American conservatives, assuming they again achieve electoral success at the local, state, and national levels, need to decide how to approach governing in the 2020s. Conservative governance presumes there is something left to conserve after decades of a liberal-leftist revolutionary takeover of American institutions. If there is little left to conserve after decades of liberal cultural dominance, conservatives may need to become counter-revolutionaries.
Lind believes that the “private tyranny” of woke universities, professional associations, and tech platforms is “a greater threat today than the tyranny of an oppressive state.”
In truth, that counter-revolutionary effort has already begun in the U.S. Supreme Court, where a conservative majority has seen fit to ignore stare decisis and overturn previous Supreme Court decisions, such as Roe v. Wade, that strayed far from constitutional bounds. What the current Court has started is an effort to reverse a steady liberal and expansive view of the Constitution that has dominated the Court since at least the New Deal. The so-called “living Constitution” was imposed on American society by nine unelected jurists who often acted as policymakers instead of neutral judicial referees in legal disputes.
But the main playing field for conservatives must be the cultural world where the left has had its greatest and most destructive impact on American society. In a lengthy and compelling article in Tablet titled “The New Gatekeepers,” Michael Lind argues that American culture underwent a dramatic change between 2010 and 2012, when universities, public schools, global corporations, and professional associations went woke and began to impose a culture of wokeness on American society that today permeates our major education and cultural institutions.
Lind identifies the woke ideology at work here as “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). Its substrata include racial division, transgender promotion, the sexualization of children in our schools, an attack on Christianity, an assault on the nuclear family, the demonization of law enforcement, the feminization of the military, the derision of national pride, and the decline of masculinity. America’s “woke activists,” he writes, “are infiltrators, acting with the specific goal of seizing control of institutions and imposing their views on others.” The “wokists,” he explains, are “entryists.” They infiltrate educational, cultural, and political organizations and institutions and use their newfound power to reshape those institutions and the larger society. They run school boards and cities and towns. They control school curricula. They use media outlets to shape, instead of report, the “news.”
Lind calls them “illiberal radicals” and compares them to yesterday’s communists who have “no enemies to the left.” They hide behind the identities of “progressivism,” “anti-racism,” and “anti-bigotry,” while calling conservatives “homophobic,” “transphobic,” “racist,” and “fascists.” The key to their success so far, Lind believes, is their control of three gateways: “college education, professional accreditation, and commercial services,” including social media and commercial platforms such as Twitter, Amazon, and PayPal, all of which can “exclude people from the economy.” He calls them “Trotsky-style entryists” who know they would be defeated in free elections and open debates, so they “control key chokepoints or gateways, which empower them to be gatekeepers.” For this latter remark, Lind will no doubt be called an “election denier,” which is another epithet wokists hurl at conservatives who have the temerity to raise questions about the 2020 election.
The impact of the wokists is greatest on young Americans “who must pass through” the three gateways (academic, professional, and commercial platforms) controlled by the wokists in order to be economically successful. Woke leftists who guard the gateways, Lind writes, demand conformity with woke ideology. Don’t conform and your grades will suffer. Don’t conform and you will not be allowed entry into a profession. Don’t conform and you will be deplatformed. The gatekeepers deplatformed a president of the United States, so they can surely deplatform you.
The wokists have introduced into public grade schools and high schools “drag queen shows.” They, with the Obama administration’s support, have mandated transgender choice for school restrooms. Women’s and girls’ sports have been made to accept biological male competitors. All in the name of DEI.
And the wokists have also gained control of our armed services in the Biden administration, imposing DEI on the soldiers and sailors whose sole mission, in the words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, is to win our wars. But under today’s wokism, winning wars takes a backseat to the demands of DEI, as the armed services have been subjected to drag queen shows and DEI indoctrination.
Since Lind wrote this piece, we have learned that the wokists are attempting to stop publication of a book by Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, largely because of her vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, in yet another example of wokist “cancel culture.”
Lind believes that the “private tyranny” of woke universities, professional associations, and tech platforms is “a greater threat today than the tyranny of an oppressive state.” But today American society suffers from both because the Biden administration is ideologically aligned with the woke private gatekeepers. Lind’s answer is a return to federalism — more power to the state and local governments who are presumably closer to the people who don’t want drag queens performing for their fifth graders, who don’t want school curricula that fosters DEI, and who don’t want their views to be canceled because they differ from the woke gatekeepers.
Since Lind wrote his Tablet article, Elon Musk has purchased Twitter and fired its top executives in a counter-revolutionary move. Populist conservatives are running for seats on school boards and becoming election officers, and the wokist media labels them a threat to democracy. No, they are a threat to the gatekeepers who fear the loss of their power.
But the counter-revolution has a long way to go before it can claim back all that has been lost in the culture war. That war has been going on in America not since 2010, but long before that in the 1960s when the left shifted from street violence to “entryist” infiltration of our cultural and political institutions. There is little left to conserve. So for conservatives, political and cultural counter-revolution is the only way forward.