Winning the Cold Civil War

The threat from the illiberal left grows. How should we fight it?

Tom Klingenstein

  • Article
  • September 09, 2021

We find ourselves in a Cold Civil War. But we have no real generals. A war without generals is no war at all. There is no liberty or death, only death, the death of our once cherished republic.

Leading Republicans who should be our generals fight battles, sometimes with spirit, but they don't seem to see the war in its entirety, particularly its cultural aspects. This is a war not over the size of government or taxes, but over the American way of life. The war is between those who salute the flag and those who take a knee. Those who believe that America is built on freedom, and those who believe America is built on racism. Those who are convinced that America is good, and those who are convinced America is bad. These differences are too large to bridge. This is what makes it a war. In this case, a Cold Civil War.

Winning a war requires two fundamental understandings. First, you must understand that you are, in fact, in a war. Wartime requires very different rhetoric, strategy, and people than peacetime. Trump is a wartime leader. Second, you must understand your enemy, what it wants, and how it goes about getting what it wants. What our enemy wants is the destruction of the American way of life. It goes about it by trying to force everyone to say “America is systemically racist.” If it can convince us of this falsehood, it will be well on its way to overturning the American way of life. Every time Joe Biden accuses America of being systemically racist, he is, though he doesn't know it, calling for the overthrow of the American way of life.

In a war, you must play to win. But you cannot win against an enemy that has no name or has many names, “identity politics,” “multiculturalism,” “anti-racism,” “wokeism,” and more. My entry for a name is “Woke Communism,” “Woke Comm” for short. Whatever the name, I think it should communicate totalitarianism because this is what the enemy seeks to impose.

In a traditional totalitarian regime, the government uses arbitrary violence to control every aspect of public and private life, all the way down to little league. In America, the government does not control everything, but today, through the power of the purse and the courts, the government influences a lot. And where the government leaves off, the cultural-business complex takes over.

Education, corporate media, entertainment, big business, especially big tech, are to varying degrees aligned with the Democratic Party, which is now controlled by the Woke Comms. These institutions together with the government function as a totalitarian regime, crafting narratives that advance their agenda and suppressing those that do not. Instead of violence, there is canceling. This may not look like a totalitarian regime, but it acts like one. Last summer's riots are a case in point. Woke Comm agitators sparked the flame that lit the riots. Their intellectual leaders justified the riots; their corporate donors gave billions to the Black Lives Matter network; their media looked the other way; and their politicians, from Joe Biden on down, fanned the flames.

What is Woke Communism?

Like any regime, Woke Communism is built on a particular understanding of justice. For the Woke Comms justice is outcome equality. That is, all identity groups should be proportionately represented in all aspects of American life. So for example, the Woke Communists believe that blacks, who count for about 13% of the population, should have 13% of the nation's chief executive officers, prisoners, heart attacks, wealth, top test scores, homes, corporate board seats, school suspensions, and everything else you can think of.

Equal everything is what Woke Comms call social justice. Any disparities, say the Woke Comms, are due to racism and nothing else. If, as the Woke Communists contend, racism has insinuated itself in every nook and cranny of the American way of life, then quite obviously, it is necessary to throw out that way of life. This is why there simply can be no peace between Woke Communism and America. In a free society like America there will always be group outcome differences, particularly between men and women. Eliminating such group outcome differences, as the Woke Comms aim to do, can only be achieved at the expense of freedom.

For example, if the black prison population is more than 13%, the Woke Communist prescribe, among other things: early release of prisoners, decriminalizing certain offenses, and of course, defunding the police. If there are too many Asians at elite schools: Change the admission standards. Too few blacks in advanced placement courses: Eliminate such courses; at the same time, minimize the value of excellence. If there are wealth and income gaps: socialism, reparations, and minimize the value of hard work. Too few women law partners, or executives, or scientists: universal childcare, denigrate motherhood, on route to destroying the traditional mother-father family altogether.

Religion and civic life must also go, or be radically altered, because these institutions, like family, teach the values that support the American way of life. In totalitarian regimes, there can be no institutions of moral authority that compete with the state.

Of course, the institution that the Woke Comms must completely control is education. The Woke Comms must no longer teach our children about an America striving, however imperfectly, towards its noble ideals. Instead, they must teach about an America conceived in oppression and dedicated to racism.

