Is this the end of progressive America?

Is this the end of progressive America? By Joel Kotkin.

Over the past several decades, the progressive Left has successfully fulfilled Antonio Gramsci’s famed admonition of a “long march through the institutions”. In almost every Western country, its adherents now dominate the education system, media, cultural institutions, and financial behemoths.

Going out of fashion

But what do they have to show for it? Not as much as they might have expected. Rather than a Bolshevik-style assumption of power, there’s every chance this institutional triumph will not produce an enduring political victory, let alone substantially change public opinion.

Even before Biden’s botched Build Back Better initiative, American progressives faced opposition to their wildly impractical claims about achieving “zero Covid” and “zero emissions”, confronting “systemic racism” by defunding the police, regulating speech, and redefining two biological sexes into a multiplicity.

Increasingly, the “march” has started to falter. …

That is not to deny the progressives’ limited successes. It has certainly developed a remarkable ability to besmirch even the most respected institutions, including the US military. But that is where its achievements stop.

While the Pentagon’s top brass focused on “domestic terrorists” and a progressive social agenda, it calamitously bungled its withdrawal from Afghanistan and appears utterly unprepared for Chinese or Russian competitors. And the effect of this progressive march is plain to see: the percentage of Americans who feel “a great deal of trust and confidence in the military” has dropped in just three years to 45% from 70%.

This decline in trust in major institutions, so evident in America, is also rife across Europe and Australia. In Europe, for example, young people express less pride in their cultural and religious heritage, and are almost three times as likely as their elders to believe that democracy is failing. …

Across the high-income world, not only in America but Europe as well, the vast preponderance of growth has taken place in suburbs and exurbs. In the last decade over 90% of all US metropolitan population growth and 80% of job growth took place on the periphery. On the ground, then, the progressive dream is withering. …

City residents will still have to contend with another pitfall of the progressive agenda: rising crime. Twelve American cities have experienced record homicides this year; all are ruled by Democratic, often progressive, leaders, many of whom explain away crime and excused, even praised, the looting and mayhem caused by protestors in the summer of 2020.

Yet despite this visceral impact on urban neighbourhoods, it is in education that our new hegemony could have its most long-lasting impact. The West’s new educational mandarins, increasingly strident and increasingly influential, have no use for our liberal inheritance, which they consider little more than a screen for racists and misogynists. …

And just as with the growing disaffection for the military, teachers, students and parents are starting to push back. A number of teachers who have been “cancelled” or otherwise threatened for dissenting are now fighting back in the courts. There’s also considerable criticism from parents and alumni, some of whom are now pledging not to contribute to their schools, and instead support well-publicised and well-funded efforts to start new initiatives, such as the recently announced University of Austin. Even more importantly, would-be students are also voting with their feet: after decades of rapid expansion, the number of college students enrolments fell by 5% last decade, and dropped an additional 6.5% since 2019.

Likewise, only one in three Americans have confidence in their public schools, where the education establishment’s goal seems to be to obliterate merit. …

Criticism of Critical Race Theory buoyed the Republican win in Virginia in November, and has become a rallying principle for parents around the country …

Meanwhile, the mass media, particularly its legacy outlets, constitute another progressive bastion losing credibility. One recent survey found that barely one in three Americans trusts the media, including a majority of Democrats, while only 15% of Americans have confidence in newspapers….

There is a definite challenge not just from the traditional Right but a plethora of new publications which offer intelligent analysis outside the establishmentarian party line, as well as from Substack. Unless the media oligarchs find ways to repress these elements, a resurgence of free thinking may rescue journalism from progressive editors and journalism schools.

The shift in the media parallels that in mass culture. As late as the Fifties, mass culture was seen as largely neutral. But in recent decades, it shifted towards a more monochromatic look — one which a significant portion of the public are fed up with. Gender flipping may excite progressive creatives, but politically correct remakes of household favourites have proved box offices disasters. …

Yet perhaps nothing is more ironic, and potentially dangerous, than the takeover of the corporate suite by progressive ideology. … The oligarchs may feel they deserve dispensation from the masses by their “good deeds”, but people are not as stupid or malleable as the ruling elites believe. Trust in major corporations, never too robust, is below 20% …

Good news:

The question now is whether there will be sufficient pushback to turn the tide. Unlike local school boards, online magazines, and even alternative colleges, it’s difficult to replace or challenge an Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Morgan Stanley. …

So, here’s the good news. On what sometimes seems the inexorable course towards progressive capture, we can see multiple fronts of resistance, and the early congealing of independent-minded forces, from the rational Right to the traditional liberal-left. Our society may never regain the feistiness of previous eras, and our new elites might continue marching through our institutions. But as they become increasingly discredited, they would be unwise to forget that all long marches one day come to an end.

The modern left is based on so many falsehoods, it is destined to fail. But how much damage will it do in the meantime?

hat-tip Stephen Neil