Neo-Stalinists Versus the Sons of Anarchy

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The Orange County Register

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.

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Photo credit: Rhododendrites via Wikipedia, Creative Commons 4.0

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 Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.