In short, Woke Communism will replace American justice with social justice, and destroy law and order, the rule of law, and both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The Lies of Woke Communism

Successful implementation of the Woke Communist agenda, above all, requires convincing American citizens of a series of lies.

The first and most important lie is, as I have said, America is racist. It is this that is the big lie. We hear it from every direction from morning to night, but endless repetition does not make it true. It isn't.

The corollary to the big lie is another lie. America is about to be overrun by white supremacists. This is pure nonsense. What the Woke Comms mean by this lie is that anyone unwilling to kneel before Black Lives Matter is a white supremacist.

Police target blacks, that is another lie. Blacks commit 50% of the violent crimes in America. Should we be surprised that the blacks account for about 25% of those killed by the police? Before we start talking about defunding the police, perhaps we should face the facts.

Trump endorsed white culture. This is a lie. Trump endorsed not white culture but American culture, which is open to anyone, of any color, willing to embrace it. I am Jewish, but it never dawned on me that George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, neither members of my tribe, belong any less to me than to any other American. This is one of the glories of America. The Woke Communists want to destroy it.

The Woke Comms institute quotas in every field of endeavor, and then lie about it. They tell us they are not quotas, even though we can see they are. The few brave truth-tellers get canceled.

We are told that moderate Joe Biden is in charge. Biden is neither moderate nor in charge.

Black Lives Matter care about black lives or righting past injustices. These are among the biggest whoppers. But we should pay attention to BLM because, as we learned during the riots, BLM represents the leading edge of the Democratic Party. Any doubt about the prominence of BLM should have been dispelled by the Biden-Harris administration encouraging American embassies to fly the BLM flag. Think about that. Our embassies, beacons of American freedom, are flying the flag of an organization committed to the destruction of American freedom.

January 6th was an insurrection. Every bit a lie. No, this may not have been Trump's finest hour. And yes, the riots were very wrong and disappointing for a movement that has avoided violence. But let's be honest, the riots consisted of a score or two of really bad apples, together with several hundred idiots (not a one armed) who thought it would be cool to take selfies in the nation's capital.

Election fraud is baseless, a lie repeated with such determination that it is forbidden to question it. But the fact is, there is enough evidence of fraud to warrant investigations and now enough obstruction of investigations to warrant further suspicion.

The Woke Comms also lie with language. Racism, they call “equity.” Anti-white, they call “diversity.” The 20th century is piled high with corpses from regimes that falsified language in just this way.


In totalitarian regimes, it is necessary to silence those who challenge the lies. We see this with increasing regularity. American citizens getting canceled, fired, denied access to social media, even deprived of banking services. Woke corporations punish states that don't comply with the woke agenda. Information unsanctioned by the regime is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Opinions that contradict Dr. Fauci, praise the police, question sex changes, or election integrity, and God knows what else, don't get past the tech censors. More terrifying still, we're getting used to censorship. Censorship is becoming a fact of life.

Destroying the American Way of Life

But there is much more than censorship. The rule of law is breaking down. Rioting is sanctioned. Immigration, other laws, go unenforced. The Woke Comm said to the Derrick Chauvin jury, convict Chauvin than of murder or we will give you a riot the likes of which you have never seen. Something similar happened in Atlanta. This is mob rule.

Donald Trump and others cannot get legal representation. When this happens, we are no longer a nation of laws.

For Coronavirus relief funds, minority businesses are given preference. Pitting races against each other will not end well.

Self-flagellating, so-called anti-racism statements, require white oppressors to grovel at the feet of black victims. Blacks should be embarrassed and so should the rest of us.

Top scientists and airline pilots are now being hired based on skin color and gender. Same with the United States military, which says it is looking not for warriors, but for women with two moms. Other than the Woke Communists, how many of our young men and women will be prepared to die for a country that puts diversity over life? Such a country has a death wish. China is licking its chops, watching us commit suicide.

Statues that help define and inspire us are being toppled. The Statue of Liberty is safe for the moment because the Woke Comms believe it stands for open immigration. But one day, the Woke Comms will discover that immigrants come to America not to be members of their ethnic group, but to be free individuals. When that day comes, Lady Liberty could find herself at the bottom of New York Harbor.

