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  • ‘Cultural Totalitarianism’

    ‘Cultural Totalitarianism’

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    Writing in The Week, Damon Linker says the discussion on this blog is a good indicator of how Donald Trump could weaponize the Democrats’ lurch to the hard left, and win the White House for a second term. Excerpts:

    To get a sense of how Trump could deploy a more expansive definition of the term “socialism” to do maximal electoral damage to the Democrats, I suggest close and regular reading of the blog of Rod Dreher at The American ConservativeLast week Dreher announced that he’s planning a new book, timed for the fall of 2020, about the threat that socialism poses to the United States in general and to conservative Christians and other traditionalist religious believers in particular. In Dreher’s view, the threat goes far beyond the worry that pious Americans who happen to be well off will face higher taxes. The danger that socialism supposedly poses to the kind of people who read Dreher’s blog has much more to do with what might be described as cultural totalitarianism.

    Those who follow the world of conservative ideas will recognize the argument as one associated with the Polish writer and former anti-Communist dissident Ryszard Legutko. In a book published in this country in 2016, The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, Legutko claimed that the secular liberalism that has come to dominate Central and Eastern Europe in the years since the end of the Cold War is less different from the communist totalitarianism it replaced than is typically acknowledged. Both systems are holistic ideologies that despise genuine pluralism. Both seek to drive out competing visions of humanity and the world. And both are fundamentally intolerant of dissent.

    Dreher is proposing to adapt and apply this argument to the United States, describing a country confronting what he calls the “Woke Menace” of a newly radicalized and emboldened left that aims to centralize power and stamp out all dissent. Those who believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, who think that the free exercise of religion goes beyond worshipping in church and private homes, who therefore believe that devout Christians (and Jews and Muslims) should be free (in some instances) to discriminate against homosexuals and the transgendered, who consider abortion to be murder and abortion in the third trimester to be infanticide — Americans who hold these and similar views find themselves confronting the prospect of a party gaining power that considers every one of these positions not just erroneous but fundamentally illegitimate, beyond the moral pale, rooted in irrational animus and bigotry, and worthy of being excommunicated from public life.

    Linker goes on to say:

    This is what Dreher means by “socialism” — the attempt by the left to seize total control and use every power at its disposal (political, economic, cultural, technological) to smash its moral opponents, once and for all.

    Read the whole thing. He’s right, and in a way that’s clarifying for my project. The newly-radicalized Democrats will offer left-wing economic solutions to our problems, and use those to gain power — which they will use to smash their moral opponents once and for all. That is my concern, and that is my firm belief. In fact, looking back over my book proposal, it’s all about establishing a totalitarian progressive culture. One of the early chapters is about how the right’s not taking seriously enough the economic distress of Americans is a precursor to the left taking political power, and then using it to smash Deplorables.

    I should say that the book, as planned, talks about how the left is managing to do this already without having control of the State. It’s doing it through woke capitalism, control of universities, control of media, and through social media. In fact, conservatives holding power in the State is, in important ways, the only thing standing between total left-wing cultural hegemony. I wish the president would be more pro-active in shielding us, but at this point, I’m grateful simply not to have an enemy in the executive branch.

    I don’t know what Trump is going to mean when he denounces “socialism” in his campaign next fall, but Linker defines clearly what I mean: left-wing political control in Washington, which they will use to smash the things progressives always loathe: religion, the traditional family, moral conservatism, and the idea of the nation.

    Once you start seeing our own culture through the eyes of people who grew up under communism, you can easily observe that the left’s embrace of identity politics — including woke capitalism, academia, news and entertainment media — has already built the cultural and psychological structure for left-wing totalitarianism. What they lack now is political power to write these things into law. Kavanaugh, the Covington Catholic boys, Ralph Northam, and Amelie Wen Zhao — these are all manifestations of what’s to come under the cultural socialism of our new Democrats.

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