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  • Twilight of the Progressives

    Only at three prior junctures in American history has our society been so divided. And though most people do not fully appreciate it, we’re in the midst of a decisive struggle for the future of the United States and the world. Decisions made over the next few years will define our world through at least the end of this century.

    The post-war American consensus which has dominated since the early 1950s depended on widely shared values and principles, as well as a common vision of what we wanted society to look like. The political battles of the second half of the 20th century involved fine-tuning and questioning that vision.

    On the contrary, choosing the path now sought by the left, will lead to a starkly different world from choosing the path sought by the right. Why? Because the distinctive values embraced by the right and the left are mutually incompatible.

    And as a result of these differing values, they see reality in two totally different ways, which we call worldviews.

    Due to differences in their worldviews, those on the right and those on the left seek to create very different societies. Obviously, thought leaders of the left and right such as Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz can debate the merits of the two worldviews at length. However, the implications of these differing worldviews become abundantly clear when we examine the various real-world experiments which have occurred over the past 250 years.

    Consider the French Revolution. Nowhere is it clearer that the struggle between the left and right inevitably comes down to a battle between two ways of looking at the ultimate questions about the universe. The left, whether they be French revolutionaries, Bolshevik commissars, or members of Antifa embrace the secular humanist worldview , by default. This worldview embodies Carl Sagan’s dictum that “the material universe is all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be.” In such a universe,

    - human life is nothing special,
    - there is no right and no wrong, and
    - the Darwinian mechanisms of mutation and natural selection determine everything relevant to humanity.

    In Western Society, the political right has embraced a Judeo-Christian worldview which has dramatically different implications from those of the secular humanist worldview. Specifically, the universe understood through the lens of the Judeo-Christian worldview was created with a purpose and human decisions should be guided by a set of principles we call the Ten Commandments . As such, prohibitions against murdering, stealing and lying, which form the bedrock of a market economy and stable society, become the foundations of everyday behavior.

    The implications of the left’s secular worldview are profound! As New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas puts it, “if matter is all that there is, then, nothing matters .” The lives of people are simply brief intervals in which we metabolize, reproduce and vanish. Maximizing pleasurable experiences during those intervals is implicitly all that we should try to do. As a result, materialism leaves human beings without intrinsic value, purpose or meaning in their lives.

    Implemented in the form of regulations or legislation, the consequences are huge.

    Since there is no inherent morality, government seeks to define a morality that serves its purposes. Since there is no purpose in life, government seeks to dictate a purpose that will focus people’s energy on what the leaders want. Consequently, government even takes over the roles served by the family in the Judeo-Christian context.

    As a result, the state becomes “all powerful” and those who control the state, control every aspect of life. Stalin and Mao understood this well and so have the leftist intellectuals, such as Antonio Gramsci, who envisioned the take-over of Western Society by the progressive left.

    Therefore, even as the Soviet Union and its client states collapsed, the progressive Left spent the past 100 years, relentlessly fulfilling Gramsci’s vision of a “long march through the institutions.” As a result, in almost every Western country, the secular left now dominates the institutions of education, media, culture, and even finance.

    Paradoxically, they seem to have a lot less to show for that achievement than they probably expected. Rather than achieving Bolshevik-style control, this apparent institutional hegemony does not seem poised to produce an enduring political victory or even a substantial long-term shift in public opinion.

    Even before Biden’s botched Build Back Better initiative and the rejection of his We the People Act , American progressives faced opposition to their wildly impractical strategies for

    - achieving “zero Covid,”
    - achieving “zero emissions”,
    - confronting so-called “systemic racism” by defunding the police,
    - regulating speech, and
    - redefining the two biological sexes into a multiplicity of “genders.”

    Increasingly, the “long march” of socialism, which began over 100 years ago, has started to falter. Like the French generals in 1940 who thought they could defeat the Germans by perfecting World War One tactics, the progressive establishment has built an institutional Maginot Line which may be difficult to breach but can readily be flanked.

