Neo-Stalinists Versus the Sons of Anarchy


In one of the great scenes from the movie “Dr. Zhivago,” based on the novel by Soviet author Boris Pasternak, a young Bolshevik commander explains to the idealistic physician that “the private life is done in Russia. History has killed it.”

In America today, it also seems increasingly impossible to separate personal life from the political. In awards shows, sports broadcasts and fashion runways — which once provided escapes from politics — we find endless passionate anti-Trump protests and denunciations. Even corporations, like Under Armour, have faced opprobrium — and even boycotts — for daring to support Trump. Nordstrom faced a possible boycott for carrying a now-canceled fashion line of his daughter, Ivanka.

In contrast, the GOP, once a smooth-running machine, has become something akin to the motorcycle gang from the TV series “Sons of Anarchy.” Led by a screwball president, its partisans often at odds with each other, they have so far demonstrated some stupefying incompetence, not to mention a lack of policy coherence. If enforced and overwrought unanimity is the disease of today’s Democrats, chaos threatens to be the new GOP curse.

The new cadre party

Joseph Stalin, the dominant figure of the Soviet era, understood keenly the role of culture in politics. He once called writers “the engineers of the soul.” He would find some kindred spirits in today’s progressive cultural warriors who dominate the arts. Most of the media, outside of the Murdoch empire, have been, in the words of the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik, “flipping out,” losing any tie to the tradition of impartiality. Attempts to silence pro-Trump, or simply too obstreperously right-wing, supporters are also gaining currency on the progressive-controlled social media.

Conservatives are regularly harassed and prevented from speaking on college campuses. Celebrities and law professors have even praised the idea of a coup, although it’s pretty clear who would have the guns on their side. But what they lack in firepower they have made up for with impressive organization. There has been little “spontaneous” about some of the various demonstrations that, as the Daily Beast recently reported, are produced by well-organized, and well-funded, cadres.

The dominant groupthink of our cultural and intellectual classes increasingly runs through the bloodstream of the Democratic Party. Once a broad coalition of regional, economic and ethnic interests, the Democrats, as Will Rogers once quipped, were not an “organized party,” but rather a motley assemblage of interests.

Enforced by the notion of “intersectionality,” activists are compelled to embrace every permutation of the politically correct ideology. Increasingly, no self-respecting Democrat can dissent on issues ranging from climate change policy to “Black Lives Matter,” an “open borders” immigration policy, transgender rights or income redistribution. The threat to the last remaining moderate Democrats, such as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, seems to be of little concern; orthodoxy, if you will, trumps efficacy.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: James Willamor, Creative Commons


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How'd we get here tho

So let's go back to that second paragraph of yours for a second. How'd we get to the point where Ivanka Trump products are an issue at all, where the same family slaps their name on everything from skyscrapers to perfume to reality TV to the Presidency? What's the backstory of Under Armor "daring to support Trump?" And who tainted the sanctum of sports with politics? Remember when they made Rush Limbaugh an announcer? Or, again, the stubby little fingers of Trump are in that pie too, with a bunch of coaches and players among his close friends and vocal supporters. When the especially chummy Patriots won, his supporters hailed it as a second vindication on par with his election.

The world is getting smaller and more claustrophobic and more oppressive. It's not just the insidious Left who can't stay in their lane and leave well enough alone.

Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

I disagree with the statement that “conservatives are regularly harassed and prevented from speaking on college campuses.” Milo Yiannopoulos built a profitable brand-name by engaging in inflammatory speech. He openly advocates white supremacy, transphobia and misogyny, among (a very long list of) other things. He also singles out individuals for his hateful tirades and slander, to the point where he was literally banned from Twitter.

His speeches are exercises in hate speech, where he insults individuals of color (and transgender students by name) in hopes of getting banned from campus, or better yet, getting into a physical altercation. He then poses as a martyr for free speech, and claims that those to the left of him (e.g. pretty much everyone) have suffered a death of intellectual diversity.

Reliably, colleges refuse to invite him to speak. His antics are not protected by free speech or by academic freedom. The colleges are making no attempt to restrain him, they are simply declining to let him use their facilities for his publicity stunts.

For you to use him and Trump as your examples seems to indicate that you don’t understand the problem. The idea that the cultural elite are banding together to suppress the “new” and open-minded ideas of the Trump Administration is hogwash. The cultural elite is opposed to Trump because he is a unrepentant (almost pathological) liar who is using right-wing concepts as buzzwords for authoritarian policies.

In Trump’s America, “religious liberty” has come to mean the right to discriminate against Muslims and homosexuals. “Protecting American jobs “ now means the right to employ illegal immigrants without paying them. (As opposed to “Creating jobs,” which simply means promoting whichever industry pollutes the most). “School choice” now means subsidizing the education of affluent children at the cost of everyone else. And, most tellingly, “Real News” now means anything that the President agrees with.

Against this backdrop, you are implying that anyone who dissents is simply doing so out of political correctness. I disagree. I feel it is our duty to stand up to hate speech and discrimination.

The right wing claims that the “intellectual elite” does not spent as much energy correcting their own minor hypocrisies, but this is simply incorrect. As you yourself point out, the various interests that dominate the Democratic Party love nothing more than regional infighting over who is ethically pure enough to run the opposition. If you don’t believe me, pick a handful of Democrats at random and ask them why they voted for Sanders, Clinton, or Stein. In any group of four Democrats, you will get at least five answers.

To compare Democrats to Stalinists is simply name-calling. Although there are a handful of left-wing media outlets that are arrogant and patronizing about calling out Trump’s lies, it borders on insanity to suggest that it is “most of the media”. If anything, the vast majority of the media has been far too willing to accommodate Trump’s war on facts.

power diffusing to the states

Mr Kotkin has written a couple of times that the solution to much of the national strife is simply to allow state and local jurisdictions to be different. However, is that not already happening? If the policy action is really at the state level, wouldn't it suggest that politicians who really want to be effective would focus on state politics more than federal? So long as Washington DC is effectively stalemated, and so long as they keep the filibuster it is largely stalemated and will likely remain so for years to come, wouldn't you expect federal office to ultimately be attractive only to clowns? Noisy clowns to be sure.