But the neo-Jacobins among us are not satisfied with being “the change”; they are not reformers. They are destroyers, and proud ones at that. Any doubter need only reflect on the prevalence of the “defund the police” movement that grew in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Or the less important, but equally symbolic, assaults on public monuments that are under attack in cities across the nation. For these people, the institutions of our democracy are a waste of time. The police cannot be reformed; they must be destroyed. Same for the “patriarchy,” naysayers, and anyone else deemed afoul of the mob.
Ironically, Donald Trump brings the same spirit to his presidency as the “defund the police” crowd. Law enforcement isn’t in his gun sights, but plenty of other institutions are. Rather than fix the World Health Organization — an organization in Beijing’s thrall because its members have allowed it — Trump simply pulled the United States out. Many fear that his reported desire to pull out of NATO — something resisted by most in his administration — will come to fruition in a second term.
Revolutionaries have their place in this world: Who could begrudge the people of Iraq tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein or the people of Romania tossing the Communist Nicolae Ceausescu from office? Who would deny the justice in the Founding Fathers’ revolt against King George? In each place there was no legal means of redress against an oppressive and unjust system. But that’s not the modern United States, which offers its citizens a pathway to reform even the most hated of institutions.