The Liberal Super Nova

by Victor Davis Hanson

PJ Media

Two parties, left and right, are central to good consensual government — one the perennial check on the other, both within the general boundaries of constitutional free-market capitalism.

Yet the hard-Left takeover of the Democratic Party has meant that there is no longer a credible balance in our system, as almost all the tenets of contemporary left-wing ideology are blowing up, imploding super nova style — unsustainable ideas that are contrary to human nature and demand coercion for their implementation, given that they are increasingly anti-democratic and have to be implemented from high by an elite technocracy whether in Brussels, Sacramento, or Washington.

Far too much is always seen as not enough: Greeks are angry that there was too much “austerity” and not enough of the old borrow and spend; Obama is blamed for only borrowing $5 trillion for too “little” stimulus; Democrats threaten to withhold from the community-organizer Obama because he was not hard enough on “fat cats” and the capitalist state; in California, a 10.3% income tax is too low, not too high. When the remedy is seen worse than the disease, then the patient is indeed terminal.

What follows is a brief survey of the fissuring liberal world in which we live.


All of Europe to some degree is democratic socialist, but some states–the PIGS [1], for example — are more so than others. So the current meltdown is a morality tale of those nations and regions that sought to stay fiscally responsible — say, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands — and those that did not: France to some degree, and, of course, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Cite geography, Catholicism versus Protestantism, weather, geography, history — any cultural barometer you like — but the truth is that one workable paradigm reflects human nature, of spending only what you make, and the other does not.

The latter insolvent states now call for “growth” instead of “austerity,” but what intellectually dishonest euphemisms! The choice is really between “borrowing to spend” and “fiscal discipline.” Frame it like that, and would Obama be demanding that Greece and Spain “borrow” more and not be fiscally disciplined? (OK, yes, he still would.)

The liberal model — borrowing huge sums, rigging interest and the currency to enable state profligacy, turning large swaths of the population [2] into less productive unionized government workers or dependents on the dole who vote in thanks to political hacks — simply does not work. How could beautiful blue-state California lose almost a million refugees to arid Texas? I like Texas, but Dallas had far less of nature to work with than did San Francisco. (It takes a lot of human failure for thousands to give up verdant California to move to Utah or the Nevada desert.) What we are witnessing is nothing short of surreal: in the manner that Tijuana was a different universe from San Diego, so too the entire state of California is becoming a different world from its neighbors. Whether one examines its near dead-last schools, its oppressive income and sales taxes, its decaying roads and infrastructure, its absurd prison system, its dysfunctional state offices (try the DMV), or its priestly public employee caste, California is becoming Detroit [3].

Do any believe pre-Walker Wisconsin was more viable than it is now? Did union memberships of public workers soar after Wisconsin state employees were given the chance to join or not join the union, or did they dip precipitously [4] among the very class who protested the reforms? (So is it to scream publicly against Walker and then quietly go home to quit the union and get your dues back?)

From Greece to Italy to California to Wisconsin to Obama’s Washington, the verdict is in: the democratic statist model of trying to provide cradle-to-grave benefits, administered by an elite technocratic class, using demonization to bully the opposition and redistribute income, not only does not work, but cannot ever work. Note that President Obama — $5 trillion in new debt, “stimulus,” millions added to food stamps, unemployment benefits vastly expanded, near-zero interest rates, enormous subsidies for wind and solar — never concedes his blue-state neo-socialism is not working (even though it is almost impossible to stymie the US economy).

Instead, the tsunami did it. No, it was the Republican Congress that after 2011 stopped all the good things he did between 2009-2010. No, it was automation like ATM machines. No, of course, George W. Bush damaged Obama’s economy in the manner that Reagan could not do anything because of Carter’s legacy. No, it was the EU and its failure to spend and “grow” more. No, the private sector is “fine”; the problem is cutting back like Walker is doing in Wisconsin.


Everyone understood that industrializing economies were hard on the environment and at some point ecology and conservation would have to restrain the idea of unchecked development. Without a green force, we get 1970s Lake Erie. But the present liberal green orthodoxy has become an absurd paradox.

