America’s Second Civil War

America is engaged in its second civil war. Like the first, the war is over an idea. Under sustained attack is the idea of America as expressed in  the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Founding Fathers set the preservation of individual freedom as the core aim of government, to be exercised within the Judeo-Christian moral order and understanding of human nature. They believed that each person is unique, made in the image of God, and to be treated according to his actions rather than circumstances of birth. They recognized that all of us are “fallen”, full of pride and inclined to use power for our own self-glorification, regardless of the impact on our fellow human beings. The American government, therefore, had to be designed to enable government to be strong enough to protect individual rights, but limited so the few could not come to tyrannize the many. America’s commitment to its core idea made it a beacon for all mankind. Despite inevitable failures and backsliding, most Americans still see it that way. They love their country and take pride in it.

A minority of very powerful Americans, however, think differently. They see a deeply flawed America, riven with injustice, inequality, oppression, and indifference to the environment. This view has taken root among  the university educated elites who control the federal government, the media, information technology companies, our educational institutions, and entertainment.  Confident of their self-proclaimed intellectual and moral superiority and convinced of the correctness and righteousness of their views, they feel entitled to tell the rest of us what to do, what to say, and what to believe.

The constellation of ideas animating the power elites, aptly labeled the woke left, is the opposite of the American idea and hostile to it:

  • God is dead; there is no inherent moral order.
  • Mankind is perfectible and utopia can be realized, provided the United States is under the guidance and control of those endowed with superior intellectual gifts and supportive of the “appropriate” ideas.
  • Left to the will of its people, America is irredeemably racist and evil; Americans are not fit to govern themselves; they must be directed by their betters.
  • Any inequality of outcome is de facto evidence of racism, a condition especially prevalent among white people.
  • The principle of meritocracy must be superseded by the principle of equality of outcome.

Because of the “justice” of their ideas and their inherent superiority, the cognitive elites feel justified in using any means necessary to accomplish their ends. Due process, rule of law, protection of property rights are all niceties that can be dispensed with when they get in the way of the march to leftist heaven.

The American journey toward the promised land of wokeism began with Woodrow Wilson who fervently believed that the United States should be run by right-thinking “experts”. It reached its apotheosis in Barack Obama, a cunning man of the hard left with a reassuring smile. Wokeism is seductive because it covers a single-minded pursuit of power with a patina of righteousness, impervious to a sober assessment of consequences.

Powerful political, economic, and technological developments over the past century created circumstances that were just right for making the rise of leftist elites possible:

  • The Great Depression created public assent to a radical expansion of government power, which necessarily entails greater centralization.  Never mind that Roosevelt’s heavy regulatory hand turned a garden variety recession into a depression much longer and more severe than it had to be. World War II reinforced public tolerance for big government.
  • Bigger government transferred power from markets to experts. Academics flourished as never before.
  • Advances in computer and communications technology made possible an astonishing expansion and concentration of power in the hands of those who controlled the technology itself (big tech), the media, and the entertainment industry.

The leftist elites have grown so powerful that they no longer have to hide their contempt for the “deplorable, irredeemable” American people, nor do they have to be circumspect in trying to force us to live the way they think we should. They have made great progress in pulling off a creeping coup. The United States is laboring under the influence of people who don’t like it.

Today’s woke leftists are no different from the Jacobins in 18th century France or the Bolsheviks in early 20th century Russia In terms of their utopianism, fanaticism, and inflammatory rhetoric. It is worth noting that both these movements led to mass slaughter and impoverishment. So far, however, violence in the U.S. has been limited to sporadic riots and looting by people who have been told they are victims of “systemic” racism, and therefore entitled to do and take whatever they want. We can hope but should not assume that violence won’t spread.

The Beginning of Opposition

The American people are beginning to notice that the leftist project is not working so well. The controlling elites increasingly are seen as corrupt, self-serving, and incompetent.

