Writing on Twitter recently, Charles Murray reminded us that “America’s privileged 20-somethings were just as ignorant of history, unhinged, and unthinkingly violent in the late 1960s as they are now. The adults were just as despairing of the future. It doesn’t mean things will turn out as they did then, but it’s worth remembering.”
A comforting thought, I suppose. Then again, America has changed a lot over the past 50-plus years. In the late 1960s, our elite institutions were still relatively conservative. Today, virtually all of them feel obliged to promote their “woke” credentials.
British journalist Ed West made this point last month in a perceptive column comparing the protests of 1968 with those of 2020:
“Almost all elite institutions in the U.S. support the  protesters; theatres were providing help to demonstrators even as the protests turned to riots, while big businesses are falling over themselves to get behind BLM. Everything from the Wellcome Trust to National Public Radio have lined up to show support.
The only institution not in favour is the police.”
In a way, this demonstrates just how much the Sixties-era radicals managed to transform American society over the long run. The woke mobs of 2020 claim to be attacking a racist and oppressive establishment — yet the establishment is overwhelmingly on their side.
The wokesters might observe that Republicans control the White House, the U.S. Senate, a majority of governorships, and a majority of state legislatures. They might also note that Republican presidents have appointed a majority of our current Supreme Court justices.
But political power is different from cultural power. Since the 1960s, the culture has moved leftward on a whole range of issues, even as Republicans have repeatedly won major electoral victories. After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, so-called progressives decided to accelerate their strategy of pursuing ideological dominance through cultural coercion.
They’ve been dismayingly successful. Across the board, elite institutions have become viscerally, unapologetically hostile to conservatives. Corporate America in particular is terrified of getting in trouble with the woke revolutionaries. People everywhere fear that one ill-advised comment, tweet, or email could cost them their livelihood.
Those fears are wholly justified. After all, you can now lose your job as a graphic designer for making a poor attempt at satire with your Halloween costume two years earlier, even if you apologized for your mistake at the time. You can lose your job at the New York Times for publishing an op-ed by a U.S. senator arguing for a position held by a majority of the public. You can lose your job at a Democratic consulting firm for tweeting about a peer-reviewed academic paper written by a Princeton professor. You can lose your job at a regional Federal Reserve Bank for criticizing calls to defund the police. You can lose your job as a museum curator for saying it would be “reverse discrimination” to ignore the work of white artists.
As of this writing, students and parents are demanding that a Marymount Manhattan College professor lose her job for falling asleep — or at least appearing to fall asleep — during an “anti-racist” Zoom meeting.
Meanwhile, of course, the wholesale assault on America’s past continues apace, with monuments tumbling and schools revising their curricula to depict systemic racism and white supremacy as the most important themes of our history. Anyone who challenges the new regime risks reputational destruction.
Where is all of this going? Nowhere good. As Andrew Sullivan — who is resigning from New York magazine because of the Woke Revolution — has written:
“The erasure of the past means a tyranny of the present. In the words of Orwell, a truly successful ideological revolution means that ‘every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.’ We are not there yet. But unless we recognize the illiberal malignancy of some of what we face, and stand up to it with courage and candor, we soon will be.”