achieve the “right” outcome?  

    If Trump is an authoritarian, what word is left for a Democratic candidate that would abrogate every contract between workers and employers and force everyone without recourse into a government program to replace what they had chosen of their own free will? If Trump is Caesar, what word is left for Elizabeth Warren’s proscriptions list intended to fatten the state coffers? 

    • #24
  25. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Yeah.  No.

    • #25
  26. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Hes way more Gracci than Caesar.

    All three came to the same end when they challenged the Deep State of their day.

    Well, they certainly think of themselves as the Optimates.

    The Boni best be wary. The  Populares are restless.

    • #26
  27. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    If Trump is an authoritarian, what word is left for a Democratic candidate that would abrogate every contract between workers and employers and force everyone without recourse into a government program to replace what they had chosen of their own free will? If Trump is Caesar, what word is left for Elizabeth Warren’s proscriptions list intended to fatten the state coffers?

    General Secretary of the Party.

    • #27
  28. Lockdowns Are Precious Inactive
    Lockdowns Are Precious
    @Pseudodionysius

    • #28
  29. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    @claire  I am seeing old comments here including one from me from 2019. Even weirder, I just literally moments ago sent you an email. I was just sitting on my back porch reading some books and publications and literally, thought of you and your book.  

    “This is a crowdfunded projected of two years, now, one that would have been impossible without the support of Ricochet’s readers.”  It was not two years ago – it was 2016, four years ago.  How time flies.  I thought of you and your book because your original book Menace in Europe, which my sister discovered in a used book store, and shared with me, was how I found Ricochet.  I, as I said in my email, have read all your books.  Your new book, which was crowd-funded, and inspired, and encouraged by Ricochet members, was inspired in good faith.  In hind sight, as I said in my email, I thought it would have turned out differently, as in an actual book and not bits and pieces in a “newsletter”, at a cost to those who did not donate.  Well – it is interesting the timing of my prompt to inquire, and then your post. My email address did change, so I will send it to you.  Please consider my comment just food for thought and thanks.

     

    • #29
  30. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Lockdowns Are Precious (View Comment):

    I am still wondering why this old post of hers from 2019 popped up? Did she just re-post it without changing anything? @max is this an error?  It seems a solicitation – the book was finished in 2019, but this is 2020. I never received a copy and donated in 2016.

    • #30
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