    That is not to deny that progressivism have achieved significant, though limited, successes. For instance, it has certainly developed a remarkable ability to infect even the most respected institutions, including the U.S. military, with dysfunctional ideology. But that is where its achievements appear to stop.

    For instance, the Pentagon’s top brass most recently focused on “domestic terrorists” and a progressive social agenda, while it calamitously bungled its withdrawal from Afghanistan and appeared utterly unprepared for Chinese or Russian competitors. So, rather than making Americans eager for a more “woke” military, the percentage of Americans who feel “a great deal of trust and confidence in the military” has dropped from 70% to 45% in just the past three years.

    Importantly, the progressive left seems to have undermined trust in almost all of the major institutions it dominates in America, as well as in Europe and Australia.

    As demographer Joel Kotkin observes, the great paradox of progressivism is that nowhere are its shortcomings more evident than in its geographic heartland: the dense urban centers. Conventional wisdom insists that America’s high-tech economic future will be shaped in dense urban areas, where superstar companies stand the best chance of recruiting superstar employees.

    But while the upper crust of the labor force continues to head to the dense urban cores, people on the ground are moving in the other direction. Not only in America, but across the rest of the high-income world, including Europe, the vast preponderance of growth has taken place in suburbs and exurbs. In the last decade over 90% of all U.S. metropolitan population growth and 80% of job growth took place on the periphery.

    Since the progressives’ dream is inherently urban, their vision of the future appears to be withering . Moreover, the pandemic has greatly enhanced these trends, with downtown neighborhoods recovering far less quickly than suburbs, exurbs, and small towns.

    Furthermore, even if these declines are not permanent, city residents will still have to contend with another major implication of the progressive agenda: rising crime. Twelve American cities have experienced record homicides over the past year; all of those are controlled by Democrat leaders, many of whom excused or even praised the looting and mayhem caused by protestors during the summer of 2020.

    But that’s not the worst of it.

    Today, the strongpoint of the progressive institutional hegemony is in education, and this is where its likely to have its most long-lasting impact, even if it loses influence in most other centers of power. The progressive education commissars, especially at the college level, have become increasingly strident and increasingly influential. And they clearly have no use for America’s traditional values and institutions which they consider little more than a mechanism for racism and misogyny.

    For that reason, the disconnect between these professors and the rest of the country keeps growing while conservatives head towards extinction on many campuses. On some well-regarded campuses such as Williams, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, the ratio of Democrats to Republicans ranges between 70-to-1 and 132-to-1, even though the split in the general populace is about 50-50.

    Such trends have long been evident in the humanities and social sciences, but now, even the hard science departments are becoming politicized. So, it should come as no surprise that universities are also losing credibility. Even some traditional leftists are embarrassed by how these institutions strive to burnish their progressive credentials while making huge profits off their endowments and seriously underpaying most of their employees. But this is exactly what you would expect when dealing with a worldview where morality is simply defined by expediency.

    And just as with the growing disaffection for the military, teachers, students and parents are starting to push back against repressive attitudes at American universities. A number of teachers who have been “cancelled” or otherwise threatened for dissenting from the progressive orthodoxy are now fighting back in the courts.

    There’s also considerable criticism from parents and alumni, some of whom are now pledging not to contribute to these schools, and instead support well-publicized and well-funded efforts to start new initiatives, such as the recently announced University of Austin. Even more importantly, would-be students are voting with their feet; after decades of rapid expansion, the number of college student enrollments fell by 5% during the decade from 2009 to 2019, and dropped an additional 6.5% since 2019.

    Likewise, only one-in-three Americans have confidence in their public schools, where the education establishment’s goal seems to be to obliterate merit. In the state of California, this so-called “post-colonial” approach to education includes deemphasizing the importance of tests, excusing bad behaviour, and introducing leftist ideology to frequently ill-educated students.

