It’s long. I always wish people simply published their thoughts in written form rather than asking to sit and listen to them talk. But this one is definitely worth the trouble. I don’t think you’ll find a better explanation of what happened, why this election is questionable, and where we are.
No city gets a pass from history, not Athens, not Rome, not Alexandriaâ€”not Detroit, Baltimore, or Chicago.
After all, there is no rule that just because Bill Gates and Amazon headquartered in Seattle that its mayor, city council, and state governor will not abandon its signature downtown. What once made Portland great can be undone in a few weeks.
Wall Street may run the world, but it certainly does not run the New York City government. Electronic capital really does still have human legs and when the proverbial suited investor thinks he will be infected, short of toilet paper, or assaulted on the street, he leaves, taking his laptop with him. Bill de Blasio is left to govern, like a horned and bearded Visigoth, over an increasing shell of former grandeur.
To venture into San Francisco is to return in a time machine to 1855, a boomtown based on silicon chips, not gold dust, but one likewise lawless, fetid, and safe only for those with private security guards. To the casual visitor, it appears a lunatic place now recalibrated for the homeless, the looter, the assaulterâ€”and the very rich. Crimes like public defecation and drug use, or shattering the windows of a parked car window to steal its contents are not crimes unless the targets are the well-connected.
The story of all Dark Ages is that when civilizations finally prefer suicide, they do it easily, and the remnants flock to the countryside to preserve what they canâ€”allowing the cities to go on with their ritual self-destruction.
As a general rule, when the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting Service, NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN begin to parrot a narrative, the truth often is found in simply believing just the opposite.
Put another way, the mediaâ€™s â€œtruthâ€ is a good guide to what is abjectly false. Perhaps we can call the lesson of this valuable service, the mediaâ€™s inadvertent ability to convey truth by disguising it with transparent bias and falsehood, the â€œDoctrine of Media Untruth.â€
Victor Davis Hanson notes that times of crisis tend to make one wonder about where exactly the merit in the American Meritocracy resides.
In a sophisticated society under lockdown, is it more existentially valuable to know how to fix a toilet, replace a circuit breaker, or change a tire, or to be a New York fashion designer, a Hollywood actor, or a corporate merger lawyer? At 9 p.m., when you go downtown in need of a critical prescription, are you really all that furious that a law-abiding citizen who has a gun and concealed permit is also in lineâ€”or would you be more relieved that gun control laws might ensure that his ilk never enters an all-night pharmacy?
So who is important and who not?
We were often told globalized elites on the coast were the deserved 21st-century winners, while the suckers and rubes in-between had better learn coding or head to the fracking fields.
But who now is more important than the trucker who drives 12-hours straight to deliver toilet paper to Costco? Or the mid-level manager of Target who calibrates supply and demand and is on the phone all day juggling deliveries before his store opens? Or the checker at the local supermarket who knows that the hundreds of customers inches away from her pose risks of infection, and yet she ensures that people walk out with food in their carts? The farmworker who is on the tractor all night to ensure that millions of carrots and lettuce donâ€™t rot? The muddy frackers in West Texas who make it possible that natural gas reaches the home of the quarantined broker in Houston? The ER nurse on her fifth coronavirus of the day who matter-of-factly saves lives?
Do we really need to ask such questions of whether the presence of the czar for diversity and inclusion at Yale is missed as much as the often-caricatured cop on patrol at 2 a.m. in New Haven?
Do social justice student protestors who surround and heckle the politically suspicious now in ones and twos also scream in the faces of the incorrect plumber who unclogs their locked-down apartment drain?
The virus has reminded us again, but in an unorthodox fashion, that the world is bifurcated by the degreed versus the non-college educated, rural versus urban, sophisticates in opposition to supposed rubesâ€”and the dichotomy has been telling. I donâ€™t suppose Rick Wilson will go on CNN again to do his fake-Okie accent to ridicule the supposed unwashed, who deliver his food and energy, as viewers might wonder what exactly was his expertise.
Will multibillionaire Mike Bloomberg really convince anyone that a farmer operates by simplistic rote, and someone like himself is critical to Americaâ€”one who censored the politically incorrect reporting of his own journalists while he schemed to find ways to capitalize Chinese Communist-owned companies with western currenciesâ€”at huge multi-billion-dollar profits to himself?
