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Is this the end of progressive America? Multiple fronts of resistance are taking shape

Rising crime is now a fact of life (KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)


January 4, 2022   6 mins

Over the past several decades, the progressive Left has successfully fulfilled Antonio Gramsci’s famed admonition of a “long march through the institutions”. In almost every Western country, its adherents now dominate the education system, media, cultural institutions, and financial behemoths.

But what do they have to show for it? Not as much as they might have expected. Rather than a Bolshevik-style assumption of power, there’s every chance this institutional triumph will not produce an enduring political victory, let alone substantially change public opinion.

Even before Biden’s botched Build Back Better initiative, American progressives faced opposition to their wildly impractical claims about achieving “zero Covid” and “zero emissions”, confronting “systemic racism” by defunding the police, regulating speech, and redefining two biological sexes into a multiplicity.

Increasingly, the “march” 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 its own impressive Maginot Line which may be difficult to breach, but can still be flanked.

That is not to deny the progressives’ limited successes. It has certainly developed a remarkable ability to besmirch even the most respected institutions, including the US military. But that is where its achievements stop.

While the Pentagon’s top brass focused on “domestic terrorists” and a progressive social agenda, it calamitously bungled its withdrawal from Afghanistan and appears utterly unprepared for Chinese or Russian competitors. And the effect of this progressive march is plain to see: the percentage of Americans who feel “a great deal of trust and confidence in the military” has dropped in just three years to 45% from 70%.

This decline in trust in major institutions, so evident in America, is also rife across Europe and Australia. In Europe, for example, young people express less pride in their cultural and religious heritage, and are almost three times as likely as their elders to believe that democracy is failing.

The great paradox of progressivism is that nowhere are its shortcomings more evident than in its geographic heartland: the dense urban centre. Conventional wisdom has dictated 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 labour force continue to head to the dense urban cores, on the ground people are moving in the other direction. Across the high-income world, not only in America but Europe as well, the vast preponderance of growth has taken place in suburbs and exurbs. In the last decade over 90% of all US metropolitan population growth and 80% of job growth took place on the periphery. On the ground, then, the progressive dream is withering.

The pandemic has greatly enhanced these trends, with downtown neighbourhoods recovering far less quickly than suburban, exurban, and small towns. But even if these changes are not permanent, at least not entirely, city residents will still have to contend with another pitfall of the progressive agenda: rising crime. Twelve American cities have experienced record homicides this year; all are ruled by Democratic, often progressive, leaders, many of whom explain away crime and excused, even praised, the looting and mayhem caused by protestors in the summer of 2020.

Yet despite this visceral impact on urban neighbourhoods, it is in education that our new hegemony could have its most long-lasting impact. The West’s new educational mandarins, increasingly strident and increasingly influential, have no use for our liberal inheritance, which they consider little more than a screen for racists and misogynists.

In Canada, we have seen an instance of “flame purification” for everything from old encyclopaedias and maps to Depression-era cartoons. In America, the disconnect between the professoriate and the people also keeps growing, as 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 reaches between 70 and 132 to 1.

These trends have long been evident in the fading humanities and social sciences, but now even the sciences are becoming politicised. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that universities are losing credibility even among some traditional Leftists, who marvel at how they burnish their progressive credentials while making huge profits off their endowments and seriously underpaying most of their employees.

And just as with the growing disaffection for the military, teachers, students and parents are starting to push back. A number of teachers who have been “cancelled” or otherwise threatened for dissenting 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 their schools, and instead support well-publicised and well-funded efforts to start new initiatives, such as the recently announced University of Austin. Even more importantly, would-be students are also voting with their feet: after decades of rapid expansion, the number of college students enrolments fell by 5% last decade, 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 my adopted home state of California, this “post-colonial” approach includes deemphasising the importance of tests, excusing bad behaviour, and imposing ideology on often ill-educated students. The San Diego Unified School District, meanwhile, 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, the district insists, are inherently “racist”. This in a state that ranked 49th in the performance of poor, largely minority students. (Still, the situation could be worse: neighbouring Oregon no longer requires any demonstrable proof of competence to graduate.)

In the past year, this blindness has incited considerable public outrage. Criticism of Critical Race Theory buoyed the Republican win in Virginia in November, and has become a rallying principle for parents around the country, including a recall drive against San Francisco school board members.

