Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Tag Archives: American Ideology

Who Among Us Will Cast the First Bid for Donald Sterling’s Clippers?

by Victor Davis Hanson // PJ Media 

752px-Cliff_Wildes_NBA_sponsor_with_Donald_Sterling_owner_of_LA_Clippers

Cliffwildes via WikiCommons

Americans are outraged by old, sick and pathetic Donald Sterling’s racist rantings—and the manipulative con-artist mistress who recorded their conversation.

But consensus ends after the expression of furor. Who among us is without sin to offer the first bid for his franchise?

If the NBA establishes the precedent that it can force the sale of an owner’s property because of one’s illiberal speech, however odious, what now is the new standard of behavior? A sort of descending French Revolutionary justice, predicated on the sound and fury of the mob?

Harry Reid believes the Washington Redskins owner should be targeted next for his insistence on keeping the Redskins logo. Should he too be forced to sell and by whom—his fellow morally superior owners? Should the Orlando Magic owner, Doug DeVoss, be hounded out of the league—as was recently suggested—because he opposes gay marriage? How many owners don’t believe in the idea of man-made global warming? Oppose illegal immigration? Doubt the wisdom of affirmative action? Can we scour their emails, tap their phones, or ask the public for their private indiscretions? Read more →

Elites’ Sacrificial Victims

When your goal is to save the planet, you can’t worry about who may get hurt.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

Why do our well-meaning elites so often worry about humanity in the abstract rather than the real effects of their cosmic ideologies on the majority? The dream of universal health coverage trumped the nightmare of millions of lives disrupted by the implementation of it. Noble lies, with emphatics like “Period!” were necessary to sell something that 474px-Elizabeth_Warren_CFPBwould hurt precisely those who were told that this was going to be good for them. A myriad of green mandates has led to California’s having the highest-priced gasoline and electricity in the continental United States, a fact that delights utopians in San Francisco and in the long run might help the rest of us, but right now ensures that the poor of the state’s vast, hot interior can scarcely afford to cool their homes or drive to work. Fresno on August 1, after all, is a bit warmer than Berkeley or Menlo Park.

In a word, liberal ideology so often proves more important than people. Noble theories about saving humanity offer exemption from worry about the immediate consequences for individual humans. In a personal sense, those who embrace progressive ideas expect to be excused from the ramifications of their schemes. For the elite who send their kids to prep schools and private academies, public charter schools for the poor are bad, given that they undermine the dream of progressive, union-run education that has turned into a nightmare for those forced to enroll in it.

Recently, pundit Margaret Carlson wrote an op-ed lamenting the fall of Lois Lerner, as if her decline were due to a McCarthyesque hit. But Lerner staged her own dishonest disclosure of impropriety. She set up a phony, preplanned question that might offer her a platform to contextualize her unethical behavior. Despite her protestations that the IRS’s violations all emanated from a rogue office in Ohio, Lerner or her colleagues were in contact with Democratic enablers at the House Oversight Committee and the Department of Justice to find ways to thwart conservative tax-exempt organizations before the 2012 election. Read more →

What Eric Holder Doesn’t Want to Talk About

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans a “nation of cowards” who put “certain subjects . . . off limits”? Holder,

Claude McKay

Claude McKay

of course, was referring to “subjects” that in fact we do nothing else but talk about non-stop – the refusal of whites to admit the persistence of white racism and its responsibility for all the ills afflicting the black underclass. To quote Paul Krugman for this received wisdom, “Race is the Rosetta Stone that makes sense of many otherwise incomprehensible aspects of U.S. politics.”

Yet Holder was unwittingly accurate, for there is a subject the mainstream culture and political discourse never touches: what Harlem Renaissance novelist Claude McKay called the “yellow complex.” This is the psychological condition of light-skinned blacks that was explored in novels of the 1920s like McKay’s Home to Harlem and Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry.  Back then, the mulatto or light-complexioned black, especially the well educated, lived in a social and psychological limbo, excluded by racism from the white world, and forced by segregation to live among darker blacks whom they often despised and looked down on. Yet darker blacks themselves experienced conflicting emotions, at once attracted to and resentful of the light-skinned who scorned them.

