Does America Still Work

Victor Davis Hanson // American Greatness

For nearly two years, Americans have engaged in a great woke experiment of cannibalizing themselves. American civilization has invested massive labor, capital, and time in an effort constantly to flagellate itself for not being perfect.  

Yet neither America’s resilience nor its resources are infinite. We are now beginning to see the consequences of what happens when premodern tribalism absorbs Americans.

There are concrete consequences when ideology governs policy or when we take for granted the basics of life to pursue its trappings.

Who cares whether the blow-dried media is woke if it cannot report the truth and keep politicians honest?

Once journalists became progressive poodles rather than the watchdogs of government, the Biden Administration had no fear of audit. It took for granted that its disasters from the southern border to the chaos in Afghanistan would be excused by toady reporters.  

Government-engineered “equity” has replaced the goal of equal opportunity. But such utopianism birthed popular anger when personal initiative, excellence, and performance do not count as much as virtue-signaling groupthink. 

The United States just suffered a terrible and shameful defeat in Afghanistan. The catastrophe reminds us that the Biden Administration weaponized its politicized military and bureaucracy mostly to fixate on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and to root out supposed internal American enemies.

So, our top brass and functionaries talked of redirecting the military to every possible woke agenda—except ensuring military superiority and the safety of the United States. 

The result is the horrific mess of a premodern Taliban army routing the most sophisticated military in the history of civilization. We shudder when America begs premodern tribes please not to murder our citizens whom we abandoned in full retreat.

Our airline CEOs vie to virtue signal their wokeness by damning voter ID laws—though such identification is required to board their own airplanes. As corporations preen to the media, their jet airliners lately don’t have enough fuel to reach their destinations. The new American airline normal is woke delays, woke cancellations, and woke anarchy in the skies. 

Universities now subject their admissions, their hiring, and their very research to race and gender directives. There is less concern for the collective student debt of $1.7 trillion. College students may graduate woke, but they do so with far less impressive reading and writing skills than their less politically correct predecessors a half-century ago.

Are college administrators really so virtuous when they boast of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion? Why then do they ignore indebted and poorly educated graduates—veritable serfs who cannot afford homes, put off raising families, and prolong their adolescence rather than becoming autonomous citizens?

We know from centuries past what policies ensure public safety and which guarantee crime. All laws must be enforced equally. Yet now suicidal critical race and legal theories govern which laws are enforced and which are ignored. 

If a state attorney prosecutes crimes—or chooses not to prosecute them—on the basis of ideology and race rather than on questions of impartial law, then who would obey, much less honor any of them?  

The police must not just be monitored, but respected and supported. Today they are defamed and defunded. If those who commit crimes do not expect to be arrested, tried, convicted, and punished, then crime pays. And so we get more of it. 

Cries to empty the jails and prisons and pull back on police might sound neat on Twitter. But lots of innocent Americans will suffer the deadly consequences of someone else’s virtue signaling. 

Before a country can conduct cancer research, explore outer space, or defeat its enemies thousands of miles away, its citizens must have access to affordable fuel, food, and shelter. 

But ideologues now restrict irrigation water, gasoline supplies, power generation, and timber production. They may seem woke and enlightened to each other. But otherwise, they are indifferent to the exorbitant cost of living, the growing shortages of necessities, and the hundreds of thousands of homeless living amid filth, excrement, and disease on the nation’s urban sidewalks and streets. 

Social media fights, the cancel culture wars between celebrities and elites, the virtue signaling of academics, actors, and activists—all of it means nothing if Americans do not have safe roads, viable travel, affordable gas, food, and housing, and safety in their homes.

Increasingly, they do not have these things. Woke leaders are losing the ability to do the hard and essential work of civilization, largely because they are obsessed with the dispensable. 

We live in a world of cell phones, Skype, and Zoom. But high tech has become a mere veneer pasted over medieval urban streets, Depression-era highways, and Third-World airways. It is more dangerous to walk the nighttime streets of Chicago than it is those of war-torn Kabul or Baghdad. 

Until our officials can ensure a humane and sustainable standard of living, we have no business lecturing others abroad, much less conducting endless witch hunts of our own at home. 