Other parents are trying to opt out of the public system altogether. The pandemic saw the departure of more one million American students from public schools, while 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 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: although there remain some powerful conservative voices, notably on talk radio and Newscorp properties, 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.

But the media’s Maginot Line may prove more vulnerable than expected, and this breach is certainly a far better prospect than those that came with the German flanking. There is a definite challenge not just from the traditional Right but a plethora of new publications which offer intelligent analysis outside the establishmentarian party line, as well as from Substack. Unless the media oligarchs find ways to repress these elements, a resurgence of free thinking may rescue journalism from progressive editors and journalism schools.

The shift in the media parallels that in mass culture. As late as the Fifties, mass culture was seen as largely neutral. But in recent decades, it shifted towards a more monochromatic look — one which a significant portion of the public are fed up with. Gender flipping may excite progressive creatives, but politically correct remakes of household favourites have proved box offices disasters. Indeed, it’s striking that openly conservative presenters, such as Fox’s Greg Gutfeld, now do better in ratings than their more established network rivals like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon.

Yet perhaps nothing is more ironic, and potentially dangerous, than the takeover of the corporate suite by progressive ideology. Traditionally, the dispersion of ownership and the conflicting views of entrepreneurs and inheritors fuelled the dynamism of democracy: you had far-Left businessmen like George Soros and doctrinaire Right-wingers like the Kochs in competition. They fought it out, and sometimes even aligned. But they came from diverse viewpoints.

Today this diversity of viewpoints is being obliterated by design, with corporate behaviour now married closely to the notion of the “great reset” and “de-growth”: an economy where improving conditions for the masses is replaced with lowering carbon emissions and diversity tokenism. Such standards, of course, do not apply to snotty private schools attended by their offspring, or areas that are home to their mansions.

The oligarchs may feel they deserve dispensation from the masses by their “good deeds”, but people are not as stupid or malleable as the ruling elites believe. Trust in major corporations, never too robust, is below 20%, less than one third that for small businesses. It is slowly becoming apparent that ‘woke capitalism’ will never solve divisions which are essentially economic. The key, notes Richard Parsons, former President of Citigroup, lies not with racial quotas or hiring transgender workers but the economic growth and opportunity. There will never be “unity”, he suggests, until people “feel it in their pockets”.

The question now is whether there will be sufficient pushback to turn the tide. Unlike local school boards, online magazines, and even alternative colleges, it’s difficult to replace or challenge an Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Morgan Stanley. Yet fortunately these institutions do not yet control all wealth. Big companies may have shamed themselves out of oil and gas, but investors are ramping up due to the soaring price of these assets.

So, here’s the good news. On what sometimes seems the inexorable course towards progressive capture, we can see multiple fronts of resistance, and the early congealing of independent-minded forces, from the rational Right to the traditional liberal-left. Our society may never regain the feistiness of previous eras, and our new elites might continue marching through our institutions. But as they become increasingly discredited, they would be unwise to forget that all long marches one day come to an end.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

I understand what is meant by it, but can we please stop calling efforts to destroy the society and culture “progressive”? It’s like being constantly gaslit. We need an alternative for the common parlance.

James Thomas
James Thomas
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Post-Marxist is nearer the truth given the origin of critical Theories in the 1950s academic realisation that Marxism had failed – too much misery, too many deaths.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Indeed, we lose the argument immediately when we use their language. The other one that drives me mad is using their term “gender critical”.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Yes exactly, it should be called ‘normal’

Tom Jennings
Tom Jennings
2 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

Start calling the wigged-out, lock down, 24/7 mask wearing crowd “Branch Covidians”. Have some fun.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Maybe always enclose the words with quotation marks?

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

Yes, I do tend to do that myself, or add ‘self-described’ before it.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago

Well, a disease is progressive when it gets worse, so perhaps it can be attacked on that front. Comparing the “Left” with a cancer would be useful here. Oh, and I put the quotation marks to signify the fact that many old-style leftists despise this new version of the “Left”. They insist that a “Left” that doesn’t care about the well-being of the working class – regardless of that class’s racial, religious, gender, etc. mixture – does not meet their chief criterion for qualifying as left-wing. I tend to agree with that, for whatever that’s worth.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Krehbiel

Spot on ! ‘ Neo fascists’ would not be incorrect ?? Lets get some accurate terminology happening please !!