Why? Because it cannot resolve two mutually contradictory impulses: the romance of a pristine pre-industrial paradise and the reality of all the appurtenances that go with the present affluence. Even environment-correctness is not exempt. Want a solar farm in the desert? Not if you disrupt a turtle migration path. Aren’t windmill farms the answer? Not if you shred red-tailed hawks on occasion. Don’t you want to put nuclear waste in a safe place rather than above ground? Not if you wish to endanger salt formations hundreds of feet below. Radical environmentalism is nihilistic: it cannot progress or regress, a victim of its own contradictions [5] of wanting nice things to spontaneously generate ex nihilo.

No one believes that Al Gore lives his life according to nature [6], or that Bay Area communities do not flush their treated wasted into San Francisco Bay, or that professors and actors pass up granite counters, hardwood floors, and cell phones. Take three or four emblematic careers of well-known liberals — a George Clooney, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, or John Kerry [7]. In the environmental sense, does any doubt that they are both green and indulgent? In the economic sense, both populist and, in terms of their own lexicon, overpaid? In the social sense, both egalitarians and one-percenters?

Look at greens in Germany [8]: all the nation’s nuclear plants are to be shut down. Its sizable coal reserves are too hard on the environment. There is little domestic natural gas or oil. Solar is a joke under cloudy skies. Huge windmills look like frozen dinosaurs on the landscape stuck in tar. Where then comes the power to make matchless BMWs, where the electricity to run sleek “mass transit”? I suggest that soon, if the mentality does not change, Germany will buy electricity from France, or import natural gas to power its dynamos, or quietly rely more on coal. Again the essential truth: free-market Western democratic capitalism is sustainable, both environmentally and economically, and alone gives us the affluence and freedom to allow a sizable minority to divorce itself from the gritty daily tasks of production to critique and revile the very system that nourishes them.

As long as we realize that parlor paradox, we are fine. But once we allow the poseurs to run things, we are back to Icarus of myth. In other words, it is only annoying that a Senator Obama on the back bench from time to time is grandstanding and demagoguing Guantanamo, calling for “millions of green jobs” in subsidized solar and wind industries, or insisting on “cap and trade”; but no one in his right mind would ever vote such a megaphone into power, no more than young Phaethon would be given Helios’s chariot or Narcissus would be pried from his reflecting pool.

Race and Culture

The current multicultural paradigm in the West simply does not work, again due to its innate contradictions of wanting what is supposedly wrong. Ostensibly because of past imperialism, colonialism, racism, and privilege, dominant so-called white (if any can define it) culture in the West must not only apologize for Western influence, but assume it exists only through ongoing exploitation of the “other.” And, second, due to endemic bias, so-called minorities must be given exemption from social norms — different requirements for hiring and admission, politically correct no-go zones in discussions of crime and pathologies, and a general culture of self-censorship about why, say, a Detroit looks like Hiroshima [9] did nearly 70 years ago, or why millions flock to a Cologne, Los Angeles, or London, but no one is dying to reach Cairo, Algiers, Oaxaca, Lagos, or San Salvador. Race is not the reason, but culture most certainly is [10].

Consider just two news items that reflect the modern liberal implosion: the Trayvon Martin case and the Elizabeth Warren fraud. Both tell us a lot about liberal notions of race. In the former, the media did all that it could to construct a racial fantasy: on the one hand, Martin was to be a preteen model student, eating Skittles, when gratuitously assassinated; Zimmerman, on the other hand, was a white gun-toting German vigilante out to racially profile blacks and shoot them “like a dog.” The goal was to prove again that America is a dangerous place for young black men, given the ubiquity of roving white shooters, and, in a larger sense, to remind us of the ongoing need for the entire liberal idea of guilt and reparations.

Absent, as it had to be absent, was the truth: Martin was a suspended, not a model, student. He bragged in social network pages of both drug use [11] and violence, and was kicked out of school for possessing “a burglar” tool from school. He likely beat Zimmerman to a pulp and did not cry for help, but rather was on top of one who far more likely did. Zimmerman suffered head wounds and a broken nose. He was Hispanic (had he spiced up his name to Jorge Zimmerman, he would probably not be in jail). He was not a racist vigilante, but a nervous neighborhood watch monitor who assumed that black youths had recently burglarized his middle-class community. He found himself in a fistfight with a 17-year-old, fit youth who was pounding his head to the pavement. And then he shot the attacker who was not armed.