When your refrigerator goes out under quarantine and your supplies begin to rot, do you really need another rant from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)â€”or do you rather need a St. Michael Smith and St. Uriel Mendoza to appear out of nowhere as the archangels from Home Depot to wheel up and connect a new one?
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
Victor Davis Hanson observes Contemporary Progressive “progress” and finds it rather lacking in comparison the past which it always sneers at and condemns.
In terms of learning, does anyone believe that a college graduate in 2020 will know half the information of a 1950 graduate?
In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could todayâ€™s high-school graduate even finish â€œThe Good Earthâ€ or â€œThe Grapes of Wrathâ€?
True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. * But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal.
Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.
As we walk amid the refuse, needles and excrement of the sidewalks of our fetid cities; as we sit motionless on our jammed ancient freeways; and as we pout on Twitter and electronically whine in the porticos of our Ivy League campuses, will we ask: â€œWho were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?â€
That clever old curmudgeon Victor Davis Hanson argues that colleges have been burying young people in student loan debt in return, too often, for worthless degrees in left-wing nonsense.
[T]he modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once positive role.
Let us count the ways higher education had done its part to nearly harm the United States. A new generation owes $1.5 trillion in student debtâ€”a sum that an increasing majority of debtors either cannot pay back or simply will not.
Oneâ€™s 20s are now redefined as the lost decade, as marriage, child-rearing, and home buying are put off, to the extent they still occur, into oneâ€™s 30s.
Bitterness abounds when graduates gradually learn that their liberal anti-capitalist professors and administrators were part of a profit-rigged system by which peasant students became financial cannon fodder. For all the hipster left-wing campus atmospherics, the university operated more or less as a Madoff/Ponzi scheme: for each new admitted class of students, the fed backed another round of usurious loans that could never be paid back by those of little means, and the university upped its prices.
The result was reduced teaching, a bonanza of release time, administrative bloat, Club Med dorms, gyms, and student unions, and epidemics of highly paid but non-teaching careerist advisors, and counselors.
The university was now in loco parentis, a sort of granny that babysat men and women of arrested development and encouraged the idea that they were helpless. The more students were considered â€œadultsâ€ in matters of loud and boisterous protests, obscene speech, binge drinking, common drug use, and hook-up sex, the more they wished to be treated as Victorian children. Suddenly kids were shocked that the inebriated acted dangerously and boorishly, upset that the targets of their attack did not like them, and furious that sexual congress without commitment and love was often manipulative and embedded within male callousness and deceit.
Adolescent-adults were oblivious to changing public attitudes that no longer put up with â€œcollege anticsâ€ but saw the university and its students and employees as pampered, hypocritical, intolerant, and often obnoxious. Shrill campus protests seemed like Antifa boot camps without the masks and clubs. …
Indebted students, many with largely worthless degrees, and few employment opportunities sufficient to repay their loans, have become a loyal progressive constituency. How odd that an entire generation, in psychologically and financially suspended animation, is seen as useful by the very politicos who created this labyrinth of exploitation in the first place.
Victor Davis Hanson marvels at how things have changed. Once upon a time, Americans of immigrant or minority background Americanized their names and whitened their skins and tried hard to pass as members of the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. Today, Barack Obama’s African identity won him the presidency, the Irish “Beto” O’Rourke pretended to be Hispanic in order to win a seat in the Senate, and Elizabeth Warren leveraged imaginary Cherokee blood into a Harvard professorship.
[I]n a multiracial society like ours no one is usually quite sure of any ancestry that he claims (ancestry companies run TV ads precisely on the notion that we will all be surprised by our DNA results). And when superficial appearance is no guarantee either of minority status (given that we have not yet established DNA badges or quite reestablished Old Confederate racial purity standards), almost anyone can say he is anyone he pleases. Nor is class much help, since thankfully it has become more or less divorced from race and ethnicity. (Most white deplorables and irredeemables did not grow up in upscale neighborhoods nor did they have educated parents like those of Harris and Ocasio-Cortez.)
Is race then becoming a mere construct that we put on and take off as though it were a suit of clothes? In our collective effort to create difference where it does not always exists, we would have to invent an Elizabeth Warren or Ward Churchill if they did not existâ€”given the perceived advantages of white suburbanites in gaining a part time minority cachet deemed advantageous in terms of career and psychological well-being.