Max Price
Max Price
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I use regressive.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Trump hit a nerve when he called to “Drain the swamp”. Fascist fits the description of progressive policies in the sense of their emphasis on group identity rather than individual or family identity, but this word has become simply a a rude word to describe anyone conservative leaning that doesn’t agree with the leftist promotion of racist policies.
Perhaps progressives should be referred to by conservatives as “Regressives” as they seek to regress to something worse, the failed policies of Fascist Italy. On the other hand perhaps this doesn’t work as one of the few things that people remember of Fascist Italy is that Mussolini made the trains run on time and drained the malarial swamps. The striking thing about Progressive policy is that it makes things less efficient and worse. The trains are less likely to run on time or the swamp drained if you promote on the basis of skin colour rather than competence and don’t promote rigorous education rather than propaganda.
Progressive policy contains the seed of its own destruction in that it is based on a series of untruths. Not prosecuting vandalism and theft does not reduce crime but promotes it. Lowering educational standards in the name of equity produces an ill educated population. Promote stupid and you get stupid.
People are not idiots. Eventually the message that progressive policy results in poorer crime ridden dysfunctional cities will sink in so that enough of the brainwashed who believe they have been voting to improve the lives of the people particularly the vulnerable will come to see that they have been sold a lie and change their vote.
ï»żThe facts of life are inherently conservative. Educate yourself with useful knowledge, work hard and intelligently in cooperation with the best and promote what works rather than what sounds good and you will prosper and so will your neighbours who share this philosophy whatever their skin colour, background or sex.
Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day nor will it be rebuilt in a day after the destruction caused by the progressive’s failed nostrums.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Eventually the message that progressive policy results in poorer crime ridden dysfunctional cities will sink in

No. That result was obvious in the 60’s to anyone with their eyes open and their brains tuned on. Here we are, 60 years later, and a high percentage (i.e. a lot more than 1%) of the population still supports these (functional) idiots.
‘There are none so blind as those who will not see.’
Noel

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

You are right that like an alcoholic things probably have to hit rock bottom for the message to sink in but hopefully enough will see the light before that.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

True, but this nihilism is largely the work of the young who weren’t around in the 1960s – Hell, some of them weren’t around in the 20th century – and haven’t been taught history well enough to see the erroneous thinking at work. As to those older who do remember the era, I doubt that they care very much about the inner cities where the chaos and destruction of dreams was concentrated. They’ll do what it takes to impose their agenda regardless of the cost to others outside of their social circle.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Language is one key area the march through the institutions has captured.

In presenting this fight back largely as polling data, the article implicitly assumes that power rests with people. I’m sure if it had been possible to poll the citizens of the USSR they wouldn’t have been happy 
 but the ruling elites did it anyway.

There is too little evidence here of a strategic fight back addressing the actual levers of power.

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

There is one huge difference in place that was not present in other “progressive” takeovers. The Second Amendment.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

It’s a valid point, but if shooting becomes the only answer the fight has effectively been lost.

The only winner of a US civil war is China

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

A rotted through America whose institutions have been effectively taken over by China anyway as an alternative path might make the fight worthwhile

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Maybe, but still far from necessary. If the Republican Party can rid itself of Trump, it might be able to return to power. A competent president should be able to exploit enough fault lines in the woke ideology to set them fighting each other and let moderates of all sides have a more sensible debate.

Once the shooting starts all hope of that is gone until the body pile is so big everybody gets tired and one side or the other invites China in to finish it.

Crazy Cat
Crazy Cat
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I watch massive protests in Europe, Australia etc. totally blacked out by media and ignored by governments. They have power and they just don’t care what the people think or want.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

My term is “woke fascist scum”.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I agree. “Progressive” sounds self-congratulatory, even narcisstic. But then leftists tend to be nauseatingly self-righteous.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Bell
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Add to “nauseatingly self-righteous”, emotional & irrational as well.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

As they are socialists and operate on a national rather than international basis we already have a term for them: nazis. We still call people who destroy what they do not own vandals, despite the Vandal rulers fading out around 550 AD, and the desperate migrants driven over the southern border by Biden + co are a Horde no Khan would want to rule over.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

So Sorros, Gates, Apple, Microsoft etc. etc. are socialists?