    The San Diego Unified School District, for instance, is busily getting rid of mandates for such things as knowing course material, taking tests, handing in work on time, or even showing up; all these requirements, the district insists, are inherently “racist.” Not surprisingly this is happening in the state that is ranked 49th in the performance of poor, largely minority students. Yet, the situation could be worse: Oregon no longer requires any demonstrable proof of competence to graduate.

    Fortunately, such thinking is finally creating pushback in some locations. In the past year, thousands of such anecdotes have incited considerable public outrage. Criticism of Critical Race Theory buoyed the Republican win in Virginia in November 2021. And it has become a rallying cry for parents around the country, including a recall drive against school board members in deep blue San Francisco.

    Increasingly, other parents are opting out of the public system altogether. The pandemic saw the departure of more than one million American students from public schools. Furthermore, 1.2 million families switched to home-schooling last academic year, bringing the total number of home-schooled students to 3.1 million, roughly 11% of the total. According to the Census Bureau, Black and Hispanic families now have the highest estimated rates of home-schooling, at 16% and 12%, respectively.

    Meanwhile, the mass media, particularly its legacy outlets, constitute another progressive bastion rapidly losing credibility. One recent survey found that barely one in three Americans trusts the media, including a majority of Democrats, while only 15% of Americans have confidence in newspapers. Part of this surely stems from their bias, since the vast majority of journalistic power lies with the Left. It’s the same story with social media, which increasingly dominates news access and is also widely distrusted.

    Already, it appears that the media’s Maginot Line is proving more vulnerable than previously expected. For instance, talk radio remains dominated by powerful conservative voices. And in 2021, FOX News had a larger audience than CNN & MSNBC combined, while the Wall Street Journal continued to build its elite audience. 

    Elsewhere on the right, there is also a growing challenge from a plethora of new publications which offer intelligent analysis outside the establishmentarian party line, as well as a wide range of social media outlets which are now challenging the big names dominated by the left.

    Therefore, unless media oligarchs find ways to repress these elements, a resurgence of free thinking seems destined to rescue journalism from progressive editors and journalism schools.

    What’s the bottom line?

    After almost 100 years, the progressive left has de facto control over most institutions in the United States and across the OECD. Its secularist worldview dominates the culture and represents the standard by which ideas are judged. However, like the Bourbon kings of France, their very success seems to be their undoing. And so, the lines are now drawn and a series of decisive battles is about to begin. The outcome of those battles will shape the remainder of the 21st century.

    Given this trend, we offer the following forecasts for your consideration.

    First, the end of the pandemic era will lay bare underappreciated fault lines dividing blue and red America.

    For instance, Blue America adheres to a secularist worldview and therefore excessively fears death while placing unjustified trust in human experts. On the other hand, the Judeo-Christian worldview which plays a much larger role in Red America, leads to a much lower fear of death and a much better appreciation of the limitations associated with human problem-solving capabilities.

    Not surprisingly, blue state governments have stoked fear of the pandemic and used heavy-handed restrictions to enforce so-called expert opinions. As the pandemic disperses, trust in the blue state model will be undermined as people increasingly see the failure of experts. By the same token, Red State leaders will gain political capital as their reliance on individual human agency and timeless values is vindicated. This will add to the momentum undermining progressive institutions going into 2024 and 2025.

    Second, in 2022 & 2024, American voters will reject the Globalist left’s Great Reset Agenda, setting up decisive adoption of the MAGA agenda.

    The World Economic Forum has been promoting the “Great Reset,” which was previously critiqued in Trends . Among the likely voters surveyed by Rasmussen, only 29% were familiar with the Great Reset and 52% of those were opposed to it. Meanwhile, 53% of voters don’t believe international institutions like the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and International Monetary Fund should be influential in creating regulations governing U.S. businesses.

