The Real Line Dividing America. It’s Not Trump/Anti-Trump or Conservative/Liberal
The problem is the illiberal left
Some Americans believe it’s literally their religious duty to support President Trump. Others believe it’s literally their religious duty to oppose him. Many Americans felt like this in the decade leading up to the Civil War. Today things won’t come to a shooting war between Right and Left. The former has most of the guns and most of the food. The latter would quickly grasp that, if they don’t already.
What we are seeing and will see is an intensification of spiritual warfare. But it’s not a war between liberals and conservatives.
The Spiritual War
It’s between liberals and illiberal extremists, who pull more moderate folks willy-nilly toward them. You can find liberals on the Right, such as Robert P. George, who support the classical liberalism of the American founding. That’s where I am too. You can also find liberals on the Left, such as the intellectuals who signed the letter against cancel culture a few weeks ago and were pilloried for their trouble by the wokerati.
No, the real warfare — as distinct from honest, civil debate — is between liberals and illiberals.
For more on this, see Michael Liccione’s We’re Facing Civil War, Because We Don’t Agree on What America Is About.
There’s an illiberal Left as well as an illiberal Right. The illiberal Left is far more dangerous.
The illiberal Right consists mostly of white supremacists and others in the “alt right.” They have little influence on the heights of culture and are always on the defensive. The president plays footsie with some of them. This accommodates irrationality for political expediency, but doesn’t make them any more influential.
There’s also a Christian illiberal Right. In the Catholic world, it’s the “integralists.” They believe the state must uphold the true religion, which is Catholicism. The polity should be sectarian in a sense the Founders rejected. It should make Catholic moral teaching the law, for example.
But those guys aren’t dangerous. They make their case by careful, reasonable arguments. Partly for that reason, they have almost no influence beyond a narrow circle of Catholic intellectuals.
The Antithetical Left
The illiberal Left has been taking over the universities for decades. It thus shapes the attitudes of the young people who graduate from those universities into corporate jobs and the teaching profession. They are cancel culture’s most enthusiastic backers, and they are the future. The Black Lives Matter organization plays their chords perfectly.
They regard even calm, thoughtful opposition to them as depraved. Hence their default tendency to dismiss opponents with character attacks, mobbing, silencing, ostracizing, and when possible, “re-education” camp. That isn’t just a bad habit. It is a spiritual disorder.
What must be understood is that the illiberal Left is profoundly antithetical to the American political order. It believes the United States is irremediably racist, as well as ruthlessly capitalist. It insists a regime dedicated to social justice as they conceive it must ultimately replace the system we have now.
They want to bring down a system that defends individual rights, freedom of speech and of religion, parental authority, the separation o powers, the rule of law. All the gifts for self-government our Constitution gave us.
Bringing Down the System
That means accredited victim groups overthrowing their oppressors and ensuring “equity.” That in turn means equality of outcome for the people whose identities are thought to hinge on their membership in such groups. It also means silencing and disempowering those who defend classical liberalism and the Constitution.
The illiberal Left is infected by the spiritual virus called “wokeness.” It insinuates itself into the brain cells of its victims and replicates itself relentlessly, taking over the infected hosts. That’s why more and more people, historical figures as well as the living with reputations and jobs at stake, flunk the wokesters’ ideological purity tests.
We’re seeing The Revolution 2.0 already starting to eat its own. Cancel culture has only begun. They want to reach Year Zero and start over.
Worse, too many decent Americans are taken in by this. They embrace uncontroversial bromides like “Fight racism!” while the revolutionaries work try to turn everything upside down and inside out. “Fight racism!” becomes a way of drawing people innocently into a revolutionary game they don’t know they are playing.
The Main Challenge
Such is the main challenge we face right now. It is a bigger challenge than mere Communism, all the more because so few understand it. For all his faults, which I needn’t rehearse, Trump does understand it. I was heartened by his Mt. Rushmore speech. Don’t let his many and rabid enemies blind you to what is at stake.
Michael Liccione has a doctorate in philosophy and has taught at several institutions, including the Catholic University of America and the University of St. Thomas (Houston). A former editor at First Things, he writes for Mind and Spirit, Intellectual Takeout, and other sites.