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

I think they’re collectivists at least, provided that the collection done goes to them. Don’t you?

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

This only is a problem if you believe in an arc of history with continuous progress. Bolsheviks and Nazis were the progressives of their eras. 20th century progressives such Woodrow Wilson were racists, as were many in the Democratic Party. Progress isn’t always forward, it’s messy and error-prone, sometimes catastrophic.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre Emre
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

And progress is in the eye of the beholder. I’d say some of the ‘progress’ of the last 60 years has done nothing positive for the human race or the planet

Last edited 2 years ago by Cheryl Jones
Michael O'Dell
Michael O'Dell
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

May I suggest ‘reactionary progressives’ or ‘authoritarian liberals’. I think both cover the self-contradictory nature of their views.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Indeed. The mangling of the language is key to any of these efforts. A handy tool that I have used over the years is to imply the opposite to anything the Left says, in order to understand their intent. It works like a charm most of the time.
Investment = Waste
Equity = Inequity
Education = Indoctrination
Freedom = Slavery
Choice = Their Choice only, not mine
Democracy = Totalitarianism
Free = Someone else pays
In sum, if being on time, demonstrating competence in order to be certified or licensed, following the rule of law and agreeing that 2+2=4 is racist, then by all means call me a racist.
The line that always wins the day during these arguments is when you ask them a simple question, “Why am I the only one on the planet that is not entitled to be proud of my culture and heritage”?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

It helps to think of the most extremist among them as caught up in cult-like thinking. That’s the only way to explain the cognitive dissonance.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Plain speaking needs a revival to chase away the cobwebs, the vague promises, as described by Jeremy Taylor “the dream of the shadow of smoke”. Perhaps all political ideologies to some extent must surface the fantasies of people — but surely the difference between an impresario and a procurer lies in the quality of that which one promotes. I actively eschew using any of their anointed vocabulary. Having a specialized, esoteric, in-group vocabulary, a virtue-signaling secret handshake among the “elect”, is, quite simply, Cultspeak.

David Bell
David Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

Add, Diversity=Division, Of-colour=Black (Asians not included).

David Harris
David Harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

The Fascist Left does it for me.

Tom Krehbiel
Tom Krehbiel
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Nihilist, perhaps?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Didn’t we decide on Unherd last week that ‘progressive’ is now a dirty word for genuine liberals?
”What we are seeing today being enacted in the name of liberalism is not liberal at all. Instead, let’s call it by the name which its proponents are prepared to use — progressivism.”
https://unherd.com/2021/12/progressives-have-sacrificed-liberalism/

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

The progressives have been using this term since the late 1800s. It’s a bit late to get upset over it. Besides, ‘progressive’ is an inherently subjective term, and they truly do believe they are working for a better future, bizarre as it sounds. Better to criticize objectively false political terms, like a party calling itself ‘Labour’ that despises the working class, or a party calling themselves ‘Democrats’ who think it is a threat to the country for people to be able to select whoever they want as elected representatives.

Greg Moreison
Greg Moreison
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I see your point, and that of many other comments here (“really they should be called post-Marxists/authoritarians/fascists” etc).

Personally I think ‘Progressive’ is both historically and philosophically correct as a description of the movement: historically it is certainly the b*****d child of the Enlightenment myth of Progress, and philosophically it has inherited large parts of most of the strange politico-moral beliefs that evolved from that naively optimistic perversion of Christian morality: utilitarianism, egalitarianism, socialism, communism, fascism et al.
Most notable, for me, is the resulting tradition in contemporary Progressivism of an insistence on a form of logic and rationalism that is completely unmoored from the Natural Law – and in many cases also from evident Reality – which has produced a peculiarly unreasonable use of ‘Reason’.

But there we go. Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Greg Moreison

I think it is the product of the rentier class as Orwell would say. Both Orwell and Muggeridge noted that the grandchildren of those who made money and lived off dividends became left wing. An example is the Webbs who inherited money from a grandafather. Lord Clark in his programme “Civilisation” noted that civilisation required energy.
The third generation of mercantile money is often feeble and fragile in mind, body and spirit. They do not have the ingenuity, and endurance to construct that which stands the test of time, only criticise. In order to feel good, they need to find someone who who they can call bad and look down upon. They are moral snobs.The rentier class are the empty cans which only make a noise when rolling down the street. The opposite is ” Deep waters run quiet “.
When money is held through land; there is tradition of naval or military service; the children go to tough private schools and grow up with the village; the families tend to be more robust, resilient and rugged.
The massive expansion of humanities departments in universities post WW2 has created a new rentier class who live off the sweat of the tax payer.

