The word revolution usually connotes the overthrow of the government of a sovereign entity, and its replacement by a completely different governing structure. Purely a political phenomenon! Successful revolutions are almost always marked by violence, but peaceful political revolutions have been known to occur. Most commonly, political revolutions are accompanied by cultural and economic revolutions. That is, not only is the political system of the country overthrown and replaced, but so are the social/cultural and economic systems.
Such a thorough overhaul of the fundamental nature of a country occurred, for example, in the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917, the Fascist Revolutions in Italy and Germany (in the 1920s and 1930s, resp.), the Sino/Communist Revolution in China in the 1940s, the French Revolution in 1789 and, of course, the American Revolution in 1775. Since 1775, the revolutions – successful and otherwise – in the world surely number in the thousands. Of course, there have also been numerous insurrections, rebellions, and “minor revolutions” across the globe – wherein the goals were perhaps less grandiose than a complete overthrow of a country’s basic systems – e.g., secessions or creations of autonomous zones. In fact, the question posed in the title refers to a full-blown revolution, not some minor adjustment to the basic political and/or cultural and/or economic features of these United States. The title boldly asserts that an attempted comprehensive revolution is underway in America. Let’s explain its nature and predict what will ensue if it succeeds.
It may be difficult to discern that a full-scale revolution is brewing in the United States of America. There are no guerilla bands pouring out of the mountains to attack towns or cities or government installations. Although, recent violence by armed revolutionaries against US courthouses may be a harbinger of things to come. There are no press briefings or published manifestos in which the revolutionaries explain why the current system is rotten and why their proposed new system will herald peace, prosperity and justice for the beleaguered citizenry of our afflicted country. Well, perhaps that is also not so. The utterances and proposals of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and, indeed, of virtually all of the radical left Democratic presidential candidates – as well as those of almost all Democratic Congress persons and Senators, and many radical Democratic city mayors – would seem to qualify.
There are no putsches or cleansings at our leading cultural institutions. We are still free to say, write or publish our opinions on cultural matters. Really? Can you say ‘cancel culture!’ In fact, here are some ideas and practices that have been mainstream American culture for generations: the American family is primarily one male father, one female mother, and their children; you can get ahead in life by going to school, studying hard, working hard, getting married, and developing products/ideas that others want to obtain/follow; America is a beacon of liberty that has saved the world at least twice from totalitarians; and despite its shortcomings (slavery, manifestations of racism and sexism, maltreatment of indigenous peoples), America has corrected much of those failings and is moving ever closer to a just society in which all are equal before the law. In fact, the expression of any of those ideas is now considered a violent aggression worthy of punishment. The people who react thus are revolutionaries.
And there are many of them. Virtually all the opinion molding organs of American society are in the hands of the revolutionaries: the entire educational establishment (from kindergarten to graduate school), the media, the law schools, the libraries, big corporation boards, the entertainment industry and the Democratic Party. Moreover, they are winning. The youth of America have been brainwashed for at least the last 50 years. The average youngster has no idea who John Marshall or Edmund Burke or Adam Smith were or what they said, or how their ideas shaped the political, economic and social systems of our country. But he or she can tell you with certainty that capitalist America has polluted the oceans, fouled the atmosphere, oppressed people of color all over the world, demeaned women and hoarded the wealth so that far too many people – both here and abroad – are in a state of penury. Alas, the cultural revolution these folks have engineered is essentially complete; now we are on the cusp of the completion of its political counterpart.
This eventuality represents the success of an idea that is generally attributed to Antonio Gramsci – that is, politics runs downstream from culture. The Progressive Movement – which goes back a hundred years to Woodrow Wilson (and actually further to Teddy Roosevelt and others in the 1890s) began this ongoing revolution with the express goal of destroying the classic American culture. They have succeeded. But the political revolution has not quite yet come to fruition. There have been times when it looked like it might: the Wilsonian 1910s; the 1930s under Roosevelt’s New Deal; the mid/late 1960s when riots ruled the land and we were catapulted into The Great Society. Now we are apparently in a fourth great upheaval. Will the radicals triumph politically this time?
