Part II: Recognizing Regime Operation
This is part 2 of a series explaining the concept of the regime, how it relates to Christians and their institutions, and how it should be opposed.
In my first article on the Regime, I gave a very simple definition of what it is and hinted at its basic operations. Now, as promised, I want to explain a core feature of the Regime, namely, how its power is obscured and decentralized, making effective opposition incredibly difficult. But once the hidden power structures of the Regime are revealed, then a prudent strategy for countering it can be developed.
The Regime’s power comes primarily from civic society, not institutions traditionally deemed “political.” This means much if not most of the Regime’s power is not subject to political control. Curtis Yarvin ably describes this operation as a “two-story state”:
The modern two-story democracy contains two power cores: a civic core and a political core. The trick is: in theory, the political core is stronger than the civic core. In practice, the civic core is stronger than the political core. The civic core is the permanent civil service, plus what in other countries the press calls “civil society…” “Civil society” means all legitimate institutions designed to serve or guide the state or public. This includes the press, academia, philanthropy, and so on. These mission-critical organs are strongest, safest, and most democratic when kept outside even the potential reach of political accountability.
Thus, the Regime is, in a very real sense, undemocratic, because the bulk of its power is not subject to any sort of democratic feedback. This concept makes sense of the frequent conservative observation that the left is hypocritical about its purported allegiance to democracy. The election of Donald Trump was a threat to our democracy, justifying very undemocratic and norm-shattering opposition from an unelected civil service. Examples could run on for days: Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Victor Orban in Hungary, Brexit, Proposition 8 in California (banning gay marriage), a host of red state initiatives around transgender laws and CRT/DEI/ESG – all such democratic outcomes are threats to democracy, because they pose challenges to the Regime’s control and agenda.
Effective right-wing political action then requires a recognition that the Regime’s allegiance to democracy is a euphemism for a set of outcomes, and in truth, the political left accrues and eagerly uses a strategy of rewarding its friends and punishing its enemies because it has the backing of the Regime behind it. Backed by this vast array of civic society, the replacement-level leftist politician will be far more effective than the replacement-level right-wing politician. The left-wing politician can and will frequently make radical, “politically suicidal” decisions in a de-risked way. Chesa Boudin, the radical anti-police District Attorney of San Francisco, lost a recall vote after his policies transformed San Francisco into a Mad Max-like scene, and quickly waltzed into the Executive Directorship of a center at U.C. Berkeley’s elite law school. Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who lost her re-election bid for similar reasons, landed a lectureship at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health and praise from its Dean for her declaration of racism as a public health emergency. There are more extreme examples. Leftist political terrorists like Bill Ayers and Angela Davis, complicit in bombings and killings, are rehabilitated and then rewarded with elite sinecures and cited as mentors and intellectual influences by the most prominent leftist politicians.
Meanwhile, anyone involved in the Trump administration – even those with unquestioned competence and track records – have had difficulty finding jobs at almost any mainstream institution. No prestigious law firm would represent President Trump or the ever-expanding list of co-conspirators in cases arising out of the events of January 6. This is to say nothing of radical right-wingers that would be remotely analogous to a Bill Ayers or an Angela Davis (n.b., there is no right-wing equivalent to radical chic political terrorists). Your career will be imperiled merely for favorable citing any work of Samuel Francis, a man with radical ideas but who never got close to a bomb. True right-wing radicals are complete pariahs merely for their thoughts, and you will be broadly canceled for not sufficiently denouncing their ideas and maintaining several degrees of separation between yourself and them. There is nothing like an equivalent patronage network system to support right-wingers who take risks. Michael Anton’s stint in the Trump administration likely made his return to BlackRock impossible, but he was able to land a perch at Hillsdale College. Such safe landing spots are few and far between, and none can compete with the secular prestige or money of the left’s patronage networks.
This stark asymmetry in consequences for right-wing vs. left-wing political views and behavior, which is the poisonous fruit of ideologically monolithic civic society, helps to explain otherwise mystifying political outcomes. Policies like soft-on-crime, de facto open borders, transgender content pushed on kids, endless pro-democracy wars, etc., do not generally poll well. When these issues are squarely on the ballot, the people often reject the Regime’s preference. And yet, supporting such policies is high status. On the other hand, politicians and their advisors who attempt to seriously tackle these issues face the prospect of pariah status. Thus, over time, the thick system of incentives and disincentives that can be offered by the Regime will predictably win out with politicians and secure the Regime’s favored outcome, even if that outcome is not politically popular.
Once you begin to grasp the extent and power of the Regime’s structure, you can begin to realistically assess what the right would need to do in order to effectively challenge it first. It becomes clear that electoral politics – while it may be a necessary condition for a successful right – is far from sufficient. Indeed, effectively challenging the Regime through merely governmental means would require a couple of decades of dictatorial right-wing Presidents, with significant majorities in both Congress and Senate, and an acquiescent, easily bullied Supreme Court. In other words, you would need the equivalent of a right-wing FDR – a political Tsunami akin to what the Yale Law constitutional scholar, Bruce Ackerman, referred to as a “constitutional moment.” Such moments are by definition rare, and they are impossible to achieve if you do not have significant momentum within civic society. So, while the right should, by all means, carry on with electoral strategies, such activity is far from sufficient.
What else then would be essential to effectively oppose the Regime?
First, institutions of civic society that are Regime adjacent must be either taken over or entirely delegitimized. On this front, I am more sanguine about the likelihood of success than many New Right commentators (like Curtis Yarvin). The COVID pandemic and the events of 2020 in general torched the credibility of certain supposed experts and the institutions that mint those experts. There will be no repeat of COVID, because the American people would not trust or comply with the directives they are given by the technocrats. Americans have also grown more skeptical because of the transgender craze and crime waves. This skepticism transfers over to many domains, resulting in a broader credibility crisis for the Regime. On another promising front, in recent years, red states have begun the fraught process of subjugating openly ideologically hostile higher education institutions, and have also begun to redirect their sovereign wealth away from ideologically-captured asset managers. Such promising policy developments are themselves the fruit of growing recognition by the shrewder set of red state governors that the scope of political concern must necessarily be significantly broader today; that the right (like the left) must have, as a political goal, increasing its leverage over civic society and commercial activity.
Second, the right must learn how to make optimal use of those institutions of civic society that should, properly speaking, be home turf. Take, as one example, Christian institutions such as churches, denominations, impact organizations, educational institutions, etc. In a world where broader civic society is entirely ideologically captured and subservient to the leftist goals, Christian civic society cannot afford to be neutral. The right needs to become significantly more savvy in defending such institutions from the Regime’s soft power (e.g., stop taking Open Society grants!) and its hard power (e.g., have a solution to threatened loss of federal funding). Then the right must understand how to take the next step, cultivating ecosystems involving such owned institutions of civic society and those places where the right has political power, such as red states, ultimately maturing toward having little dissident regimes that pose real threats to the influence and power of the Regime.
It is to the topic of Christian civic society – how it can be defended, restored and oriented toward the creation of dissident regimes – that the next article in this series will turn.
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