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Anyone who has operated at a high level understands the concept of being in “the zone.” Successful athletes, artists, musicians, titans of industry, and innovators are all familiar with this feeling of incredible momentum. When preparation, mastery, and excellence meet the perfect moment of opportunity, it can feel like destiny.
In politics, when the ruling elite are competent, confident, and command the respect of the people, they experience a similar phenomenon. When rulers have the Mandate of Heaven, the entire world seems to unfold before them. When they lose it, disaster usually follows.
The rule of successful elites should feel effortless, a well-oiled machine that runs smoothly and without hesitation. A ruling class with the Mandate of Heaven wields power abroad with ease because its enemies fear confrontation. Those who can ally with the nation do, and those who cannot know to stay out of its way.
Elites with the Mandate of Heaven do not need to fight a culture war at home; they are the culture. Art, movies, music, and television naturally look to the elite vanguard to set the tone. These artistic and cultural icons wield their social influence with a casual grace. They are not trying to be cool; they are what defines cool. The art, style, and music they produce set the expectations and aspirations of the rest of the nation.
In the United States, progressives secured the Mandate of Heaven by fusing the unprecedented material abundance of postwar America with cultural deconstruction. The United States was relatively untouched by a global war that decimated the economic and military capacity of Europe’s great powers. Only one nation, the USSR, could even hope to challenge America’s military might, and the United States stood as the economically dominant global power.
America’s mighty industrial capacity and financial sector turned it into the center of commerce while ensuring the nation would become the leader of the new postwar global order. A complicated network of financial and political alliances was about to connect the entire world through communications and commerce, and America would get to define their architecture.
As what became known as red America secured the nation’s military and financial dominance, progressives shrewdly maneuvered for control of its cultural institutions. The vast size of the United States had always allowed for many different regional cultures, but that was about to change. Radio, television, and a push to standardize public education through a shared curriculum meant that for the first time, every American had a shared set of formative cultural experiences, and the left oversaw all the relevant organizations.
College attendance also experienced a rapid expansion in postwar America, quickly becoming a critical institution for any promising young talent looking to climb the economic and social ladder. The next generation of ruling elites were heading to college, and they were learning at the feet of a faculty that would be dominated increasingly by radical progressives.
The left’s institutional assault targeted any form of tradition in the United States. As soon as the nation had forged a shared culture, progressives began deconstructing it. Religion and family were coded as low-class, while transgression became the highest goal of all artistic expression. Instead of affirming the value of tradition, the continued economic and military dominance of the United States only seemed to embolden and validate the progressive cultural revolution.
The fall of the Soviet Union secured America’s status as the most dominant global force, both militarily and economically. While the left began its cultural siege with a harsh critique of both capitalism and the military, the movement slowly changed its tune while acquiring control of the boardroom and the Pentagon. Suddenly, Wall Street and the armed forces were “woke,” and it seemed like nothing could stop complete domination by our progressive overlords.
But then the most horrible tragedy that could possibly befall a ruling class struck progressives: They became uncool.
The left won the culture by turning that which is sincere and wholesome into something lame and embarrassing. The earnest communication of values, the genuine care for maintaining traditions — these were all mocked relentlessly. That works fine if you are simply deconstructing what came before, but once you gain power and need to maintain some shared moral vision that allows you to rule, you have painted yourself into a corner. Generations of Americans have been trained to see the sincere communication of values as low-status, and this proved a critical weakness for progressive elites.
While the left claims the banner of progress, its ideology is anti-civilizational in nature. Deconstruction may have abolished the structures of power that leftists opposed, but it does not actually construct anything that moves a society toward a better future.
The left still needs to broadcast its propaganda through mass media and education, but it is running out of credible threats. Deconstruction only works if you are the underdog, and it is difficult to maintain a cool and subversive image when you are clearly holding the levers of power.
This is why popular entertainment has become so incredibly cringe. Every movie is a social justice sermon wearing the skin of a beloved franchise that is now many decades past its prime. Woke “Lord of the Rings,” race-swapped Disney remakes, and the 37th Marvel superhero sequel are not exactly setting the box office on fire. Everything has the ham-fisted messaging of a 1980s after-school special, and that is the kiss of death.
The values of the left are not grounded in any real, organic tradition. The progressive moral vision is simply a perverse inversion of natural hierarchy devoid of any connection to the good, the beautiful, and the true. This fun-house mirror version of morality may be a useful tool of destruction, but when it is time to build, progressive philosophy has nothing of substance to say. Any attempt by leftists to establish a new morality in this environment will sound shrill, hollow, and grating because progressives have made the communication of moral standards passé.
I am not known for providing hopeful predictions, but this is my rare moment of optimism.
I do not think that we are in for a thousand-year woke Reich. Despite having the most powerful army in human history at their disposal, our progressive elites could not defeat an army of goat herders wielding machine guns mounted on pickup trucks. The progressive obsession with elevating the incompetent, pushing a corrupt climate change agenda, and injecting woke politics into corporations is destroying economic productivity. Most importantly, progressives went from avant-garde tastemakers to shrill, lecturing schoolmarms in record time.
No one has ever squandered so much cultural capital so quickly. The left has lost the Mandate of Heaven, and once that happens, a ruling class rarely recovers.
While this loss in cultural momentum is good news, it does not mean automatic victory for the right. A failing elite class can still hold power for a long time if no worthy successor arises to take its place.
Conservatives have been taught that the wielding of political power violates their own principles, and this mentality will always keep them from replacing the progressive left. The first step in attaining the Mandate of Heaven is knowing without a doubt that you have the right to rule. No one who is squeamish about that fact will be able to displace our current elite, no matter how weak, incompetent, and cringe they may be. A new era could be on the horizon, but the right must prove itself worthy to take the reins.
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Auron MacIntyre is the host of “The Auron MacIntyre Show” and a columnist for Blaze News.