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On Optimates, Populares, And @VDHanson

22 October 2019 @ 17:15

Victor Davis Hanson is probably the greatest living Historian of Warfare.

But when it comes to Present Politics he has shown himself to be sometimes Fallible.

In his article of 20 November for American Greatness, Why Do They Hate Him So?, he is both spot-on and wrong.

The first parts of his post are Insightful, such as:

Most of the prominent New York-Washington, D.C. insider Republican pundits abhor him. The creed of a NeverTrumper is that it is well worth the effort to see the current Republican president removed, and his administration imploded—even if that means four or eight years of an Elizabeth Warren, a Bernie Sanders, or a Joe Biden agenda as voiced in the debates. That would likely mean Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, slavery reparations, permissible infanticide in the case of late-term abortions, a wealth tax, and a generally socialist platform, from renouncing student debts to veritable open borders.

Only amid the ashes of Trump’s destruction do sober and judicious conservative intellectuals, writers, pundits, think-tankers, and establishment Republican grandees believe they can step in to rebirth the Republican Phoenix, nurturing the rising new party with its once hallowed traditions as exemplified by George H.W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.

But the NeverTrumpers are and remain a tiny segment of the electorate who have had zero effect in swaying Republicans and only marginal influence in persuading swing voters, in their new roles as occasionally useful naïfs of the hard Left.

Far more importantly, why do the media, academia, the entertainment and professional sports industries, the progressive Left, the administrative state, and most Democratic officeholders despise him so?

There are other bang-on observations and analyses — it is well-worth a read [as are his other takes in other works].

VDH lists Trumpius Maximus’s accomplishments:

Workers’ pay has risen to a net per capita gain of $5,000 since Trump took office. The U.S. energy industry is booming as the world’s largest producer of gas and oil, a fact that has likely saved more lives by rendering the death trap of the oil-rich Middle East increasingly irrelevant to American strategic interests.

By 2020, Trump will have remade the federal judiciary—when at an earlier moment in 2016, it looked as if an Obama-Clinton 16-year regnum would soon ensure a half-century dominance of left-wing activist judges.

Trump entered office with North Korean nuclear rockets allegedly pointed at the West Coast, and with China heralded as the inevitable new global hegemon. A petulant NATO insidiously refused to meet its promised contributions. ISIS ran amuck.

The border was wide open, and that had resulted in 20 million illegal aliens residing in the United States with de facto exemption from most consequences of violating U.S. laws. Trump at the outset has at least sought to address all those problems that sandbagged the prior administration.

…the real source of their antipathy is his agenda.

But whereas the Obama economy stagnated and his foreign policy was seen by adversaries and rivals as a rare occasion to recalibrate the world order at American’s expense, Trump mostly did not fail—at least not yet. We are currently in an economic boom while most of the world economy abroad is inert. Had the economy just crashed as predicted, the Trump agenda would have been discredited and he would be written off a pitiful fool rather than an existential monster.

Again, hatred arises at what Trump did even more than what he says or how he says it.

Where Mr. Hanson goes off the rails is with this statement:

The Left detests Trump for a lot of reasons besides winning the 2016 election and aborting the progressive project. But mostly they hate his guts because he is trying and often succeeding to restore a conservative America at a time when his opponents thought that the mere idea was not just impossible but unhinged.

— History Does Not Repeat Itself; It Rhymes —

Back in the days of The Roman Republic, there was a man of Prominence named Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

For many years, he led a Wastrel’s Life, possible openly living with a Homosexual Actor, and hanging around with, according to Plutarch ‘actresses, musicians, and dancers, drinking with them on couches night and day’.

For various reasons, Sulla joined The Army and proved to be a Formidable General who possessed that special quality all Generals need: Luck.

Always rich as a member of the Optimates,¹ he got even wealthier because of his campaigns.  However, he was often denied his public due because the head of the Populares,² General Gaius Marius, used his low-animal cunning to steal the spotlight from Sulla.

The evolving, as he correctly saw it, Corruption of The Republic further fueled Sulla’s drive to once-and-for-all defeat the Populares.

After a Marius crossed him one too many times, Sulla marched on Rome.