The election of 2020 was stolen. Leave aside fraud, last-minute unconstitutional changes to election laws, bogus investigations, even the pandemic. Trump could have survived all these. But what he could not survive was four years of unrelenting, deliberately dishonest media slander. When the media takes pride in bringing down and silencing a sitting president, brace yourself for a long fall.

How Should Republicans Respond?

What should we do about all this? The essential thing, as I've tried to stress, is for Republicans to understand we are in a war and then act accordingly. War is not a time for too much civility, compromise, or for imputing good motives to the enemy. Our generals must fight as if the choice were between liberty and death. This is no time for sunshine patriots.

And the Republican Party must minimize the influence of libertarianism. Most libertarian-influenced Republicans are not fit to fight this war. They tell the Woke Communists, "You can live your way, just allow us to live our way." But the Woke Communists respond, "You must live our way or we will punish you." “Live and let live” will lose to “do it our way or else” every time.

Of the talked-about possible presidential candidates, Donald Trump understands better than the others that we are in a war. And we know he has the courage to lead the charge. 2024 is a long way off. But if the Republican primary were held next month, Trump would be my candidate. True, Trump is risky, but risky times require risky solutions. So yes, it would be nice to find someone with Trump's virtues without his vices. When you find such a person, I'll be all ears. Until then, I'm with Trump, vices and all.

Whoever the candidate, he or she, and other Republicans should tell the truth as Trump did. They must rebut the lies starting with the big lie, America is racist. In failing to rebut this lie, as virtually every republican has, Republicans are conceding the basic premise of Woke Communism. When we fail to rebut lies, we perpetuate them. Republicans must say America is not racist, period. Republicans must assert this not once but a thousand times. War is a time for assertions.

They must, as Trump began to try to do, defeat critical race theory in schools, the military, businesses, and everywhere else. We simply cannot teach our citizens, current and future, that their country is no good and expect to have a country for very long. No country can survive on a diet of endless self-loathing. We need to teach our citizens to love and cherish their country.

And we need to stop wallowing in our sins of racism. We are talking ourselves into ruin. As far as I can tell, all this talk about racism has brought us nothing but hardship for blacks, division, and race hustlers. Let's instead talk about what we Americans have in common, and let's start judging Americans by the content of their character.

I Am Not Without Hope

Americans know perfectly well that their country has sinned. Even so, they believe, and quite rightly, that America is as good as it gets. They know that America has, by her example, brought freedom to many millions around the world. And they know that progress in civil rights over the last 60 years has been nothing short of miraculous. We should be very proud of America. It is this pride that makes us strive, as we have always strived, to do better.

I am not without hope. There are many pockets of resistance bubbling up around the country. Parents are pushing back against “America is racist” curricula. Even San Francisco had a rare moment of sanity when it decided not to remove Abraham Lincoln's name from a high school. The manly don't tread on me remains part of the American spirit. Many Americans still salute our flag, honor our military dead, and ask God to bless America. Such citizens are part of the huge army that Trump has mobilized. This army is raring to go, but it needs direction. If Republican leaders start speaking the truth, loudly and passionately, the army will follow.

Abraham Lincoln: Our Inspiration

Perhaps one of the people who voted to keep Lincoln's name on that San Francisco High School remembered that Lincoln, at age 30, unknown beyond Central Illinois, wrote about an aspirational fantasy, which was, I suspect, inspired by his heroes, George Washington and Henry Clay.

“If ever I feel worthy,” Lincoln once said, "it is when I contemplate the cause of my country deserted by all the world . . . , and I standing up boldly and alone, . . . hurling defiance at [our] victorious oppressors. Here, without contemplating consequences, . . . I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause . . . of the land of my life, my liberty, and my life. . . . But if after all, we shall fail, be it so. We still shall have the proud consolation of saying to our consciences, . . . we never faltered."

We are, I think, in a perilous moment such as the one Lincoln imagines. It is time for our leaders, without contemplating consequences, to swear eternal fidelity to the just cause of the land of our liberty, and our love, the land which remains the last best hope of Earth. If after all, we shall fail, be it so. We shall have the proud consolation of saying that in defending America, we never faltered.

Thank you very much.

Thomas D. Klingenstein is a businessman, playwright, and philanthropist. He is chairman of the Claremont Institute a managing member of the investment firm Cohen Klingenstein, LLC.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

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