Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Architecture of Regime Change

by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review

The ‘Resistance’ is using any and all means — lies, leaks, lawbreaking, and violence — to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

The problem with the election of President Donald J. Trump was not just that he presented a roadblock to an ongoing progressive revolution. Instead, unlike recent Republican presidential nominees, he was indifferent to the cultural and political restraints on conservative pushback — ironic given how checkered Trump’s own prior conservative credentials are. Trump brawled in a way McCain or Romney did not. He certainly did not prefer losing nobly to winning ugly.

Even more ominously, Trump found a seam in the supposedly invincible new progressive electoral paradigm of Barack Obama. He then blew it apart — by showing the nation that Obama’s identity-politics voting bloc was not transferrable to most other Democratic candidates, while the downside of his polarization of the now proverbial clingers most assuredly was. To her regret, Hillary Clinton learned that paradox when the deplorables and irredeemables of the formerly blue-wall states rose up to cost her the presidency.

And now?

We are witnessing a desperate putsch to remove Trump before he can do any more damage to the Obama project. Political, journalistic, and cultural elites of a progressive coastal culture aim at destroying the Trump presidency before it can finish its full four-year term.

The branches of this insidious coup d’état are quite unlike anything our generation has ever witnessed

I. Political and Judicial

a. Warping the Electoral College. As soon as Trump was elected, progressives mobilized to overturn the very architecture of the Electoral College. They organized efforts to persuade delegated electors not to vote according to their own state results — as they were legally or informally pledged to do so. Had the effort succeeded, it would have destroyed the entire constitutional notion of an Electoral College.

b. Challenging the 2016 Vote. Simultaneously, we saw another failed insurrectionary effort, through the stalking horse of failed leftist candidate Jill Stein, to sue on false grounds of voting-machine fraud that would have required recounts in three swing states that Trump won.

c. Delaying, Stalling, and Accusing. Then Democrats in the Senate systematically delayed customary approval of dozens of key appointments of the newly inaugurated president. Obama holdovers such as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates sought to oppose Trump initiatives while political appointees such as Obama federal attorney Preet Bharara complained of inordinate pressures to step down. The normal assumption is that a new president appoints key federal officials of his own party; liberals abandoned this custom and depicted Trump’s staffing efforts as some sort of insurrectionary subversion of the federal government.

d. Recusal. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress orchestrated false charges of “Russian collusion” against Trump himself, based on leaks of false information and fake-news stories, some of them originally orchestrated by Never Trump primary opponents and the Clinton campaign.

No evidence emerged of Trump’s culpability. But investigations were aimed at diverting attention from, and thereby stalling, the Trump legislative agenda. Again, the goal was driving his popularity ratings down to levels that would advance the cause of future impeachment should the Democrats ride the anti-Trump collusion hoaxes to midterm victory in the House.

An effective way to emasculate Trump was to demand recusals, supposedly due to some sort of hyper-partisanship on the part of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. No sooner had each agreed to step aside from some limited aspects of their investigations than Democrats insisted that their magnanimous recusals were both proof of guilt and yet too narrow — as they pressed on to seek recusals from ever more Trump White house officials.

e. The 25th Amendment. A few of the more desperate in the progressive resistance were calling for Trump to be removed due to supposed physical or mental incapacity — a trial balloon sent up that quickly imploded when only a few op-ed writers and fringe talking heads seconded the idea.

f. Justice-Shopping. To stop Trump’s plan to temporarily suspend immigration from war-torn Middle Eastern nations unable to establish proper vetting procedures, attorneys and activists sought out liberal justices on the federal bench. Such judges in some cases extra-judiciously sought to cite Trump’s campaign statements as proof that his orders were unconstitutional, when the law did not provide them with the necessary progressive ammunition.

g. “The Resistance.” Democratic politicians and media figures announced that they had formed a “Resistance” to thwart all initiatives by Donald Trump. The nadir of this movement came when failed candidate Hillary Clinton announced that she too was officially enlisting — as if Trump were some sort of Hilterian or Vichy figure that required Hillary, as a freedom fighter of the Maquis, to metaphorically go up into the scrub with beret and Sten to ambush and harass.

