Capture Theory: Republicans, Democrats, and the Triumph of Totalitarianism in America
By William L. Anderson
Scott S. Powell, a fellow of the Discovery Institute, has written an excellent essay on how the radicals of the hard left have captured the Democratic Party. As one whose working colleagues mostly fit the stereotype of the leftist Democrats, I can see firsthand that Powell was correct about what Democrats have become.
While Powell pretty much is right about the Democrats, he misses almost everything about the modern Republican Party and its intellectual forebears, whose ideas in many ways mirror those of the political opposition and, more important, provide a means for establishing a brand of American totalitarianism that may well pose more dangerous to the rest of the world than Lenin’s Bolsheviks ever could have done.
The Soviet Union is almost a quarter century in the rearview mirror, the Berlin Wall is not even a curiosity, anymore, and China’s communists long ago abandoned Maoism. North Korea is a desperately poor country, and Cuba is even poorer, and modern Vietnam is more capitalist now than it ever was before the communists “unified” the country in 1975.
In other words, Marxist-Leninism in practice as a true governing ideology no longer has the attraction it once did. Except in the United States. Here, Republicans and Democrats have embraced many of the ideals of totalitarian rule that evaded even Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, and this country for many years has been governed by disciples of totalitarian radicals. (If one wishes to know why the U.S. economy continues to underperform even in this high-tech age, perhaps we should look to our own radical leadership and its open disdain for commerce and private enterprise.)
We should not be surprised that adherents to each political party point their fingers across the aisle, but we must understand that it takes a massive effort to destroy a free society and a relatively-free economy, and that means that the parties have had to make it a joint effort. Now, I am sure that Republicans and Democrats at this point will erupt in anger, since everyone knows that “the other guys” are responsible for the destruction, but I will stand my ground and point out why Republicans and Democrats today are different sides of a totalitarian coin.
First, the Democrats
Powell’s essay correctly points out that the Democratic Party today has been “captured” by Cultural Marxists, which began their own long march through the “commanding heights” institutions of journalism, academe, and organized religion. Once upon a time, we called it “liberalism,” and even the liberalism that came from the 1930s was a bastardization of what now is called “Classical Liberalism.” Walter Lippman in The Good Society wrote that the old Liberalism was fighting “rear-guard action” by the 1870s, but it took World War I and the Great Depression to complete the transition from being a philosophy of self-governance to where it is today, a belief that there should be no limits to the prospects of elites governing everyone else.
(Modern liberalism is presented as a political philosophy for empowering “the poor and the marginalized,” but in reality is a brutal ideal in which power-loving elites commandeer the votes of “the poor and the marginalized” to place themselves in positions of authority. And when modern liberals gain power, they quickly move to further marginalize the “poor and the marginalized” so that they forever will become useful symbols to enable liberals to seize even more political authority.)
Powell recounts how hard-left intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and Saul Alinsky, who counted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as among his disciples, saw that a “quiet revolution” in which the Left captured American institutions through “camouflage and deception” would enjoy more success than violent revolution as was championed by groups like the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. More important, leftists would use the very ideals of Classical Liberalism – free speech, academic freedom, and free inquiry – to advance themselves to a point of authority in which they could attack those very ideals as being the antithesis of goodness and to impose their own illiberal reign of terror.
Alinksy urged his followers to engage people who espoused opposing views not by arguing one’s own intellectual points, but rather by ridiculing people who believed otherwise, attacking them as “defenders of the rich,” and through ostracizing them. (Alinsky would have loved to have been able to commandeer modern social media as a mechanism to attack those who he hated!) Indeed, ridicule and exclusion through ostracizing “heretics” became the standard tool of the Left, and they used it well.
Think of the treatment that Ludwig von Mises received upon coming to the United States in 1940. Mises was a powerful intellectual, a first-rate mind, but Keynesian economists and others ridiculed him as being a “mossback” and a practitioner of “discredited” ideals. Now, no one actually engaged Mises and his ideas or explained why they were “discredited,” as Mises’ points were intellectually and logically sound and no economist using the standard tools of analysis could refute them.