How odd that our establishment insists that being â€œwhiteâ€ is synonymous with unearned â€œwhite privilege,â€ while millions of whites in job and college applications for decades have been trying to con fake minority-identities and while upscale minorities have no desireâ€”even when intermarried, assimilated, and integrated into the majority cultureâ€”of emphasizing the partial white ancestry that is so frequently part of their heritage. The old idea of â€œpassingâ€ now means hoping to be tagged as non-white, not white. The effort is certainly similar to the lunatic racial obsessions of the past, but the conditions under which advantage is measured have flipped completely. ….
Minority identity has become a brand for the upper middle class in the manner of a luxury car. One strives to drive a Mercedes or Jaguar not because it is more reliable or even all that much more drivable than a Toyota or Honda, but because it signals a particular cachet. And so too wealthy suburbanites often find emphasizing non-white identities useful even if it means occasionally constructing them.
Most of the constructed identity movement is deeply embedded within progressive and identity politics of the Left. In our strange society, a Shaun King, who appears to be as white as his birth certificate seems to suggest, is considered a more authentic African-American than a conservative and quite darker Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up in poverty and discrimination in the Jim Crow South and yet is often despised by progressives as inauthentic. ….
In the past, immigrants of all classes and backgrounds sought to identify as Americans and did so authentically, on the premise that one left oneâ€™s old country for a reason and had no wish to replicate its failures in a new and preferred homeland.
Now many immigrants and natives often wish to distance themselves from the perception of belonging to American majority cultureâ€”but many do so as inauthentically as their less well off forefathers once authentically sought to join it.
Victor Davis Hanson sees the old American norms transformed in the Kavanaugh process, and he sees all this as a major milestone on the road of American decline.
The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and their endless sequelae have ended up as an epitaph for a spent culture for which its remedies are felt to be worse than its diseases. Think 338 B.C., A.D. 476, 1453, or 1939.
The coordinated effort to destroy Brett Kavanaughâ€™s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court required the systematic refutation of the entire notion of Western jurisprudence by senators and much of the American legal establishment. And there was no hesitation in doing just that on the part of Senate Democrats, the #MeToo movement, and the press. And I write this at a moment in which conservatives and Republicans still control the majority of governorships, state legislatures, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and the presidencyâ€”a reminder that culture so often is far more powerful than politics.
So, here we were to be left with a new legal and cultural standard in adjudicating future disagreements and disputes, an utterly anti-Western standard quite befitting for our new relativist age:
The veracity of accusations will hinge on the particular identity, emotions, and ideology of the accuser;
Evidence, or lack of it, will be tangential, given the supposed unimpeachable motives of the ideologically correct accuser;
The burden of proof and evidence will rest with the accused to disprove the preordained assumption of guilt;
Hearsay will be a valuable narrative and constitute legitimate evidence;
Truth is not universal, but individualized. Fordâ€™s â€œtruthâ€ is as valid as the â€œTruth,â€ given that competing narratives are adjudicated only by access to power. Ford is a victim, therefore her truth trumps â€œtheirâ€ truth based on evidence and testimony.
Questionable and inconsistent testimony are proof of trauma and therefore exactitude; recalling an accusation to someone is proof that the action in the accusation took place.
Statutes of limitations do not exist; any allegation of decades prior is as valid as any in the present. All of us are subject at any moment to unsubstantiated accusations from decades past that will destroy lives.
Assertion of an alleged crime is unimpeachable proof. Recall of where, when, why, and how it took place is irrelevant.
Individual accusations will always be subservient to cosmic causes; individuals are irrelevant if they do not serve ideological aims. All accusations fit universal stereotypes whose rules of finding guilt or innocence trump those of individual cases.
The accuser establishes the conditions under which charges are investigated; the accused nods assent.
Our cultural traditions are being insidiously rewritten in this new Dark Age. We know now that Euripidesâ€™s Phaedra should have been believed, as a female accuser of rape. Perhaps university presses can either reissue properly corrected editions or ban the Hippolytus entirely. No doubt we will ban Racineâ€™s PhÃ¨dre as well. Harper Leeâ€™s Tom Robinson deserved his fate because his female accuser should have been believedâ€”and perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird should be rewritten as well. In our time, we have finally and only now belatedly realized that Tawana Brawleyâ€™s voice was stifled.
