While the left was marching into institutions, conservatives were marching away—leaving U.S. on the brink of one-party rule

By Robert Romano

Is America on the brink of Democratic one-party rule? Or, maybe the revolution has already happened.

Take a look around. Public schools. The bureaucracy. Newspapers. Hollywood. Big Tech. Wall Street. You name it, and the political left has an ideological grip on many of the key institutions under pinning the civil society.

This did not happen overnight.

The Long March

In 1967, German Marxist thinker Rudi Dutschke called it the “long march” into institutions (named after the 1934-1935 march by the Red Army in China): “Revolution is not a short act when something happens once and then everything is different. Revolution is a long, complicated process, where one must become different… [T]he process goes along this way, which I have once named ‘The Long March through the Established Institutions’, in which [institutions], through clarification, systematic clarification and direct actions, awareness is brought to further minorities in and outside the university, in schools, in trade schools, in engineer schools, also technical universities and finally in factories, where workers are currently worrying about their jobs. The process has begun, and that is a long story, which right now has been set on its course by us.”

Dutschke was in part basing his writings on those of Italian Marxist writer Antonio Gramsci, who advocated in the early 1930s in his prison notebooks while imprisoned by the fascists in Italy for “a shift from the war of maneuver” to “a war of position” and likening the possibility of the revolution’s “permanence” to taking territory in World War I: “In the East, the state was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West, there was a proper relation between state and civil society, and when the state tottered, a sturdy structure of civil society was immediately revealed. The state was just a forward trench; behind it stood a succession of sturdy fortresses and emplacements.”

In other words, in order for the revolution to succeed, the left would not just have to take over the instruments of government, but the civil society as a whole.

That push for one-party rule continues. More recently, in April 2018, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey retweeted an article by Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira that called our political discourse a “new civil war,” with Leyden and Teixeira writing, “America can’t afford more political paralysis. One side or the other must win. This is a civil war that can be won without firing a shot. But it is a fundamental conflict between two worldviews that must be resolved in short order.”

It called for “Democratic One-Party Rule” in the U.S. and implementing the progressive agenda. Dorsey called it a “great read.”

The left is upfront about its intentions. Don’t look away.

The loss of civic virtue

As Alexis de Tocqueville warned in Democracy in America in 1835, “Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.” Niccolo Machiavelli called it a lack of “civic virtue.” They were referring to the same thing.

De Tocqueville wrote of the civil society in America as producing a “general equality of conditions” that “extends far beyond the political character and the laws of the country, and that it has no less empire over civil society than over the Government; it creates opinions, engenders sentiments, suggests the ordinary practices of life, and modifies whatever it does not produce.”

In short, the civil society is everything. And the left has been pursuing it vigorously in the long game.

But a free people would never consciously give it away. Only a corrupt people would. As Machiavelli wrote in Discourses on Livy published in 1517 of Rome prior to the republic:  “When one considers how much corruption there was in those kings, if two or three successive reigns had continued the same way, and that corruption which was in them had spread to members of the body politic, it would no longer have been possible to reform [Rome].”

Here, Machiavelli was writing what might have happened if the ancient Roman monarchy had not been overthrown by Brutus and a republic established. Although better known for his masterpiece of political violence, The Prince, here in DiscoursesMachiavelli’s clear preference for republican government and liberty can be found.

Therein, we learn that freedom has a prerequisite, and that is virtue — a love of liberty. Lacking this virtue, then, a people become ambivalent to politics and those who wield power. And that is when they can become slaves.

Per Machiavelli, Caesar “was able to blind the multitude so that they did not recognize the yoke which they themselves were placing on their necks.” If the public corruption persists, it can become terminal without a leader to take us out of the death spiral: “If a city has begun to decline because of the corruption of its material, and if it ever happens to pull itself up again, this happens because of the ability of a single man living at the time and not because of the ability of the people supporting its good institutions; and as soon as that man is [gone] it returns to its former ways… unless the reformers, before passing on… have managed to bring about her rebirth.”

Perhaps in 2016, America had a chance for such a reformer in former President Donald Trump, but after his electoral loss in 2020, the new President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are already pushing for eliminating the Senate filibuster, and enacting a partisan nationalization of election law, granting citizenship to 12 million illegal immigrants, packing the Supreme Court with leftist judges, extending statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico, completing the work on socialized medicine, instituting universal income and on and on.

