In response to: Totalitarianism, American Style

The Tyranny of the Uniparty

Editor’s Note: The first step in winning a war is to recognize the fact that you are in one. This means, first and foremost, to come to know your enemy and his goals. In a recent essay for this site, Glenn Ellmers and Ted Richards of the Claremont Institute make a compelling case that the present enemy—the “woke” or group quota regime—is a totalitarian threat, and that its aims are nothing short of revolutionary. While our own troubles may seem far removed from the hard totalitarianism of the twentieth century, Ellmers and Richards argue that the six traditionally accepted elements of totalitarianism are already present in woke America. What’s more, they identify three factors that are unique to the tyranny of the present day.

In the following essay, Josh Hammer defends and expands on one of Ellmers’ and Richards’ most challenging assertions: that ours is, in effect, a single-party regime. As the late Claremont scholar Angelo Codevilla first argued more than a decade ago, the institutional Republican Party has become a sham opposition, complicit in—often even willingly advancing—the agenda of the woke regime. This is the second in a series of nine contributions by leading experts on the nine defining elements of what Ellmers and Richards dub “Totalitarianism, American Style.”

Glenn Ellmers and Ted Richards have convincingly demonstrated the tyrannical nature of the woke-addled regime now presiding over American life. Their identified trifecta of factors that together evince a distinct 21st-century totalitarianism—a global elite, the modern administrative state, and a concomitant rejection of objective truth and the most rudimentary of Western principles—is both compelling and, unfortunately, highly apropos to our current morass.

The rise of an insidious American ruling class, far removed from the interests and desires of most Americans and hardly still accountable to them, is not a recent development. The late, great Angelo Codevilla documented its emergence 14 years ago now, in his definitive essay on the subject. I have also written about the modern American ruling class no shortage of times—both within and beyond the ambit of the Claremont Institute, where Codevilla was a senior fellow and where Tom Klingenstein serves as chairman. That American society has a deeply embedded ruling class is now well accepted by most of Red America, and it is not uncommon to hear Republican candidates and elected officials denounce its prevalence and malevolence.

The more relevant question, especially in a presidential election year, is whether the Republican Party, its protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, is itself institutionally part of the American ruling class. Is it more descriptively accurate to view the modern GOP as the authentic political representation of the subjugated “deplorables” in the “country class,” to again borrow from Codevilla’s terminology? Or are the GOP’s now-routine condemnations of ruling class conceit and power purely performative, with the Republican Party at an institutional level still being a fundamental part of a baleful D.C. Uniparty? Let us especially consider this vexing question in light of Ellmers and Richards’ conception of the Uniparty: “Leadership shifting from one party to another has become a change of aesthetics and emphasis, not of fundamental aims.”

Is that, in fact, the case? As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

The U.S. national debt is now approaching $35 trillion—a truly staggering figure that amounts to almost $103,000 per citizen. It is of course true that Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden have recklessly added to the debt. But so have Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump (especially after COVID-19 emerged). Spending like drunken sailors and selling out future generations of American taxpayers seems to be one of the great unifiers in Washington these days. Current U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) may be the first earnest evangelical and “movement conservative” to hold the speaker’s gavel, but that didn’t stop him from shepherding through the pathetic recent “minibus” appropriations bill that failed to wield the House Republican majority’s leverage over the purse to stop the unprecedented illegal alien invasion now transpiring at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Speaking of the current invasion at the southern border, nothing better encapsulates the Uniparty mentality than the ever-pressing issue of immigration. Most Republicans are not so wildly out of touch with their own voters’ concerns as to belittle the demonstrable and palpable threat of illegal immigration. After all, according to ICE data, about 1,700 Americans are murdered annually by illegal aliens—to say nothing of the other violent and property crimes that often seem to proliferate wherever it is illegal aliens reside. Especially after highly publicized tragedies such as the recent, horrific murder of Laken Riley in the “sanctuary” college town of Athens, Georgia, team Red at least typically says the right things about the border crisis.

But far too many Republicans continue to trot out the oversimplified, dichotomous pablum that, while illegal immigration is “bad,” legal immigration is “good.” That is not what Republican voters actually say they want. A 2023 Gallup survey observed: “73% of Republicans … want immigration decreased, while 10% want it increased, meaning their net preference for more immigration is -63.” A Republican Party more interested in implementing the preferred policies of its own professed voter base is one that would, at minimum, much more heavily message on curtailing legal immigration a la the Trump-era RAISE Act that unfortunately failed to make it into law.

A similar divide exists on the issue of trade. Republican elites typically follow the lead of free trade absolutists at The Wall Street Journal editorial board or the Club for Growth, but as a New York Times/Siena College poll last year noted: “69% [of Republicans] say America has lost out from increased trade because of job losses, versus 17% who think the U.S. has benefited from increased trade.” As I have argued, the actual voters of the modern GOP clearly favor more nationalist or “populist” policies on issues such as immigration and trade, but the Republican Party institutionally remains the handmaiden of a Democratic Party that long ago abandoned the working class for the abstract dictates of neoliberal ideology.

