Victor Davis Hanson
Why do so many liberal climate-activist grandees fly on private jets? Or why do those who profited from Black Lives Matter have a propensity for estate living? Or why do the community-activist Obamas prefer to live in not one, but three mansions?
The answer is that calls for radical equity, “power for the people,” and mandated equality are usually mostly sloganeering for those who enjoy power and the lucre it brings, and their wish is to augment both for themselves. The result is that the issue du jour of mandated equality often becomes secondary if not irrelevant. There is neither fear of inconstancy nor hypocrisy, given the central theme that governs a leftist party line is political utility—or the ends of power always more than justify the hypocritical means used to obtain it.
Spout racialist nonsense for 40 years? Harass women and young girls by blowing in their hair and squeezing them too tightly? Create a family grifting syndicate to leverage foreign cash in quid pro quo fashion? Praise racial segregationists?
Joe Biden did all those things and more. But he also did them in service to a supposed noble cause, sort of like the current board president of the NAACP promoting a black travel ban on Florida, while he lives—in Florida!
Keep political utility in mind and the baffling hypocrisy of the Left makes all too perfect sense.
January 6 vs. the “Summer of Love”
From all the tens of thousands of January 6 Capitol protesters a small percentage entered the Capitol itself. Of that group, an even smaller number committed violent acts. Most of those seriously injured that day were among the protesters themselves. Despite official propaganda, there were not five police officers killed on January 6 as alleged by the Left.
Instead, the only likely death at the hand of another was the diminutive, 5’2’’, 14-year-military veteran and unarmed Ashli Babbitt. She was lethally shot by a Capitol officer Michael Byrd for the likely misdemeanor of trespassing and—illegally entering a broken window to the Capitol.
Yet over a thousand protesters were arrested, tried, and mostly convicted of various charges from parading without a permit to insurrection. Many of them were sentenced to long prison sentences. Some may spend most of their remaining lives in prison.
The Left has justified long sentences on three grounds: One, the protesters targeted iconic government buildings as the object of their attacks. Two, the protesters were ideologically motivated and seemed bent on insurrection to warp the political process. Three, the protesters were attempting to nullify an election by their massing at the Capitol and therefore questioned the very integrity of the 2020 election.
In theory these were legitimate reasons to treat harshly any convicted of such insurrectionary crimes. But in reality, the Left cared little about its pretexts justifying harsh responses, much less proving their charges. What mattered were the political opportunities offered by January 6, and the chance to leverage the occasion to consolidate power.
Why and how can one assume that?
In 2020, for 120 days, left-wing mobs led by Antifa and Black Lives Matter wrought far greater destruction in nonstop rioting, arson, looting, and assault. Over 35 people died. Two billion dollars in property damage followed. Some 1,500 officers were assaulted and injured. Over 14,000 protesters were arrested.
Yet few were convicted of any serious crimes; fewer were sentenced to long sentences—given prosecutors, state and federal, claimed the violence was merely a result of protesters exercising their “constitutional right” of dissent.
Left-wing politicians and activists from then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris (“They’re not going to let up, and they should not, and we should not.”) to Nikole Hannah Jones (“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence.”) either excused the often violent protests or urged that they continue.
Far from sending in 20,000 federal troops, as occurred after January 6, the Left demanded that then President Trump not resort to such Draconian measures.
Note that there were lots of government properties deliberately targeted in iconic fashion. A Seattle police precinct (with officers inside ) was set afire. A mob in Washington, D.C. tried to storm the White House grounds in a fashion that sent the president and secret service agents into a subterranean bunker. A historic Washington, D.C. church was torched. Violent mobs set federal and state courthouses on fire in Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Portland.
Second, note these riots and violence were not random. They were coordinated and seemed to wax and wane with some sort of precise coordination—a fact deemed useful in an election year by the Democratic Left.
In her now notorious self-confessional Time essay, Molly Ball bragged that, “There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs.” “The conversation that followed was a difficult one,” Ball explained, “led by the activists charged with the protest strategy . . . We wanted to be mindful of when was the right time to call for moving masses of people into the street.”
Third, had Trump won the 2020 election, the Left was gearing up for yet another round of violence under the pretense that the election had been stolen, in the fashion of its coordinated Washington, D.C. violence on the day of Trump’s 2017 inauguration.
Left-wing election denialism—and real efforts to overturn a presidential election—were certainly not new. After the 2016 election, wealthy leftists and celebrities ran television ads begging electors to reject their constitutional fidelity and the popular vote counts in their states, and instead, in insurrectionary style, cast electoral ballots for Hillary Clinton.
Prominent leftists from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton also had been on record following the 2016 election claiming that Trump was an illegitimate president and the 2016 election had been rigged in Trump’s favor due to the hoax of Russian collusion.
Hillary Clinton—who paid Christopher Steele to use Clinton-related fake sources to compile fabrications and destroy her 2016 rival—later even bragged she was joining “La Résistance.” The chairman of the January 6 committee that damned Trump’s supposed election denialism, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), himself was an election denialist par excellence, who absurdly voted in the Congress to reject George Bush’s popular vote victory in Ohio that decided the 2004 election.
By any fair measure the violence of 2020 was a far greater and more deadly threat to the republic than anything occurring on January 6, 2021. But most of the 14,000 arrested perpetrators who were responsible for that incredible summer of violence were exempted because their mayhem was deemed politically useful—in the same fashion it was advantageous to turn the buffoonish Capitol protesters into seasoned revolutionaries. The common denominator was only the Left’s efforts to warp events to achieve power.
