When they aren’t too busy telling us the sky is falling, legacy media love to remind us that war is being waged on American institutions.
“American institutions are ‘under assault’ by Trump,” the Washington Post warns. “The President is winning his war on American institutions,” says the Atlantic, adding “If he’s given a few more years, the damage to American democracy will be irreversible.”
“Donald Trump from the beginning has seemed to pose a threat to the American system unlike any president in living memory,” writes Francis Fukuyama in Politico Magazine.
“Even for this president, it was a remarkable week of attacks on American institutions,” said The New York Times after the 2018 midterm elections.
Just what are those ambiguous institutions that are so endangered by the Trump administration? Trump’s concerns about voter fraud endanger the electoral process, say the media. He has undermined trust in the intelligence community and in U.S. government overall by publicly noting that subversive surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016 actually happened. He’s also attacking the judicial system by criticizing judges and decisions he disagrees with (although Democrats’ proposal to pack the Supreme Court for partisan motives is apparently no problem).
The media further accuse Trump of filling government positions with political loyalists, and challenging the vast layers of bureaucracy that have plagued government for decades. Maybe worst of all, Trump has criticized the media establishment itself.
While the left hand-wrings about Trump now, they have spent decades torching American institutions. These institutions are foundational to others like government, the media, and elections.
Nuking The Nuclear Family
Most primally, the institution of the family is now playing defense against decades of leftist attacks. Some attacks are overt, like the Black Lives Matter organization’s expressed goal to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” In July, the Smithsonian released an infographic listing the “nuclear family” as a part of “white culture.” On the same webpage, the Smithsonian urged readers to face their whiteness and “recognize their fragility.”
Meanwhile, The Atlantic cheered “The Rise of the 3-Parent Family,” in a September article tracing the falsified popularity of tri-parent households. The article misrepresented a Pew Research report about the number of children in two-parent households, but this didn’t keep the author from celebrating the supposed demise of organic family structure. “The idea that the default family unit consists of two straight parents and their children is outdated,” she said.
These attacks on the organic family have been gaining steam since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. With the advent of the Pill and legalization of abortion, sex became more casual and more acceptable outside of marriage. Third-wave feminism discouraged women from raising a family. Predictably, the percent of American children living with their two married biological parents dropped from 87 percent in 1960 to 61 percent in 2014.
While the heightened dangers of growing up in divorced or single-parent homes are certainly not inevitable, they are sobering. Children whose parents are divorced are statistically more likely to make similar choices. A Harvard study found that growing up with a single parent was a significant factor holding back a child’s upward income mobility. The family is the laboratory where a child learns how to interact with the world, and his family circumstances will strongly shape his approach.
Attacks On the Church
Another institution the left fires upon constantly is church. Most recently, arbitrary restrictions from state and local leaders hamstrung churches from congregational fellowship. In California, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere, governments have recorded license plate numbers of church attendees, threatened to imprison pastors, and fully banned congregational worship.
Long before COVID-19, leftist attacks on religious freedom were concerning. The Family Research Council published a list of unjust restrictions on religious exercise in 2014. A few of the instances in the 40-page document involved: seniors barred from singing Christmas carols, criticism of a “Mother Theresa” stamp, banning prayer before meals at an Illinois homeless shelter, a high schooler threatened with arrest for praying in her graduation speech, and firefighters forced to participate in a gay pride parade. The updated 2017 report showed that these kinds of attacks had grown by 76 percent in three years.
While these incidents are increasing, constitutional protections for religious liberty are eroding. In 1990, writing the majority opinion for Employment Division v. Smith, the usually originalist Justice Antonin Scalia re-categorized free exercise of religion as a “hybrid” right, which needed to be combined with another constitutional right to merit full protection. The Smith decision made it easier for laws restricting religious freedom to be upheld.
Just this year, in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court redefined Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” in the word “sex,” making it illegal to fire an employee on the basis of his or her gender identity. While some religious freedom exceptions may exist for now, the court left unanswered how Bostock will interact with free exercise. Lower-court decisions since indicate the answer is in a decided negative.
A Re-telling Of History
Political theorist Edmund Burke envisioned a social contract between current generations, their predecessors, and their descendants. Appreciating past generations and recognizing obligations to future ones encourages us to steward society well, Burke said.
This appreciation for history does not entail blind worship of our forefathers’ actions, but thoughtful evaluation of them. We should recognize our historical faults as we celebrate our historical accomplishments — but neither of these is possible if we do not know our history.
In 2011, before President Obama canceled the tests informing the public of this important metric, The New York Times reported that only 12 percent of high school seniors were proficient in U.S. history. Only 2 of every 100 students could answer a question about Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down racial segregation in schools. Not only are we rapidly forgetting our history, but the history students are learning is deeply critical of the past, and sometimes patently inaccurate.
The 1619 Project, for example, is a set of essays positing that America’s proper beginning was not 1776 but 1619, the “beginning of American slavery.” Curriculum from the 1619 Project has already been taught to students in 4,500 classrooms.
“Nearly everything that has made America truly exceptional,” says the 1619 Project, has come from slavery and racism. These include everything from America’s pop music to “the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, the architect of the 1619 Project, had to issue a correction about her completely unfounded claim that the American War for Independence was fought to preserve slavery.
This year, a Virginia school district also dropped $20,000 for students to have a one-hour conversation with sworn anticapitalist Ibram X. Kendi. They spent another $24,000 on his books for a U.S. history class. Far from history textbooks, Kendi’s books are about “How To Be An Anti-Racist” and “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.” They monetize anti-white racism. Kendi has also suggested U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a “white colonizer” for adopting two children from Haiti.
The institutions of family, the church, and history aren’t the only ones necessary for a thriving society. But they are foundational. If we hope to keep other American institutions like our system of government intact, then we must preserve those central fixtures instead of joining the left in blowing them to smithereens.