Walking away from the civil society

The deceased Andrew Breitbart was one of a few who has urged conservatives to get involved with taking back these cultural institutions, for example, at a 2009 eventhosted by Americans for Limited Government speaking to activists, “[T]he only way we’re ever going to be able to sell the idea is if we learn that the media is the message… We have like a ten to twenty year battle on our hands… Over 40 years of that dominance and the conservative movement following Paul Weyrich’s, ‘we lost the culture war… let’s not fight it, let’s not engage in it,’ that’s why we’re in deep peril. It’s not because of our political point of view. It’s not because we don’t have the right ideas… It’s because we don’t play that game.”

Here, Breitbart was referring to the late Paul Weyrich’s declaration in 1999 that conservative had “lost the culture war”: “I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. That doesn’t mean the war is not going to continue, and that it isn’t going to be fought on other fronts. But in terms of society in general, we have lost. This is why, even when we win in politics, our victories fail to translate into the kind of policies we believe are important.”

Weyrich urged conservatives to withdraw from institutions: “what seems to me a legitimate strategy for us to follow is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies of our traditional culture… If we expend our energies on fighting on the ‘turf’ they already control, we will probably not accomplish what we hope, and we may spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion. The promising thing about a strategy of separation is that it has more to do with who we are, and what we become, than it does with what the other side is doing and what we are going to do about it.”

He said to get rid of televisions, to leave public schools, and so forth. And leave they did.

And now, 20 years later, the U.S. is on the brink of one-party rule.

A 2016 survey by Education Week found that only 27 percent of teachers were Republicans versus 41 percent Democrat and 30 percent independents. In higher education, the advantage is more like 10 to 1.

So, it’s a pretty simple equation. Nearly 9 out of 10 kids go to public schools. If you want to reclaim schools and neutralize the left’s advantage there, then we need more teachers. Instead, when Republicans talk about education, it is often in the context of alternatives: private schools, school choice and/or homeschooling.

These alternative institutions have been touted as replacements for decades. But how many private schools did we build? Private school enrollment hasn’t budged in more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, public school enrollment continues to grow in line with population to more than 50.7 million.

Homeschooling has grown a lot to about 2.3 million pre-pandemic — in Covid the number of students learning at home has skyrocketed, but it remains to be seen if that becomes a permanent fixture, or if it reverts when schools fully reopen. So far, it is still no replacement.

For families who can afford to make the choice to either go private or homeschool, that’s great, but for the 86.3 percent in public schools it’s not financially viable to do so, and after a year of having kids home from Covid, strong majorities of Americans still favor reopening. I can say from experience that distance learning online is also no replacement when as parents we still need to work.

Moreover, children in conservative households grow up hearing that government jobs are bad and so many opt to join the private sector and that most certainly would impact Republican participation in civil service professions as well. In civil service positions, the Democrats’ advantage is 2 to 1. Similarly, they are told the media is liberal and Hollywood is corrupt and the results speak for themselves, with Democrats garnering a 3 to 1 in publishing and information technology and 4 to 1 in media production.

What’s next? Stop urging children to become police officers or join the military? Stop fielding candidates for public office (a trend you see in blue states)? In 2020, there were 19 seats for Congress that did not even have a Republican candidate, compared to 8 seats without a Democratic candidate. At what point does “separation” become outright retreat?

If conservatives are to have any hope of maintaining our two-party system, we need more teachers, journalists, bureaucrats, actors, artists, etc. That is where the battle for the civil society is, and if you examine the partisan breakdowns of these professions, you find a major tilt toward Democrats.

Time to reclaim the institutions

We need to compete for institutions, but we seem to have talked ourselves out of it. There is almost zero investment in messaging that might point young people on our side in that direction. And yet I see it as critical to merely maintaining the currently competitive two-party system that in part helps preserve liberty.

Boycotting institutions, particularly public institutions that we share, is not getting us anywhere. Breitbart was right. Politics is downstream from culture and our side ceded the culture a long time ago.

If one individual leaves the civil society, it is not a big deal. But if millions do it collectively for a generation, as we have, now the one-party state is upon us. It is surrender. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to tell our children to take back those institutions — or they will become serfs.

We are cancelling ourselves just as much as we’re being cancelled, and we are only beginning to learn how massive those costs of walking away really are. No man is an island.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.