Part 1: An Explainer
This is part 1 of a series explaining the concept of the regime, how it relates to Christians and their institutions, and how it should be opposed.
Why has the pace of social change increased so rapidly over the last 15 years? Why have all major institutions in society become intellectual monoliths committed to the same shibboleths in policy and practice? Why have the people who comprise these institutions become so cowed, apparently incapable of meaningful dissent or critical thought? How have facially absurd ideas, like COVID-19 hysteria, transgender transitions for minors and ESG investing criteria come to so thoroughly mainstream institutions and crush dissent? The best explanatory framework for these dizzying developments is the idea that a new regime has ascended.
You will encounter this term regime if you spend five minutes on right-wing Twitter or in the pages of New Right publications. The phrase may strike you as odd at first, especially since it is often used to refer to non-governmental actors. But the phrase is vital. It can be defined with precision. It names something real that might otherwise escape notice. And it has incredible explanatory power in deciphering why social “progress,” often facially insane and politically unpopular, has so quickly advanced.
If you want a quick and dirty heuristic for identifying the regime, just look for any institutions that fly its banner – the Progress Flag.
But if you want a more precise understanding of the regime, read on. I propose the following:
A set of public, quasi-public and private actors exercising coordinated power for the purposes of advancing a shared agenda for social and political control.
The definition includes actors typically considered to be part of any regime – i.e., governmental actors – but also much more. And crucially, the regime is not under the control of the electoral process. Now, to be fair, conservatives have long decried how the administrative state inevitably grows and is impervious to reform-minded presidential administrations. Even the most wildly successful conservative administrations succeed only in temporarily halting its growth. And of course, substantive administrative law is laden with one-way ratchets that quickly facilitate progressive expansion but make rollback of progressive agenda items nearly impossible. So far, this may all sound like a traditional conservative account.
But we must next consider the interactions between formal government actors and quasi-public actors – actors that are technically private, but in fact function under administrative state control because of expansive financial or other regulatory controls. Some of these quasi-public actors are professional associations or other bodies with licensing functions who have de facto monopolies over certain regulatory functions and play a pivotal role in the work of the administrative state (i.e., regulatory rulemakings, adjudications and licensure). Examples include various licensing and accreditation agencies, the American Medical Association and bar associations. In other cases, the administrative state commandeers quasi-public actors in order to further policy goals through expansive uses of existing statutory authority (e.g., higher education and Title IX, or DEI requirements amongst government contractors).
Finally, this regime expands outward even to actors traditionally considered to be entirely private. In some cases, the regulatory state is the explicit cause of such coordinated action – the SEC, for example, now requires companies to disclose certain ESG metrics and in some states, public companies are even subjected to DEI requirements for their boards or executive teams. In other cases, America’s security apparatus exerts pressure through means that we cannot entirely ascertain, but appear to be effective – the CIA and FBI, for example, now routinely coordinate with social media companies to suppress certain viewpoints and factual reporting. But in most cases, companies voluntarily participate in the social change agenda, walking in lockstep even in cases where doing so demonstrably imperils the bottom line.
This set of actors cooperate and mutually reinforce each other by mandating strict deference to the agenda, and to a fiction of supposed expertise (“Don’t believe your lying eyes. Harvard Business Review says that ESG investments outperform standard investments!”). This is possible because regime-participating organizations are staffed by a credentialed professional-managerial class with very narrow subject matter expertise. Their socialization in elite universities shapes their views such that deference to their similarly credentialed peers in other domains is a matter of the highest prestige, and independent, critical thinking or skepticism is marked as low status. As college admissions, employment and advancement become less meritocratic, the selection standards for admission to and continued good membership within this professional-managerial class increasingly depend upon an assessment that such an individual is and will be deferential to the regime. This deferential posture can safely be assumed in the case of individuals who gain their posts under any sort of affirmative action. Less lucky candidates advance by demonstrating their continued loyalty to the regime agenda by engaging in the right extracurriculars and sending the right public signals. Individuals who decide to oppose the mutual deference racket – unless they possess exceptional leverage within their institutions – will be swiftly and harshly punished.
