Donald Trump’s presidential victory broke many things. It broke the illusion of the infallible statisticians. It broke the two most prominent political dynasties in America by defeating both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. It broke the very unspoken maxims of decorum thought necessary to become president. It may even break his own party (it’s already changed it). But of all the things that it broke, none has been more remarkable or resounding than the shattering of modern liberalism. It’s not just his win, but the new culture it has created.
Marsha Blackburn’s victory over Twitter is significant. A principled conservative stood her ground and bludgeoned a liberal corporation into submission. Both MSNBC and CNN are scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of viewers, many of whom speak in grunts and obscene gestures rather than declarative sentences, as liberal writer Lionel Trilling once penned about conservatives. The stock market, which tried for eight years to commit suicide under Obama, is now roaring ahead, adding billions to Americans portfolios and retirement plans, just as it used to under Ronald Reagan. This alone should qualify Trump for a Nobel Prize in Economics for making future life more comfortable for millions of Americans. Compassionate conservative indeed.
In the 1980s under Reagan, a phrase was coined: “Everything that is supposed to be going up is going up and everything that is supposed to be going down is going down.” Once again, that phrase is resonating. Meanwhile, power is shifting from the corrupt liberal media to the ethical conservative media. Ask yourself, if you got simultaneous phone calls from Mark Levin and Dan Balz, the liberal reporter for The Washington Post, whose call would you take first?
Indeed, all of the mainstream has taken a hit. Ask yourself, when was the last time you watched network news? You can’t even name the newsreaders, can you? In the old days, they rolled off your tongue; Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and Peter Jennings, or David Brinkley. Meanwhile, Fox, OAN, Newsmax and Sinclair continue to gobble up more and more of news consumers’ time.
Books? Talk radio? Forget it. Conservative books and conservative talk continue to dominate the intellectual marketplace. It used to be a truism that a countervailing force existed in American culture and politics. That is, when Democrats dominated national politics, conservative thought emerged, and when Republicans dominated national politics, liberal thought emerged. No longer. Now Republicans dominate national politics and the national discourse.
Today, the liberal universities that once called for “free expression” and “peace” across the country now call for censoring “hurtful speech” and are violently attacking speakers for saying things they don’t agree with. The students who once resolutely fought George Bush on his pre-emptive war against Iraq are now attacking and silencing dissenters in the name of “pre-emptive” self-defense. It appears they’ve taken the “liber” out of liberalism. As a result, higher education has been exposed as an expensive clown show, a gathering of ignorant fools who teach political correctness, but nothing else correctly. Enrollment is dropping across the board, and donations have been drying up. Meanwhile, enrollment at respectable colleges such as Hillsdale and Liberty is skyrocketing.
Opposition to abortion is growing and has been for years, especially among the young. Washington, which was once seen as a Golden City and perfect city during the liberal halcyon days of the New Deal and Great Society, is now seen as a corrupt cesspool of human garbage by the American people. So too are liberal corporations such as Facebook and Amazon, Facebook for a lack of ethics and Amazon for antitrust violations.
In its ideal most romantic and principled state, liberals once fought the constraints of a society that dictated what a man could be or what a country could be. Their thesis was to argue down every institution of society that “imposed” itself on the people because the resulting freedom of expression, equality, justice, and thought would lead to greater ideas and ideals that will make for a better nation and planet. Now, the militant Left wants to impose its will on everything, including forcing Americans to admit that two plus two equals five.
In no way did the reality of liberalism consistently live up to those lofty ambitions, though. For example, the constant rationalization and romanticizing of brutalist states like the Soviet Union, Cuba, Maoist China, and North Vietnam undermined its very pillars, but the core beliefs still brought cohesion to seemingly diverse groups. That core’s last hurrah was a halfhearted rally behind Hillary Clinton, not the first choice of many but she was the candidate, and the various progressive elements did their best to mobilize. When she collapsed, the core of liberalism collapsed with her.
Hillary’s loss shook the party from an extended stay in a fantasy land, where the loss of over a thousand legislative seats over the previous eight years were all peripheral concerns and short-term setbacks to the inevitable liberal hegemony. When the party woke from that fantasy, they found a base in outright revolt and a leadership pool all but depleted. The best it could do was to elect as Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, a foul-mouthed man too moderate for liberals and too liberal for moderates. Since then the DNC has lost every national special election this year despite promises of a new party. The truth is that there is no recognized leadership coming from the DNC, and even if there were, people have stopped listening. Instead they embraced, seemingly, new tactics and seek victory through less … diplomatic means.
Back in July, psychologist Lisa Barrett asserted that speech is tantamount to violence. In her own words: “If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence.”
On the heels of this liberal professor, Mark Bray wrote the “Antifa Handbook,” a hagiography of “Antifa” which celebrates violence against anyone that Antifa defines as Fascist. The author nakedly states that this group is no longer a liberal group because it has “pre-emptively shut down fascist organizing efforts” with violence. These two deeply disturbed mentalities have synthesized on college campuses and, channeled through a rationalized media, have produced a perfect storm of violence and hatred.
