Constitutional Crises and Determined Minorities

Willmoore Kendall once predicted a crisis worse than the Civil War:

We are moving rapidly in the direction of a constitutional crisis comparable to and graver than that which precipitated the Civil War—‘comparable to,’ because like the pre-Civil War crisis it will take the form of a breakdown of government-by-discussion, ‘graver than’ the Civil War crisis because it will pit neighbor against neighbor rather than section against section.

This was from a lecture he gave in 1964, after the Civil Rights movement had won its judicial and legislative battles at the Federal level (Brown and the Civil Rights Act of 1964), but had yet to completely overcome “Massive Resistance” efforts in the South.

Kendall proved to be mistaken, insofar as he claimed the constitutional crisis was impending; nevertheless, his analysis is still worth our while, because the victories won by the Civil Rights Movement have not satisfied American blacks.

His analysis:

The American system is built on consensus, because the recognition of new rights must either be brought about through persuasion or force. People are naturally inclined to oppose the granting of new rights because every new right imposes a new duty:

 Each of us knows, at least somewhere off in the back of his mind, that the enactment that confers new rights on such and such individuals[1] also confers upon certain other individuals new duties—duties, moreover, that may require them to adopt wholly new patterns of behavior that they have been reluctant to adopt. (And they are obviously reluctant, or else there wouldn’t be any need for legislation, and the legislation would’ve been passed the day before yesterday, or last year, rather than now.)

Men are likely to be opposed to new duties because they grew up in a world bequeathed them by the old rights and duties and, so long as their families were good, will likely think the old arrangement was good. Or, put it this way: healthy young men know that their fathers are good men or basically good men. Our degenerate times have made this the exception rather than the rule, but it wasn’t so in Kendall’s time if we are to believe him. If a young man grows up under a father he thinks is good, and the father represents the older arrangement, the young man will be hard pressed to think that those who cling to the old arrangement are bad.

The men and women produced by most families will, other things being equal, regard the existing ‘deal,’ as to rights and duties as, so to speak, part of the nature of things, much like topography. To the extent that they are not downright discontented, they will regard it as good. To the extent that they are other than temerarious, their caution will dispose them to view with suspicion any proposed change whose consequences are less than foreseeable.

Kendall’s point is not exactly the point I made, but it runs along the same lines. There is a wonderful remark by Strauss in one of his lectures to the effect that, parents tend to look down on one of their children if he or she turns out to be a liberal. Most children are good and don’t turn out to be liberal because good children don’t reject good parents’ view of the world.

No matter what the source of resistance, the fact that there is resistance to Black demands and that those demands tended to get enforced through fiat rather than legislation, indicated to Kendall that coercion was going to be the order of the day and that this would not go down smoothly. And to be sure, it did not go down smoothly—but the outcome was not so disastrous that the ruling class disapproved of their methods. Indeed, every pocket of resistance, every time the government had to come in and coerce some local intransigents/reactionaries, their moral authority increased in all the right ways, that is, in the ways that mattered: the rulers believed ever-more in their own justice and power, and people who were not directly coerced viewed the intransigents as backward. Those men who wished to retain the old ways were perversely viewed as the aggressors.

In other words, Kendall believed too strongly in the assertiveness of the American people. Will he, though, be vindicated at later date, a date nearer our lifetimes? I think so and this is why: the ruling elite[2] know they can bend a citizenry that is far more pliant and timid than Kendall thought. But what they don’t seem to realize is how bottomless the resentment of their constituency (blacks, feminists and LGBTQ+) has become. There is nothing that can be done that will be satisfying to those citizens as things now stand. The agitators have always, by hook or by crook, won (with the exception of the Prohibitionists) but there is a point at which the agitated desires are unquenchable.

This brings me to our side, which has begun in some ways to prepare itself to play the “intransigent” tools of those in power. The goal is to become a disciplined and determined minority that eventually wins. The Claremonsters have produced a disciplined minority, but I do not think it is very determined. I have never been impressed with their principal teachings on Equality—they attempt to turn it into a rightest force which it simply will never be in the popular imagination, or even in the imagination of many of their intellectuals. I have another blog post about this in the works.

BAP has produced a determined minority that has not, as far as I can tell, broke ranks in any extremely foolish way. I have my concerns but I am not a “defeatist,” not one of those who warns men away from positions merely because of how it will look. I think if the BAPists fail politically it will be because they failed to heed BAP’s advice at the end of his book.

I hasten to add: this struggle for discipline is not merely a matter of aesthetics. You can tell a fucking hoodlum that how he presents himself matters, but he simply cannot help himself: his “self-esteem” (which he claims to despise) is bound up in obnoxious shows of force or fraud. He must spit on “darkey” because he must degrade blacks to feel his power. In doing so he becomes a traitor to the better men trying to save his sorry ass.

And if you think I am being a bitch for having such reservations, go read Jünger .

It has always been my ideal in war to eliminate all feelings of hatred and to treat my enemy as an enemy only in battle and to honor him as a man according to his courage. It is exactly in this that I have found many kindred souls among British officers. It depends, of course, on not letting oneself be blinded by an excessive national feeling, as the case generally is between the French and the Germans.

He makes similar complaints in his novels The Glass Bees (where the protagonist is annoyed for being called a “defeatist” by imbeciles) and Eumesville (where the professor/bartender to the dictator has to put up with party hacks).

“In order to deserve to exercise imperial rule, one must have learned for a very long time to spare the vanquished and to crush the arrogant.”


[1] Kendall remained something of a “social scientist” in his writing style until the end, that is, he places the x as a variable even though he is talking about a concrete question: blacks and whites. Of course, he wants his analysis to apply to other questions as well, which it does. But it is not universal as his language suggests it is and as our experience suggests it is not.

[2] Kendall dubbed them: “leading newspapers and journals of opinion” who defended the reigning “ideology, Liberalism.” The tools of that ideology were the “teachers, churchmen, and social workers.” These are the rulers of civil society. In political society he mentions the “politicians,” “judges,” and “CIA.”

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