Thurman’s Emma Lou is a sympathetic portrait of this complex from the perspective of a woman whose mother is a mulatto, but who inherited her father’s black skin: “Emma Lou had been born in a semi-white world, totally surrounded by an all-white one, and those few dark elements that had forced their way in had either been shooed away or else greeted with derisive laughter.” When she matriculates at an exclusive Negro college, she despises Hazel, another dark-skinned girl who attempts to befriend her, as “just a vulgar little n***** from down South.” Emma Lou “was determined to become associated only with those people who really mattered, northerners like herself or superior southerners, if there were any, who were different from whites only in so far as skin color was concerned.” What she discovers, however, is that most of the light-skinned students to whom she is attracted despise her as much as she despises Hazel.

A creation of racism and segregation, the psychology explored in this persistent theme of classic black literature was supposedly transcended by the “black is beautiful” movement of the 1960s. In black identity politics the poles of value were reversed: the snobbish mulattoes or blacks who lived by so-called “white” values were attacked for “acting white,” and authentic black identity comprised Read more →

Progressive Insurance

The right ideological credentials mean never having to say you’re sorry.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

How do you ensure that you won’t be ostracized, denounced, or fired if you are a media celebrity, captain of industry, or high public official?

For some, sexist banter is certainly no problem. Stand-up comedian Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a c–t and a tw-t, but suffered no ill

SS&SS via Flickr

SS&SS via Flickr

consequences. David Letterman joked on air that Sarah Palin’s 14-year-old daughter had had sex with Alex Rodriguez during a New York Yankees game. There was no downside to that either. President Obama tosses around “sweetie” as he wishes. No problem with that. No one believes Barack could be condescending to women.

It is not just that sloppy speech can, with the right ideological insurance, become irrelevant. Inconvenient truths can be insured against too. Barack Obama’s female staffers make far less than do their male counterparts, at least by the quirky sort of standards that the president himself applies to others to win petty victories in his vaunted war against the war against women. Bill Clinton had sexual relations with a young staffer, in what feminists would call a classic exploitative situation of disparate power. Most such bosses would be fired for hitting on their young assistants. If Woody Allen were not insured as a left-wing filmmaker, he would have been ostracized out of Hollywood.

Racism is not necessarily a job killer either. How could it be, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed during the 2008 campaign that a “light-skinned” Barack Obama spoke with “no Negro dialect.” Joe Biden, himself a candidate in that election, said of Obama that he was the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.” Despite such racist drivel, a fully ideologically insured Biden was rewarded with the nomination for vice president. Read more →

Illiberal Liberalism

The left’s disdain for ordinary Americans has deep historical roots.

by Bruce S. Thornton // Defining Ideas 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama let slip his disdain for the middle-class when he explained his lack of traction among such voters. “It’s not surprising then,” Obama said, “that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade482px-Presidentwoodrowwilson sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” More recently, U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley mocked his opponent incumbent Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” The liberal disdain for ordinary Americans has been around for a long time. Beneath the populist rhetoric and concern for the middle class that lace the campaign speeches of most liberal politicians, there lurks a palpable disgust, and often contempt, for the denizens of “flyover country,” that land of God, guns, religion, and traditional beliefs.

In Revolt Against the Masses, the Manhattan Institute senior fellow and New York Post columnist Fred Siegel presents a clearly written and engaging historical narrative of how nearly a century ago this strain of illiberal liberalism began to take over the Democratic Party. Along the way he also provides an excellent political history of the period that illuminates the “ugly blend of sanctimony, self-interest, and social-connections” lying at the heart of liberalism today.

Siegel begins with a valuable survey of the “progenitors,” the early twentieth-century thinkers and writers whose ideas shaped the liberal ideology. Those who know English writer H. G. Wells only as an early pioneer of science-fiction novels Read more →

America’s New Anti-Strategy

Our allies and our enemies have seriously recalculated where the U.S. stands.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online 

It was not difficult to define American geopolitical strategy over the seven decades

Axis & Allies board game djensen47 via Flickr

Axis & Allies board game
djensen47 via Flickr

following World War II — at least until 2009. It was largely bipartisan advocacy, most ambitiously, for nations to have the freedom of adopting constitutional governments that respected human rights, favored free markets, and abided by the rule of law. And at the least, we sought a world in which states could have any odious ideology they wished as long as they kept it within their own borders. There were several general strategic goals as we calculated our specific aims, both utopian and realistic.

(1) The strategic cornerstone was the protection of a small group of allies that, as we did, embraced consensual government and free markets, and were more likely to avoid human-rights abuses. That eventually meant partnerships with Western and later parts of Eastern Europe, Great Britain, and much of its former Empire, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In Asia, the American focus was on Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. The U.S. military essentially guaranteed the security of these Asian nations, and they developed safely, shielded from Soviet or Chinese Communist aggression, and more recently from Russian or Chinese provocations. Read more →

One California for me, another for thee

by Victor Davis Hanson // Tribune Content Agency 

No place on the planet is as beautiful and as naturally rich as California. And few places have become as absurd.