The agenda for social change is set by institutions of civic society, such as universities, private foundations and supposed high-culture outlets. The broad logic of this agenda is no secret. Individuals are conditioned to increasingly yearn for freedom from all unchosen constraints and resent any natural hierarchies of ability or moral goodness. Concepts of any natural law or teleology (designs imparted by a creator) are destroyed because they pose a threat to the goal of social control. Any institution that potentially competes with the influence of the regime (e.g., families, churches, other private associations or subsidiary units of government) is opposed, usually through subversion rather than open hostility. Thus, the individual is made a fit subject of the regime by a process of emancipating the individual from any non-regime source of authority and alienating the individual from any competing human societies. Culture war flare-ups, like CRT, LGBTQ+ activism and COVID-19 are merely the most visible effects of the deeper tectonic project.
The operation of the regime can be seen by considering 2020 and the COVID-19 panic. In 2020, the medical wing of the regime determined that skeptical views of COVID-19 would be heretical. Stories regarding a potential lab leak were effectively suppressed as “racist conspiracy theories” in mainstream media and also on social media. Well-credentialed scientists with thoughtful critiques of the lock-down maximalist position were broadly canceled and deplatformed; while they should have been in the boardrooms helping to craft policy, they were relegated to low-brow talk shows like Joe Rogan or Alex Jones. Large pharmaceuticals and the medical establishment received ample reward for loyally playing along with the CDC’s preferred policy. Meanwhile, in the depth of draconian lockdowns, the regime’s public health experts rushed to excuse widespread marches in June and July of 2020 on the basis that systemic racism was a public health crisis too. Ordinary citizens could not be entrusted with the ability to decide for themselves what activities they would forego in order to avoid a small statistical risk; credentialed experts decided that anti-racist causes were worth the risk, but church, school, weddings and funerals were not worth the risk.
At this point, a reasonable reader might point out that the administrative state and its grasping tentacles have existed for almost one hundred years, so why only now does the New Right call this creature out as a “regime”? These pathways for coordinated power have existed for a century, after all!
Something has changed qualitatively in the last 10 years or so. At a high level, what has changed is that progressives have now broadly crushed meaningful dissent within regime-participating institutions. The set of actors who comprise the regime now possess a heretofore unmatched unanimity around their shared goals, and with this increased unanimity, a heretofore unmatched willingness to punish dissenters. The firing of Brandon Eich from Mozilla in 2012, on the grounds that he gave $1,000 to the winning Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008, marked a rubicon of sorts. A message was sent loudly and clearly across big tech and other major institutions: We got the man fired from the company he founded, so we can definitely take you out too. The Eich firing and countless similar stories since have cowed any would-be dissenters who work in regime-participating institutions. They may not yet be required to enthusiastically support every aspect of the regime’s agenda, but they must at a minimum silently acquiesce, and then do penance by even more enthusiastically endorsing other parts of the regime’s agenda. The evangelical who works at Goldman Sacks can’t in good conscience join the pride day parade, so he must do penance by joining the BLM march with redoubled vigor.
These ubiquitous, stifling conditions explain why those rare exceptions – individuals like Donald Trump who possess sufficient economic leverage and independence to thumb their nose at the regime – inspire such acclaim. There is pent-up demand and envy, often operating at a subconscious level, for powerful actors who are free to speak boldly and clearly about their views in opposition to the regime. And notice how even non-political actors, like Elon Musk, can inspire this sort of acclaim, demonstrating that opposition to this regime (even if “non-political”) inspires a very political sort of fervor.
The presence of political sentiments in domains that would not usually be deemed political helps to prove the point. Our instincts perceive a reality that may be hidden from our conscious thought. A set of actors working together to exercise power toward shared goals operates within the hollowed-out shells of America’s government, civic society and corporations, and this organism is properly called the regime.
This article has presented an introduction to the concept of the regime and its explanatory power. Part 2 of this series will explain the inadequacies of older conservativism and why it is vital to recognize the regime as such, unmasking the ways in which it disguises its own power and operation, so that it can be effectively opposed.
Image Credit: Unsplash