[Order David Horowitz’s new book: The Enemy Within: How a Totalitarian Movement is Destroying America.]
Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In several incisive, relatively short volumes that have appeared during the last few years – The Shadow Party, Big Agenda, Dark Agenda, and BLITZ – David Horowitz has adroitly recounted the contemporary radicalization of the Democratic Party and the establishment by Donald Trump of a resistance movement rooted in founding American principles. In his newly published The Enemy Within: How a Totalitarian Movement Is Destroying America – his first title to appear since the Democrats wrested the Oval Office from Trump and placed what remains of Joseph Robinette Biden behind the Resolute Desk – Horowitz steps back from the immediate political concerns of these earlier works to take in the big and exceedingly dangerous picture of woke America in the year 2021. The result is a trenchant and comprehensive tour d’horizon of our present sociocultural moment – a moment defined by such phenomena as intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and cancel culture, by the notion that American patriotism is tantamount to “white nationalism” and “white supremacy,” and by the conviction that individuals should be judged not on their merits but on their sex, color, and religion. If you’re baffled by the values and vocabulary that have been wholly and unthinkingly adopted, seemingly overnight, in the corridors of American power, Horowitz, who for over half a century has been not just a perspicacious observer of the currents and crosscurrents of American society and culture but also a key player in its political life, proves a deeply informed – and no-nonsense – guide.
He starts by spelling out the fundamentals. At the red-hot (blue-hot?) center of woke America is the “racial and collectivist” ideology of identity politics, which, he writes, “has engulfed the Democrat Party and undermined its liberal instincts.” Privileging “groups over individuals and demoniz[ing] those who fall on the wrong side of its social equations,” it is “fundamentally at odds with America’s core principles of individual freedom, accountability, and equality.” Indeed, it is a form of Marxism – a “Cultural Marxism,” to be specific, that locates individuals on a hierarchy of oppression based not on economic class, as Karl Marx had it, but on sex, color, and religion, so that all “white Americans, males, Christians, and Jews” count without exception as “oppressors” while members of other groups are, by definition, oppressed victims and “warriors for social justice.” Needless to say, when all “people of color” are victims and all whites are oppressors, there is no way of acknowledging, let alone making any sense of, the sins of the Idi Amins, Robert Mugabes, and other African “imperialists and dictators,” past and present, who, as Horowitz reminds us, “run the most oppressive social systems in the world, and have historically enslaved more black Africans, for example, than have white Europeans.”
Woke America, as we know it today, is the child of our poisonously progressive academy (at present, Horowitz informs us, 97% of history professors are Democrats) – which, in turn, is the product of “a fifty-year campaign against diversity of ideas and freedom of speech with the clear goal of establishing a left-wing orthodoxy and a one-party state.” In the not-so-brave new world that the humanities and social-science faculties have created, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which we used to think of as an eloquent call for an end to racial prejudice, becomes a document in pure racism – for whereas Dr. King encouraged us to look beyond skin color, the new woke philosophy demands that we constantly notice, reflect on, and judge others on the basis of skin color. For in woke world, race and racism are everything. Some of us might agree with Horowitz that America, during the last century and a half, has undergone “arguably the greatest transformation of race relations ever recorded,” a sea change that culminated in the election of our first black president. Yet for the woke brigade, it is an article of faith that the U.S. was found on racism and that a toxic, ubiquitous racism – meaning, naturally, racism by whites (in the woke lexicon, no other kind exists) – remains its defining feature.
