Editor's Note: "If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it." With these words, Abraham Lincoln laid the foundation for his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1858.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.
Today, we need the same clarity that Lincoln was calling for. If patriotic Americans are to chart a course forward, they must understand the challenges they and their country face. To this end, Glenn Ellmers and Ted Richards ask: Are we in a war? If so, who is our enemy? What does that enemy want? How is it going about getting it?
Many conservatives, say Ellmers and Richards, underestimate the threat, and so denounce the radical, counter-revolutionary calls to action of their more concerned countrymen. The woke regime is an emerging totalitarianism, the authors argue — both in the traditional sense, and in ways unique to America in the 21st century. If we are to win this war, we first must understand that we are in a war.
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?"