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17 thoughts on “Does America Still Work”

  1. Well it was incredibly cynical of Nixon to “kick this marijuana thing right in the puss.” In his words of course. Millions of lives ruined, right here in the USA. The beat cop became the armed authoritarian he always was, but on the prowl to punish the wayward pilgrims with their now illicit crops. The antique ritual of rifle, saber and arqebus to hunt the peasant now morphed to nine millimeter bullets, radio communicating iron speedy cars, and then full military spec op ensemble, rendering the lay side completely out of depth.

    What in incredible opportunity to foment civil war from equally unpatriotic hellhounds, the new boss left.

  2. Victor,

    As usual, thank you. I think even among conservatives you have the clearest voice of them all and the real experience of how this impacts the lives of the average American citizen.

    I thought one of the dumbest things said this week by our leaders is this; “To defend this Nation, we need a healthy and ready force,’ Austin said in the memo. ‘After careful consultation with medical experts and military leadership, and with the support of the President, I have determined that mandatory vaccination against coronavirus disease…is necessary to protect the Force and defend the American people.” It was the last part of that quote that amazed me. We will leave our citizens in Afghanistan but in the same breadth say that troops must have the vaccine shot to protect our citizens. Amazing that someone can be so blind to the reality of what is happening.

    Again thank you.

  3. Dr. Hanson:
    Thank you for your writing and speaking. Your podcast is my almost daily run soundtrack. I have 2 points to make in response to this outstanding article and really a theme you are carrying with your appearances:

    1. It’s not wise to use the bible in political/general discussions (and I wish the Evangelical Right would stop) but for me, it’s God’s Word and I teach kids in Catechism what is generally agreed among anthropologists, historical evidence, theologians and the like: There is a natural knowledge of A god, small ‘g’ designed into the humans–from looking at the natural world, and from the conscience there is the knowledge that there is a powerful, almighty, just god out there somewhere. And the bible says that when human beings deny the existence of a ‘god’ they are foolish in the strongest sense of the word because they are denying or ignoring something that is natural, something that they at their core cannot deny. Could we say that the largest collection of atheists or anti-religious are a part of this ‘woke’ leftist progressive ideology? I think so. There is such a disconnect of reasonable thinking and decision making that is it any wonder why things are so drastically out of control? I guess I would put this wave of thought in the context of what Reagan said about communism, “We need to put this in the ash heap of history,” along with Fascism and communism, which brings up my next point:

    2. Equity is nothing more it seems to me than communism. Let’s control the outcome, and make everyone equal on the other end. Equal opportunity has always been a hallmark of our country. Merit, effort, self-improvement and growth in knowledge or ability has always been the shining jewel of this country that someone had the freedom to shape their own future, and it was just a little blip in the media when the word ‘equity’ came into the heart of this present presidential administration and hardly anyone realized it until the school boards started using ‘critical race’ in curricula. Equity is a good word because almost sounds like “equality” but you know that it’s like you or me giving a test. Some studied hard and some almost not at all, but I’m going to give them all the same grade. It sounds a lot like this pandemic, too. “We’re going to treat everyone the same. We’re going to punish the class for the 1 or 2 that screwed up.” We need people and especially journalists to start calling a spade a spade and renew our founding principles that made someone like Abraham Lincoln who he became on the basis of his merit, self-growth, effort, a completely self-made man and not on the basis of who he was or where he came from.

    We’re very close to losing that. The president yesterday masterfully misquoted and misapplied his Isaiah attempt at appealing to Christian Right when he said, “Who will go for us? Who will I send.” In the sense that he used that passage, I will, then, too. “Who’s going to rise up and start this reform for the heart of America?” And I guess I would say, it has to be the people. It has always been the people. But if the vote is lost? It will be brought about with guns and troops. Lord, have mercy.


    Why is San Francisco allowed to wash feces and needles down the storm drains and out into the ocean? Untreated sewage dumped into the bay? Where is the EPA? Or Sierra Club zealots? What a crap hole third world toilet! How about Santa Cruz? Surfers in cesspools ? What a utopia!

  5. Thank you VDH for yet another classic dissection of what ails our tattered republic.
    As far as academia is concerned, just to take one hypocritical example, consider the enormous endowments the woke universities have at their disposal. Look up top university endowments and the numbers are staggering. Harvard is over 40 billion, Yale is over 31 billion and on it goes. What are the chances these woke institutions would redistribute all their wealth to the needy? Not a chance. Leftist Elites love their money while the lecture the rest of us about the evils of the free market.