Liberalism That Loses Utility is Left Behind
California has been building massive solar farms in pristine deserts and rural areas. Many spread over thousands of acres and require disruptive supporting infrastructure. In the American Midwest, these new generations of solar farms are unlike anything in our recent past. Often in size larger than Manhattan, they take out of production tens of thousands of acres of prime farmland.
What is curious about all these next-generation projects is the relative silence of environmentalists to the radical disruptions and dangers they pose to fragile and pristine natural landscapes, rare species of flora and fauna, and quality of life for surrounding rural communities.
In the case of hundreds of thousands of lost farm acres, prior liberal advocacy for preserving America’s heartland, and its precious family farm acreage and those who work it, likewise go out the window.
Yet if any clean-burning natural gas plant, affordable housing development, a border wall, retirement community, or farming operation caused as much havoc to the environment as solar—and often wind—farms, there would arise leftist outrage replete with environmentalist-driven court injunctions. In other words, left-wing environmentalism is calibrated only by whether the Left or the Right is reengineering the landscape.
Title IX was an addendum to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex. Through liberal lawsuits and the intervention of activist courts, the statute soon was transmogrified into a sports equity act. Title IX then began to revolutionize high school and college sports programs by demanding equity—in the sense of mandating equal budgets and facilities for women’s and men’s sports.
The rationale was that women’s athletics could only achieve parity with male sports if they were gifted the same sorts of budgets, infrastructure, and institutional support. Whatever the intent of the original statute, whatever the effects of activist court intervention, the result was that women’s sports did achieve a much higher social and cultural profile.
So how ironic, then, that a half-century of athletic transformation has been completely undermined by the current ritual takeover of the sport by biological men declaring themselves transgendered women. The transgendered have done more damage in three years to women’s sports than a century of chauvinist pigs.
In almost every category of competition—track and field, swimming, team sports—prior women’s records have been shattered by athletes who enjoy huge advantages in natural musculoskeletal mass, body size and weight, and innate strength. In the Cold War past, males competing as females were largely a Soviet or Eastern European phenomenon—most notably the Ukrainian sisters, Tamara and Irina Press. The communist bloc, as the Third Reich had earlier in the case of Heinrich Ratjen, scored propaganda points by using males to win “women’s” events.
Soon in reaction, hormonal testing and eventually DNA tests were used to ensure an equal playing field for biological women. No matter. What was once a feminist issue is now considered a right-wing hate crime of insisting that biological males not be allowed simply to redefine an entire segment of American life and culture.
Note that the Left has sided against feminism in its near hysterical promotion of its newest cause célèbre, transgenderism. Note further that biological women do not win many, if any, events as transgendered males, despite the shibboleth that one can construct one’s own sexual identity that will be equivalent to a biological one.
Finally, note that there is no transgendered effort to create a separate category of transgendered sports. Apparently a transgendered Olympics or NCAA event would not offer transgendered contestants and champions the attention and lucre they now achieve by dominating women’s sports. Again, “equity” and feminism were never left-wing positions, but simply useful malleable issues to embrace or reject depending on where and how contemporary political advantage was calibrated.
From Reining in Government Abuse to Cheering It
Read the contemporary news accounts of the 1975-76 so-called “Church Committee,” a select Senate committee formed to expose and rectify dangerous abuses of civil rights and constitutional norms by the CIA, NSA, and at times the FBI.
Most Democrats cheered the post-Watergate committee on, eager to virtue signal as civil libertarians and to stop the rogue and often politically weaponized antics of our investigatory and intelligence agencies.
But while there were true civil libertarians, Left and Right, who weighed in on the committee, the general left-wing giddiness over the investigations was predicated on the post-Watergate Democratic revival—one that ensued from ridding the nation of Richard Nixon and using his disgrace to discredit what were considered conservative institutions.
Fast forward to 2015-23. Over the last eight years it is hard to imagine any illegal act that the CIA, NSA, or FBI would not commit. Their directors—James Clapper, John Brennan, and Andrew McCabe—have all confessed to lying under oath. A more insidious Robert Mueller, James Comey, and Christopher Wray simply invoke amnesiac excuses or plead ignorance when asked directly about the wrongdoing of their agencies or investigations.
The U.S. government, along with the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, paid a foreign national to spy on a rival campaign, compile lies about a rival candidate, and then spread them through government and the media. The FBI arguably sought to alter both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
In this same eight-year period, a FISA court was deluded, and an FBI lawyer altered court documents. Phone records were wiped clean. Subpoenaed devices were destroyed. Key evidence that affected a current campaign was put under FBI wraps. Agents openly texted their intent to ensure a predetermined presidential election result. Americans in general were routinely spied upon. Many were framed by FBI skullduggery and had their lives ruined.
The extent of the lawbreaking and the warping of elections dwarfs anything discovered during Watergate. And yet the Left never objected to these violations of civil rights or the illegal freelancing of intelligence agencies. Far from it—the Left cheered on the illegality.
Why? Because for them hating or worshiping the CIA, NSA, and FBI—or for that matter the Pentagon, IRS, and Justice Department—was never a matter of consistent principle. Instead these bureaucracies were deemed pathological when associated with conservatism and traditionalism, and angelic when their extralegal efforts were put to use for the progressive agenda.
There are some grassroots leftists who are deluded into sincerely believing “equity” can be achieved by government confiscation and redistribution. But for most of the elite, the cause is a means to personal and professional power, a fact that explains why one day walking only on four leftist legs is alone correct, the next day just two.