If all this is not a scandal â€” then the following protocols are now considered permissible in American electoral practice and constitutional jurisprudence: An incumbent administration can freely use the FBI and the DOJ to favor one side in a presidential election, by buying its opposition research against the other candidate, using its own prestige to authenticate such a third-party oppositional dossier, and then using it to obtain court-ordered wiretaps on American citizens employed by a candidateâ€™s campaign â€” and do so by deliberately misleading the court about the origins and authors of the dossier that was used to obtain the warrants.
At Thanksgiving, Victor Davis Hanson is grateful for our parents’ generation, the generation that won the War, particularly those like my own father who served in the Marine Corps.
Much has been written about the disappearance of these members of the Greatest Generationâ€”there are now over 1,000 veterans passing away per day. Of the 16 million who at one time served in the American military during World War II, only about a half-million are still alive. …
More worrisome, however, is that the collective ethos of the World War II generation is fading. It may not have been fully absorbed by the Baby Boomer generation and has not been fully passed on to todayâ€™s young adults, the so-called Millennials. While U.S. soldiers proved heroic and lethal in Afghanistan and Iraq, their sacrifices were never commensurately appreciated by the larger culture.
The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.
Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugalâ€™s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.
America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, Americaâ€™s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.
Certainly, what was learned through poverty and mayhem by those Americans born in the 1920s became invaluable in the decades following the war. The World War II cohort was a can-do generation who believed that they did not need to be perfect to be good enough. The strategic and operational disasters of World War IIâ€”the calamitous daylight bombing campaign of Europe in 1942-43, the quagmire of the Heurtgen Forest, or being surprised at the Battle of Bulgeâ€”hardly demoralized these men and women.
Miscalculations and follies were not blame-gamed or endlessly litigated, but were instead seen as tragic setbacks on the otherwise inevitable trajectory to victory. When we review their postwar technological achievementsâ€”from the interstate highway system and California Water Project to the Apollo missions and the Lockheed SR-71 flightsâ€”it is difficult to detect comparable confidence and audacity in subsequent generations. To paraphrase Nietzsche, anything that did not kill those of the Old Breed generation made them stronger and more assured.
As an ignorant teenager, I once asked my father whether the war had been worth it. After all, I smugly pointed out, the â€œvictoryâ€ had ensured the postwar empowerment and global ascendance of the Soviet Union. My father had been a combat veteran during the war, flying nearly 40 missions over Japan as the central fire control gunner in a B-29. He replied in an instant, â€œYou win the battle in front of you and then just go on to the next.â€
I wondered where his assurance came. Fourteen of 16 planesâ€”each holding eleven crewmenâ€”in his initial squadron of bombers were lost to enemy action or mechanical problems. The planes were gargantuan, problem-plagued, and still experimentalâ€”and some of them also simply vanished on the 3,000-mile nocturnal flight over the empty Pacific from Tinian to Tokyo and back.
As a college student, I once pressed him about my cousin and his closest male relative, Victor Hanson, a corporal of the Sixth Marine Division who was killed on the last day of the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. Wasnâ€™t the unimaginative Marine tactic of plowing straight ahead through entrenched and fortified Japanese positions insane? He answered dryly, â€œMaybe, maybe not. But the enemy was in the way, then Marines took them out, and they were no longer in the way.â€
Victor Davis Hanson has a fine rant contending that, in today’s America, a hankering to order the stars in their courses and reform everything in the world from the bottom up tends to go hand in had with complete incompetence and a total inability to deal with basic responsibilities.
The recent Academy Awards ceremony turned into a monotony of hate. Many of the stars who mounted the stage ranted on cue about the evils of President Donald Trump.
Such cheap rhetoric is easy. But first, accusers should guarantee that their own ceremony is well run. Instead, utter bedlam ruined the event, as no one on the Oscar stage even knew who had won the Best Picture award.
Stars issued lots of rants about Trump, but were apparently unaware that one of the ceremony’s impromptu invited guests was a recent parolee and registered sex offender.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to offer all sorts of cosmic advice on the evils of smoking and the dangers of fatty foods and sugary soft drinks. Bloomberg also frequently pontificated on abortion and global warming, earning him a progressive audience that transcended the boroughs of New York.
But in the near-record December 2010 blizzard, Bloomberg proved utterly incompetent in the elemental tasks for which he was elected: ensuring that New Yorkers were not trapped in their homes by snowdrifts in their streets that went unplowed for days.
The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials. When they are unwilling or unable to address premodern problems in their jurisdictions — crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation — they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.