Rob Jesionowski
Rob Jesionowski
1 year ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Progressives, such as TDR and Wilson, bristled at the constraints placed upon them by the founding father’s and their hated constitution. Our society is based on English common law which eventually became a our republic; where the Rule of Law impedes the current, immediate desires of the majority.

The progressives have worked incessantly since the late 19th century to remove these constraints. Every useful fad and social trend is used to destroy another brick in the edifice which gave rise to the Constitutional Republic which the progressives railed against.

Perhaps you should realize what are the founding tenets of Progressivism, that of an elite unchanged from the rule of a.constitution being able to then provide benevolent leadership to the masses. Read the writings of the 19th century progressives. It is all there, in black and white.

Frankly sounds like a return to feudalism with the nobility being replaced by a meritocracy from the upper crust. A white wash of some democratic process to give it an air of legitimacy and even a means of removing the guilt from the dear leaders for the excesses of the state’s actions against all the “deplorables”. Perhaps the rest of us prefer not to have our lives managed by our betters.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob Jesionowski
J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

An optimistic take on the culture wars by Mr. Kotkin. If I’m honest, I’ll admit to being a little too eager to believe his argument. Still, I’m not quite sure.
The famous long march through the institutions seems disconcertingly complete. Resistance is no longer enough. A full counterattack is required and it’s not clear if the general population, who don’t embrace progressivism, is up to it. They might manage some token victories against school boards but how are they to change the direction of travel of universities and major cultural institutions? Mr. Kotkin notes that some alumni are now withdrawing their financial contributions to their alma mater but, as was pointed out in an earlier Unherd article about this phenomenon, the reality is a few extremely wealthy, and progressive, donors account for most financial donations to universities, especially the Ivy League.
If there’s a way forward I sense it must be political and legal. We need conservative governments willing to legislate against the excesses of progressivism and in favor of policies the majority support. In theory the UK already has that but Johnson’s government can’t quite seem to tackle the woke (not sure why). And we need to hold accountable those who make false accusations of racism, etc, against others and deprive people of their livelihoods. Similarly, if corporations are going to enforce a political agenda against their employees, in the guise of diversity training, they should lose some of the legal protections they enjoy because they are now operating outside the scope of their business charter.
Only when progressives pay a price for their actions will the long march be turned back.

Last edited 2 years ago by J Bryant
Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

‘Can’t quite seem to tackle the woke…. Why?
Answer: Carrie

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree – but if a tipping point is hit change may come quickly since there are very few true believers. Most of this is due to craven leadership in our institutions. For example – a populist politician who defunds some of the public institutions for their sins might very quickly get the rest to fall into line.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Sober and sensible.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago

The problem progressives have right now is they have gained enough institutional, political, and cultural power to truly enact their whims on societies and countries at large. Now their massive social experiment is going off the rails in flames and because they have so much power, progressives are in the position where they are having a hard time blame shifting. Normally they could rely on corporate media for this but those people have done their best to completely destroy their own credibility. That little bubble they live in is probably going to get popped hard.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

They’re blaming the mythical far-right on their institutional failures:
The next US civil war is already here – we just refuse to see it
Progressives are like abusive people who smack around their partners while blaming them for making them do it.

David Simpson
David Simpson
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Thanks for the link – an extraordinary article, like hearing from another universe. Did he not notice almost as many Americans voted for Trump as they did for Biden, and in massive numbers? So 50% of Americans are far right extremists! Ditto Brexiteers.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 years ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Well they have a bit of a problem with that right now. See they have already declared just about everyone not with them all the time “far-right” including many on the Left. Treating the majority as a minority and pretending you are the majority is not going so well when you have flat out declared most everyone else to be your enemies.
On a side note. Does anybody at the Guardian have a bit of self awareness?
Guardian: “There are a bunch of angry and well armed ‘right wingers’ who think the system is collapsing and we have authoritarian tendencies. That means we need to prove them absolutely right, wreck what is left of the fragile system and its guardrails, go full blown authoritarian, and hope we win. This way we will save American democracy!”
Me: “Are you insane!?”

