This article was adapted from a speech the author delivered about his book, “War on the American Republic: How Liberalism Became Despotism.”
The New Left radicals won.
They constituted only a minority on college campuses in the 1960s, but their ideas about antiracism, radical feminism, and sexual liberation have become orthodoxy for a state-established priesthood of government offices and commissions, university compliance officers, and corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Beginning as a movement that challenged and displaced mid-century liberalism, the New Left has much to teach today’s New Right. Like mid-century liberalism, movement conservatism has ceased to be authoritative in its ethical, moral, and political teachings. Young conservatives would be prudent to assess and borrow from the successful political strategies, though not the political ideals, of the New Left.
First, the New Left adopted a utopian political philosophy. Mid-century liberal intellectuals such as Daniel Bell, Seymour Lipset, Raymond Aron, Robert Dahl, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. had proclaimed the “end of ideology” and the “exhaustion of political ideas.” They rejected “absolutism” in philosophic truths and moral and political systems in exchange for an experimentalist philosophy and scientific “realism” in domestic and foreign policy.
Schlesinger presented a horseshoe model in which liberalism marked the “vital center” between opposing socialist and fascist dogmas, which meet at the opposite center in totalitarian government. The “continual, potential threat to liberalism” was millennialist faith, which “often hides behind a rationalist façade.”
Liberals declared themselves to be the antithesis of mass man and mass movements, and this, they said, was “intolerable for the true believers.” They diagnosed religious faith in order to diffuse its dangers.
The thinkers that founded the New Left proclaimed “the end of the ‘end of ideology.’” After the death of their own god in socialism, liberal ex-socialists demanded the death of everyone else’s. Moreover, the “end of ideology” was itself an ideology used to defend the status quo of a ruling “power elite” in the administrative state. As such it was a “slogan of complacency,” and by closing off criticism it was “more ideological than its predecessor.”
C. Wright Mills, Herbert Marcuse, and Paul Goodman revived utopianism. Martin Luther King Jr. famously penned, “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.” Far from “no-where,” utopianism meant a return to questions of the best possible regime that could guide practical political visions. Mills, wrote, “If there is to be a politics of a New Left, what needs to be analyzed is the structure of institutions, the foundation of policies.”
The new political philosophies were successful. In the latter half of the 20th century, existentialism coopted Christian theology, and critical theory, beyond its revolutionary discourse, provided a vision of justice with its concomitant righteous indignation.
Every cogent philosophy is followed by schools of thought, and as each affects politics, it builds authoritative systems (no matter how “anti-systemic” each claims to be).
The New Left’s positive visions connected theory and action in praxis. Mills and Marcuse introduced a personal politics that became the means to craft and mobilize identity groups for political action. In their new theory of the proletariat, white progressives would unite in “solidarity with the wretched of the earth” against the industrial middle class.
Adherents completed these systems in Afro-American studies, feminism, critical legal studies, critical race theory, the politics of difference, and LGBT. Each included its own catechism that has become our orthodoxy: systemic and unconscious racism and genderism, consciousness raising, white allyship, and intersectionality.
For example, in 1971 the National Education Association posited:
All white individuals in our society are racists. Even if a white is totally free from all conscious racial prejudices, he remains a racist, for he receives benefits distributed by a white racist society through its institutions. Our institutional and cultural processes are so arranged as to automatically benefit whites, just because they are white. It is essential for whites to recognize that they receive most of these racist benefits automatically, unconsciously, and unintentionally.
Tearing Down Institutions
Second, the New Left engaged in what Rudi Dutschke and Marcuse called the “long march through the institutions: working against the established institutions while working within them.” It built insular identity groups and larger coalitions, such as an interracial movement of the poor and the rainbow coalition, as well as infiltrated existing organizations.
Radicals wrested liberals’ Great Society spending to fund the National Welfare Rights Organization, The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and community action programs. They took over the commissions that implemented the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Education Amendments.
The original CRA allowed neutral scientific tests in hiring, barred racial preferences in hiring, and required that litigants prove an intent to discriminate. Congress denied the understaffed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both broad rulemaking authority and cease and desist powers.