Whether that act was reckless endangerment, self-defense, involuntary manslaughter, or second-degree murder, a jury — not the commentary of Al Sharpton or Barack Obama — will decide. What we do know, however, is that almost nothing that the media and the Congressional Black Caucus told us about the case proved true. The notion of a white male berserker on the hunt for preteen candy-eating blacks lost in the rain was critical to the racial narrative. And in a larger sense, there could be no collective worry about frightening statistics of black-on-black crime, vastly disproportionate black-on-white crime incidence, and soaring illegitimacy, incarceration, and single parenthood. The pathologies of the underclass minority community, then, are critical arguments for compensation and reparation for an elite careerist class such as the Congressional Black Caucus — all of which brings us to the Warren embarrassment.

You see, in our sick world, the two incidents are somewhat connected. Because of the pathologies of the inner cities and disparate rates of success for some minorities, a pink Elizabeth Warren can con victimhood. There are impediments, of course, to inventing a victimized identity: intermarriage and immigration have made irrelevant the neat distinctions of black/brown/white. The soaring success of Punjabis, Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asians has rendered the old liberal dogma — non-white=a bleak future of racist oppression without massive government intervention — obsolete. There is a rising awareness that Great Society remediation worsened, not ameliorated [12], the struggle of the underclass. Millions of so-called white youth who grew up under affirmative action are unlikely white oppressors, who daily stifle the aspirations of minorities, or who perpetuate 19th-century oppressions, or who have helped created a Western system that no one seeks to join or wishes to benefits from.

Yet Warren — pink and blond — managed to con Harvard University and the law profession in general. What was brilliant about her scam was its utter cynicism about modern liberalism.

“Race” for Warren is a Foucauldian construct. It did not even matter that she lied about the meaningless 1/32 drop from a mythical great, great, great grandparent. It did not matter that she did not even attempt the Ward Churchill-like effort of dressing up in buckskin and playing Indian. Instead, she knew the university, and so she knew it was essentially a racial fantasyland where upper middle class elites can fabricate oppressed backgrounds, often through mere assertion, hyphenation, and accentuation, to take a guilt-ridden class to the cleaners, in the unspoken bargain that in return the latter can continue to enjoy their rather insular lives apart from the world of Trayvon Martin.

The result was that Warren was a minority with all its accruing perks because she said she was and to question that would be racist, reactionary, you name it. When pressed, family lore and high cheekbones were cited. But no matter, in postmodern thinking there are no facts, just competing discourses. And hers was just as valid as the old white male doctrinaire reductionist creed of asking for proof of ethnic heritage.

Warren, you see, was the twin [13] of Trayvon Martin. Because we as a society, despite a trillion dollars spent, have a poor track record of keeping Trayvon Martin, and fifty-percent of the urban minority class, in school, away from drugs, and prepped for an equal shot at the good life, we compensate by allowing an overdog like Elizabeth Warren to be a safe surrogate Trayvon Martin — especially because she is white, blond, fuzzy, non-threatening. And so, presto, the Harvard faculty has a pet “Native American” to feel good about. The dimensions of that fact of race and affirmative action were well known to Barack Obama throughout his career, and are not hard to fathom in his own memoir.

We could go on forever with illegal immigration, the therapeutic university, or the media, but the message is universally the same: we are coming to the theoretical limits of liberal orthodoxy. Detroit is liberalism’s Nagasaki; California its Greece — and the hated Scott Walker its Angela Merkel.

All the old shiny chrome is rusted and crumpled: Harvard? Knee-deep in the Elizabeth Warren scam.The Noble Peace Prize [14]? Neither Al Gore nor Barack Obama had a record of bringing peace to anyone. The postmodern EU and its vaunted euro? The mystery is how even technocrats could design such a suicidal currency. The paper of record? The New York Times has become a sort of shopper’s insert, its op-eds and news accounts synopses of yuppie and baby-boomer angst.

Like a super nova, contemporary liberalism is imploding through its own irreconcilable forces.

URLs in this post:

[1] the PIGS:
[2] swaths of the population:
[3] California is becoming Detroit:
[4] did they dip precipitously:
[5] a victim of its own contradictions:
[6] according to nature:
[7] John Kerry:
[8] greens in Germany:
[9] Detroit looks like Hiroshima:
[10] culture most certainly is:
[11] of both drug use:
[12] worsened, not ameliorated:
[13] was the twin:
[14] The Noble Peace Prize:

©2012 Victor Davis Hanson

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