Angelo Codevilla, brilliant observer, great thinker, and gifted writer, passed away last night. Ace of Spades reported today as news started to break:
He was walking when he was struck by a drunk driver. He died of his injuries at the hospital.
Codevilla had just recovered from covid. And then a drunk driver killed him.
I got the link from Mike at Cold Fury, stumbling across it by accident.
I know I've written about Angelo Codevilla before, around the time that one of his articles set the blogosphere on fire with its coherent and well-expressed recognition that America had devolved into an oligarchy with a Ruling Class who considers itself better than the rest of us, the Country Class. A ruling class different from and so much better than the Country Class that the rulers believe it's not worth trying to explain it to us. We should therefore just bow to our betters and allow them to do whatever they want.
Ace of Spades runs a few paragraphs from that 2010 article.
Never has there been so little diversity within America's upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America's upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and "bureaucrat" was a dirty word for all. So was "social engineering." Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday's upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters -- speaking the "in" language -- serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century's Northerners and Southerners -- nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, "prayed to the same God." By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God "who created and doth sustain us," our ruling class prays to itself as "saviors of the planet" and improvers of humanity. Our classes' clash is over "whose country" America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark's Gospel: "if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."
It's a wonderful piece, still necessary reading 11 years after the original post. I don't see others mentioning his 2016 follow up piece, "After the Republic," a look at the collapse of the Constitutional Republic of America and the likely following Empire.
Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.
Electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump cannot change that trajectory. Because each candidate represents constituencies hostile to republicanism, each in its own way, these individuals are not what this election is about. This election is about whether the Democratic Party, the ruling class’s enforcer, will impose its tastes more strongly and arbitrarily than ever, or whether constituencies opposed to that rule will get some ill-defined chance to strike back. Regardless of the election’s outcome, the republic established by America’s Founders is probably gone. But since the Democratic Party’s constituencies differ radically from their opponents’, and since the character of imperial governance depends inherently on the emperor, the election’s result will make a big difference in our lives.
The loss of Dr. Codevilla is a big loss. He will be missed. From his bio at the Claremont Review of Books.
Angelo M. Codevilla (1943-2021) was a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of International Relations at Boston University.
He received his B.A. from Rutgers University, an M.A. from Notre Dame University, and his Ph.D. in Security Studies, U.S. Foreign Policy, and Political Theory from the Claremont Graduate School.