Hewitt and Caesarism
A reader writes on some interesting historical parallels to the faith-based leader-cult that best describes Hugh Hewitt's political-theological position:
It might not be far from the truth to see in Hugh and his ilk the same phenomenon that Donald Rumsfeld once characterized as dead-enders. But there's another aspect of his thinking that troubles me very deeply.
Back in the late 19th century there were a group of thinkers centered in Middle Europe who called themselves "Caesarists" - they held that the most promising social organization was a highly structured, authoritarian society led by a charismatic leader with at least a measure of religious attributes (by some formulations, this leader should be simultaneously a secular and a religious leader, which of course fit the Julian concept to a T). Western style democracy, they argued, was lazy and weak (actually they regularly used the German word "faul" which means either lazy or rotten, a carefully calculated ambiguity), and only the Caesarian variant could inspire men to fulfill their great potential.
Many intellectual historians see in the Caesarists the seeds of the fascist movements of the 1920's, and that's true, but one could just as easily link them to the Napoleon-worshippers in France, other authoritarian strains of conservatism, and even to Leninist notions of democratic centralism. They were defined by a contempt for liberal democracy, and consequently they provided amunition to all of liberalism's enemies.
The Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004 were different from prior election campaigns I have witnessed in that there was a carefully maintained aura of this "Caesarism" about them (always on the fringes, always deniable, but nevertheless there). And now that Bush's popular support collapses through floor after floor, we find his hardcore support, say a quarter of the voting population, heavily populated by this "faith" Caesarian contingent.
Liberal society can and should allow free space for such conceptualizations and movements, but it must also recognize the threat that they present to basic democratic concepts. We are living those threats right now. The mainstream media and our punditry have failed to engage these issues in a serious way. Your book, when it is out, will perhaps make an important start.