In Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance, historian and political scientist Barry Rubin answers that question in convincing style and considerable detail. What happen was a “break from all American history” and “an ideological defacing of liberalism” on the part of the “Third Left,” the heir to both the Old Left of the 1920s-1950s and the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s.
As Rubin sees it, the Third Left took over liberalism, portrayed its only opponent as reactionary right-wing conservatism and claimed that their radicalism represents all that is good in America and a correction to all that is evil. The new radicalism also claims a monopoly on truth and a right to fundamentally transform America. This altered approach, Rubin explains, “was one of an unprecedented degree of statism, an imperial presidency that went far beyond Richard Nixon’s dreams: record high levels of government regulation, taxation and debt.” It was “a different system from the one through which America achieved success and prosperity. Yet the fact that such changes were occurring was everywhere denied even as it was happening.”
The timing was also significant. Across the globe, regimes following the Old and New Left’s model were collapsing. At the very moment in human history when it became obvious that the far left’s ideas had failed and that statist big government, ever-higher-regulation policies did not work, it became possible for the first time ever to convince Americans that these things were precisely what the country needed. And at the very time in human history when Western civilization and liberal capitalism were so obviously the most successful in history – recognized as such in the Third World and most of all in formerly Communist China – a camouflaged radical movement convinced many of those benefitting from the system that their own societies were in fact evil and failed.
According to Rubin, it became possible to convince Americans their society had failed because the Third Left “put its emphasis on infiltrating the means of idea and opinion production.” The Third Left shunned the factories and focused on foundations, NGOs, popular culture, publishing and journalism. Reporters “routinely used politically charged language that would have gotten them fired in earlier times” and mass media were out to “protect the image of anyone on the left side.” Rubin cites the portrayal of Ted Kennedy, involved in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and Bill Clinton of Monica Lewinsky fame, as heroes on women’s rights while others who had done nothing were “accused of waging a war on women.” Likewise, Rubin notes that Time magazine ridiculed Arianna Huffington when she was a conservative in 2001 but in 2006, when she turned to the far left, the same publication extolled her. “Such lessons put across the point that those who cooperated with the Third Left would be rewarded; those who crossed it would be destroyed.”
The Third Left’s subversion of bedrock American institutions such as the news media has only become more emboldened. A more recent example Rubin cites is the 2009 JournoList scandal, a product of the machinations of former Washington Post star pundit Ezra Klein. Influential writers, academics and members of the press on the confidential JournoList list-serv spoke of how to be most effective in ensuring Obama’s election victory in 2008. They told colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by calling Obama’s conservative critics racists. Rubin also cites Ryan Donmoyer of Bloomberg News who said, “Is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and the rise of the Brownshirts?”
Yet, says Rubin, “not a single serious investigation was conducted about Obama’s earlier life.”
In the universities the Third Left “drew heavily on Marxist historians from the Communist era – like Howard Zinn – and the New Left generation.” History became a revolutionary tool for discrediting American society and “showing it is unworthy of continued existence.” As in Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, the USA is responsible for Cold War and the USSR is innocent. “This is a staple of university history courses,” says Rubin, “despite the fact that the documents show a very different story.”
The author also notes that when Naomi Schaefer Riley of the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote of the low quality of Black Studies programs she was “quickly barred from the publication.”
From their new power centers the Third Left “sought to roll back the great liberal democratic revolution in human society. Anger, hysteria and class warfare replaced pragmatism and logic.” As Rubin observes, “the demonization of Christians, Republicans and large areas of America by an intolerant elite is one of the most absurd features of the terrible distortion of reality so powerful in the contemporary United States.”
The Third Left’s goal was “to convince Americans the exact opposite of what their experience proved: that the country had fundamentally failed and the old leftist solutions were the answer.” In the Third Left view, wealth was not created by individual enterprise and workers but stolen from poor foreigners and oppressed nonwhites. In a divide-and-conquer strategy, the Third Left declares America evil and “and the people are broken up into warring groups.”
The United States has been transformed into a county of castes, something like a medieval society, while the goal of equal treatment of citizens and the attempt to reward individual merit were overthrown in favor of special privileges. Every male and white person becomes guilty and can only attain innocence by backing the destruction of their own “privileges” by backing the Third Left and “Progressive” liberal agenda.
Barack Obama “came to symbolize the silent revolution,” but readers of Rubin’s book will find no conspiracy theories. For Barry Rubin, Obama is “just another product of the ideology and indoctrination that grown-up 1960s radicals had systematically spread to his generation and its successors.” By radicals he means people like Bill Ayers, Van Jones and Bernardine Dohrn, who back in the day said that young Americans should “use their strategic position behind enemy lines to join forces in the destruction of empire.”
Rubin shows how Obama’s mentor Frank Marshall Davis called himself a “progressive” to conceal the reality that he was a Communist. Rubin charts Obama’s radical professors and finds no case of him challenging any orthodoxy of the left or criticizing any Communist regimes. Obama emerges as the Third Left’s self-hypnotized Manchurian candidate, shrink-wrapped in statist superstition, hostile to America like his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright, and certainly not a liberal.
If Obama was a liberal, asks Rubin, “why did he repeatedly denounce the greatest accomplishments of liberals and call for a completely different approach?” Obama also opposed the American priority of protecting individual liberty from government control, “something liberals had never done.” He mocked a healthy skepticism of too much government as a bumper-sticker idea that doesn’t work. Even the liberal Warren court, Rubin says, was not "radical" enough for Obama.
Obama’s pronouncements appear in a different light when separated from his multicultural studio audience and cheering section. For Obama, “[a] free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.” As Rubin notes, “But it had always thrived under fewer rules than Obama wanted, while it had plummeted with the level of rules and definition of fair play Obama had imposed during his first term.” No worries, because that plays into the Third Left’s self-perpetuating system.
The economy would decline, constantly adding to unemployment payments, food stamps and other government programs, which in turn gave the Third Left more reasons to blame capitalism and the greedy rich for not having met society’s needs: to demand even higher taxes; to raise taxes, and to increase government spending.
Rubin believes that the radical forces and ideas of the Third Left will “continue to hold the commanding heights” even after Obama leaves office. The result “may be a very long term and even permanent change of the United States into something else, a nation far less affluent and far less free.”
That is the fundamental transformation the president and the Third Left want. It does seem insane and the author wonders, “Will there be a U turn?” That is, can tens of millions of people be turned back into pro-Americans? Barry Rubin passed away in February and does not chart the prospects for such a turnaround. A good place to start would be for Americans to read Silent Revolution and acquaint themselves with the true nature of those who call themselves “liberals” — and start pushing back.
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