Chairman Franklin Roosevelt Jr., vice chair Luther Holcomb, executive director Herman Edelsberg, and deputy general counsel Dick Berg thwarted radical interpretations of the CRA. Frustrated with the EEOC as a “toothless tiger,” progressive commissioners Richard Graham and Aileen Hernandez stepped down to help start the National Organization for Women.
But radicals took over the commission and its staff. Embarrassed by criticisms of the EEOC’s ineffectiveness, Lyndon Johnson appointed Clifford Alexander, who supported an activist agenda. One of the staffers was Timothy Jenkins; calling EEOC policy a failure in 1969, he called for “legal” remedies such as enforced quota hiring, compulsory training programs, and yearly governmental and private requirements for the creation of new jobs.
The EEOC used the voluntary forms it requested from companies to build a statistical case for systemic racism, and progressive federal judges simply adopted the EEOC’s own broadened standards that violated its originating statute, such as “disparate impact” (1971) and the “four-fifths rule” (1978).
Congress granted the EEOC enforcement authority in 1972. While the CRA mandated that desegregation “shall not mean assigning children to particular schools to achieve racial balance,” the Office for Civil Rights wrote rules for racial balance anyway, with quotas for proportional representation, and the courts deferred to the agency’s expertise on civil rights.
Making its way through law schools, the New Left revolutionized administrative law. Activists pushed for new intrusive social regulation in their efforts to check the agencies that had been captured by special interests.
“Uncle Sam,” said Ralph Nader in 1973, was a “Monopoly Man.”
Rejecting the liberal concept of a “public interest,” the new “public interest law” recognized “distinct interests of various individuals and groups in society.” Society consisted of competing groups, so administration must include competing social interests. Radicals claimed to represent these unorganized and underrepresented groups.
Judges extended legal standing to sue to millions of individuals and groups, including those indirectly or minutely affected by agency actions in areas of health, safety, consumer protection, environment, and racial discrimination.
Using Great Society funding for its own radical programs, the New Left took over educational institutions in both elementary and higher education. In 1974, for example, the Office of Education introduced an “Ethnic Heritage Studies Program” with grants of $2.7 million under its Title IX authority.
A growing college student population required tens of thousands of professors and administrators to peddle identity and monitor compliance with the changing federal regulations. The first black studies program began in 1968, with more than 500 more programs by 1971. Women’s studies programs increased from 150 in 1975 to 300 in 1980.
Most importantly, the radicals took over key political positions in state and federal government, as well as the Democratic Party itself via key changes implemented by the McGovern Commission. They used these positions of power to play to personal politics, secure unequal treatment under the law, and distribute goods to their growing constituency of victim groups.
Finally, the New Left effectively promoted cultural revolution. It won the culture war by its influence in popular opinion, media, and the entertainment industry.
Not only did the radicals wield poetry far more successfully, but the vulgarity they encouraged was sanctioned by federal courts. Experts, instead of elected representatives, would determine a work’s literary and artistic value. Obscenity became a null category for almost 10 years.
The most important change was achieved by radicals like Herma Hill Kay who used their influence in the American Bar Association to write the model no-fault divorce law, the goal of which was to destroy the patriarchal family.
The cultural revolution included movement conservatives, who often pandered to Christians but did not share their faith.
The neoliberals of the late 1970s, both liberals embracing John Rawls’s “Theory of Justice” and free marketers adopting Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom,” were libertarians.
Friedman called for the legalization of drugs (including heroin) and sex (prostitution, abortion, and homosexuality) as matters of individual choice, meaning the state would no longer support the traditional family.
Rawls rejected the shaming of permissive “sexual relationships” and called for the state to provide equal services for those who could not afford them, meaning the state would intervene to destroy the traditional family.
Under no-fault laws, divorce spiked, doubling from 1960 to 1980. Only 11 percent of children born in the 1950s experienced divorce, compared to 50 percent of those born in the 1970s. Illegitimacy skyrocketed, especially among the poor.
A Model for the New Right
The New Left should be a model for conservative political action. There are similarities in the times.
