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Home/Rod Dreher/Revenge Of The Normals

Revenge Of The Normals

Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (Source)

I can’t remember the last time I felt optimistic about politics. What a day!

I think the meaning of yesterday is that normal people are sick of progressive bullying, and took revenge. Look:

Let’s be careful not to overinterpret this. Remember that despite the mendacity and flat-out racism of the McAuliffe campaign, Youngkin only barely beat him. There are still plenty of voters satisfied with the Democratic Party’s direction. And, it’s one thing to win an election, but another to actually do something meaningful about the problems that you were elected to solve. Is Gov. Youngkin, a wealthy Mitt Romney-style Republican, willing and able to go hard against progressive racism in the schools, and other manifestations of wokeness? We will see. He is a rich suburban Republican who is going to have to be a traitor to his class to get this stuff done. Godspeed to him.

That said … what a night! It is delicious to watch and read all the media leftists squawking and screaming about RACISM having won. They all live in such airtight bubbles that they can’t see how alienating their radicalism is to normal Americans. It turns out a lot of voters don’t appreciate their kids being propagandized with progressive race hatred and gender insanity. Batya Ungar-Sargon is right: this is class warfare, though it manifests as culture war.

At last night’s conclusion of the National Conservatism conference, Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance gave a rousing speech on the theme that universities are the enemy. Not too long ago, I would have thought that was a crazy idea. The past four years, and the mainstreaming of once-fringe academic theories, changed my mind. In his 1953 book The Captive Mind, Polish anti-communist dissident Czeslaw Milosz warned that people should pay attention to seemingly obscure intellectual debates. The people of Eastern Europe, he said, woke up one morning to find that those once-fringe ideas were ruling their lives, having come to power via Soviet military might. In the same way, wokeness, a softer form of totalitarianism, is doing the same thing to us — even as people like Terry McAuliffe and his media allies deny it.

Before J.D. spoke last night, I reconnected with an old friend who is a tenured professor at a major American university. He used to be happy there. Now he is thinking hard about his escape. What happened? Radical activists on faculty and staff have de facto seized control of the university. I can’t tell you precisely what he said they’re doing, because I don’t want to risk outing him. But trust me, it is straight-up Soviet stuff designed to drive any dissenters from the hard progressive line out of the university. I hear stories like this constantly, but there was something about the audacity of this move, and seeing how badly it has shaken up my friend, that got to me. This was literally a few minutes before J.D. Vance spoke — and it really put his talk in perspective.

(Also, after the event, I met an active duty member of the armed services — I’m deliberately being vague here — who said that units in his branch now have DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] officers assigned to them. This is an exact parallel to the political commissars the Soviets assigned to Red Army units, to make sure they were politically reliable. I texted a friend in another branch of the armed services, and he said it’s true for them too — and worse, they are constantly being forced to sit through lectures about things like pronoun use, sexual diversity, etc. It’s killing morale. In one Q&A session at NatCon, someone stood and identified themselves as active-duty military, and said aloud, “What am I even fighting for?” Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are you listening?)

In his talk, J.D. talked about how American universities are the origin of this poison that is killing our country. Where do you think Critical Race Theory, which is teaching our children to hate themselves and each other on the basis of race, comes from? Where does gender ideology come from? J.D. told me later, “When you realize that progressive politics is cover for elite dispossession of people, it’s really liberating.”

This morning, before I left for the airport, I passed on to another academic friend what the man told me about the ideological purification of his university. The second friend, a prominent professor, told me that the truth is, American academia is a cartel. You can’t exist within it without the tacit approval of all the others. If the professoriat has become radicalized to the point where they will not tolerate anyone who deviates from progressivism, then they corrupt the entire system. That is what is happening now, he said — and the only way around it is to found independent universities that strive to do what universities are supposed to do. There is no viable alternative.

This is going to be the work of a generation, I told him. This is the calling of America’s superrich, who have the money to found new universities. If I were Elon Musk, I would pour my fortune into just such a project, as a gift to America. There are so many professors who want to do real scholarship, and real teaching, but they are being crushed in these corrupt institutions. If we don’t figure out how to build alternative institutions to keep the life of the mind alive through this ideological dark age, the decline of our nation is guaranteed. You cannot have an intellectual elite that’s corrupt without going into decline. Look at Arab Islamic scholarship in the medieval period. The Arabs were the most advanced intellectuals around, but when a certain strand of religious ideology took over the Muslim world, it killed intellectual inquiry. We are living through that now in our civilization, with woke ideology.