  • There is no border security. The southern border is open to anyone, and to add insult to injury, the woke left wants Americans to pay for their care and feeding, and give preference to their needs over those of American citizens.
  • Inflation has reduced Americans’ purchasing power.
  • Regulations nobody wants are raising costs, especially the cost of energy.
  • Trillion dollar increases in already unpayable federal debt during the Biden Administration eventually will cause either higher interest rates or higher inflation or both.
  • Trillions of dollars are being spent on a non-existent climate crisis [see Truth or Nonsense articles on climate change].
  • The American military is giving priority in its promotions and recruitment to race rather than merit. Same for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).
  • Crime in cities controlled by woke leftists has soared. Soros-subsidized prosecutors release violent felons from custody the day they are arrested.
  • The judicial system has been weaponized to destroy political opponents.
  • America abandoned its efforts in Afghanistan in a completely dishonorable manner, leaving behind $80 billion of military supplies and equipment.

In sum, whether intentional or not, the Biden Administration, like the Obama Administration, has taken actions in its pursuit of the woke leftist agenda exquisitely designed to make America poor, weak, divided, frightened, and unprotected by the rule of law.

Collision Course

The leftist program is fundamentally incompatible with the American idea.  If it wins, the America of the Founding Fathers loses. Just like the slavery issue in the 19th century, there is no middle ground. Never having understood this, traditional Republicans spent years fruitlessly trying to negotiate with and accommodate people who reject the fundamental premises on which the United States was built.

The inevitable, continuing failure of the woke left’s agenda will increase the pressure for change, but that will be matched by the intensity with which the leftist elites cling to their power. Fanatics convinced that their opponents are evil as well as ignorant, and suffused with the righteousness of their cause, will never cede power voluntarily. By contrast, Donald Trump, whatever his flaws, understands what regular Americans want, and what he – and they –are up against. He has tapped into a powerful yearning in the body politic. They want respect, but know that the woke leftist elites have no empathy for them. The elites  sense Trump’s appeal and fear him. If they follow the pattern of their historic counterparts, the Jacobins and the Bolsheviks, they will stop at nothing to defeat him. Herein lies a danger of a Fort Sumter moment. No one can know what course events will take. All we know for sure is that the pressure for conflict between the American Jacobins, who control the institutions of power, and the majority of the American people is building.

An honest 2024 presidential election, perceived as such, would serve as a pressure release valve, provided attempts to rig the election are suppressed.

No matter what happens in 2024, however, the woke left will remain committed to tearing down institutions established to protect Americans’ freedom while building up the power and reach of institutions they control. Unless and until the American people repudiate the woke left politically, culturally, and economically, they are in for a long struggle that will be resolved only when one side is a clear victor.

What can those of us with no power do?

If, like me, you view leftist wokeism as nihilistic, anti-human, and destructive, what should you do, short of violence? I have no grand schemes to offer, but a change in mindset and willingness to stand up for the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers is a good start:

  1. Recognize what you are up against. Like it or not, we are in a second civil war over what America is all about. Our opponents do not accept that the American idea is worthy of loyalty and the hard work of incremental improvement.
  2. Understand that, as the moderate Girondins discovered in France with the Jacobins, and the moderate Mensheviks discovered in Russia with the Bolsheviks, America’s woke left are interested not in compromise, but control.
  3. Speak up for free speech; speak out against evidence-free nonsense. Risk disapproval.
  4. Assume that the woke left has no interest in trying to understand and tell you what is true. Their priority is promoting whatever narrative strengthens their power and acceptance of their world view.
  5. Try to sort out what’s true for yourself. That’s difficult, but with a good faith effort, it is surely possible to improve the fit between your map of reality and the reality itself. You should always try to disconfirm your own conclusions. Here are some easy-to-see telltales for discerning whether someone is trying to speak to you truthfully:
    • You are given reasons for the assertions being made, supported by evidence.
    • If there are recommendations for action, you are told the underlying assumptions and principles.
    • There is no attempt to stir your anger and outrage, and no ad hominem attacks or scare tactics.
  6. Cultivate an old-fashioned American scepticism of authority. Always ask, “Who says so and how do they know?”
  7. Refuse to be cowed by the screechers. A little courage among us non-elite can go a long way.
  8. Maintain civility and good cheer, but never hesitate to speak your mind.

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Ground rules for comments 

I strongly welcome comments, but  ask you to abide by the principle, “Always respect the person, never respect the idea.”  A thoughtful analysis of why the views  I present are wrong helps all of us get closer to discerning what is true, but civility must rule.

 

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