Ronald Reagan was no friend of Soviet Russia, or its guiding principles rooted in socialism. He used every measure he could to counter them — from humor to his words and ideas to a military buildup and more — to ensure these were things consigned to the ash heap of history. The Cold War was a victory for the United States and the free world, but it was not the end of history that many believed it would be.
A decade ago, the Republican Party went into a period of intense introspection as the Democrats assumed control of the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Was the guiding philosophy of the Republicans — conservatism — finished? Had the majority of Americans moved left? Should the Republican Party shift its platform to meet that apparent movement?
The answer to those questions was no. The Affordable Care Act went too far left for too many Americans, who put conservative Republicans back into power locally and nationally over the next several election cycles. The Republican Party itself has remained conservative, though conservative accomplishments have far greater reach.
Much of what was once conservative in nature has become the commonsense American center, where most Americans tend to coalesce. Consider, for example, taxes. Few Democrats now speak openly about raising taxes on all Americans, but rather just for the wealthy and certain businesses. Americans know from firsthand, commonsense experience how keeping more of their income benefits themselves and their country — so why would Democrats return to government-centric positions they held a generation ago?
And yet, they are. The disastrous roll-out and opposition to the Affordable Care Act could have been a call to consult both history and the American experience, but there are many Democrats who are instead embracing socialist positions and openly referring to themselves as socialists. A recent article in Politico reveals how these radicals are being styled as “insurgents” and “Justice Democrats” who are prepared for “war” to take control of the Democratic Party.
Why does this matter to conservatives, or Americans at large?
Because the “war” the so-called “Justice Democrats” anticipate within their own party won’t stop at its borders. They are seeking the “fundamental transformation” of America that candidate Barack Obama preached about, but never quite achieved. To these new-wave liberals, Obama never went far enough, fast enough, while those like Bernie Sanders are useful but ineffective figures.
True, they are not many in number. But what Americans considered antiquated oddities (like Sanders) are now a growing force (with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the fore). The radical Left is not going away. They are only growing stronger. The radical Left cannot be underestimated.
History holds similar parallels as lessons.
The Bolsheviks, an extreme leftist minority within the overall socialist movement in Russia, had to wrest control of the movement from other left-wing factions in order to direct control of post-Czarist Russia beyond 1917. They should never have had it. Few beyond themselves initially expected the totality of their rise.
Yet, their rapid and violent ascendancy inaugurated a civil war, massive land and resource concessions to the desperate Central Powers (America’s joining the Allies in World War I made Central Power defeat a certainty), the rejection of democracy, the subjugation of political opposition, the repression of citizens, and massive government centralization and assumption of power, all in the name of preserving and extending the revolution.
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The socialist, Lenin, dismissed these effects either as temporary setbacks or utilitarian necessities. Nearly a century of brutal communist governance demonstrated Lenin was right in that the extreme Russian Left was prepared to do whatever it needed to do in order to achieve and sustain control. In the socialist perspective, history was inexorably and unavoidably unfolding and evolving toward the unstoppable rise of socialism itself.
I do not suggest that the “Justice Democrats” are violent. (Antifa deals in violence on the extreme Left, and would rather resort to the streets than to the ballot.) What I do argue by historical comparison, is that socialist Democrats are prepared to lose, forfeit or see implode anything of value in the short term for their ultimate goal because they ultimately value nothing like that ultimate goal. In their view, they are part of an unstoppable wave and so they see no need or reason to moderate, compromise or introspect.
Conservatism, by contrast, preserves that which is loved or cherished because of its innate or proven importance. Because of the importance they place on that preservation value, conservatives find it hard to imagine that the radical Left would be willing to destroy their mainstream presence (the Democratic Party) for the sake of something like a green energy revolution.
But they are.
This is because the Green New Deal is only one element of that desired fundamental transformation, that dogmatic unfolding of human events. The liberal establishment senses their own decline against the energy and popularity of the rising, radical Left. After all, the establishment paved the way and wrote the rules that radicals now follow. The establishment knows they can join the radicals, or be discarded and forgotten.
Ideas like “democratic socialism,” tapping down on cow emissions, or claims to moral superiority despite factual inaccuracy, or insisting on vegetarianism might be fair game for humor and mockery — but also need to be taken absolutely seriously and in context. These are not jokes in sitcoms. They are real ideas, many recycled, many resurrected, being proffered by real, elected leaders from the far and radical Left. These are ideas rapidly becoming a party plan of action.
Just because something has been relegated to the ash heap of history, does not mean there are not embers. We must take quite seriously Reagan’s warning that to be free, we must always be prepared. And we must be prepared for that ideological contest.