Taking aim at critical race theory, Ron DeSantis grabs reins of the conservative movement

getty: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

By casting the fight against critical race theory (CRT) and general wokeness as an existential struggle for America’s soul, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has made a grab for the reins of a movement that awaits a political leader.

Sure, Virginia’s Gov.-elect, Glenn Youngkin, won on the strength of his vow to fight CRT’s inroads in the Old Dominion, and that is to his credit. But parents pushed him into it; DeSantis has been far more proactive and comprehensive in fighting CRT and wokeness.

At a recent rally, DeSantis took aim at the totalizing threat of cultural transformation:

“I think what you see now with the rise of this woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history and our institutions,” DeSantis said, adding that a “cultural Marxism” of which CRT is a prime example, is designed to “tear at the fabric of our society and our culture and things that really we’ve taken for granted.”

“We have the responsibility to stand for the truth, for what is right,” DeSantis told the crowd. “We also have to protect our people and our kids from some very pernicious ideologies that are trying to be forced upon them all across the country.”

According to A.G. Gancarski, a Floridapolitics.com reporter who covered the rally, the governor said the proposal would follow the state board of education’s statement supporting the teaching of the Declaration of Independence, and give parents a “private right of action” to sue districts that implement CRT’s bigotry in the classroom.

“The parents know best what’s going on, and they’re in the best position to do it,” DeSantis said, adding that his proposed legislation would defund schools that hire CRT “consultants” and would prohibit the use of discrimination in school employee trainings. The new law would also allow employees to sue companies that imposed CRT trainings because they are a form of workplace harassment.

The legislation that will be the vehicle for DeSantis’s fight against CRT, the Stop W.O.K.E Act, is still being written, and the details will matter. If it includes book-banning language, it will invite the type of attack in the courts (and the court of public opinion) that other state efforts have attracted. That would be a mistake.

But it is important not to lose sight of the forest for the trees. The Florida proposal gets to the heart of the matter that we are facing: Critical race theory is not really an effort to give students a fuller picture of America’s history, warts and all. It’s an attempt to destroy America’s identity as a nation constantly striving to live up to the promise of freedom and opportunity, and replace it with an alternative story.

The recognized godfather of CRT, Harvard’s Derrick Bell, was very clear about the transforming goals of CRT. “As I see it, critical race theory recognizes that revolutionizing a culture begins with the radical assessment of it,” he wrote in 1995. CRT posits that America’s reigning ideology is “white supremacy” and that racism in America is “systemic, structural and institutional.” So, according to this belief, the system itself, the institutions and the structures must be undermined from within.

How the resulting void would be filled is more difficult to ascertain. We know that many of CRT’s main architects are Marxists, Marxist sympathizers or critics of capitalism. But Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves were not entirely clear about the ensuing mechanics once capitalism was eliminated. They advocated for the abolition of private property, the family, the free exchange of goods, the nation-state and God himself. But aside from correctly prognosticating that violence would be a must, or that the government would need to make “despotic inroads” once it actually started taking people’s property away, they were not fulsome with specifics.

All Marx and Engels promised was an earthly utopia, a materialist one. What the practitioners of their ideology have given the world since the first Marxist Revolution triumphed, in Russia in 1917, has been very heavy on “despotic inroads” and very light on utopian outcomes.

DeSantis, the governor of a state in which many residents are the descendants of victims of communism, or suffered under it themselves, has grasped what is at stake. His movement to grab the leadership of the movement confronting all that makes perfect sense. 

Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation. His latest book is “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution.”

Tags Critical race theory Critical theory crt Friedrich Engels Glenn Youngkin Karl Marx Marxism Marxist theorists Ron DeSantis virginia governor race education critical race theory glenn youngkin democrats

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