Long before the rampant violence of the past few weeks, wherever I traveled the country to speak publicly, I unfailingly would be asked the same question: “How did we get here?”

How has the freest nation in human history—the only one founded on the principle that all men are created equal because they are made in God’s image—arrive at the point where more than two-thirds of the millennial generation would prefer to live in a socialist or communist America? 

Before the looting and the riots of recent days, my answer was the same and it hasn’t changed since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police officers.

How did we get here?

Sadly, we arrived at this deeply disturbing point because of a decadeslong campaign by the left and cultural elites to transform our country. They have indoctrinated generations of Americans into hating their own country through education, media, and institutions that once believed in the American ideal.

Unfortunately, despite noble efforts by a small number of conservative culture warriors, we have too often been stymied by the Republican political establishment. These political leaders have failed us, and they did so in multiple ways over multiple decades. 

When and where did it begin? It began after the failure of the rioters the last time our streets were on fire and police stations were being razed to the ground.

In 1968 and ’69, the radical left went all in. From the University of Berkeley campus to the streets of Chicago, groups such as the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground were using violence to effect political change in the name of “justice” and “equality.” But they failed.

Despite the killings and the bombings, America didn’t turn into a Maoist utopia. Chicago’s “Days of Rage” fizzled out and their uprising resulted in a damp squib. 

But what did the “revolutionaries” do? Did they surrender their radical dreams, did they fold up their Che T-shirts and donate them to the thrift store? No, they learned from the proponents of a subtler revolution, studied the method of the members of the Frankfurt School, and adopted the works of thinkers and activists such as Saul Alinsky, the grandfather of “community organizers.”

They realized that a culture and a society as robust in its classic traditional values as America can resist all forms of violent frontal assault and that the only what to dismantle it is from the inside. Thus, hardcore anti-American radicals such as the Weather Underground’s Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, previously wanted by the FBI as domestic terrorists, made their way into our culture and wound up as college professors.

Yes, those who wished to destroy our nation were entrusted with shaping the minds of future generations. And this was allowed by establishment Republicans.

Nor was it just the college campuses that became centers for America-bashing indoctrination. Those who had failed to set the country ablaze set to work sabotaging the minds of our children in far subtler ways. And when fellow radical Howard Zinn wrote his 1980 book “A People’s History of the United States,” they had all the ammunition they needed. 

Zinn was an unrepentant socialist, a man who saw the world through the Marxist lens of class struggle, with the population of the globe divided between victim groups—usually people of color—and the oppressor, exclusively white. And the worst imperialist oppressor of all? America, of course.

That was Zinn’s message and it suffused his book, which would have been fine had it stayed in the “class struggle” section of bookstores in San Francisco. But it didn’t.

Zinn’s America-hating screed would, thanks to the assiduous work of fellow travelers on school boards and in teachers unions across the country, become the most popular textbook of American history in our schools. 

Consequently, for two generations, our children were taught that whatever the ill—poverty in Africa, environmental degradation of the Amazon, international terrorism—it was an imperialist America built on slavery that was invariably the root cause.

Labor camps in the Soviet Union? America’s fault because of our desire to “encircle” and destroy Russia. Communist China oppressing ethnic and religious minorities? America’s fault because we weren’t opening up trade relations rapidly enough with the dictators of Beijing. Religious oppression of the great people of Persia by the blood-soaked murderers of Iran’s Islamist regime? America’s fault because we shouldn’t have helped Iraq after the fall of the shah.

And on and on and on. 

What did most of the Republican establishment do? Nothing. Of course, some brave souls said enough is enough and took their children back to school them at home.

But what did the party do collectively to stop the indoctrination of more than two generations in America’s schools and universities? Nothing. In fact, most of us kept writing those checks to our alma maters because, well, didn’t I have a good time in college? 

What did establishment Republicans do as Alinskyite tactics were deployed across the other key elements of our culture? From taxpayer-funded NPR’s becoming a literal mouthpiece for the Democrat Party, daily parroting left-wing talking points, to Hollywood’s shifting from being the maker of incredible pro-liberty and pro-America movies such as “Casablanca,” “Sergeant York,” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” to being a mill for conservative-bashing agitprop films by Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, and Michael Moore?

What did the establishment do as the subtly biased news media of the Cronkite years devolved into a rabid, festering pile of leftist propaganda that would side openly with rioters, call white men the greatest danger to America, and label the incumbent president a Kremlin asset for four years straight? 

What did each of us do to take back our republic? Did we even really understand what the late great Andrew Breitbart taught us when he warned us that “politics is downstream from culture?”

Conservatives have the facts on our side; indeed, we have the truth on our side. But does that matter? Commentator and radio host Ben Shapiro has built a career on the commonsense motto: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” (Actually, facts don’t care about anything).

But so what? We live in an age when young Americans are so emotionally driven that they are actually proud to be called “snowflakes,” ready to melt if challenged. 

Facts matter, but only so much if you can’t emotionally connect with the audience you wish to win over. Those who aren’t looting Saks Fifth Avenue or stores that sell Nike shoes but actually are marching for George Floyd believe America is systematically racist and feel that they are being virtuous by chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Defund the Police!”

As conservatives, we have to win them over to our side with arguments that resonate as much as those empty yet radical slogans do. Our Founding Fathers knew how to do that, the men who pledged not only their possessions and their lives to justice and peace, but also their “sacred honor” to our nascent republic.

Is the conservative movement ready to do that? Do we have the tools necessary to win over the disaffected and the apolitical before the extremists win?

The window is short, my friends. We can do this, but we must get serious now.

The left has only division and anarchy to offer. Conservatives have the answers. Just listen to Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James on the answers our Founders used to create our nation.

The challenge now is to use the solutions to save America.