In this regard, think of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent promises to nullify federal immigration law — even as he did little to mitigate the epidemic of murders in his own city.
Former President Barack Obama nearly doubled the national debt, never achieved 3 percent economic growth in any of his eight years in office, and left the health care system in crisis. But he did manage to lecture Americans about the evils of the Crusades, and promise to lower the seas and cool the planet.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, likewise ran up record debt during his tenure, culminating in a $25 billion deficit his last year in office. Schwarzenegger liked to hector state residents on global warming and green energy, and brag about his commitment to wind and solar power.
Meanwhile, one of the state’s chief roadways, California State Route 99, earned the moniker “Highway of Death” for its potholes, bumper-to-bumper traffic, narrow lanes and archaic on- and off-ramps. During California’s early-February storms, the state’s decrepit road system all but collapsed. A main access to Yosemite National Park was shut down by mudslides. Big Sur was inaccessible. Highway 17, which connects Monterey Bay to Silicon Valley, was a daily disaster.
Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, warned of climate change and permanent drought and did not authorize the construction of a single reservoir. Now, California is experiencing near-record rain and snowfall. Had the state simply completed its half-century-old water master plan, dozens of new reservoirs would now be storing the runoff, ensuring that the state could be drought-proof for years.
Instead, more than 20 million acre-feet of precious water have already been released to the sea. There is nowhere to put it, given that California has not build a major reservoir in nearly 40 years.
The crumbling spillways of the landmark Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, threaten to erode it. Warnings of needed maintenance went unheeded for years, despite the fact that some 20 million more Californians live in the state (often in floodplains) than when the dam was built. Meanwhile, the state legislature has enacted new laws regarding plastic bags and transgender restrooms.
We have become an arrogant generation that virtue-signals that we can change the universe when in reality we cannot even run an awards ceremony, plow snow, fix potholes, build a road or dam, or stop inner-city youths from murdering each other.
Do our smug politicians promise utopia because they cannot cope with reality?
Victor Davis Hanson explains the 2016 Populist Revolt to his professional associates in elite Coastal California.
What America watches on television and on the silver screen is created either in Los Angeles or New York. The nationâ€™s world-ranked Ivy League and West Coast universities are almost all in blue America. Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the preeminent financial institutions are likewise centered in urban corridors. The federal government operates in the progressive culture of Washington, D.C. The reasons for this lopsided concentration are part historical and part geographical, but not necessarily a referendum on either contemporary competency or character.
The result nonetheless is an abyss, in which power brokers who shape the way America is entertained, educated, financed and governed are often unaware of how half the country lives â€” or the effects of their own tastes and policies upon them. Yet the hinterland is no cul-de-sac, but rather the proud generator of most of the nationâ€™s fuel, food and manufactured goods â€” the traditional stuff of civilization.
The Trump revolt was also a push back against winner-take-all globalization that enriched the populated coasts far more than the open spaces in between â€” that made London spiritually closer to Manhattan than to upstate New York, and Tokyo or Bangalore more attuned to the Bay Area than to the Central Valley a hundred miles away.
People outside of New York and San Francisco seemed to have the strange idea that the wheat they grew or the oil they fracked were just as important to Facebook and Goldman Sachs employees as the latterâ€™s social media pages and stock portfolios were to farmers and oil drillers.
In part, the rural backlash was fueled by a sense that half the country â€” the quieter and more hidden half â€” did not like the cultural and economic trajectories on which the cities were taking the country. It was not just that they saw a $20 trillion debt, the slowest economic growth since the Hoover administration, a federal takeover of the health care system, offshoring, outsourcing and open borders as part of their plight.
Rather, they cited these as symptoms of a blinkered elite that had lost its bearings and was insulated from the reality that governs life elsewhere: debt really does have to be paid back rather than doubled in eight years. Something like the Affordable Care Act that is sold as offering more and costing less simply cannot be true. The cyberworld still does not bring food to the table, put fuel in the gas tank or produce wood floors and stainless steel appliances.
Urban elites seldom experience the full and often negative consequences of their own ideologies. And identifying people first by race, tribe or gender â€” by their allegiance to their appearance rather than to the content of their characters â€” has rarely led anywhere but to tribalism and eventual sectarian violence.
The result was that when Trump, the outsider without political experience, appeared as a hammer, rural America apparently was more than happy to throw him into the glass of the bicoastal establishment, without worrying too much about the shards that scattered.