The story is much the same on foreign policy. Republican voters broadly support a “Jacksonian” foreign policy roughly synonymous with what Claremonster Michael Anton dubbed “The Trump Doctrine,” and they are wary of America getting entangled in foreign conflicts that do not directly implicate core national interests. The war in Ukraine, now in its third year since Vladimir Putin’s border incursion in late February 2022, is a perfect example. According to an NBC News survey in November, only 35% of Republicans said they supported continued funding of the Ukrainian quagmire. That number has presumably declined even further since then.

In true Uniparty form, Johnson recently led the House to pass a grotesque near-$100 billion mass spending bill that sends an additional $60-plus billion of hard-earned American taxpayer dollars to fight an unwinnable war in Ukraine against the world’s largest nuclear hegemon, Russia. It was an epic capitulation from Johnson—a pure “D.C. Swamp” move. More to the point, the rancorous internal GOP debate over whether to continue funding of the war in Ukraine is now transpiring while a more strategically vital U.S. ally, Israel, fights a defensive war against an adversary that is—last I checked, and the increasingly virulent Jew-hatred of the Democratic Party’s progressive base notwithstanding—still a U.S. State Department-recognized Foreign Terrorist Organization. Arms and munitions, after all, are no less subject to the economic laws of scarcity than are any other goods.

Eight years ago, in perhaps the single most influential essay of the 2016 presidential election cycle, Anton aptly summarized the broader state of play: “If you’re among the subspecies conservative intellectual or politician, you’ve accepted—perhaps not consciously, but unmistakably—your status on the roster of the Washington Generals of American politics.” The institutional Republican Party, in other words, is, to its core, a loser in the most literal sense of the term. At its best, this amounts to a “principled loserdom”; at its worst, it amounts to actively aiding and abetting the enemy. The common good suffers either way.

There are at least two closely related reasons for today’s sordid state of affairs as it pertains to the institutional GOP: one attitudinal, and one substantive. More precisely, the attitudinal and substantive components of contemporary Republican Party woe both derive from the same overarching conceptual problem—the shortcomings of fusionism, the long-regnant political philosophy of Conservatism, Inc. that has been increasingly challenged since Trump won the 2016 presidential election. My speech-cum-essay from the 2021 National Conservatism Conference in Orlando (“NatCon 2”) was dedicated to exploring this theme:

Fusionism, as a roadmap for governance, stifles well-intentioned statesmen from pursuing the actual art of politics. It is inherently effete, limp, and … unmasculine. And it is effete, limp, and unmasculine because it removes from the political arena, and consigns to the “private” sphere, the very value judgments and critical questions that most affect our humanity and our civilization. The defensive posture of liberalized fusionism, which ensures never having to face pushback from one’s political opponents on the most contested issues, makes for a cowardly way to approach politics. It is also predicated, in its entirety, on the fundamentally and empirically false distinction between the “private” and the “public” domains.

The problem is thus largely intrinsic. Much as with the Washington Generals and the Harlem Globetrotters, one team’s victory and the other team’s defeat is decided at the outset. The ancient Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu taught that before a battle even begins, it is won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought—and the terrain of our domestic political jousting is structurally lopsided in team Blue’s favor and at team Red’s expense. The only chance team Red has is to seize the de-liberalizing imperative and break through the liberal paradigm once and for all, freeing the other hand that has been tied behind its back all along and embracing a worthy alternative to fusionism, such as national conservatism.

In order to be effective from a practical standpoint, moreover, a “de-liberalized” GOP elected class would still need to operate on an incentive structure that rewards genuine conservative statesmanship and penalizes the lazy outsourcing of policymaking to unelected bureaucrats. While it is not a panacea, one helpful measure would be the long-overdue jurisprudential demise of “Chevron doctrine,” which since the eponymous Supreme Court case of 1984 has required federal courts to defer to executive agencies’ “reasonable” interpretations of underlying statutes. Thankfully, there is a good chance that the Chevron doctrine will be overturned later this spring, in the two companion cases of Relentless Inc. v. U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Loper Bright v. Raimondo. Much work remains to make conservative legislators want to legislate again instead of merely outsourcing their tasks to Deep State mandarins and otherwise being content to preen before the bright lights of cable TV, but overturning Chevron would be a worthy first step.

Not every single Republican candidate or elected official is necessarily part of the Uniparty blob. Our difficult task is to find those, such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who may hold “elite” ruling class credentials, but whose hearts, minds, concerns, and general sensibilities are decidedly with the country class. What we need, in short, are more class traitors. And we need them now.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek senior editor-at-large, a syndicated columnist, host of “The Josh Hammer Show” and “America on Trial with Josh Hammer,” a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, and a 2018 John Marshall Fellow with the Claremont Institute.