In the 1953 classic film The Wild One, a girl asks Marlon Brando’s smoldering Johnny Strabler what he is rebelling against. He answers, “What’ve you got?” That could well be the guiding principle of today’s cultural revolution. It appears to be intimately tied to the rise of a new form of socialism, one that Karl Marx might have trouble recognizing, but one that Mao would. It is aimed at overthrowing or subverting all American institutions to put in place a state unlike anything America has known before.
We know from polling data that socialism is more attractive to Americans, especially young, white, college-educated ones, than ever before. Yet, as I detail in my new book The Socialist Temptation (Regnery), even self-proclaimed socialists are often unclear as to what they mean by the term. They do not appear to mean old-style European democratic socialism, where industries and utilities were publicly owned and controlled, and subject to politically determined targets.
Instead, they appear to favor a vastly expanded welfare state and strict “democratic” oversight of private industry to help right old wrongs of racial, gender, and environmental injustices. As policies like the Green New Deal illustrate, reforms will be radical and wide-reaching.
It is the disquiet at old wrongs that appears to be behind the current wave of riots, statue toppling, and attacks on the police and judicial system. In that respect, the current movement is not democratic but unapologetically revolutionary. America’s new socialists are driving liberal policies leftward and hope to force a new Congress and administration to follow their agenda.
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