By the late 1940s, unfortunately, academic economics had been captured by Keynesians and other statists who then made sure that their departments were filled with ideological “yes men.” Third-rate thinkers such as John Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard (whom I called the “Dilbert Economist”) came to dominate economic discourse even as intellectual giants such as Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Murray N. Rothbard were relegated to second-and-third-tier status.
Over time, the Hard Left came to near-total power in academe, organized religion, and the media and governed by the methods that sprang from Marcuse and Alinsky. Furthermore, the Left would commandeer the language itself in higher education, imposing Political Correctness and other egalitarian measures in which “antiquated” things like “academic freedom” are trashed and the policing of speech are accepted as mainstream. The Sexual Revolution, once touted by the Left as the way to “smash bourgeoisie values” now has become a vehicle for making false allegations of “rape” and “sexual assault” in an attempt to further create fear on campus.
Note that none of the things touted by Cultural Marxists actually make life better for most people. Political Correctness has turned college campuses into war zones, theological Marxism has resulted in empty churches, and no economy that has called itself “Marxist” has enjoyed the kind of success that Marx and other socialists have predicted. Yes, Cultural Marxists who have gained power over others certainly enjoy their status, but their enjoyment is gained at the expense of the misery of others.
The modern Democratic Party has become a collection of counter-cultural interest groups, from feminists to gays to government labor unions to academic intellectuals to mainstream journalists. I note that all of these groups exist on a principle of extraction from others. Government unions, which will dominate the delegate count at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, do not produce anything, but play a major role in driving up production costs and stifling entrepreneurship.
Not surprisingly, the directives coming from the Obama administration have reflected both Cultural Marxism and the economics of the hard left. And, not surprisingly, we find that Cultural Marxism is wreaking havoc in American higher education and that the U.S. economy is not responding well to the added burdens placed on it via hard-left policies. And we are not surprised that socialists like Bernie Sanders are claiming that the USA practices “unfettered free trade” with its neighbors around the globe when, in reality, the U.S. Government has its hands in nearly every economic exchange both here and abroad. To put it another way, the claims by the hard left are delusional, but no Democrat is willing to refute them.
Now, the Republicans
While Powell has done well in his characterization of modern Democrats, he truly misses the boat on the Republicans. He writes:
America’s two major political parties have always been fundamentally different. The Republican Party has been rooted in the moral principles and transcendent values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Democratic Party acknowledges that the starting point of the country may have been the Declaration and the Constitution, but since Woodrow Wilson many Democratic Party leaders have contended that progress requires constant adaptation, changing morals, and liberal interpretations of law and history. (Emphasis mine)
I am trying to figure when in my lifetime the Republicans actually stood for the “moral principles and transcendent values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.” They certainly do not at this present time, and there is nothing Republicans have recently demonstrated that would reflect any of the high ideals expressed by men like Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.
The one Republican elected politician I have known to have expressed these ideals has been Ron Paul, and the Republican Party has treated him badly for many years, so to say that Republicans follow the views of the nation’s founders is misstating things just a bit. However, we do know that if there is a “godfather” of modern Republicanism, it is not George Washington, but rather Leo Strauss, the German “scholar” who, like Marcuse, came to the United States during the Hitler years.
In the section on the Democrats, I wrote of the predations of Marcuse and Alinsky, both of whom sought power, not anything resembling truth. Strauss held similar views of social discourse. Writes Thomas Woods:
Strauss, who opposed the idea of individual rights, maintained that neither the ancient world nor the Christian envisioned strict, absolute limits on state power. The statesman thus enjoyed a relatively wide latitude for the exercise of his prudential judgment. (Emphasis mine)
Strauss, of course, is considered to be the intellectual ideal for the Neoconservatives, which have dominated the Republican Party for several decades. Led by former disciples of Leon Trotsky (or “Trotskyites”) and like Marcuse and Alinsky, he taught his followers to attack intellectual opponents in the manner of a flock of blue jays, and not to engage the ideas of others. For Strauss, like Marcuse and Alinsky, the key word was “power.”
