Progressivism’s Collapse and Why it Matters
A couple of weeks ago, in a lengthy piece at the Weekly Dish, Andrew Sullivan lamented about the “radicalization of the American elite against liberalism.” While this appears so to Sullivan’s eyes, this radicalization doesn’t much involve conversions. It’s not as if card-carrying liberals suddenly became card-carrying leftists of varying stripes. Fellow travelers and quislings there are, but that’s always the case with movements.
Sullivan does point out that conservatives haven’t radicalized; they’ve pretty much been anchored to the same center-right beliefs and values for a generation or more.
An astonished Sullivan penned this:
Take a big step back. Observe what has happened in our discourse since around 2015. Forget CRT for a moment and ask yourself: is nothing going on here but Republican propaganda and guile? Can you not see that the Republicans may be acting, but they are also reacting -- reacting against something that is right in front of our noses?
What is it? It is, I’d argue, the sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.
Why does Sullivan’s angst matter, regardless of how he misconstrues the cause?
Because progressivism is a failed doctrine -- or as Lenin may have said, progressivism was useful until it wasn’t, just as socialism is transitional to communism. Today, we’re not up against progressives gone bad, but against a new generation of elites who’ve been inculcated with hard-left worldviews. These elites were nurtured to be this way, in many cases, coming from milieus -- families, communities, schools -- that increasingly embrace Marxist doctrine, whatever mask it wears.
This transition bodes ill for the nation, at least in the 2020s, which are shaping up to be one of the most tumultuous and momentous decades in the country’s history. This hard-left cohort is now waging an intensifying cold civil war against the American Experience -- against the very values and principles that justified our revolution and then the founding. Whether this cold civil war turns hot is a matter of ongoing conjecture.
Note, though, that Joe Biden alluded to civil war in his remarks on voting rights the other day in Philadelphia. Claimed the president in his attempt to stand truth on its head:
The assault on free and fair elections is just such a threat, literally. I've said it before: We're are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That's not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on January the 6th.
Biden’s Philadelphia speech was an effort to reverse perceptions and halt election reforms in Pennsylvania. He’s not alone in mouthing this charge. Other Democrats routinely regurgitate the same talking point.
The takeaway is that Democrats, through election chicanery in battleground states last year, and through the mockery called “For the people Act of 2021,” mean to so completely corrupt and subvert honest and fair elections -- from courthouses to the White House -- that one-party rule is assured.
Biden’s words weren’t hyperbole -- and shouldn’t be dismissed as such if taken in proper context. They’re ironic, however, in that “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War” is -- again -- being instigated by Democrats, by their elites, who mean to upend this republic, replacing it with a hideous caricature.
Understand this, too. Biden is merely a mouthpiece. He was intended to be a ruse, to be the reassuring, if doddering, face of bygone liberalism. The leftist elites who run his administration – or the faction that’s most emphatic about the supremacy of its worldview and policies -- are calling the shots, from election “reform” to open borders to statist COVID policies to unjustifiably indicting white Americans as racists, and everything in-between.
If the veteran Democrat operatives and D.C. hustlers (liberals all) who comprise the other principal White House faction are moderating Biden’s proposals and executive actions, we dread seeing how virulently leftist this administration would be if unleashed.
Let’s return to Sullivan’s key point.
We can imagine that there are liberal elites who were buffaloed by the “specter of ‘white supremacy.’” Perhaps that’s the case in the circles that Sullivan runs. But shouldn’t supposed sophisticates know better? Charges of mounting white supremacy are fraudulent; they’re a means of injecting into the body politic the poisonous canon of Critical Race Theory, a Marxist variant with the same intent as any Marxist work. And what’s the intent? To destroy the existing order and seize power -- done in the name of the “people,” of course. That’s the pith of the Communist Manifesto.
Progressivism -- here generally defined as a center-left worldview with some connections, however now tenuous, to American values and principles -- has been cratering for many years.
Progressivism’s (aka liberalism’s) undoing began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with the Vietnam War and upsurge of the leftist-dominated counterculture. The riot-scarred 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention was the beginning of the end of old liberalism. Left-winger George McGovern’s nomination in 1972 set the Democratic Party’s trajectory. The trendline has been downward ever since.
Bill Clinton attempted liberalism’s restoration, albeit with the proviso that the “Era of Big Government was over.” As events have since proved, the restoration was short-lived. The rising generation among Democrats favors Marxism, a doctrine hostile to the American experience.
Barack Obama and his presidency were transitional, which Sullivan only partially grasps. Obama nodded at the diminishing old liberalism -- that then important enough remnant of elites and swath of voters who held to American virtues and who had a nostalgia for JFK and his clique – the Arthur Schlesingers – that personified the zenith of postwar liberalism.
But Obama was a harbinger, ushering in the concept of “transforming” America. The concept of transformation has nothing to do with revivifying American liberty and exceptionalism. As we witness daily, it has to do with a hard left turn, an overthrowing of America as founded… and not just our politics, but more critically, our culture. Who we are as a people -- the essence of the American character -- is to be erased.
What replaces that character is more familiar to the PRC’s oppressed souls -- Hongkongers, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and still free but menaced Chinese on Taiwan. Mao and Chinese tyranny are much admired by American leftists.
The character universally approved by tyrants is pliant, subservient, obsequious. Free expression and dissent are met with persecution and, as tens of millions of killed in China, the USSR, Cuba, Cambodia, and elsewhere mutely attest to, the mass grave.
If homegrown leftist elites have their way -- heaven forefend -- why couldn’t those ugly consequences unfold here? History teaches us in abundance that Marxists (and their fascist cousins) have an unslakable thirst for power and dominance. The imprisonment and deaths of the stubbornly free, disfavored peoples, and merely inconvenient -- no matter the tally -- are means to whatever a pernicious elite care to achieve.
A void has been filled in America – dangerously so. The liberal cold warrior is a relic; his descendants are dwindling. The hard left is fully ascendant in the Democratic Party and major institutions. The picture is startlingly clear and grows clearer by the day. Either these forces are defeated and the republic fully restored, with all our freedoms and rights newly safeguarded, or a darkness is drawn over this land. What will it be?
J. Robert Smith can be found on Parler @JRobertSmith and more so at Gab, again @JRobertSmith. He also blogs at Flyover.
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