Totalitarianism, American Style (


    Totalitarianism, American Style – By Glenn Ellmers, Ted Richards ( / Jan 23, 2024

    Tom Klingenstein frequently, and correctly, points out that the first step in winning a war is to acknowledge that you are in one. Similarly, one might say that the first step in resisting encroaching tyranny is to understand what it looks like.

    If the American experiment in self-government is unprecedented (as the founders, as well as Lincoln, believed) then its transformation into something unjust and oppressive would also be unprecedented. To notice the signs of America’s descent into illiberalism—assuming such a thing can be contemplated—it would not be sufficient merely to examine the historical record of how totalitarianism emerged in Europe and Asia. Gabriel Schoenfeld commits this very error, and disparages the legitimate concerns of millions of citizens, in a long essay for Lawfare titled “Is the United States Totalitarian?”

    Schoenfeld’s article was published in May of 2022, but is still relevant because it simply lays out in more detail the same general arguments made more recently by others, including Damon Linker’s New York Times op-ed assailing virtually anyone to his right, and Matthew Continetti’s fulmination over the new right.

    Schoenfeld, Linker, and Continetti dismiss the warning signs invoked by writers such as Patrick Deneen, Yoram Hazony, and Adrian Vermeule, along with similar arguments made by several scholars associated with the Claremont Institute. These leftwing defenders of the current regime, who insist that everything is normal, are convinced (without ever quite justifying their conviction) that if tyranny were to come to America it would do so in the “usual” way, following the established patterns of previous despotisms. We will focus largely on Schoenfeld’s essay because it clarifies many points that are simply assumed by Linker, Continetti, and others.



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