If American conservatives attached to the Republican Party had once embraced the ideals of America’s founders, the Neoconservatives would change all of that. Anne Norton of the University of Pennsylvania writes:
Appeals to history and memory, the fear of losing old virtues, of failing to keep faith with the principles of an honored ancestry, came to seem curious and antiquated. In their place were the very appeals to universal, abstract principles, the very utopian projects that conservatives once disdained. Conservatives had once called for limits and restraint; now there were calls to daring and adventurism. Conservatives had once stood steadfastly for the Constitution and community, for loyalties born of experience and strengthened in a common life. Now there were global projects, and crusades (p. 174).
Instead of liberty at home and peace abroad, there were wars overseas and “national greatness” on the domestic front. Lew Rockwell describes them – and their relations to the Republican Party – in the following way:
Founded by followers of Leon Trotsky, they liked Lenin but not Stalin, who killed Trotsky. These left-wing intellectuals now run the conservative movement and the Republican party. How the heck did that happen?
They applied the tactics they learned from Bolshevism to become first, left-liberals, and then, new conservatives. In every mask, they have been very successful, but while there are important neo-liberals (Democratic neocons), they have had the most effect in the GOP.
From the days of Reagan, especially, and their almost total victory under Bush II, the neocons have exerted immense influence not only in politics, but in academia and the media.
Their policies are no longer openly socialist; indeed, they promote a government-controlled capitalism, instead. But their belief in global empire, perpetual war, the police state, central banking, total surveillance, and an omnipotent executive has never changed. Now, however, thanks to them, that’s called Republican conservatism.
Men like David Brooks of the New York Times, Sean Hannity of Fox News, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, columnist Charles Krauthammer, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, and Sen. John McCain make up part of the vanguard for the Neoconservatives. While this movement has been rather “underpopulated” for many years, nonetheless the Neoconservatives have been successful at seizing the leadership of the Republican Party and directing it toward an outright statism that takes a worshipful approach to state-sponsored violence.
It was the Neoconservatives that championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was the Neoconservatives that championed the so-called moderates of the Syrian Civil War, the same “moderates” that have conducted massacres of Christians in the Middle East, with some militants joining the infamous ISIS (or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The Neoconservatives have cheered every CIA-inspired “regime change,” and have promoted violence around the world instead of peace.
Although the Neoconservatives, for the most part, despise Christianity, they have made alliances with what Laurence Vance calls the “Warvangelicals,” conservative evangelical Christians who are both active in the Republican Party and also enthusiastically support U.S. military operations abroad. Of course, foreign policy predations are wrapped around uncritical support for the Likud government of Israel.
The Neoconservatives and the “Warvengelicals” also are the main supporters of the failed War on Drugs that destroys our liberties and makes even the innocent vulnerable to the ubiquitous state-sponsored home invasions better known as SWAT raids. In my many conversations with religious Republicans, I hear an almost-unanimous view that the police always are the “good guys” and that somehow our lives would be a living hell if cops could not arrest, torture, and falsely accuse people. (Part of that is because most Warvengelicals actually believe that the police never would falsely accuse anyone, and more than once I have heard from them: “If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”)
As for the economy, we saw what happened when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House from 2002 to 2006. The regulatory state marched on as usual and instead of offering real economic opportunities, Republicans gave us the infamous Housing Bubble, which itself was the result of government regulation.
So, the “intellectual” leaders of the Republican Party favor massive state intervention in the economy at home and military invasions abroad. These are not exactly the ideas of the American founders, and certainly not the freedom-loving people Powell is describing in his article. The problem is that Republicans, like the Democrats, long ago ran off the rails and no longer offer alternatives of liberty to their statist opposition.
So, what can we learn from all of this? The first thing we can learn is that while politicians can destroy freedom, very few will do anything to promote it. Straussian Republicans believe that freedom and peace are for the “weak,” while the Marcuse-Alinsky Democrats believe that freedom is nothing more than a tool of oppression wielded by the rich and the powerful, and both are the governing philosophies of the day.
The parties are not going to change; instead, they will continue to be caricatures of themselves. As the United States continues on the long march of self-destruction, those of us who actually believe in the ideals of a free society should remember that our views not only are in a minority, but are considered to be “dangerous” by both Republicans and Democrats. If we wish to be true to our ideals and, indeed, true to the Truth, then we will have to understand that we may pay dearly our adherence to those things that the founders of the USA supposedly believed, and that allegedly are celebrated in the halls of Congress and the White House.