Voting for Caligula

The Roman Republic ended when the Roman people decided to vote for Caesar. Of course, he carefully claimed he was not Caesar, but simple Octavian, man of the people, who sought nothing but to benefit the people and protect or restore their republic. Once in power, however, Augustus Octavian Caesar who claimed only to be “First Citizen” was soon followed by the likes of Caligula and the degeneration of Rome into a cesspool of lawlessness and depravity.

Kings and dictators were viewed with suspicion by Romans who had overthrown their last King 500 years earlier, and instituted their form of governance with consent of the governed, a Republic.

Many in the ancient world knew of the dangers of kings or dictators, having lived under them, to their dismay. The Jews of ancient Israel thought a king would be a good idea, but the prophet relayed God’s thoughts on the subject, as recorded in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 8:10-18, which details the terrible outcomes of having a king and concludes, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

The ancient Israelites failed to heed God’s warnings, and to the peoples’ dismay, their kings fulfilled God’s predictions, bringing much misery to them, their children, and their property.

Despite much suffering under kings from the ancient world through medieval times, kings predominated, not for the benefit of the people, but for the benefit of kings, their courtiers, financiers and enablers. Fortunately, our Founders learned from God’s warning to the Israelites and history’s examples of other kings.

American colonists, having suffered much under their own King George III and his abuses of power, in the greatest political-legal achievement in history, in my humble opinion, erected a nation of law, not of men, evicting their king and establishing a republic of the people, by the people and for the people. These Americans, seeking to pass on the benefits of government by the people to their posterity, wrote a republic into the “supreme law,” the Constitution.

The supreme law required any person seeking office in the nation to swear to preserve and defend that Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic. The product of compromise, the Constitution was not perfect, but it represented a quantum leap out of the crass, narcissistic, demonic results of rule by kings, and the American experiment led in the following centuries to spread of government by the people across much of humanity and the world.

In a reversal of common sense and clear-headed American principles, many are today asking: should I vote for Caesar?

Hard to believe but this is a question being asked by many of our fellow Americans in the land of George Washington and Tom Jefferson and Abe Lincoln, but it is. Forty percent of people polled indicate they are thinking of voting for a “wanna be” Caesar; also many in the US armed forces; police, too, and police unions have endorsed Caesar before, so one expects they will probably support Caesar next time around. Seventy-seven million voted for Caesar in 2020.

So, let’s answer the question: is it okay to vote for Caesar?

The answer to the question depends on many factors. Caesar is not a nice person, as you may know. Among the factors to consider is Caesar’s “grab em by the pussy” comment, revealing, undeniably, his utter disdain for women (more than half of our country!). Just “grab em by the pussy,” walk up and do it. Don’t ask for consent, don’t concern yourself with human dignity or respect, just walk up and “grab em by the pussy.” If you have a daughter, or are one, or have a mother, this might be a factor against voting for Caesar.

Another factor, what does Caesar say about how he would govern if you vote for him? Retribution. That’s job one. Caesar is going after all who opposed him with all the power he has. Dictator on day one, Caesar says. Abe Lincoln, near the close of the Civil War opined “government should not seek revenge,” as they contemplated how to treat soon to be defeated rebels. Caesar trumpets revenge.

How about a free press necessary to inform the people of what their government is doing? Caesar on the press: going down! Caesar has also stated his intent to be a dictator, though only on day one. Since Caesar has said these and many other odious things are the things he would do if elected, we should evaluate them as though true.

It is a problem to vote for Caesar given these statements and others if you ever swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, to defend it against all enemies foreign or domestic, like everyone in the military, the police, attorneys or government employment have done. Because of that oath, one has a duty to oppose those who seek to subvert the Constitution, like freedom of speech, or the press, or unequal protection of the law among other things. Such an oath limits one’s right to otherwise vote for Caesar.

Before, in America, it was claimed, “A man’s oath is his bond.” Today, many seem willing to absolve “oath breakers.” Of course, with that baby, out goes the bathwater of all contracts, all social commitments. The metastasis of a cancer of bond breaking has, in the history of humanity, often had disastrous consequences. Like the Israeli’s warned by Samuel, we are not immune to the dissolution of the tendons holding our culture together.

So, I conclude only those who never swore an oath to the Constitution can vote “in good conscience” for Caesar. Only those who have no deceased or wounded ancestor who fought to defend the Republic may vote for Caesar. Only those who have never pledged allegiance, or celebrated July 4, or claimed to follow the God of the Bible, may vote for Caesar. Only those with no mother or sister or daughter may vote for Caesar.

This seems to whittle down the numbers able to conscientiously vote for Caesar somewhat. Of course, none of the above is new, and such warnings have failed in the past, despite the lessons of our ancestors, our institutions, our vaunted claims to being a “nation of law, not men,” a nation of liberty under laws. In the end I can only quote Judge Learned Hand to close, from his speech, “The Spirit of Liberty” at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944):

“Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it… What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.

“What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”

Learned Hand notes the “spirit of Him” in support of this concept of liberty under law. I wrote a draft of this commentary for Christmas 2023, closing with: I wish you all a hallowed Christmas 2023, where, perhaps, enough sincerely search their hearts while honoring His birth, and realize they ought not vote for Caesar. Neither the current “wanna be” Caesar, nor any of his like to come.

Such Caesars are always too sure that they are right. Too sure they should be king and the people their subjects. Samuel’s warnings, God’s own warnings, and the lessons of history are cautionary and instruct one to vote for the Republic and not to vote for Caesar.

Kary Love is a Michigan attorney.