Editor’s note: The material in this article is based in part on a speech given by Justice Robert Bork.
The Coming Breakdown of Democratic Pluralism
In the past few decades, the debate between liberals and conservatives in American politics revolved around the democratic process. Both sides have espoused a kind of democratic socialism. The left railed against the bourgeoisie while allowing for a free market. The right defended the rights of capitalism while conceding certain social programs to help “the poor.” Neither side was chagrined when they realized that America’s poor were richer than the middle classes of most other countries. Both sides were committed to helping our citizens pursue the “American Dream” (whatever that meant) while legislating a growing socialist state.
In the 1960s, both groups – liberal and conservative – emphasized moral values. When Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, his message was one of traditional values and conservative fiscal politics, much like that of the Christian conservative movement of today. When Hubert Humphrey gave speeches in his bid for president in 1968, the message was not so much different from that of the conservatives, except that he emphasized “values” in context of compassion for the lower class, the group from which liberals traditionally drew their support.
Both sides argued from a traditional moral and religious worldview. Martin Luther King could invoke the name of God in his civil rights marches. Ronald Reagan and could invoke the name of God while he stumped for Goldwater. No one ever got the idea that the other side was arguing from different moral premises or a different view of what society ought to look like. The liberal/conservative debate, as heated as it sometimes became, was over the means by which we could arrive at the American Dream. Each side wanted a country that was fair and egalitarian, where every young person had a shot at fulfilling their dreams.
The Emergence of the Radical Left
The big change came with the emergence of the 1960s generation into American politics. The radicals who first appeared during student protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s have now come of age. As a result of their influence, politics in our country no longer masquerades as “equitable” according to pluralistic democratic processes. We could term this group the “Radical Left.”
With the emergence of the radical left, the politics of the 1990s are no longer symmetrical. There used to be debate between “liberal” and “conservative.” But now, to the left of liberalism, is a new, powerful, radical, activist Left. Unlike the Old Left, which had known goals and a program, the New Left’s strategy is much like that of a Muslim car bomb with a noisy, sudden impact that is truly radical. Not unlike Muslim terrorists, they make no reasonable demands. Their strategy is confusing to both traditional liberals and conservatives. It is difficult for reasonable people to identify exactly who these people are and what their strategy is for winning the culture war. They attack society without announcing any plan or agenda for the future. They believe that Western civilization is corrupt so they are attempting to break down the authoritative traditions of the culture. The radical left are active in politics. They are tenured professors in universities. They dominate much of the media. They do not have a high regard for the established democratic processes. They only want results.
These people did not appear suddenly. Their coming of age has been gradual and in many cases a concession to “the establishment” which they disdained. During the past 25 years, you could meet the Radical Left at any liberal arts college or large state university in America. They are the “perpetual students” who make up the political structure of the student union. You might find on one university hallway, for instance, the gay/lesbian/bisexual student association, a student run National Organization for Women chapter, a Greenpeace chapter, an Amnesty International chapter, a “Hunger Task Force,” a “Pagan Society,” etc. These groups advocate “multiculturalism,” “ethnicity,” “civility,” “tolerance” and “diversity” on the university campus. Yet we often find the same people making up the memberships of each group. Ironically, their views are intolerant of those of traditional liberalism and conservatism. Their views are promoted by the editors of the student newspaper (which they run). They are heavily funded by the student government association (which they also run).
In the “real world” of post-collegiate society, we are seeing the emergence of this new radicalism in a growing number of interest groups. This phenomenon is epitomized by groups such as ACT-UP, a homosexual activist group that uses the AIDS epidemic as a political lever; radical feminist groups (N.O.W., Planned Parenthood, N.A.A.R.A.L.) who lobby for abortion on demand; international relief organizations (WHO, UNICEF, etc.) who advocate population control; radical environmentalists; etc. The religious element within each group are the New Agers, Pagans and Wiccans.
These people have no real agenda for reform, except for championing “the causes of the oppressed” and bashing the traditional values of Western civilization, which they vilify with their “politically correct” nomenclature. The respected ideas and personalities of history are derided as “ethnocentric, eurocentric, phallocentric, misogenous, and homophobic.” Western culture’s patriarchal heroes are vilifired as “dead white males.” And here again, many of these groups manage to find funding from the state.
