“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” Antonio Gramsci’s dictum aptly characterizes the current crisis of post-Cold War neoliberalism. One of the morbid symptoms that has appeared in the interregnum is the hope in some corners of the populist right for a Caesarist president to demolish the crumbling woke neoliberal regime and reboot America.
In an era in which power in the three realms of government, business, and culture is monopolized by a nepotistic, monocultural but multiracial overclass, it is not surprising that the party of the populares should dream of a Caesar who will end the reign of the optimates—or, to use an analogy from early modern Britain, a Patriot King who will defeat the City Party on behalf of the Country Party. But Caesarism is a cure for oligarchy that is as bad as the disease.
Fantasies of salvation by Caesar have historically been more common on the left than the right. Many progressives hope that each new Democratic president will prove to be FDR redivivus, presiding over the next New Deal in a Hundred Day blizzard of executive orders. There is a certain logic to Caesarism of the left. Because many progressive goals, from institutionalized gender-blurring to costly measures to mitigate global warming, are unpopular with voters and most of the legislators they elect, it is natural for left-wingers to hope that their policies might be imposed by executive fiat or judicial ukase, rather than dying or being whittled away to insignificance in Congress.