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt Hindman
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

“But what do they have to show for it? Not as much as they might have expected.”
I disagree. They–meaning what some call “progressives,” but I have other words–entirely control the unis, almost entirely control the media save FOX, and entirely control the American government. Yes, there is a Deep State, and it resisted all of Trump’s initiatives and is supporting all of Biden’s, no matter how stupid. As an aside, I thought that the author should have included Biden’s assessment of the cost of his “progressive” agenda as “ZERO” in paragraph 3 was glaring. 
Equally significant is that they have controlled thought and speech in most Americans–gone. Now people must self-censor, twice, thrice, in every interaction, before every word. Two individuals cannot have a disagreement anymore without it being seen through a “progressive” lens. Think the Central Park Karen (excellent podcast on HONESTLY) and Kyle Rittenhouse. The list goes on. 
The author is too optimistic. He ends by saying all long marches come to an end one day, but even if this is true, it will take a century to undue the damage, as it is now institutionalized AND embedded n the hearts and minds of the cowed populace. 
I’m still predicting Civil War.

Lock and load. 

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I agree. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario towards a more peaceful US. Race baiting by the left was key to their current power; their leaders like Biden ratchet up the racial hatred by calling any resistance to Democrat power grabs, such as election integrity measures, as “Jim Crow on steroids”. Recent polling shows Blacks think that racism is the #1 issue in the US – ignoring the large amount of governmental and corporate racism in their favor. The race wedge issue is not going away, at least not in my lifetime anyway.

David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

I am afraid you are right. Yes, everything comes to an end, as will this “progressive” tyranny. But we may not see that come to pass in our lifetimes, and the damage done will be catastrophic and irreversible.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Batlle
Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

They say that a corporation in the Dow Jones stays, on average, for about 25 years. In the market economy, things come and go.
But in the political sphere everyone is playing for keeps. Yeah, let’s march through the institutions, then we’ll show them! Show them what? Hey, maybe it’s a great idea to do green energy. But maybe it isn’t, and if it isn’t how do we tell, and when can we tell?
Well, in the market economy, no problem. If the idea is a great idea, the corporation rises like a colossus, for a generation, and then subsides. If the idea is a bad idea, we probably never hear about it.
But in the political world, bad ideas have a way of hanging on. And then there is the butcher’s bill.

Last edited 2 years ago by Christopher Chantrill
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

It’s hard to believe that in America, forty years ago this year, a movie called ‘Tootsie’ came out — as if Americans today ought to trash themselves for having been, in the fairly recent past (ancient history to today’s youth) so daring, so creative, so inclusive, so comedic and cheerful and entertaining 
 at the height of the Cold War. During the Reagan Presidency, in fact. How utterly insensitive! You know!
That movie was the second-most popular at the box office in West Germany at the time (after E.T.). Perhaps West Germans believed that as long as America could keep on entrancing youth with the universal appeal of its movies and pop and rock music, its creative-enough endeavours became a stronger and stronger sign that the Iron Curtain would collapse. Now if not for America at the time, where else was a Tootsie going to spring from? From Tootsieniestan?

There is no good and universally-appealing music or movies or TV shows coming out of America these days. Certainly nothing cheerful: Americans, when suffering from a guilt complex in a Godless age, are prone to never forgiving themselves. At best they stay cowed and watchful (of their own behaviour).

The sense of wonder about the world that had prevailed before the internet and mobile-phone age has disappeared. Now Americans have been dissecting their own guilty, fault-ridden bodies. And institutions. Their constitutions will end up as weak as a mouldy old Kermit the Frog in a Cupboard. And short childhoods will soon be frittered away, in a blur, under a mountain of Marxist-friendly paperwork. No time for hobbies. Gotta get with the program, you know.

Americans: the rest of the world much rather prefers rock’n’roll America. Never mind spoiled European youth. Most of the rest of the world is still highly conservative and poor.

Barbara Manson
Barbara Manson
2 years ago

Watch “The Good Place”. Good American fun. Creative and all-inclusive.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I liked that show too – it exceeded my expectations upon first watching it. Ted Danson was great in it.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
2 years ago
Reply to  Barbara Manson

I love “The Good Place”. It’s witty in that it’s smart-witted.

