From the L Word to Cultural Marxism

During the 1988 presidential campaign, then vice-president George H.W. Bush labelled his counterpart Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts in pejorative fashion with the ‘L’ word, or ‘liberal.’ To be deemed a liberal during that era to many meant you would be perceived as being outside the mainstream, and one who was indecisive or deemed weak in foreign affairs, especially with the Soviet Union, and not a strong supporter of the military. You were most likely to support strict gun control, be seen as soft on crime, and support abortion, as Dukakis did. So negative was the connotation that most politicians of the era ran away from the moniker, with many describing themselves instead as centrists, as Bill Clinton did in 1992.

In the same fashion, throughout the 20th century in the United States, to be labelled a ‘Socialist’ would have been political suicide and would virtually automatically preclude such a candidate from winning any national office. That was the case until 2007, when Bernie Sanders won the Senate seat in Vermont as an avowed ‘Socialist.’ Sanders was not taken all that seriously by the majority in the early years of his service. However, in the democratic primaries of both the 2016 and 2020, it became plain to see that the label ‘Socialist’ was no longer considered derogatory to many Americans given the strength of his grassroots support. His voter base in both primaries revealed that much of his support were young people, aged 18-30, becoming strong contributors to his success.

Today, some sixteen years after Sanders’ election to the Senate, we have five members of Congress and over 150 state legislature officeholders nationally who describe their political delineation as that of ‘Democrat-Socialist,’ which is not a classic political party -- yet. Most contemporary democrats of any stripe do not appear to reflect the democrats of previous generations. Not too many democrats of today are espousing “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and likely advocate the opposite. But adding the term ‘Socialist’ to Democrat is not simply a play on words. It is arranged that way to soften the impact of the term ‘Socialist.’ The reality is, they are Socialists, plain and simple. From the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) website, under the page ‘What is Democratic-Socialism?’ The first line reads: ‘Capitalism is a system designed by the owning class to exploit the rest of us for their own profit.’ What tripe does that sound like?  Further on it states: ‘We want to collectively own the key economic drivers that dominate our lives, such as energy production and transportation.’ One can only wonder what that really means.

Back to the Sanders surprise showing in 2016, and to a lesser extent in 2020. How did that happen? As mentioned, the lion’s share of his voters were young, 18-30. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan ran for reelection against Sen. Walter Mondale. According to the Roper Center at Cornell, this same age group that voted so strongly for Sanders in democratic primaries thirty-plus years later voted 61% for Reagan in the 18-24 bracket, and 57% in the 25-30 bracket. Those numbers reflect all voters in that age group, Democrat, Republican, and independents. These Baby Boomers voted decisively for the conservative, and were a part of a landslide, as Reagan garnered a full 59% of the electorate that year. It begs the question, what changed? Many Boomers had gone to universities and colleges and earned degrees. Many had seen and were aware of the protests and demonstrations of the 60s and 70s that were front page news as they grew up. Even though radicals were the drivers of the protest scene in that era, they were a minority when it came to the overall population.

So why the vast difference in political leanings 1984 to 2016? I think we can credit Marxist thinkers Antonio Gramsci and Rudi Dutschke, with their quest to undermine Western culture with the “Long March Through the Institutions” and replace them with Marxist ideals as playing a significant role. The difference was that instead of promoting failed Soviet-style economic Marxism, this new rendition would be Cultural Marxism, that is, a thrust to radically change culture by focusing on the allegedly oppressed classes, while at the same time undermining America’s institutions.  By the late 1980s, this plan was in full swing in academia. New York Times writer Felicity Berringer pointed to this in an article “The Mainstreaming of Marxism in U.S. Colleges” written October 25, 1989. She wrote, “As Karl Marx’s ideological heirs in Communist nations struggle to transform his political legacy, his intellectual heirs on American campuses have virtually completed their own transformation from brash, beleaguered outsiders to assimilated academic insiders. It could be considered a success story for the students of class struggle, who were once regarded as subversives.”     

John Ellis, professor at the University of Santa Cruz during this same period wrote in his 2020 book The Breakdown of Higher Education, “Radical politics was a rising force on the campuses, and we were trying to draw attention to the dangers in what was happening while there was still some chance of arresting it. But it’s now clear that we failed to stop the slide, because the political radicals on campus never had any interest in what we had to say. Their purposes were not ours. We were interested in the quality of higher education, but what they cared about was getting control of the campuses so they could use them to promote their political ideology, one so unpopular with the general public that it could not have been advanced in any other way.”

The bitter truth is that the ‘Long March’ worked! It took time, but now we face this massive challenge of how to root it out of our federal, state, and local governments, along with our military, universities, media, school boards, etc. Our young people have been and are being radicalized and propagandized daily. Supporting all this are the Democrats of today, and their DSA allies. They are a united front committed to transforming and gutting America from the inside out. Destroy the middle class, render impotent parental rights, isolate the church as a spewer of hate and intolerance, render ineffective the rule of law, demean the history and the Constitution of these United States. In concert with global elites, the media elite, and the toxic leftist bilge that is constantly oozing from their seats of power, they are doing just that.

Abraham Lincoln spoke of this potential of self-inflicted catastrophe when he said: “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

Which will it be? Life or death? What’s next for America?    

(Quotations for this article derived from the work of Mike Gonzalez and Katharine Gorka of the Heritage Foundation.)

Rich Chiero is a writer and a historian deeply concerned with conditions in the United States and the West in general. He can be reached at:

Image: Eclusette

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