Nobody knows exactly what these people are so angry about and what they are fighting for. Even more baffling to the casual observer, is the fact that they do not share a love for our society, but seek only to attack and destroy it. Although they are essentially nihilistic, the Radical Left has gained political clout because they instinctively head for the power bases of society. They correctly understand that they university campus is the microcosm of society. After leaving the university, these people become newspaper editors, television journalists, political activists, public school teachers, university professors, and increasingly they are being elected and appointed to high public office.
The nihilism of the New Left is understandable. In the 1960s and 1970, liberals who disliked a capitalist society could advocate socialism or communism. But since these political philosophies have been so thoroughly discredited in the 1980s and 1990s, the only alternative to capitalism is anarchy or nihilism. Their strategy now is to define traditional conservatives in politics as being “out of the mainstream.” The Radical Left uses shrill, hysterical rhetoric to discredit conservatives and attempts to define the “mainstream” as the Radical Left. Through vilification, they attempt to make the public believe that the center is actually the extreme Right. By doing so, they make the same people believe that the extreme Left is the center.
Misinformation through propaganda is one way in which the culture war is being fought by the Radical Left. We see this strategy in full page ads in the New York Times paid for by the National Organization for Women, which portray conservative religious figures such as Cardinal John O’Connor, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed as “dangerous, fanatical, right-wing, religious zealots” who would force millions of women into seeking back alley abortions. (We should be amused that these figures are often given credit for having a more radical agenda than even the most strident reconstructionist.) They are making progress because most Americans get most of their information from the liberal news media which cleverly disguises the Radical Left’s strategy to change public opinion in the mask of “neutrality.”
This battle plan is going almost unnoticed by the public because it did not appear suddenly. This strategy of subversion has been working since the late 1960s. By using stealth and “ideological guerrilla warfare,” the Radical Left has been slowly gaining power for over 20 years, not through numbers, but through capturing the power bases of society: the media, the schools, the political lobbies. The Radical Left now possesses the “heavy artillery” which they need to wage a long term war.
Emergence of a Theocratic Right
Part of the Radical Left’s battle plan is to announce themselves as “liberal” because they know that there is no significant Radical Right to oppose them. The only opposition to this Radical Left is now coming from the moderate liberals and conservatives. The intrinsic problem here is that both of these groups are reasonable and pacifistic by nature. They are at a great disadvantage. Meanwhile, the rhetoric and emotion coming from the new radical pro-abortion/ homosexual/feminist/environmentalist/pagan Left is increasingly hostile and inflammatory. Moderates find it hard to inflame passions by merely being reasonable, fair, egalitarian and pluralistic. In fact, extremist passion can never be reasonable, fair, egalitarian and pluralistic.
The Radical Left does not shirk back from charging middle America with “intolerance and bigotry,” because they do not embrace their agenda. This only makes the moderate liberals and conservatives cower back into their pacifistic shells in an attempt to become even more tolerant, egalitarian, fair and extremely reasonable. The Radical Left knows that they will react this way. Their accusations are merely a propaganda ploy to make themselves appear more mainstream than they really are. They are not really worried about the politics of the traditional conservatives. What they fear the most is a backlash from an imagined group of “theocratic terrorists.”
The schizophrenic strategy of the Radical Left becomes even more understandable when we study their theology: a strong belief in an inevitable renaissance of ancient earth religions. The Radical Left fears an imagined “Religious Right” because they are the “Religious Left.” They have already grasped the power of spirituality. They have reinvented a neo-pagan religion. The epistemology of the Radical Left seeks a consistent worldview which justifies homosexuality, lesbianism, feminism, environmentalism and paganism as part of a complete ideological circle.
Their main problem is that when confronted with biblical Truth, their system will completely breakdown. There is no room in their system for any toleration of biblical Christianity. There is no real neutrality. They know this better than most religious conservatives. Consequently, they are always preparing to stave off the inevitable challenge that biblical Christians may someday pose to their power bases.
In painting a picture of an “extremist” theocratic Right, the Radical Left has prophesied their own demise. Their main fear is that people who call themselves Christians may someday start acting like Christians. Those “out of the mainstream” might someday start believing what they read in the Bible. And even more terrifying to the Radical Left, these Christians may want to impose the standards of biblical Law on society. When that day comes, the Radical Left knows that politics will no longer be a matter of democratic fairness and pluralism. Modern politics will become a new civil war of increasing division between the Radical Left and a “new” theocratic Right.