Where Will It End?

By David Montgomery

It is extraordinary how in the past year the terms “woke” and “critical race theory” have gone from producing blank incomprehension in 99% of the population to capturing the attention of a vast majority. Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies, with its theme of how big business imposes soft totalitarianism based on woke sensibility and white guilt, has become a best seller. Public schools are being outed for indoctrinating students with false versions of American history and imposing woke views on sexuality. The new Administration’s actions affecting the military, health, education, and religion appear to have turned control of wide swaths of public policy over to its most extreme Progressive elements.

It would be possible to spend 24 hours a day reading reports, analysis and arguments about these topics. There are some brilliant one-liners, clear and accurate descriptions of the origins and meaning of wokeness and critical theory, and well-stated concerns about where our country is heading. Yet I see few, if any, convincing proposals for how to turn the tide.

In pondering the future, it seems to me that it is worthwhile to distinguish two aspects of wokeness. One is happening in private affairs and is ably described by Elizabeth Ochoa in this issue and in our recommended readings. To me, it is typified by the circular firing squads into which trendy media, universities and some professions are arranging themselves. These are frequently amusing episodes in which ever-changing rules are applied to long past statements to discredit an editor or writer who had previously done the same to someone else.

The other aspect is the granting by governments of preferred status to the new grievance identities constantly being invented by the shamans of the woke cult of critical race theory. In this I would include the collaboration of Big Tech, that is blocking the expression of contrary views in books and social media. This development is of the highest importance, as it threatens fundamental rights and liberties.

The former, by its nature, is likely to kill itself off. Those good people who lose friends and livelihood or care about their children or grandchildren, unfortunately, get caught in the crossfire. Rod Dreher has the solution I favor, of intentional communities that support each other in business, employment, child-rearing and education — and thereby move out range of the woke assassins.

The latter concerns all good people, on whom governments will impose increasing requirements, restrictions and punishments on behalf of the newly privileged identity groups and causes. There is no obvious internal limit on how much this repression can grow or places where it can be escaped.

Opponents of wokeness cannot agree on how to limit this encroachment. Their twitterstorms have turned into mutually destructive debates in which each party proves that the others’ proposed responses will be ineffective. There does seem to be a general lack of confidence that some Democrat and all the Republicans will defend and use the filibuster to block HR1, which would require all states adopt the electoral shenanigans that gave the Democrats control in 2021.

If the current Administration, whose social policies are carrying out the most extreme wishes of the woke, succeeds in subverting the voting system so that it perpetuates one-party rule, the plan to “vote the bastards out” in the next election is doomed. That leaves only civil disobedience: refusal to obey new laws and regulations that restrict the traditional freedoms of speech, religion, association, property and self-defense or that enable and perpetuate the government that imposes them.

I jump to civil disobedience because it is a strong tradition in American politics, and because I see little hope for going underground to avoid the impositions of the new totalitarianism. Even Rod Dreher, who advocated such a strategy in his Benedict Option, is far less hopeful now. Aside from true survivalists, such communities need trade with the rest of the economy to survive, and that brings the tax man and the power of the state right in.

Civil disobedience might take the form of instructions from their bishops to American Catholics to refuse to obey laws restricting the free exercise of religion (and excommunication of politicians who violate church law), organization of general strikes led by workers groups unwilling to tolerate employment discrimination and indoctrination, refusals spearheaded by parents to pay taxes that support schools indoctrinating students in CRT and perverse sexuality, a more broad-based campaign to discourage payment of taxes, or state and local refusal to follow biased Federal election procedures.

What civil disobedience needs to succeed is broad agreement on where to draw the line on woke repression and a leader or leaders who can inspire coordinated responses. Neither is yet apparent. Symbolic gestures of civil disobedience by one or a few might or might not inspire imitation, but surely come at great individual cost.

Civil disobedience can succeed if it gains sufficiently broad support. The government might perceive this quickly and change direction, or only after it learns that harsh actions have turned sentiment against it. These are the hoped-for outcomes.

If the reaction of woke authorities is harsh and an unyielding regime makes itself broadly unpopular, civil disobedience might be replaced by armed resistance. That resistance, in turn, is likely to be crushed unless it has the kind of deep and widespread support that leads, as it did in the Color Revolutions against Communist rule, to refusal by the military to defend the regime.

The success of any of these efforts to overthrow rule by a small minority that has rigged the electoral process might be continent-wide or regional. The balance of power between remaining supporters of the woke Federal government and potentially seceding regions, and which the military supports, would determine the outcome.

The current Administration seems to be aware of the crucial role of military loyalties in these endgames. The military now appears to be the first place in which total woke rule is being imposed: opening the ranks at all levels to LGBTQ+ candidates, promotions based on identity and loyalty to woke principles, indoctrination in propaganda of critical race theory, and encouragement to report comrades for thought-crimes. Together with a volunteer service with drastically lower recruiting standards and inadequate pay, these policies remove the historical safeguard of a military that is a cross-section of the civilian population and identifies with it.

Thus, only three at least temporarily stable outcomes seem possible: a totalitarian state enforcing woke principles that keeps control because of apathy or defeat of popular resistance, a return to constitutional government through electoral victory or civil disobedience, or fracture into two or more independent countries through secession of regions in which resistance to woke totalitarianism is strong and uniform. In only one of these outcomes is the prosperity and global preeminence of the United States like to be sustained.

Yet, none of these forms of government is likely to last forever. Totalitarian governments ultimately fail, not least because Christianity thrives under persecution, constitutional democracies were facing severe challenges even before the current crisis, and a fractured North America could reform into a more stable confederacy. But the current time is —remember the [trigger alert!] Chinese curse — interesting.

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