This week it was reported that conservative students at Berkeley are routinely stalked, harassed, spit on, and, in some horrifying cases, outright assaulted. Yet, by Barrett’s standards, not only are those harassing conservatives not committing violence but acting in self-defense. Their violence is self-defense against those who might one day down the line become violent. If they define you to be someone with the capacity to be violent, then they are morally obligated to be violent because their violence isn’t violence but self-defense against the future violence.
Furthermore, if someone’s words can cause violence, then beating and harassing them is just self-defense, too, right? Never mind that a tenant of fascism is the use of violence to impose political will: That fact has done nothing to stop the shocking rise in violence from the once-liberal movement. While the press has slowly moved to chastise these actions, many outlets still give these “activists” a wide berth. They’ll say it’s not ideal, but understandable, in the age of Trump — the only thing these groups agree on. Meanwhile, the pundits hope the elixir to liberal woes is four words: It’s all about Trump.
“Due to demographic changes, there will never be another Republican president.” “Unless Republicans evolve their thinking, their party will be extinct.” “Conservative values are losing issues and if Republicans don’t want to die off, they need to grow.” We conservatives have heard those lines and their derivatives for the past decade and no amount of failure, until Trump, for the Democrats would convince them otherwise.
Since the loss they have so consumed themselves with anti-Trumpism that as Hasan Minhaj hilariously pointed out when watching CNN, “It feels like I’m watching CNN … watch the news.” Even once reputable pundits and journalists debase themselves by engaging in contests to see who can find the freshest way to call Trump a dope/sexist/racist/dictator/rube. But for all their grandstanding, against a man they describe as sexist, misogynist and evil, they sure showed deference to another powerful man who literally turned out be sexist, misogynist and evil.
Harvey Weinstein’s history of serial rape was apparently the “worst-kept secret in Hollywood.” The bastion of progress and progressive values — California — kept his open secret and actively buried it when it reared up in the past. Far from an anomaly, he joins the ranks of Roman Polanski and Terry Richardson as liberal “woke” men who use their positions of power to rape women (yes, using power, access and influence as leverage over women to pressure them into sleeping with you is rape), and be granted passive clemency, because they hate conservatives. Notice in Weinstein’s initial apology his intention to devote his “anger” to bringing down the NRA … coincidentally right after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. The message to the media was clear: “Give me a pass on this and I’ll keep funding your causes.” A naked bribe that initially seemed to work, until all hell broke loose.
Only when Weinstein was fired did progressive actors, late-night hosts, and opinion leaders resoundingly chastise him. Up until that point, those outlets were all but silent. When “Saturday Night Live” showrunner Lorne Michaels was pressed on why the show omitted discussion of Weinstein, he lamely said Weinstein was “a New Yorker” and that the show didn’t go after New Yorkers … though apparently Donald Trump didn’t make the cut. Michaels came off as a shallow shill and a clown.
Now to be fair, a Hollywood executive is a far cry from a president, but for outlets to so publicly and resoundingly take a stand “for women,” at a time when a man spreading his legs when he sits is seen as sexism, for those “activists” to find themselves mute, not only while the assaults were happening but even after it was public knowledge, really puts all that saber-rattling about women’s rights into a different light. With his fall, Hollywood’s hypocrisy is on naked display and this liberal stronghold has been shaken to its foundations, from which it will take a long time to recover, if ever does recover.
Right after Trump won, the pseudo intellectually and culturally diverse crowd of disaffected and dissatisfied Americans was self-coined “the resistance.” This resistance was supposed to unify in opposition to Trump’s most controversial proposals, and while they had a few early victories in the form of the women’s march and their temporary hold on Trump’s proposed Muslin ban, that unity has all but decayed. They’re now a fractured mass, devoid of any organizing principles beyond hating Trump. The Left is done with the failures of liberalism, and they’re now in it for themselves.
Change does not come quickly or on a timetable. Change, such as abolition or universal suffrage, comes in fits and starts, but it is clear that the peak days for governmental American liberalism were the 1930s — for cultural liberalism, the 1960s — both ages ago. They are dying, slowly, inexorably, and America has been inexorably moving to the right since then.
Finally, happiness. Happiness and contentment were not introduced to national politics by Reagan, but the Republicans may have perfected it. The militant Left — Antifa — even dress in black. Let’s face it, the Left and modern liberalism are a downer. A central feature of American conservatism is happiness and confidence in the future.
The reality is that if there was a time where the ideals of liberalism were the true aim of the activist Left, that time is long past. Classical liberalism as an ideology — and if the trend continues — will be remembered as just another archaic philosophy consigned to history classes; that is, if the militant Left will permit it to be taught. Otherwise, like Soviet communism, it too will join the ash heap of history.
Craig Shirley, a presidential historian, is the author of four books on Ronald Reagan, a New York Times best-seller on World War II, and most recently the critically acclaimed “Citizen Newt,” the authorized biography of Newt Gingrich. He lectures frequently at the Reagan Library, the Reagan Ranch, and Eureka College. Andrew Shirley is the director of operations for Citizens for the Republic, a Navy veteran, and a researcher.