  6. Life in America as we have known it has changed in many different ways, and, more disturbingly, over a relatively short period of time.

    It’s hard to believe what we are witnessing today: Critical Race Theory is rolling back Martin Luther King’s colorblind society and essentially placing white children on trial for the sins of their distant ancestors; our media, which once symbolized America’s First Amendment and acted as a bulwark to tyranny, are now nothing more than propagandists and useful idiots of the Left; and the Democratic Party has become a sick intellectually bankrupt group of power hungry elites that has infected the highest levels of our federal government.

    After Jimmy Carter’s failed presidency, liberal ideology had been tried and thoroughly rebuked. Four years of a stagnant economy, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the permanent civil rights industry had failed to persuade a large majority of the nation to embrace its policies on the economy, foreign affairs, and social issues. Americans by nature do not tolerate losers and failures for very long. What followed Carter was 12 years of conservative success under Reagan and Bush and the Gingrich revolution of the 90’s. Al Gore’s narrow defeat to George W. Bush seemed to be the final blow to an all but dead political movement.

    Then came Nancy Pelosi’s take over of the House in 2006 and the election of equally radical Barak Obama to the White House. In what appeared to be a pact with the Devil, the new Democrats discarded the old liberal white guys of the past and allowed the most radical fringe of the party – the Jackson and Sharpton race hustlers, the Teachers Unions, and all of the other environmental cucks and whackos – to use Alinsky style tactics and deceptions to push forward socialism. Shifting demographics from both legal and illegal immigration have flipped many traditionally red states, and if the trend continues, this anaconda strategy will radically redefine the American electorate and make a once proud free country just one more tried and failed socialist utopia.

    Over the Fourth of July my partner and I attended a local fireworks display at Port Orchard, Washington. Across the bay from us was the Bremerton Naval Shipyard where you could see a couple of aircraft carriers. The USS Missouri had been docked here for many years and both my grandfather and uncle had worked in the shipyard. The crowd was mostly white and Hispanic, and working class. People were walking around unashamedly in American flag attire and most had arrived in pick up trucks. I noticed nearby market vendors were selling tie-dye t-shirts. There was also live music that was entertaining the crowd with such classic rock favorites as Touch of Gray, Sweet Home Alabama, and Purple Haze. The faint smell of marijuana was in the air too.

    Overall, the crowd was peaceful and patriotic. Just another Fourth of July in normal America. But what struck me was all of the relics from the 1960s Woodstock generation, ie. the music, psychedelic inspired tie-dye shirts and casual acceptance of pot.

    We can absorb these legacies of the old hedonist hippie left. But I fear the new fascistic socialism will destroy our proud and great nation.

  7. A country and it’s government is only as good as its citizens and voters. Look at what has transpired in America. The same slimy shady politicians keep getting elected and re-elected to the detriment of our country. The MSM is a disgrace as are many of our universities and big tech and now our military leaders … And we keep voting for turds, buying from companies which abandoned the USA for cheap labor in China so corporate big wigs make even more billions of dollars … I could go on ad nauseam … but I’ll spare you. America is only as good as its people. I’m afraid we have earned some harsh hard times.

  8. The beginnings of this insanity go back at least a century, with the big government weed really taking root under FDR. LBJ cultivated the hell out of it, and the “free stuff” culture has been on the rise, with personal responsibility on the decline, ever since. Today we have a government which operates by one rule- do whatever is expedient.

  9. Your words are salve. Write on from our shared perspective because it provides the reassuring clarity of good men, real virtue, and heightened thought of educated leaders (needed to advance civilization). Thank you!

  10. Most Americans agree with Victor, but most fancy themselves too civil to confront the premodern tribes. Perseus used his sword to kill Medusa. We need to gird our loins to confront the modern Medusa.

  11. Marxism is here. It is now in our K12 schools (just need to look closely and ask a lot of questions). It wants to tear this country apart. The two parent Christian family is the greatest threat to this ideology! Communities need to come together. Take the ‘fight’ to the state school board, state representatives and maybe research and join the Convention of States to limit Federal Govt over states. We live in the greatest country in the world!

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