For those of us who loved that great 80’s movie “The Karate Kid” (and its sequels) then “Cobra Kai” is a fantastic and sympathetic revisiting of the story for a new generation.

“The Expanse” does a fabulous job of being genuinely progressive and optimistic while also recognising humanity’s flaws.

Sadly, these are real exceptions to an otherwise endless deluge of “woke” dross where every white male (heterosexual) hero has to be replaced by someone female, non-white and/or gay.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

You can make an argument that the ‘march through the institutions’ has gone well for the Progressive Left and they have taken control of many.
However having reached key positions at the front of the institutions they haven’t stopped marching. As a consequence there is a wave of Progressive Left leaders marching ahead as a matter of habit, not being aware that they are leaving the bulk of workers behind. Without consolidating the workers their ‘progress’ will be hollowed out. And calling ordinary people racist, sexist or XXXXphobist will not help with that consolidation.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
2 years ago

If “progressive” means the crawling fascism we see in America under Biden with censorship outsourced to big tec, then hopefully this is the end.
But I doubt it. The fusion of big money, corrupt politicians, worldwide censorship, and enthusiasm of the hordes of useful idiots is not easy to overcome.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

Rather than a Bolshevik-style assumption of power

Well yes – it ceased to be Bolshevik a long time ago, and turned, via the new left and student politics into an elite morality – more concerned with looking good than developing a more egalitarian society.
As the author notes, they have done little for the masses, except alienate them from left wing politics.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago

I think it’s right that we’re all concerned by the March of woke, and hope to see it drowned in a tidal wave of common sense as the inherent contradictions in woke policies become apparent
..for example transgender athletes winning everything in women’s sports crushing little girls aspirations.
But as an older U.K. reader, the description here of left wing contempt for common sense described by the writer, and under a woke umbrella term, doesn’t half remind me of the left wing torture we had to endure in seventies Britain with Unions running the country into the ground in 3 day weeks, Labour supporting a paedophile lobbying organisation (PIE), and the pervasive shame about our country in our own institutions described so well by Orwell thirty years earlier.
(“It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true, that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God Save the King” than stealing from a poor box”).
Is everyone else in the western world just catching up with the trendy ‘progressives’ we’ve had to tolerate for the last 50 years?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

The US is culturally moribund, and is just another of history’s empires on the decline, as had happened since time immemoriam: just look at the decline of US industrial power, innovation and influence over the past 20 years… IBM, GM, Ford, Chrysler… The world leading investment banking, and asset management sector is all that is a leader… bar technology, which I have left to last, as it is the product of brilliant vision and entrepreneurialism, that has thrived in silicon valley, thanks to the extraordinary brains , innovation, skill, and financial wisdom of what is in large part brilliant Jewish and Indian genii!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

It’s not ‘progressive’ it’s a secular cult complete with dogma, heresy, sin and witchburning. The Left always loves to paint itself as good and on the right side of history. It is delusional. It is just as susceptible to fanaticism as its counterparts on the right.

Karl Francis
Karl Francis
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

The tired ‘Duopoly’ you refered to in one of your earlier posts won’t free us. I may well follow your lead and join the social democrats, (not sure). Something startling, huge, bold and incredibly inspiring needs to happen. We used to lead, truly LEAD with big ideas and ventures. Deep down I’m craving total pragmatism, something anti-political even??? No guff of any hue will be permitted. Just incredibly skillful, capable types who can make stuff work. ‘MANAGEMENT UK’, superb maintenance of our Country’s infrastructure, absolute commitment to the needs of this Country’s citizens, ferocious border control and zero tolerance for violence and brutality.
Oh no…. I’m thinking about Robocop again aren’t I ?

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

Labels like progressive and conservative are broad brush and include a very broad range of views. Why not ask someone seemingly progressive what policies they consider to be progress and then debate that if you disagree, and ask someone seeming to be conservative what policies they consider important to conserve and debate that. It is better to debate policies and ideas than labels.