Currently, three California state senators are either under felony indictment or already have been

Yosemite Valley; Tobias Müller

Yosemite Valley; Tobias Müller

convicted.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) made a political career out of demanding harsher state gun-control laws. Now he is facing several felony charges for attempting to facilitate gun-running. One count alleges that Lee sought to provide banned heavy automatic weapons to Philippines-based Islamic terrorist groups.

State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), who had succeeded one brother, Thomas, in the state Assembly and was succeeded by another brother, Charles, now faces felony charges of wire fraud, bribery, money laundering and falsification of tax returns.

State Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), originally entered politics as a champion of social justice. Not long ago, the Democratic leaders of theCalifornia Senate in secretive fashion paid $120,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual-harassment suit against Wright. But this time around, not even his fellow senators could save Wright, who was convicted earlier this year on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud.

What is the common denominator with all three California senators — aside from the fact that they are still receiving their salaries?

One, they are abject hypocrites who campaigned against old-boy insider influence-peddling so they could get elected to indulge in it.

Two, they assumed that their progressive politics shielded them from the sort of public scrutiny and consequences that usually deter such deplorable behavior. Read more →

The Incoherence of Western Foreign Policy

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The crisis in Ukraine is just the latest in a long series of foreign policy failures brought about by the incoherence in our thinking about foreign relations. On the one hand, we have championed ethnic-national self-determination as the highest international good, while on the other we have assumed that all these various nations and peoples share the same ideals, principles, and goods, and so can comprise a transnational order that will eliminate war and conflict and create peace and prosperity. Over a hundred years of history reveal these ideals not just to be incompatible, but also to foment and worsen inter-state violence. Read more →

Western Arrogance and Decline

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

For three centuries the West built up enormous economic, cultural, and military capital that dwarfs and dominates that of the rest of the world. Other countries may hate and resent Europe and the United States, but they still have to imitate, adapt, or steal the technology, financial systems, and even popular culture of the Titus_LiviusWest. Yet this dominance has come at a price for Westerners, one that contains the seeds of our decline.

One baleful effect of this achievement has been the erosion of the virtues and ideals that created Western dominance in the first place, a phenomenon long recognized as the cost of national success. Two thousand years ago the Roman historian Livy, surveying the wreckage of the Roman Republic, invited his reader to contemplate the “life and manners” of his ancestors that led to their dominance, and “then, as discipline gradually declined, let him follow in his thoughts their morals, at first as slightly giving way, next how they sunk more and more, then began to fall headlong, until he reaches the present times, when we can neither endure our vices, nor their remedies.” Livy specifically linked this decline to the vast increase of wealth that followed the success of Rome, and that “introduced avarice, and a longing for excessive pleasures, amidst luxury and a passion for ruining ourselves and destroying every thing else.”

Clichés, one might say, but no less true for that. The astonishing wealth of the West, more widely distributed than in any other civilization, the abandonment of religion as the foundation of morals and virtues, the transformation of political freedom into self-centered license, and the commodification of hedonism that makes available to everyman luxuries and behaviors once reserved for a tiny elite, have made self-indulgence and the present more important than self-sacrifice and the future. Declining birthrates, a preference for Read more →

The Anti-Empirical Left

Science is ignored when it doesn’t support politically correct policy.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

President Obama entered office promising to restore the sanctity of science. Instead, a fresh war against science, statistics, and reason is being waged on behalf of politically correct politics.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the president attempted to convert national outrage into new gun-control legislation. Specifically, he focused on curtailing semi-automatic “assault” rifles. But there is no statistical evidence that such guns — semi-automatic rifles that have mostly cosmetic changes to appear similar to banned military-style fully automatic assault weapons — lead to increased gun-related crimes.

The promiscuous availability of illegal handguns does. Handguns are used in the vast majority of all gun related violent crime — and in such cases they are often obtained illegally. Yet the day-to-day enforcement of existing handgun statutes is far more difficult than the widely publicized passing of new laws.

Late-term abortions used to be justified in part by an argument dating back to the 1970s that fetuses were not yet “human.” But emerging science has allowed premature babies five months old or younger to survive outside the womb. Brain waves of fetuses can be monitored at just six weeks after conception. Such facts may be unwelcome to many, given the political controversy over Read more →

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