From Wikipedia:

Sulla consolidated his position, declared Marius and his allies hostes (enemies of the state), and addressed the Senate in harsh tones, portraying himself as a victim, presumably to justify his violent entrance into the city. After restructuring the city’s politics and strengthening the Senate’s power, Sulla returned to his camp and proceeded with the original plan of fighting Mithridates in Pontus.

…Marius, however, fled to safety in Africa. With Sulla out of Rome, Marius plotted his return. During his period of exile, Marius became determined that he would hold a seventh consulship, as foretold by the Sibyl decades earlier. By the end of 87 BC Marius returned to Rome with the support of Lucius Cornelius Cinna and, in Sulla’s absence, took control of the city. Marius declared Sulla’s reforms and laws invalid and officially exiled Sulla. Marius and Cinna were elected consuls for the year 86 BC. Marius died a fortnight after, and Cinna was left in sole control of Rome.

It would seem, at this point, that the Populares had won.  They hadn’t counted on the Trump-like Tenaciousness and Pugnaciousness of Sulla.

After achieving major Victories in the East and settling matters there, Sulla again marched on Rome, took it, and revived the The Dictatorship that had been dormant since The Second Punic War:

…He returned victorious from the East in 82 BC, marched a second time on Rome, and crushed the Populares and their Italian allies at the Battle of the Colline Gate. He then revived the office of dictator, which had been inactive since the Second Punic War over a century before. He used his powers to purge his opponents, and reform Roman constitutional laws, in order to restore the primacy of the Senate and limit the power of the tribunes of the plebs. After a second consulship in 80 BC, he retired to private life and died shortly after.

Sulla’s military coup—ironically enabled by Marius’ military reforms that bound the army’s loyalty with the general rather than to the Republic—permanently destabilized the Roman power structure. Later leaders like Julius Caesar would follow his precedent in attaining political power through force.

What Sulla did was to Restore the Conservative Mechanisms of The Roman Republic.

He was, however, no conservative.  His aim was to gain Power And Control and he used it, in ingenious ways, to Eliminate his Enemies.

The Aims of Lucius Cornelius Sulla were not True.

As I have written here recently:

Trump has taken a number of actions that have been good for the Restoration of Freedom And Ordered Liberty, but his motives are not conservative. He is merely trying to please a Constituency that he hopes to grow even larger in time for the 2020 Presidential Elections. Hence, in one example, he rescinds Regulations at the same time he tries to ban Vaping. Trump’s most fevered supporters, who half-a-decade ago would have denounced some of his actions, now twist themselves uncomfortably into knots trying to justify ALL of his deeds.

Sulla was the Political Godfather of Julius Caesar.

And as I wrote here back in late June:

We find ourselves in a similar situation to Rome in the last days of The Republic: Willing to accept very Immoral people, with rather despicable track records, as long as they promise to give us those things we desire.

It worked for Julius Caesar.

He promised to restore Virtue and Honesty to Rome. He was also Corrupt and Highly Immoral and not a conservative. He had an ear for what the people of The Republic wanted and he advocated for those things. Caesar was, perhaps, the first Roman to successfully understand the strategy of Despots: Bread And Circuses.


Trumpicus Pompey Maximus Sulla has sided with a modern version of the Populares who, these days, are the ‘conservatives’.  The modern version of the Optimates are creatures of The Left, whether as True Believers or as Useful Idiots.

This is what Mr. Hanson fails to understand: both sides are seeking a New, Modern Caesar.  The ‘conservative America’ he speaks of that Trump is supposedly trying to ‘restore’ is not a Strategy born out of Virtuous Desires, but, rather, a desire to please the Populist part of our Current Society.

Trumpicus is using — probably unknowingly — the Tactics of Sulla and Caesar…as it must be said, Hillaria Tiberius would have, but she would have been more like Sulla in her Savagery.

Trump is not to ever be Trusted.


¹ Optimates [trans: ‘best ones’]: A, relatively speaking, conservative group in Roman Republican Society.  From Wikipedia:

…The Optimates favoured the ancestral Roman laws and customs, as well as the supremacy of the Senate over the popular assemblies and the tribunes of the plebs. They also rejected the massive extension of Roman citizenship to Rome’s Italian allies advocated by the Populares….

² Populares [trans: ‘favoring the people’]: A group that wanted, in essence, to make The Roman Republic a Democracy.

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