Home Scott McKay Reviews 'Domestic Enemies' for the American Spectator
Home Scott McKay Reviews 'Domestic Enemies' for the American Spectator

Scott McKay Reviews 'Domestic Enemies' for the American Spectator

My friend Daniel Greenfield, the outstanding contributor over at FrontPage Magazine, is no Pollyanna. If you’re a religious reader of Greenfield’s work, as I am, you’ll know he’s one of the most brutally honest and savage critics of the Left that we’re blessed to have, and in that brutal honesty, he’s credibly accused of presenting current circumstances as dire.

To which Greenfield has a defense: Current circumstances are dire.

Interestingly enough, though, Greenfield’s excellent new book Domestic Enemies: The Founding Fathers’ Fight Against the Left contains a quite optimistic look at the future of America.

Greenfield makes the point that the kooks, crooks, and villains who make up the modern Left aren’t very new at all. They’re merely new iterations of an irritating faction in American politics that has been around from the very beginning.

We’ve always had socialists, communists, urban machine pols, traitors, and thugs. The ones our Founding Fathers contended with might actually have been worse than what we’ve got now.

It seems hard to imagine, especially given our current miseries, but Domestic Enemies makes a terrific case for just that contention.

Greenfield doesn’t belabor things too much in giving a blow-by-blow presentation of all of the terrible leftist movements America has faced. He focuses his analysis on the period between the calling of the constitutional convention in 1787 and the Civil War, and particularly the 1864 election. We’re presented with the idea that American politics was dominated by aristocratic white men in that timeframe and that the arguments animating our political process had to do with the commercial disputes of the ruling classes.

Not so, says Greenfield.

In fact, in his telling, politics hasn’t changed all that much.

Take, for example, the obnoxious Aaron Burr, the nation’s third vice president most remembered for having killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. There is a great deal more about Burr that ought to be understood, and Greenfield handily fills in those gaps. For example, Burr was a principal in the hideously corrupt Manhattan Water Company, a supposed utility chartered by the state of New York to supply potable water to the people living at the southern tip of the island which was funded by property taxes. It dipped into the same rancid communal water source the people of New York City were using before its charter and used its proceeds to build an election-rigging political machine, complete with a crooked loan operation, which ultimately became the Tammany Hall operation.

Burr attempted to rig the 1800 presidential election, unsuccessfully. He was later convicted of treason and became something of a globetrotter in his efforts at power-hungry scheming, including an attempt to become emperor of Mexico.

And he was very, very enamored of the French Revolution, which was ongoing at the same time our Founding Fathers were attempting to write the Constitution.

Greenfield takes pains to show just how destructive and pernicious the French Revolution was. He does a real service in reminding the reader of that.

It isn’t all that well-recognized anymore, but the French helped our revolutionary efforts before they overthrew their king. The France to whom America owed allegiance and friendship was a very different entity a decade later, and the French Revolution was an entirely different animal than our own. The French Revolution was iconoclastic and utopian in ways ours was not, and it was far less civil, far bloodier, far more destructive, and far more disruptive to its neighbors.

The principles of our revolution are largely embodied in our Bill of Rights, which establishes that the government exists to safeguard the God-given liberties of the governed. Our focus is on the pursuit of happiness; its achievement is up to each of us. As such, our constitution takes pains to bottle up the powers of government in a system of checks and balances.

However, the French concept is that the government exists to provide the happiness of the whole society, not to safeguard its pursuit by the individual. The French revolutionaries answered the criticism of those who weren’t on board with their methods of providing that happiness with the guillotine. In that vein, the radical leftism of, say, the Soviet Union and Communist China — our major external threats over the past 80 years — finds a direct progenitor in the French Revolution.

And the French sent agitators across the Atlantic time and again to make demands of America and to attempt to displace our revolution with their own.

As Greenfield notes, they found a lot of willing American stooges. He argues that our politics has been a never-ending struggle between the principles of our revolution and the French ever since.

Most of the worst scoundrels in our political history have embraced the French principles, among them atheism, sex-as-entertainment, what we would now call “equity” rather than equality under the law, wealth redistribution, censorship of the press, and political violence.

They’ve all been around for a very long time here in America.

Read Domestic Enemies and you’ll recognize that the blight of urban Democrat politics goes back to the nation’s founding, that literal communists have been around even here in America since before Karl Marx, that modern labor unions in this country stem from a secret society founded by a pulp novelist, and that the use of street thugs as a political weapon has been a core characteristic of Democrat politics since the party’s founding.

So why is this a hopeful book? Because, as Greenfield says, American patriots have defeated the Left and its assorted radicals and sleazeballs many times over the course of our history. There is no reason we can’t beat back the current iteration of this threat.

And as he says, the Left always fails, because they get every aspect of human nature wrong. It’s paradoxical, given their resilient appeal to weak minds, but it’s true. After all, the French Revolution failed spectacularly. So did the Soviet Union. And, ultimately, so will the Chicoms.

Greenfield’s book gives examples of how the good guys have won against the Left throughout American history. He’s asking us to learn and apply those lessons so that the radicals are disappointed yet again.

We should. Buy this book.

Scott McKay is a veteran of political writing, having founded the Louisiana-based politics and culture site The Hayride in 2009 and serving as a regular columnist at The American Spectator since 2012. He’s the author of ‘Racism, Revenge and Ruin: It’s All Obama’ and the novel ‘King Of The Jungle’.

This article originally appeared at The American Spectator.