    The survey also found that 45% believe the highest priority for businesses should be providing individual consumers with high quality products and services at the lowest prices, while only nine percent of voters think trying to stop climate change should be the top priority for business, and a mere one percent think using business resources to pursue social justice causes should be a top priority. And,

    Third, following the 2022 election, the right will launch a devastating counterattack in response to overreach by the progressive left.

    Despite margins reminiscent of the first George W. Bush term, Democrats have recently attempted to push through transformative change on the scale of FDR or LBJ. Coupled with bitter divisions over the 2020 election, a cognitively challenged President and a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority, this is simply a recipe for failure and increased hostility. Add to that, the increasingly perverse behavior of Democrat Congressional leaders and you’re assured of “total retribution” once Republicans regain control of the House and Senate.

    Beginning in 2023, Republicans will not only work to paralyze the Biden administration’s Progressive agenda but will unleash the full investigative power of Congress not only against the executive branch but against left-of-center businesses, NGOs, and corrupt members of Congress.

    This scorched earth approach will single-mindedly focus on setting the stage for transformative adoption of the MAGA agenda beginning in 2025. It’s a proven tactic: analogous to the Republicans’ exploitation of the Democrats’ elimination of judicial appointment filibusters to push through justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barret. In this case, they will use the egregious behavior of Democrats in this Congress as precedents for their own alleged “excesses” in the next one.

    Resource List

    2. Ronald Reagan Foundation. November 7, 2021. Beacon Research. U.S. NATIONAL SURVEY OF DEFENSE ATTITUDES.


    4. The New York Post. December 8, 2021. Jesse O’Neill. A dozen US cities set annual murder records with three weeks left in 2021.

    5. The Wall Street Journal. June 5, 2020. Barton Swaim. Violent Protest and the Intelligentsia.

    6. The Week. JULY 7, 2021. Damon Linke. The myth of asymmetric polarization: Yes, progressives are aggressors in the culture war, too.

    7. National Affairs. Fall 2018. Jon A. Shields. The Disappearing Conservative Professor.

    8. Gallup.com. July 14, 2021. Megan Brenan. America’s Confidence in U. S. Institutions Dips.

    9. CalMatters.org. JUNE 23, 2020. JESSICA CALEFATI. California’s poor students rank next to last on national test.

    10.The Journal. August 31, 2021. David Nagel. Public Schools Lost 1.1 Million Students During 2020– 2021 School Year.

    11.United States Census Bureau. March 22, 2021. Casey Eggleston & Jason Fields. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey Shows Significant Increase in Homeschooling Rates in Fall 2020.

    12.Issues & Insights. October 29, 2021. TIPPInsights Editorial Board. I&I/TIPP Poll: Trust In Media Is In Free Fall.

    13. CBSNews.com. JUNE 18, 2018. MONEYWATCH. People don’t trust social media–that’s a growing problem for businesses.

    14. Fox News. January 17, 2022. Michael Lee. Dramatic 14-point shift in party preference during 2021 gives GOP biggest lead since 1995: Gallup.

    15. Heartland Institute. January 18, 2022. RasmussenReports.com. Voters Reject ‘Great Reset’ Agenda.

    16. Heartland Institute. January 13, 2022. RasmussenReports.com. COVID-19: Democratic Voters Support Harsh Measures Against Unvaccinated.

    17.Gateway Pundit. January 18, 2022. Jim Holt. We All Know It’s True: 58% of Voters Now Believe Cheating was Likely in 2020 Election — Up from 54%.

    18. RepublicBrief.com January 22, 2022. Ryan Kelly. Experts Warn a Marxist Revolution is under way in America.

    19. NewGeography.com. January 6, 2022. Joel Kotkin. Is this the End of Progressive America?

    20. NationalReview.com January 3, 2022. Joel Kotkin. Trouble in Paradise: The Crumbling California Model.

    21. NewGeography.com. January 9, 2022. Joel Kotkin. Welcome to the End of Democracy.