So let’s consider why the progressive political revolution failed the past three times; and then let’s offer some powerful reasons why it might succeed this time. Indeed, why did the previous three revolutionary periods not usher in the fundamental political change the radical left envisioned (and still envisions)? In fact the original Progressive movement did bring about several revolutionary changes to the American body politic: creation of the federal income tax; direct election of Senators; female right to vote. And the industrial revolution was transforming America from an agrarian society into an industrialized one. But the fundamental character of the American people was strong, resilient and – for the moment – largely impervious to change. Namely, the American people, like their ancestors:
- Were committed to republican government.
- Held liberty (as opposed to equality) as its most cherished ideal.
- Believed in the sanctity of God-given individual rights.
- Also believed strongly in free enterprise.
- Prized freedom – for themselves and others around the world.
- Upheld the rule of law.
- Believed in US “exceptionalism” – that is, unlike all the other nations, the US was an exceptional land with the moral authority and right to lead the peoples of the world in the fight for freedom, justice and opportunity.
- Agreed that religion played a key role in developing the morality that allowed government by the people to succeed.
- And subscribed to the political, cultural and ethical tenets of classic Western Civilization.
The political revolution that the Progressives foresaw replaced the remarkable list above by the following:
- Desire for an authoritarian and powerful central government.
- Held equality above liberty.
- Committed to group rights.
- Envisioned government control of the economy.
- Foresaw universal world government over the nation states, with the US no more special or exceptional than any other nation.
- Denied that religion had any public role to play in the nation’s development, and that it is up to the people to set the moral standards that guide the nation.
- Believe justification for the law of the land comes not from religion or tradition or the tenets of any ancient civilization, but from the reasoning and natural proclivities of the people themselves.
- Sees Western Civilization as corrupt, oppressive and racist; and the nation would better prosper if it accorded more respect to the cultures of indigenous people, peoples of color and immigrant groups.
- Finally, considers the Founders’ Constitution to be outdated, to be replaced by one giving force to the ideas in the previous bullets.
Well in 1920, the American people weren’t having any of that. Nor were they in 1940. Albeit, by 1965, the resolve of the people was weakening. Now, let’s take the periods in order, acknowledging that both lists represent a mix of politics and culture. In 1920, the advent of the Harding-Coolidge Administration and the roaring twenties reflected the fact that the Progressive list was anathema to the American people.
A similar comment applies to the second upheaval in the 1930s. Indeed the country was in great distress and turmoil throughout the 1930s. But the radical political revolution was thwarted by retained conservative trends in the country. This is perhaps typified by Roosevelt’s failure to pack the Supreme Court. And once the crisis of the Second World War erupted, the country became completely unreceptive to any idea of fundamental political change.
Finally, the reasons that the third great upheaval (in the 1960s) failed to usher in the radical revolution are essentially similar. Certainly the death of JFK and the installation of the uber liberal Johnson Administration provided the opening. But the advent of the Vietnam War and the widespread revulsion at the radical riots and upheavals in American cities again put the kibosh on the completion of Gramsci’s political revolution.
Now all the previous observations reinforce the idea that: The preservation of the classic American culture rendered the Progressive political revolution impossible to implement during these times. However, I note that the decade of the 1960s marked the start of a period in which the Progressive cultural revolution made enormous strides. I leave to another venue a more complete discussion of that 50 year period 1965-2015, which saw a comprehensive and extensive cultural revolution in the United States. Indeed, the classic American culture was overthrown and it was replaced by a new radical culture.