If a lot of woke thinking sounds ludicrous, it’s because it is; wherever the woke mentality reigns, absurdity, illogic, and self-contradiction abound. Take, for example, the generous financial support given by some of America’s biggest corporations to the explicitly Communist, and virulently anti-capitalist, organization Black Lives Matter. Take the fact that self-declared feminists such as Linda Sarsour and Ilhan Omar wear the hijab, a symbol of female subordination. Take the bien pensant gays and lesbians who trumpet their respect for Islam, which punishes homosexuality with death. Take the familiar woke assertion that certain (non-woke) words can constitute violence and that actual violence, when committed by the right people for the right reasons, is not really violence at all. And take the fact that the concept of “anti-racism,” as propounded in books by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, looks suspiciously like – yes – racism itself, posited as it is on the reprehensible assumption that black people, in disproportionate numbers, are incapable of securing proper voter ID, of following instructions, of showing up on time, and so on.
No, none of it makes sense. That’s the whole point. Woke-ism is the higher irrationality. Under its spell, two plus two can equal five. “The idea that there is a single truth – the Truth – is a construction of the Euro West,” contended a group of black Pomona College students in a manifesto cited by Horowitz. “This construction is a myth, and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our ability to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.” This daft document was a reaction to a planned appearance at Pomona by writer Heather MacDonald, who pointed out that the silly but corrosive precepts proclaimed therein had been planted in these kids’ heads, at a cost of $47,000 a year per student, by Marxist educators. So twisted is wokeness that it enables these black students, who enjoy the extraordinary privilege of attending an elite institution in a beautiful setting (and many of whom probably were admitted in the first place, despite low grades and test scores, precisely because they’re black), to regard themselves as the targets of constant, brutal racist oppression – in large part by people who, by any objective measure, have far less privilege than they do.
Although still in its infancy, wokeness has already done a great deal of social, cultural, and political damage, and Horowitz hits all of the highlights, from the “progressive blacklists” issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other leftist arbiters of virtue to the New York Times’s “1619 Project” and similarly mendacious rewritings of history; from the unprecedented bile and dishonesty of the Kavanaugh hearings and the Trump impeachment to the grotesque postmortem deification of George Floyd; from the Democratic politicization of COVID (including Biden’s reprehensible statement that “Trump is the virus”) to the misleadingly named “diversity training” forced on employees by corporations and the military. Horowitz utterly destroys the woke article of faith that there is an “open season” on blacks by whites, citing statistics showing that in 2018 blacks committed 90.4% of “interracial felonies,” excluding homicide, while whites committed 9.5%; and his account of the problems with the vote count in the 2020 presidential election is definitive.
The Enemy Within is not just a panoramic overview of woke America; it is also an astute genealogy of it. After the fires of the Sixties died down, radical leftists didn’t disappear, and only a few of them (such as Horowitz) saw the light; a great many, alas, found employment in the very establishment institutions that they despised and proceeded to transform them from within. Some went into the academy: Angela Davis, who supplied the guns to kill innocent people in a courtroom and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, ended up as a faculty member at several California universities; Bill Ayers, who as head of the Weather Underground ordered the bombing of the Capitol and Pentagon, is now a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. Others swarmed into the mainstream media. And, as Horowitz recalls, the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern marked the beginning of a tsunami of extreme leftists into the Democratic ranks – a process that would end up turning the party of Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan into the plaything of Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. So it was that by 2008, Barack Obama, who was a protégé of sometime Soviet agent Frank Marshall Davis and close friend of Ayers, and whose early career, as Horowitz points out, had been “funded, orchestrated, and institutionally supported by the radical Left” – was able to win the presidency.
Obama’s very election proved that racism was no longer a major issue in America; it proved that where race was concerned, America was at last, in Dr. King’s words, living out the full meaning of its creed. But Obama would soon take care of that. When a white cop responding to a breaking-and-entering call arrested black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates – a minor local story that should never even have made it onto the country’s radar – Obama immediately recognized it as an opportunity to hold a “national conversation” about racial prejudice. In 2012, exploiting the lie that Trayvon Martin, killed in Sanford, Florida, by a Hispanic community-watch member, had been a victim of white racism, Obama made the insipid, meaningless observation that Trayvon “could’ve been my son.” And soon after Black Lives Matter came into existence, Obama invited its founders – self-declared Communists – to the White House.
