Will This Day And Age Be Remembered As The End of the American Republic?

Perhaps a nation built upon slavery started on the wrong side in the first place

Jun 26, 2024 at 2:14 pm
Is Trump leading America into a Dark Age of Ignorance? Are we already there?
Is Trump leading America into a Dark Age of Ignorance? Are we already there? Murphy

When Julius Caesar led his army from Gaul into Rome – against a constitution which forbad that and also kings or emperors - the river he crossed gave its name to momentous decisions from which there is no return. Historians also mark it as the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

Romans knew exactly when Caesar crossed the Rubicon and knew its significance. Americans in 2024 can’t be so sure. We may have already crossed our Rubicon, or, perhaps it has crossed us. Either way, it’s no longer hyperbole to suggest that we, too, may be at or beyond the beginning of the end of our Republic. 

People rarely have the perspective or clarity of understanding the times they live in, or at least the labels later applied to them. No one at the time called it World War I. No one asked “Do the Dark Ages start tomorrow or Friday?” or said “Let me tell you buddy I can‘t wait for the Gilded Age to begin”. There’s a chance that the times we live in now will be recognized in the future as The End of the American Republic (though it will need a catchier name)-  a time past which the candle had been extinguished and we dwelled in the darkness not yet noticing.

There once was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish“. Marcus Aurelius 

click to enlarge Will This Day And Age Be Remembered As The End of the American Republic?
Marc Murphy

Like armies in retreat it happened gradually at first and then all at once. It took 42 years for us to go from a president caught covering up a burglary resigning in shame with the support of his own party in the interest of the nation, to that same nation electing an obviously unprincipled thief, sexual predator, and corrupt businessman who “gets all his money from Russia” on a platform of immigrant hate and White Nationalism. It‘s taken only the last 7 years for the Republican Party, from its bottom to it’s Senate Leader, to pledge loyalty to this man and his campaign that makes explicit plans to subvert the Constitution, jail his opponents, and declare himself President For Life. 

Visiting my hometown last week I read the local newspaper. The political cartoon, pulled from a national syndicate, showed a couple talking while watching the TV news. As an aside, this is the worst of the genre. Anyway, an image of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is on the TV screen saying Trump supporters threatened to kill her when he is elected. The husband in his easy chair casually says to his wife “As if I needed another reason to vote for him”. The danger in this is its banality. Political cartoons don’t change minds, they reinforce and reassure them, like campaign bumper stickers. We’re beyond considering whether partisan murders and jailings are acceptable. We’re riffing on them. 

That mud on your shoes may be from the Rubicon you stumbled through a while back. 

Yet, still today, the Democrats waste their time trying to convince Trump’s supporters that he’s not a good person. That he’s gross and not worthy of respect. Clueless as ever, they don’t realize that his supporters don’t care. Some of them wallow in their deplorable baskets and celebrate his filth. Most find him repulsive, and perhaps even bemoan as an academic exercise the demise of democracy. But they don’t care because he serves their very specific interests. Support for his first presidential campaign jumped from 5% to, ultimately, victory, nearly overnight when he declared war on Mexicans and people of color. He has the unbreakable support of Christian Nationalists for whom he is clearing space in this Earthly Kingdom. They don’t care who he is, only that he will protect and expand their White Supremacy. These Christian Nationalists are the direct descendants of the White Southern Christian Evangelists who based their opposition to Civil Rights in the 1960’s and since on the same Bible with which the Supreme Court is today replacing the Constitution. 

Newspapers in hometowns across the country now repeat and amplify the previously unthinkable. Perhaps this is not a surprise in the country that leads the developed nations of the world only in military spending and prisons. Not education. Not health care. Not responsible wealth sharing. Not child care. Not equality. Not justice. We’ve made it too easy for future historians to reflect on the former USA and its demise and conclude “Well, yeah. That was always going to happen”.  

Where Caesar actually crossed the Rubicon isn’t known for sure. Centuries passed before the Rubicon itself was even identified. Trump is no Julius Caesar and our own river may already be months or years to our rear. Perhaps a nation built upon slavery started on the wrong side in the first place. Either way, here we are. 

What will they call these times? The Dark Ages were undemocratic and anti-intellectual. These may be the Darker Ages, because we knew better. Or just the Dumb Times.