h. “Special Investigator.” The crown jewel in the Democratic efforts to overthrow the Trump administration was to replay, endlessly, the golden moment of Watergate. Here the playbook was to shout out so many purported transgressions — collusions, obstructions of justice, profiteering, etc. — that their sheer number would demand a special prosecutor, who through months of endless and always expanding inquiries could effectively enervate the Trump administration. By first demanding a special prosecutor, Democrats were able to negotiate downward to a special investigator. Former FBI head Robert Mueller — long a close friend to Trump nemesis James Comey — almost immediately staffed his team with a number of Democratic kingpins. And on cue, “unnamed sources” almost immediately leaked news of renewed and expanded investigations to the appropriate progressive papers.

i. Nullification. Following the model of 1860s South Carolina, a number of states declared that Trump’s efforts to enforce federal immigration law were null and void within many of their own counties and cities. California went so far as to pass a bill in its senate that blacklists any employer contracting with the federal government to complete the border wall. Governor Jerry Brown announced that he would be forging special climate-change agreements with foreign government — as if his state was a sovereign nation. Nullification was based on the premise that liberal progressivism trumped existing federal law — and that no conservative state or local jurisdiction would ever dare to employ the same extra-legal strategies to nullify federal progressive statutes.

j. Emoluments. A final rearguard effort brought lawsuits by various Democrats under the so-called emoluments clause found under Article 1 of the Constitution. Forbidding federal officials from receiving foreign titles, perks, and profits, the clause was originally intended to prevent the creation of an entrenched nobility. Democrats are suing Trump on charges that some overseas holdings of his business, now put in a trust, are unconstitutional and grounds for impeachment — although not in the sense that Bill and Hillary Clinton profited enormously, via honoraria and cash payments to their foundation, while Hillary was secretary of state.

II. Media and Popular Culture

a. Fake News. At the same time of the political putsch, the mainstream media outlets, in particular the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the major networks, via broadcasts and social media, began an orchestrated campaign of defamation and delegitimization.

The crazier and more diverse the media mythologies, the better. Melania Trump was a former call girl and illegal alien. Ivanka Trump was peddling her business wares from the West Wing. Jared Kushner was a profiteering collusionist. Steve Bannon was a racist, Sebastian Gorka an unrepentant Nazi. Baron Trump was a spoiled, autistic child. The late elder Trump had run a racist campaign for mayor. And on and on.

Simultaneously, there were the daily Trump false buffoonery stories: Trump had screamed at the Australian prime minister. He had leaked Israeli intelligence. He had removed Martin Luther King’s bust from the White House. He greedily ate two ice-creams scoops while selfishly offering his guests only one.

Other fake chaos narratives added to the sense of presidential malpractice: Jeff Sessions was about to resign. So was his assistant, Rod Rosenstein. James Comey soon would announce to the Congress that Trump was under current FBI investigation. Steven Bannon was out. General Mattis was liable to quit. Trump threatened the Mexican president with an invasion. Trump was lying about sending carriers to the Korean coast. All false stories, but all useful to the regime-change narrative.

The media’s opinion journalists grew unhinged. Even the past scandals of JournoList and the 2016 WikiLeaks troves — which exposed collusion between the media, the DNC, and the Clinton campaign — did not prepare us for what followed after the election. Journalists Jim Rutenberg, Christiane Amanpour, and Jorge Ramos, among others, insisted that the president did not deserve unbiased news coverage but rather orthodox hostility from journalists who were impatient with the slow progress of the Democrats’ Resistance efforts.

The daily fare of major media columnists and anchors exclaimed that Trump was either inept, criminal, or traitorous, and therefore he should summarily resign, face trial, or be impeached.

b. Scatology and Obscenity. Democratic politicians as well as celebrities felt that by customarily employing crude language and scatology, they could mobilize the base, blame the new uncouth environment on Trump (who deserved such an obscene counterpunch), and lower the bar even further for more attacks.

