by Dan Gelernter
Iremember a staggering conversation with my high school lunch table in the early 2000s. Everyone agreed with one kid’s statement that there was nothing special about living in America: Life in Canada, or anywhere else, would be identical except for maybe the weather.
At the time, I wondered what was going to happen to America when all these kids grew up. What happens when America’s young adults, far from having any intellectual commitment to freedom, don’t even understand what life would be like without it?
Twenty or 30 years ago, before my generation metastasized, it was tacitly understood on both sides of the political aisle that leftists—mostly Democrats—had to lie about what they wanted to do. They had to pretend, for instance, that they didn’t want to raise taxes. SNL made fun of this in their famous 1988 sketch “Dukakis After Dark”: “Mike, now that it’s all over, you can tell me. You were going to raise taxes, weren’t you?” “You bet I was!”
Leftists likewise had to pretend they liked the military. This led to Dukakis’ disastrous Abrams tank photo op.
It wasn’t Dukakis’ fault exactly—as “he” says in the SNL sketch, “We represent unpopular, discredited views.” But if only he’d been more fortunate in his timing, and could have waited 20 or 30 years: Precisely those discredited views were being indoctrinated into school children across the country. The children grew up, and the ideas have found new life.
Walter Mondale’s 1984 pledge to raise taxes helped destroy his presidential campaign. In 2020, Biden’s pledge to do the same went essentially unnoticed—in part because the press, now run by the kids who were in school when Mondale ran, didn’t want to report it. But also because those kids like the idea of higher taxes. In a sense we’ve come full circle. The Left can finally admit in public all the things it used to hide.
The Left is finally out of the closet.
Barack Obama used to end his speeches with “God Bless America,” not because he believed in God or in God’s blessing America, but because that’s what a president had to do. Today, the age of Democrats’ paying lip service to God or to America is over.
The difference is fundamental. Consider the anti-DeSantis ad recently put out by a left-wing PAC: A stewardess makes an announcement to a group of terrified and bemasked airline passengers: “We have officially entered Florida airspace . . . You do not have to wear a mask. You do not have to get a vaccine.” As the menacing music throbs, they play a clip of DeSantis saying, “We are not doing any vaccine passports in the state of Florida. We trust people to make their own decisions.”
To the Left, this is absolutely terrifying: No mandates? We trust people to make their own decisions? This is madness! Grab your anxiety blankets and run to the safe space!
Traditional Americans, on the other hand, listen to this ad, hear the exact same sentences, and think: This is why I’m moving to Florida.
In the same manner, I suspect that today’s leftists would listen to the parody song at the end of the Dukakis SNL sketch and agree wholeheartedly with lines written to sound ridiculous. The Left openly supports everything we used to accuse them of supporting. Next stop, vaccine passports for all.
Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, gave an interview over the weekend in which he said—and this is a direct quote—“There comes a time when you do have to give up what you consider your individual right of making your own decision for the greater good of society.” Until recently, no one in American public life could have survived making such a statement. The ideas Fauci expressed were found only on the tongues of state spokesmen in North Korea, China, Stalin’s Russia, or Hitler’s Germany. Fauci’s words are the intellectual kernel of and justification for totalitarianism.
But those who voted for Biden (and especially those who cast thousands of votes for him) don’t see the big deal. Why wouldn’t you subjugate the will of the individual to the good of society? Thus, where Americans traditionally believe that what is good for the individual will be good for society, totalitarians believe the reverse: You start by dictating what is good for society, and the good of the individual will follow.
Of course the individual’s good never does follow. But totalitarians don’t seem to mind this. In the long run, totalitarian ideologies are only for useful idiots—the people who send their small contributions to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC herself, and other aspiring totalitarian leaders, know better: The purpose of being in power is being in power.
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Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.
Photo “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris” by The White House.