Political Correctness/Totalitarian Humanism

The Power-Mad Utopians

A great column from Mike Lind. One thing I would add to this is that while the two “utopian” tendencies he critiques, neocons and wokesters, may be ostensible rivals, the two currents have since merged to a considerable degree on the shared grounds of anti-Trumpism and Russophobia.

By Michael Lind, Tablet

What happens in politics when one major party, or a major faction in both parties, commits itself to doomed utopian projects of social and economic engineering and seeks to capture and use government to impose its vision from above? In such cases ordinary political consensus and compromise become irrelevant. What is needed, in such cases, is the broadest possible coalition to defeat the mad and impossible schemes of these utopians.

Twice in the last half century utopian politics has emerged in the U.S.—once with the Republican Party as its vehicle, and now with the Democratic Party as its base. Old-fashioned conservative “fusionism”—a synthesis of anti-communism, moderate free market economics, and the genteel traditionalism represented by Russell Kirk—was replaced in the wake of the Cold War by what might be called Fusionism 2.0 and its allies on the hawkish left. This post-Cold War coalition, which culminated in the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush, was a radical movement, not “conservative” in any sense. It was based on the simultaneous promotion of three utopian projects: spreading “the global democratic revolution” through “wars of choice” and “humanitarian interventions” in the Middle East and elsewhere; radical libertarianism in trade and immigration policy, combined with the repeal of the New Deal through the privatization of Social Security and Medicare; and the imposition of “family values” as defined by the evangelical Protestant minority that formed the base for the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority.

To say that these were utopian projects does not imply that they did not address genuine problems. For example, following 9/11, Washington had to respond to the transnational terrorist threat. But the U.S. did not have to topple Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi, nor remain in Afghanistan for two decades after al-Qaida’s local base was disrupted. Preventing terrorist attacks on the U.S. did not require President George W. Bush to declare in his second inaugural address that all nondemocratic regimes everywhere must be subverted and overthrown and that “it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” This was utopianism at its most deranged and dangerous.

All three of these revolutions from above by the Bush Republicans—the global democratic revolution, the libertarian economic revolution, and the attempt to universalize evangelical Protestant morality—were, and remain, deeply unpopular with the American public. Already by 2008 the public had grown weary of the forever wars. Obama and Trump both ran on promises of a more restrained foreign policy (Trump delivered, but Obama added two Middle Eastern disasters, in Libya and Syria, to those in Iraq and Afghanistan). George W. Bush’s proposal for partial privatization of Social Security was so unpopular among voters that Republicans refused even to debate it when they controlled the House and Senate. As for the religious right, the American public has always been divided on abortion, a fact reflected in state-level differences now that the Supreme Court has overruled Roe v. Wade. The anti-gay rights crusade of the religious right, meanwhile, backfired. By 2021, 55% of Republicans supported gay marriage. The maladroit Moral Majority is now the Moral Minority.

It is in the nature of radical utopian projects in politics that they lead to rule or ruin. In the case of Bush-era Fusionist Conservatism 2.0, all roads led to ruin. Hubris produced a nemesis in the form of Donald Trump, the anti-Bush who won the Republican nomination by denouncing the Iraq War, promising not to cut Social Security or Medicare, and embracing gay rights (though not transgender ideology) and appointing openly gay Republicans to high-ranking positions. Far from being the beginning of a white nationalist takeover, as Democratic partisans absurdly claim, the Trump presidency was the Thermidorian Reaction to the radical Bush revolution.

What happens in politics when one major party, or a major faction in both parties, commits itself to doomed utopian projects of social and economic engineering and seeks to capture and use government to impose its vision from above?

Today, the threat of utopian politics comes from the radicalized center-left, not from the radicalized center-right. The term “progressivism” was revived in the 1980s and 1990s by Clintonite “Third Way” Democrats to distinguish their business-and-bank-friendly version of the center-left from the older New Deal farmer-labor version. But by the 2020s, “progressivism” came to mean something quite different—a commitment to utopian social engineering projects even more radical than those envisioned by the crackpot Bush-era neocons, libertarians, and religious right.

Three social engineering projects define progressivism in the 2020s: the Green Project, the Quota Project, and the Androgyny Project.


Leave a Reply