So Democratic grandees such as DNC chairman Tom Perez, would-be Obama 2.0 candidate Senator Kamala Harris, or New York’s Senator Kirsten Gellibrand routinely began using “f***” and “s***” in efforts to arouse and coarsen. The implication was that Trump’s ascendance had ruined political discourse by forcing formerly sober and judicious politicians like themselves to lower themselves in kind. A New Republic author cheered the politicians on and demanded even more scatology.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper insulted a Trump supporter by saying he’d slavishly defend Trump even if Trump deposited feces on his desk. Politico’s Julia Joffe suggested that Trump had committed incest with his daughter. Bill Maher went graphic by envisioning father and daughter engaged in oral sex. Stephen Colbert thundered that Trump was a routine fellator of Vladimir Putin. The cruder the allusion, the higher the standing of the slanderer in the Resistance — again creating a landscape in which a president guilty of the worst sorts of crimes against nature should logically deserve . . . what next, exactly?

c. Assassination Chic. So far, we have heard that Snoop Dogg wants to shoot an effigy of Trump in the head. Comedian Kathy Griffin dreams of beheading him. A New York Shakespearean troupe night after night stabs an iconic Trump into a bloody pulp, Caesarian style, cheered on by the thrilled audience. Madonna dreams of blowing Trump up, along with everyone else in the White House. Actor Robert de Niro will settle for battering his face. Mickey Rourke prefers a club. Martha Stewart is content with flipping him off, while flashing the V-sign to heroic assassination cultist Snoop Dogg. A writer for the Huffington Post demands Trump’s trial and execution. Even near my home at the CSU Fresno campus, a history professor has openly called for Trump to be hanged while a colleague at the Hoover Institution mused that Trump could be removed by a murder in the White House.

Yet where does one go after rhetorical killing becomes commonplace and the vocabulary of death is exhausted? We almost had our answer last week, with the planned targeted assassinations of Republican members of Congress.

d. Burn, Storm, and Disrupt. Campuses, from Middlebury to UC Santa Cruz, from Berkeley to Claremont, are on fire. Taking their street cue from the Resistance, they now have all but abolished the right of free speech on campus, lawful assembly, and nonviolent protest. At first, careerist campus presidents sought to channel the violence profitably into the larger Trump Resistance. Now their Frankenstein monster threatens to swallow its academic parent. All the while, the subtext of the campus meltdown is $1 trillion in student debt, millions of students unable to do basic college work, and no job guarantees for indebted graduates with worthless therapeutic degrees.

III. Will These Efforts to Remove Trump Work?

Not if he can mobilize the Congress to pass health care and tax reform and give the nation a sense of political momentum, to add to his already substantial executive orders. A 3 percent annual economic growth rate would silence a lot of shrill voices, as would the restoration of U.S. deterrence abroad without the step of invading a Middle East country.

To create a sense of political deterrence, the Congress should call in former Obama attorney general Loretta Lynch to explain to the nation why she sought to massage and impede an ongoing FBI investigation, and why she met — secretly — with the husband of Hillary Clinton, who was then under investigation.

Why is James Comey to be exempt from violating FBI protocols and perhaps federal statutes by leaking a privileged government document to the press, and why did he allow his agency to be manipulated by the former attorney general? No one has adequately explained how Bill Clinton freely and with exemption warped his wife’s office of secretary of state to rake in donations to the family foundation and honoraria for himself.

The House investigations of the improper surveillance, unmasking, and leaking by the Obama administration should accelerate.

Anyone, celebrities included, who talks of maiming or killing the president of the United States should be put on a terrorist no-fly list for six months.

There is an easy standard of acceptable public discourse: If the same violent rhetoric were directed at Barack Obama, would it have been acceptable? (Recall that Obama jailed a YouTube video maker for an inconvenient film, and had political opponent Dinesh D’Souza sent to prison on an inflated campaign-donation violation.)

For now, the Democrats and the progressive movement cannot find ways to oppose Donald Trump through traditional political means either in the Congress or through the ballot box. They have resorted to an any-means-necessary effort to dehumanize Trump and politically emasculate him before the 2020 election.

Unfortunately, the logical succession to such progressive political hate speech, and assassination-wishing, is still more political violence of the sort we saw last week.

And this is only the beginning.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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