Obama had promised change, and it came rapidly. In his 2009 inaugural address, he praised the Founding Fathers for articulating “ideals [that] still light the world”; in 2020, his fans were pulling down their statues on the grounds that they were all racists. In place of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, our new heroes were Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and George Floyd. By 2019, notes Horowitz, Beto O’Rourke, could say the following at a Democratic presidential debate: “Racism in America is endemic. It is foundational. We can mark the creation of this country not at the 4th of July, 1776, but August 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African was brought to this country against his will. And in bondage, and as a slave, built the greatness and the success and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to fully participate in and enjoy.” Present when Beto uttered these obscenities were Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Andrew Yang – none of whom raised the slightest objection to his words.
Change! In 2010, the authors of the top ten political bestsellers included Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Laura Ingraham, and George W. Bush; in 2020, the three bestselling political books argued, to quote Horowitz, “that white people are racists because of their skin color (White Fragility), that America’s treatment of blacks is akin to Hitler’s treatment of Jews (Caste), and that supporting meritocracy is racist (How to Be an Antiracist). After 9/11, we all revered the police officers who had run up the stairs of the World Trade Center to rescue strangers whose skin color didn’t matter a whit to them; now children are being taught that cops are monsters who kill innocent blacks en masse. Ta-Nehisi Coates – whom Horowitz describes as America’s “most celebrated author of any ethnicity or race” and who may be the closest thing that wake America has to a poet laureate – has written that the police and firefighters who died on 9/11 “were not human to me.” The son of a former Black Panther member, Coates has also maintained – and with quintessential woke illogic – that “white supremacists…are responsible for black crime.” Yet despise his own palpable hatred for whites, Coates is widely revered as a sensitive sage, prophet, and student of white racism; his vile 2015 tract Between the World and Me garnered him rave reviews, a National Book Award, a visiting lectureship at MIT, an editorial position at The Atlantic, and a $625,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” As Horowitz comments: “So much for the marginalization of black people in America.”
Some of us spent four years complaining about “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” We weren’t wrong. But TDS was only part of a far larger picture. The “ultimate goal” of the anti-Trump crowd, as Horowitz observes, “was not to replace or destroy one man in office, or to win one election, but to establish a one-party state.” In these early months of the Biden Administration, when there is talk of packing the Supreme Court and confiscating guns, when even Trump himself has been cancelled by Silicon Valley, when his supporters are labeled “conspiracy theorists” and “white supremacists,” and when the media dismiss Antifa and BDS violence as “mostly peaceful” while turning the ridiculously overblown January 6 episode at the Capitol into a uniquely horrific far-right “insurrection,” the truth of Horowitz’s statement is chillingly self-evident.
Self-evident, at least, to some of us. There are millions of Americans (soccer moms, faithful viewers of The View , etc., etc.) who never grasped what Trump was about and who still haven’t taken in the full ghastly reality of woke America – millions, that is, who still seem to think that the Democrats are still the party of JFK and Humphrey, that the decrepit crook and CCP pawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a sweet old soul, and that the GOP is a gang of icky white bigots. If you tell these clueless fools that in 2021 the Democrats are basically Communists – an enemy within, as Horowitz quite rightly puts it – they’ll think you’re wildly exaggerating, and dismiss everything else you have to say. But therein lies the maddening conundrum of our times, because if you call the Democrats anything else, or anything less, you’re either not seeing straight or, like many Republicans, you’re being too polite – or too politic – because you’re not remotely prepared to tackle the whole truth. “Our language is much too mild,” Horowitz told Eric Metaxas recently in an interview about The Enemy Within. That’s for sure. And if we care about what we’ve lost, and are fast losing, there’s no time to waste. We need to stand up; we need to act; and first of all, taking our cue from this bold and erudite tome, we need to speak the truth and refuse to be silenced. For if we let ourselves be cowed by the woke mob, we’ll be assenting to nothing less than totalitarian tyranny.