Calls for an American Julius Caesar are ignorant, dangerous
An increasingly vocal circle of so-called intellectuals and activists believe that the United States has peaked and is in decline. To this cadre of individuals, the deep state has superseded our republic — leaving Americans governed by unaccountable bureaucrats. Meanwhile, they contend that the United States is growing weak and decadent and left in the grips of officials who are obsessed with imposing liberal ideologies on Americans.
These critics see only one way forward, and that’s installing an American Julius Caesar to change the United States’ trajectory. While I often worry about the country’s direction, Congress’ regular dereliction of duty and our swelling national debt, calling for an autocratic dictatorship in the United States is beyond ridiculous; it’s dangerous.
Sometimes called Caesarism and other times “Red Caesarism,” this notion isn’t entirely new. “For the last three years, parts of the American right have advocated a theory called Caesarism as an authoritarian solution to the claimed collapse of the US republic,” reports The Guardian. Per this theory, a Red Caesar would re-strengthen America and root out the deep state, and its supporters are hoping it gains traction. “The current atmosphere of stasis and chaos is exciting to some far-right ideologues because it can stoke the popular desire for ‘Caesarism,’” according to the Washington Post.
For those of you who don’t think about ancient Rome every day, Julius Caesar is not the kind of leader that freedom-loving Americans ought to emulate. While he has long been romanticized, he was a power-hungry tyrant. He seized control of Rome by sparking a deadly civil war, but he didn’t do it for the good of Rome.
He crossed the Rubicon and invaded his homeland to avoid being prosecuted for alleged misconduct and to protect his dignity and reputation. Then he declared himself dictator in perpetuity. Members of the Senate ultimately assassinated him, but his actions set the stage for the Roman Republic to be permanently replaced by an imperial autocracy.
What’s even more befuddling is that Red Caesarism’s proponents hail from the fringes of the political right. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, was a populares politician, and the Roman populares movement would be more aligned with Democrats today than Republicans.
Regardless of this, replacing our republic — however flawed — with a dictatorial regime is obviously a terrible idea, and by advocating for it, Red Caesarism’s supporters demonstrate how they do not respect our foundational or American conservative ideals. Our founding fathers largely loathed the monarchy, and when they rebelled against the British king, they didn’t replace the ruling regime with an autocrat. They installed a republican form of government with checks and balances and limited power, which runs contrary to Red Caesarism’s goals.
Historically, conservatives have stated their unwavering support for our Constitution — espousing an originalist or textualist view of it — and for small government. Red Caesarism also tramples on these notions.
All of this aside, how have autocratic dictators worked out in the past 100 years? Not well as it turns out. To think that people suggest that we need more Hitlers, more Stalins, and more Pol Pots boggles the mind. Of course, supporters of Red Caesarism will likely discuss their ideal leader in terms of Plato’s benevolent philosopher king, but modern dictators are anything but benevolent. They tend to be self-interested, murderous sociopaths.
Rather than trying to upend the American experiment, our founding fathers created a path for addressing woes that face our country: Elections. As I’ve mentioned, there’s reason for concern about the country’s direction, but the more appropriate way of correcting troubling trends is to promote electable candidates of integrity, win elections and legally change the system from within. This apparently isn’t an option for Red Caesarism’s fans who lust for an autocrat.
While they style their theoretical would-be dictator after Julius Caesar, there are other Romans that Americans ought to hold in much higher esteem. Men like Cato the Younger and Marcus Tullius Cicero are far better role models. They were imperfect individuals, but they spent their lives in service to the state. They strove to retain the Romans’ freedom and liberty and preserve their republic’s ideals.
The fact that some intellectuals would glorify Julius Caesar and suggest that his example should be replicated in America betrays their true feelings. This is essentially a tacit acknowledgment that their chosen candidates are entirely unelectable in large numbers. So they’d rather blow up the system and risk the dangers of a dictator, which is short-sighted to say the least.