So the prime reason, a la Gramsci, that the Progressive political revolution failed each time was that the cultural revolution was not yet complete – certainly not in 1915 or 1935, and also not yet in 1965 – albeit it was well on the way in the 1960s. Well today, in 2020, the cultural revolution is essentially complete. Here are its components;
- First of all, Western Civilization is OUT. Roman/Greek/Hebrew history holds no special place for us. The culture of Western Europe is neither celebrated as “enlightened” nor relevant. It is marked by corruption, oppression, bigotry and colonialism. Columbus was a racist, unworthy to be considered a founder or discoverer of anything. Instead we look to the high achievements of indigenous people, people of color, minorities, and immigrants – anyone not tainted by the stain of white privilege.
- Free enterprise has not turned out to be free or enterprising for most Americans. It concentrates wealth in the hands of white privileged segments of society; holding down the common folk in unsafe, poor paying, ephemeral jobs while a small coterie accumulates vast wealth – which it uses for nefarious purposes.
- Individual rights are a scam to keep minorities oppressed. Group rights protect the average citizen much better.
- Fair trade is not fair and not really trade. It sucks the wealth from poor people and enriches the white privileged.
- Traditional religions reinforce the inequities described above. They represent biased, ignorant and unsympathetic viewpoints.
- US exceptionalism is nonsense. We are no different than the peoples of any other country. Once recognized, we will join with people around the globe to solve problems in common.
Once again, a common and critical reason that the Progressive political revolution did not succeed in any of the three periods discussed is that the cultural revolution was not complete. Not anywhere close in 1920 or 1940; advanced, but not far enough in 1965; however, by 2020…
The forthcoming triumph of the Democratic Party via a newly elected President and control of both houses of Congress may well herald the arrival of the political revolution toward which the children of Gramsci (from FDR to Biden, from Wilson to Obama, from Johnson to Sanders) have been driving us. It fills me with nausea, horror, sorrow and fear to write that last sentence. The land of the free, the bastion of liberty, whose light the whole world looked to for freedom the last quarter millennium may be overthrown when the revolutionaries take power in 2021. They will:
- Abolish the Electoral College and guarantee majority leftist rule perpetually.
- Pack the Supreme Court to guarantee leftist “justice.”
- Cripple the economy with confiscatory taxes, overwhelmingly burdensome regualtions, banned fossil fuels and profligate government spending.
- Reinstitute all the absurd federal regulations removed in the last three years and institute myriad new ones, putting the federal foot on the throat of American business.
- Continue to flood the country with aliens not schooled in Western Civilization or representative government.
- Persecute those who espouse traditional values, laissez-faire economics, individual rights, American history and exceptionalism, and religious morals.
- And very possibly, abrogate the Constitution.
They will purposefully destroy the United States of America as we have known it for nearly two hundred and fifty years.
There will remain tens of millions of Americans who will feel bitterly the loss of their liberty. They will bear testimony to Reagan’s warning, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
They will be persecuted and oppressed if they attempt to express misgivings about the new direction the country has taken. Some, perhaps many, will leave the US – voluntarily, or even involuntarily. Many of them will eventually be co-opted. But I predict that a large number will remain a seething sore in the body politic of the new unfree America. What will happen to them? Fortunately (for me) I am of an age that will almost certainly prevent me from finding out.
Two final thoughts. First, even if by some miracle, the Dems do not take control of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress in January, it is just a matter of time until they do. The flood of illegal immigration and the brainwashing – in school and by the media – continue unabated. It is inevitable that conservative America will be reduced to a voting minority. And then the revolution will be unstoppable. I take some solace from the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
On the other hand, perhaps I am underestimating the strength, character and wisdom of the American people. I recall vividly the fear I felt in 1967 and 1968 when American cities were burning, a savage war tore at the very fabric of our society, riots determined the selection of a president, and we seemed on the cusp of revolutionary change. It didn’t happen. The good sense of the American people prevailed as we restored order and proceeded to rely on our traditional beliefs and values to right the ship. Hopefully, we shall again.
An abridged version of this essay appeared in The American Thinker on Oct 14, 2020