Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Since the Sixties the Left has been expanding its influence throughout our nation and its institutions. But decades earlier communism had already established a foothold in the U.S. starting in the early 20th century. Even the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 only briefly checked this process. But history’s repudiation of a totalitarian political order––one fundamentally opposed to the Constitution’s protection of individual freedom and unalienable rights––could not uproot decades of leftist transformation of America.
Indeed, the last 20 years saw the Left reinvigorated by the rise of “woke” ideology and its anti-Constitutional agenda. The Biden administration and its hubristic policies and glaring failures increasingly look likely to ignite a backlash. The showdown between the “woke” Democrats and freedom-loving Americans, whatever their party, is coming in November, and will decide whether the Left has succeeded in “fundamentally transforming America.”
The principles, however, for “woke” leftism were laid down a century ago in the rise of progressivism. Like communism, progressivism favors centralized, concentrated power administered by government bureaucracies and agencies staffed by “experts” who know better than the sovereign people how best to run their lives.
But this ideology conflicts at every point with the Constitution, which balances, checks, and disperses power so that citizens are free to manage their lives, their families, and their businesses as they see fit, checked only by Constitutionally compliant laws created by Congress, whose members are accountable to the citizens who put them in office.
Starting with Woodrow Wilson and continuing through the presidencies of Democrats FDR, LBJ, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and now Joe Biden, the role of our government has been steadily transformed away from guarding our freedoms, to creating an alleged greater efficiency in establishing the equality of result, what the “woke” call “equity.” The Founders decried this malign idea as the “levelling spirit” that historically has lead to the tyranny of the masses or a despotic elite, for it takes compulsion to make people acquiesce in an idea that their common sense and experience have taught them is untrue and unjust.
The “woke” policies polluting our politics share these progressive technocratic assumptions. Alleged “experts” and cognitive elites are empowered to change our institutions in order to achieve “equity,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” in our businesses, government policies, entertainment, sports, and especially schools, where the young can be molded and trained to accept these dubious ideas.
Thus we’ve arrived at the preposterous policies that violate not just the Constitution, but reason, truth, and logic. Transgenderism, “systemic racism,” “white fragility,” biological sex as a choice rather than an immutable reality––all these irrational, incoherent and empty of empirical evidence ideas are now being taught to students from kindergarten to graduate school, and are reinforced in popular culture, corporate policy, and government policies.
But the same tyranny that defined communism, today camouflages itself with feel-good words like “diversity” or “inclusion.” But in fact these terms replace genuine diversity with rigid orthodoxy, and sincere inclusion with the intolerant exclusion of apostates and blasphemers through “cancel culture” and censorship of free speech, which has now been redefined as dangerous “disinformation” and “hate speech.”
Such linguistic violations of common sense and historical fact create monstrous hypocrisy and blatant double-standards, even as they perpetuate the big lies upon which Left “woke” culture rests. But this dynamic is not new. Take, for example, the long politicized and ideological deformation of words like “imperialism” and “colonialism.” In all the “woke” Left’s identity politics and “inclusion” chatter, in almost every vandalized monuments or discarded name of of a school or a football team, lurk these debased concepts. Given their importance for the Left, and the widespread acceptance of those distorted meanings, it’s useful to review the history of that verbal deformation.
As the historian of Soviet tyranny Robert Conquest wrote, these words now refer not to historical phenomena, but to “a malign force with no program but the subjugation and exploitation of innocent people.” As such, these terms are verbal “mind-blockers and thought-extinguishers,” which serve “mainly to confuse, and of course to replace, the complex and needed process of understanding with the simple and unneeded process of inflammation.”
The simplistic discrediting of colonialism and its evil twin imperialism became prominent in the early 20th century. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin, faced with the failure of classical Marxism’s historical predictions of the proletarian revolution, in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism gave to the indigenous colonized peoples the historical role of destroying capitalism that the European proletariat had failed to fulfill.
Lenin’s ideas influenced the anti-colonial movements after World War II, as seen in John-Paul Sartre’s introduction to Franz Fanon’s anticolonial screed The Wretched of the Earth: “Natives of the underdeveloped countries unite!” Now the Third World colonized have replaced classic Marxism’s “workers of the world.” The fledgling U.N. created a division that oversaw and hastened the transition of European colonies into independent nations––with active participation by Soviet communism’s Comintern, whose agents tutored indigenous radicals in how to exploit the Wilsonian ideal of national self-determination in order to rush the European powers into abandoning peoples not yet ready for independence.
In fact, the precipitate abandonment of those peoples to the machinations of communist agents or indigenous autocrats and tyrants created a political and humanitarian disaster that far surpassed the toll in lives caused by the colonial powers, without providing the physical infrastructure, economic improvement, rule by law, and basic human rights that most colonial administrators had spent decades fostering. (If you doubt these assertions, read Bruce Gilley’s just published book The Last Imperialist.)
In his biography of Winston Churchill, Andrew Roberts describes how Churchill would have defended colonialism’s benefits:
[Churchill] admired the way the British had brought internal peace for the first time in Indian history, as well as railways, vast irrigation projects, mass education, newspapers, the possibilities for extensive international trade, standardized units of exchange, bridges, roads, aqueducts, docks, universities, an uncorrupt legal system, medical advances, anti-famine coordination, the English language as the first national lingua franca, telegraphic communications and military protection from the Russian, French, Afghan, Afridi and other outside threats, while abolishing suttee (the practice of burning widows on funeral pyres), thugee (the ritualized murder of travelers), and other abuses.
“Colonialism” and “imperialism,” then, are oversimplifications of complex history, and ideologically loaded terms for the universal human propensity to invade and occupy the territory of others.
The Left’s abuse of these terms, moreover, bespeaks an insufferable hypocrisy. When have leftists ever criticized the tyrannical Soviet Empire’s colonies? After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks didn’t liberate the Central Asian Khanates that Russia had earlier absorbed into its empire. After World War II, Eastern Europe and the Baltic states became de facto colonies as well. All those nations didn’t become independent until the collapse of the Soviet Union, and their liberators were the evil “imperialists” the United States and the British Commonwealth.
Or how about the Islamic Empire? It invaded and colonized two-thirds of the Roman Empire, the incubator of the West. As Middle East historian Efraim Karsh documents in Islamic Imperialism, “The Arab conquerors acted in a typically imperialist fashion from the start, subjugating indigenous populations, colonizing their lands, and expropriating their wealth, resources, and labor.” Yet still today, the descendants of these conquerors continue to occupy most of those territories. Why aren’t our “woke” enemies of imperialism criticizing these Muslim nations, who never apologize for their ancestors’ colonialism and imperialism? Instead, the Left gives credence to Palestinian apologists who blame all the region’s dysfunctions on Western “imperialism” and its alleged stooge, Israel.
All this hypocrisy of the “woke” Democrats, all the lunatic policies, all the encroachment on our Constitutional rights, all the politically driven destructive covid protocols, all the economic damage caused by the insane war on cheap energy and the drunken-sailor spending, all the smug and arrogant virtue-signaling and moral preening have produced nothing but failure at the cost of our freedom and the integrity of our language and history.
But over the last several months the signs of resistance to this degradation of our country have been multiplying, most recently by Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter and his stout defense of genuine free speech that respects the only diversity that really counts: that of ideas and opinions whose expression is sanctioned by the First Amendment.
It looks like this year’s midterm elections will be the showdown between the “woke” tyrants and the defenders of freedom.