Dick Illyes
Dick Illyes
2 years ago

This seems like the best time in years to truly reform K-12.
Charter schools are good, but we are missing an opportunity to move cleanly to a free market in the provision of educational services.
We should create an educational endowment for each K-12 student. Student endowment funds would pay out for students who achieved grade level knowledge based on annual tests like the Texas STAAR. All states have something similar.
Providers for students who did poorly would not be paid, leaving twice the annual amount available next year to educators who could catch them up. Seriously underperforming students would accrue several years of catch-up funding, providing extra incentive for the type of personalized attention that would benefit them.
All students would become customers for educational services and be treated accordingly.
Opening educational services to the free market will see most students moving through material much faster than at present. This will allow for practical job related instruction, and college level courses, to be included as providers fight for market share.
Competition among educational providers will make full use of technology, will provide useful training for actual jobs, and will deliver far more education for the same money. Gamification will keep students involved in ways that existing K-12 material can’t touch.
Instead of leaving dropouts to fend for themselves, the funds would remain on deposit indefinitely, allowing those who got their act together after some time in the adult world to get an education.
Troubled students would have teachers and mentors who had a financial stake in the outcome.
The dramatic difference in quality based on differences in community income levels would end.
I think that modeling the idea will show that existing school structures and transportation fleets will be used, possibly more than with charter schools.
Providers will be renting space and transportation for their offerings in most cases from existing school districts.  
Home schooling pods will explode, but those kids will still participate on local sports teams, and transportation to practice (and back) will also be rented from existing fleets by their parents.
Let’s move to a free market. Unleash technology but pay only for results.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
2 years ago
john zac
john zac
2 years ago

Joel, the dominant reason all these institutions are failing is because power needs them to fail. Today, a few select people have the power to change the narrative, any narrative, to their favor for the sole purpose of profiting from it. Money is the means and the end. But what’s left in the wake of this is the total capitulation of values. What they value, is what we should all value. Everyone and everything that goes against them is turned into mulch, including things like family, work and love.

Oliver Williamson
Oliver Williamson
2 years ago

Yet another way in which the establishment is being challenged is Bitcoin and decentralization more generally. More and more people are becoming “orange-pilled” as we speak. Much of the societal degradation going on could not occur without government printing new money out of nowhere. Those who are willing to educate themselves on Bitcoin will understand that it was created in response to this legalized counterfeiting by government. Bitcoin cannot be counterfeited. Bitcoin is, therefore, freedom for all and is perhaps the last best hope of mankind.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

I am not as optimistic as Joel K., who seems to be quietly cheering for the “Regressives” from the bleachers. How else to explain the use of the word “our” in the sentence below?
Yet despite this visceral impact on urban neighbourhoods, it is in education that our new hegemony could have its most long-lasting impact. 

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Abraham Quinn
2 years ago

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Howard Burke
2 years ago

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1 year ago

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ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Ah, but it’s NOT over. These neo/post/ whatever Marxists are now expecting to move forward into the next stage, the Utopisn delusion that a better, fairer society would automatically arise from the wreckage.

They are basically the heirs to the great religious revival of the post-World Wars period, a religion unusual in having no actual deity but otherwise conventional in a respects with its magical thinking and reasoning from conclusions, blind faith, hysterical outbreaks and intolerance.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

“Antonio Gramsci’s famed admonition of a “long march through the institutions”.”

Source?

James Lindsay and Christopher Rufo make the same mistake. At best, their claims about Marxism are lazy.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

The phrase may or may not be attributable to him. The “war of position,” which it describes, is largely his, though it builds on Marx and other Marxist thinkers.

What’s your core point? That the left, via Academia, has not pursued a conscious strategy of subverting the foundational moral structures of the west, in its relentless efforts to overthrow the bourgeoisie?

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Rod McLaughlin

Looks like it was Herbert Marcuse (Frankfurt School of Critical Theory – “the Father of the New Left”, borrowing from Rudi Dutschke) who pioneered this particular phrase among Marxist thought in the 1970s.
However, Gramsci sets the seeds in his own writings, proposing methods of how education can act as a catalyst towards Marxism (described as the unitary principle) by including… “‘rights and duties’ – i.e the first notions of State and Society as basic elements of a new conception of the world”.
from which…
“The advent of the unitary school marks the beginning of new relations between intellectual and industrial work, not only in school but in the whole of social life. The unitary principle will therefore be reflected in all organs of culture, transforming them and giving them a new content.”
(The Modern Prince and Other Writings)

Last edited 2 years ago by Saul D