The old idols of neoconservatism, libertarianism, and performance traditionalism are dead. Libertarians pushed for open borders and cronyism called free trade; neocons supported bloated military budgets to slaughter forgotten youth on the altar of global corporatism; traditionalists peddled agrarian poetry to white upper-class conservatives, teaching the evils of the American nation.
Moreover, young conservatives have seen the hypocrisy of conservative intellectuals, especially during the Covid-19 lockdowns and George Floyd riots.
The American Enterprise Institute embraced the trans revolution. The Heritage Foundation under Kay James preached systemic racism. The Acton Institute presented the outsourcing of American manufacturers and the demoralization of its populace as a brief hiccup toward global progress. Catholic integralists teach open borders and accuse those who disagree with them of racism.
Straussians who criticized liberal democracy’s concern with bare preservation (as opposed to philosophic courage and friendship) were so overcome by fear for bare preservation that they rushed to teach online classes and veil their faces in terror of sickness. Bereft of empirical analysis or even common sense, they willingly succumbed to mass hysteria to close their classrooms — to cede the conditions for philosophy itself.
From the same lack of courage, they dilute their great-books programs with identity politics. The president of the Association for Core Texts and Courses confesses, “I suffer from [white privilege] too!”
The Straussians’ claim to “save the city” by making students apolitical only created bureaucratic placeholders. And now their concessions to identity politics trample their own students’ job prospects.
Looking to the New Left, the New Right should embrace both its ruthless criticism and utopianism, not more “end of ideology.” Conserving Americanism, which includes the Christian faith and republican principles that founded the country, has radical implications.
One could hardly read the great books such as Aristotle’s “Politics” without concluding that our current regime is an oligarchy, or read The Federalist Papers without questioning the legitimacy of our administrative state.
The very category of U.S. citizenship is denied as millions of illegal immigrants stream across an unprotected border, and many are escorted into the interior of the country.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Americans learned that all their rights as citizens can be removed, not by elected representatives but by unelected bureaucrats claiming emergency powers.
Rather than equal citizens under the law, Americans have become subjects with unequal privileges and duties based on their assigned identity group. Given this deprivation of rights, mere appeals to the Constitution or to the rule of law that the American power elite long ago dismantled will no longer do.
Any genuine conservatism must be radical, or in the words of Marcuse, it must constitute a “counterrevolution.” Conservatives should do more than criticize today’s illegitimate regime and leftist ideas; they should envision alternatives.
A conservative political philosophy would be utopian by recognizing that all political systems share in religious sentiment. This includes the natural rights under “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” To conserve the American regime would mean first to conserve actual religion — Christianity as a fighting faith.
And insofar as political philosophy itself requires participation in moral sentiment in order investigate it, it must also address the questions of patriotism and community that it has long disparaged: It would provide a vision of republican governance.
Second, conservatives should emulate the New Left by starting their own long march through the institutions. This is quite simple to do — if one has the political will. The strategy must be the three P’s, the first two being “parity” or “purge.” The New Right must demand parity in bureaucracy, education, the military, and government contracts.
Democrats — liberals and radicals — dominate American universities (gateways to the halls of power), where so-called underprivileged groups are the most represented and so-called privileged groups are the most underrepresented.
Considering their stated party affiliation, more than 90 percent of professors are Democrats, with college administrators even more Democratic. And government-funded support for the Democratic Party is becoming even more lopsided: One professor estimates the current ratio in hiring liberal to conservative professors is 50:1.
Unlike Republicans who raise money from conservative businessmen but have no incentive to actually win elections, the Democratic Party must win elections in order to pay off its constituents. If academia consists of centrist liberals at best, and Democratic hacks at worst, then Republicans can justly demand their own spoils.
Red state governors and legislatures could mark half the jobs, in both education and bureaucracy, for their own. Looking at blue states as a model, there is no reason why taxpayers in red states like Indiana, Florida, Idaho, South Dakota, or Texas should employ any leftists under the farce of academic impartiality. And unlike engineering bridges, social scientists build worthless statistical models that no one heeds, especially not politicians.