We don’t have to accept this! But we do need to understand that we are constantly being gaslighted by the media and leaders of nearly all American institutions. For example:

It is great to turf out Democrats to protest their poisoning the well with their crackpot progressive ideas, but again, it won’t mean anything if the Republicans don’t move fast and hard against these people and their institutions. J.D. Vance is right: the universities are the enemy — and so are woke corporations, the media, the woke military, and every other institution that has accepted this evil ideology. As I explained in my NatCon talk, I would not have said things like this just a few years ago, but the evidence is overwhelming now that our country is being torn up and torn down by what these people believe, and what they are doing to us. My talk was about what American conservatives can learn from Viktor Orban’s Hungary. We are not Hungary, of course, but the big lessons we can learn from him are

1) to realize that we are fighting a civilizational war here with woke globalists, and

2) we have to be willing to go hard against these elites, using state power to drive back these ideologues, and

3) we have to give up being satisfied with lib-owning, and elect conservative leaders who have the political skill to use power strategically and systematically to work reform

The Republicans have every reason to look forward to the 2022 election. If they run as defenders of normality, they stand to make serious gains. The Democratic elites can’t separate themselves from the radicals, because they have painted themselves into a corner: if you question any of this, you are a racist, a homophobe, a bigot, and so forth. I imagine James Carville’s head is exploding today. If the Republicans can manage to keep Donald Trump sidelined, 2022 is going to be a big year for them.

Now, though, let’s see these incoming Republican leaders deliver with real change. People are sick of the crime, the ideological insanity, and the inability of the Democratic Party leadership to say no to the radicals. Good. Now, Republicans, get to work.

UPDATE:The Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira, on the “Fox News Fallacy.” Excerpts:

The Fox News Fallacy is having a dire effect on many Democrats. This is the idea that if Fox News (substitute here the conservative bête noire of your choice if you prefer) criticizes the Democrats for X then there must be absolutely nothing to X and the job of Democrats is to assert that loudly and often. The problem is that an issue is not necessarily completely invalid just because Fox News mentions it. That depends on the issue. If there is something to the issue and persuadable voters have real concerns, you will not allay those concerns by embracing the Fox News Fallacy. In fact, you’ll probably intensify them by giving such voters the impression that Democrats simply don’t care about their concerns and will do nothing to address them. That will undermine the Democrats’ ability to respond to predictable attacks against their candidates in 2022 and raise the likelihood of a midterm debacle.

Crime is a great example of this. Initially dismissed as simply an artifact of the Covid shutdown that was being vastly exaggerated by Fox News and the like for their nefarious purposes, it is now apparent that the spike in violent crime is quite real and that voters are very, very concerned about it. According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research, more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a “major crisis” than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern. Moreover, majorities of even Democrats now believe violent crime is a major crisis and concerns are sky-high among black voters (70 percent say it’s a major crisis). Similarly, the latest USA Today/Ipsos poll (June 29-July 6) finds crime and gun violence topping the list of issues that worry Americans.

Critical Race Theory is another issue on which Democrats have blinded themselves, says Teixeira, who points out that there really is something to the concern. More:

Democrats who embrace the Fox News Fallacy are inclined to believe there is no real issue here other than voters, whipped up by Fox News, who are simply opposed to teaching students about slavery and the like. That is a mistake and blinds Democrats to a real problem that is emerging.

UPDATE.2:Matt Taibbi:

McAuliffe’s collapse, and the corresponding underdog win by private equity titan Glenn Youngkin, is already being caricatured nationally using the language of 1980s politics. We’re meant to understand that the Loudoun County story — which is too complex to summarize easily but involves furious disputes between local parents and the school board over a variety of issues, including a pair of sexual assaults — was cooked up by Republicans as a cynical dog-whistle campaign.

“The GOP ran a master class on race-based identity politics,” wrote CNN’s Bakari Sellers. “The return of the Lee Atwater playbook. Pretty grim,” is how former Harry Reid chief of staff Adam Jentleson put it. “Hats off to the depraved cynicism and villainy and race baiting. It worked in Virginia,” seethed Wajahat Ali of The Daily Beast. Van Jones last night called Youngkin the “Delta variant of Trumpism.”

Just as McAuliffe had no message apart from trying to tie Youngkin to Trump, these commentators seem helpless to do anything but fall back on a cookie-cutter formula for responding to Republican electoral victories in the Trump era. This drive-by commentary misses the weedsy, multi-layered nature of the Loudoun County mess.

Taibbi gets into the weeds, and explains how people who are reliable Democratic votes were so freaked out by the woke shenanigans that they went for the normie Republican. More:

The significance of Youngkin’s win is that it signals Republican competitiveness in those districts again, something that would have been unthinkable even a year ago. These white-collar, highly educated voters, the kind of people who get their shots, don’t watch wrestling, and send their kids to Harvard and Princeton, are the Democratic Party’s base. It took something pretty weird and intense to drive them to defection, and don’t trust anyone who tries to explain it in a tweet. This one really is a long story, and a wild one at that.

Read it all.

UPDATE.3: The newly elected lieutenant governor of Virginia, y’all!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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