Importantly, conservatives should not focus on banning ideas like critical race theory (which they themselves can teach), but on changing personnel: firing DEI administrators and hiring conservatives.
Conservative taxpayers pay for these institutions, public spaces, and jobs. They should take them back: city councils, police and sheriff’s departments, school boards (and public schools where salvageable), and library boards. Because personnel is policy, conservatives should demand their own institutions hire from conservative colleges and disparage degrees from universities that are mere luxury brands.
Conservatives should take a cue from Democrats and begin their own purges. Civil service protections, instead of securing expertise, have been used to secure Democratic Party interests in the bureaucracy, where, in open “resistance” to President Donald Trump, bureaucrats refused to carry out their orders and even lied to the commander-in-chief about troop levels in Syria.
Democrats combed through social media after Jan. 6, 2021, farcically called an “insurrection,” to punish those who voted for Trump. Under Biden, they implemented vaccine mandates to expel conservatives from the military, universities, and businesses, even while retaining openly racist Democratic partisans.
Conservatives should learn this lesson. With a few executive orders, a conservative president and conservative governors could disband the entire taxpayer-funded diversity, equity, and inclusion priesthood as a violation of equal protection under the Constitution.
And even as they remove tenured Democratic bureaucrats, red state legislatures should eliminate the term limits that bind the duration and impede the expertise of their own elected representatives.
The final P is “parallel institutions.” Conservatives should create more institutions of their own, forming alternative systems with their own rules: charter and home-schooling cooperatives, media outlets, homesteads, farmers’ markets, and independent businesses.
Small liberal arts colleges have an example to follow in Larry Arnn’s Hillsdale College, which stands foremost in the fight for freedom of thought where other small liberal arts colleges have conceded moral authority to those who would destroy them.
There has been a resurgence in private associations. Able-bodied men, no longer isolated, are returning to republican manliness in a culture of physical fitness and responsible weaponry. They are buying AR-15s and Glock 17s and training with their friends, not with FBI-infiltrated militias or online strangers but with trustworthy lifelong friends to build a community alongside.
Rural Christian women are questioning the corporate, cosmopolitan harem, its cats substituting for children, and are once again becoming the centers of their societies. They are challenging the fiction that they are “free” when corporate servants, and “enslaved” when guiding the health and morals of their own children.
Finally, and with the help of these parallel institutions, conservatives have already begun their own culture war. Roger Kimball’s Encounter Books publishes radical ideas. Alternative media outlets, and particularly Tucker Carlson, questioned the dogmas at the core of the Covid-19 pandemic — the likely origins of the virus, the efficacy of masks, the true cost of the deadly lockdowns, the safety of the vaccines. And they questioned the corrupt collusion between the FBI and social media to conceal Hunter Biden’s laptop to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.
Lifesite News informs its readers of the commerce in tissue from aborted babies for scientific experimentation.
Darren Beattie’s Revolver.News calls the American empire the Globalist American Empire, or GAE, connecting the empire to the character types and habits of the ruling class, both its mannerisms and sexual obsessions. He first exposed the lies of the Jan. 6 “insurrection” by showing how federal agents had infiltrated and directed the supposed right-wing organizations that mobbed the Capitol.
Most importantly, a host of New Right social media influencers have torn down the leftist images and replaced them with noble images.
Under this law of fashion, the New Right uses honor and shame to openly mock the misbehavior encouraged by identity politics: the corrosive feminized politics of the longhouse, in which indirect means of confrontation have turned bureaucracy and corporations into ineffective, incompetent tyrannies; black criminality, in which 12 percent of the population constitutes 60 percent of the nation’s known murder offenders; the mental illness and degeneracy that underlies the trans movement; the corrupt oligarchy that uses “diversity” to legitimize its decadent rule.
Moreover, the New Right celebrates health — strong men and beautiful women — as part of a broader vitalist movement that has taken hold of young men and women across the West. It points out that the leftist Puritanical priesthood is ugly, asexual, and unhealthy.
In conclusion, the myth about the New Left, which became prevalent in the 1980s, was that it lost. But its ideas are now taught in almost every school in America. The New Right would do well to learn from the New Left.