Victor Davis Hanson
The last 14 months have offered one of the rare occasions in recent American history when the hard Left has operated all the levers of federal government. The presidency, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the permanent bureaucratic state are all in progressive hands. And the result is a disaster that is uniting Americans in their revulsion of elitists whose crazy ideas are tearing apart the fabric of the country.
For understandable reasons, socialists and leftists are usually kept out of the inner circles of the Democratic Party, and especially kept away from control of the country. A now resuscitated Bernie Sanders for most of his political career was an inert outlier. The brief flirtations with old-style hardcore liberals such as George McGovern in 1972 and Mike Dukakis in 1988 imploded the Democratic Party. Their crash-and-burn campaigns were followed by corrective nominees who actually won the presidency: Southern governors Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Such was the nation’s innate distrust of the Left, and in particular the East Coast elite liberal. For nearly half a century between the elections of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama, it was assumed that no Democratic presidential candidate could win the popular vote unless he had a reassuring Southern accent.
How did the extreme Left manage its rare takeover of the country between 2018 and 2020? Certainly, Obama’s election helped accelerate the woke movement and energized identity politics. One could also argue over the political opportunities in 2020 following the devastation of COVID-19.
In the long term, the medicine of lockdowns and quarantines probably proved more calamitous than the disease, and this crisis mode made doable what had once been unimaginable. State governors such as Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, and Andrew Cuomo did not let the pandemic crisis go to waste. It was a rare occasion to leverage agendas that otherwise had no public support in ordinary times.
In the chaos of 2020, both laws and customs were altered or scrapped—changing the very way we vote. Over 102 million ballots were either mailed in or cast during so-called “early voting”—strangely resulting in far lower rejection rates in most states than in past “normal” years of predominantly in-person voting on Election Day. Indeed, in just one year, Election Day went from an American institution to an afterthought.
The hatred of Donald Trump prompted an influx of hundreds of millions of dark dollars from Silicon Valley to supplant the responsibilities of registrars in key precincts with armies of paid activists. A non compos mentis, basement-bound Joe Biden was cynically given an “Ol’ Joe from Scranton” moderate veneer to pursue a calibrated hard-Left agenda.
So Americans ended up with a neo-socialist government. It is proving as disastrous as it is bitterly instructive—reminding this generation of Americans what the Left does when it grasps power. As all restraints came off, the hard and now unbridled Left went to work to turn America into something like a looney, one-party California. A wide-open border followed. We may see 3 million illegal aliens cross at the southern border during the first 18 months of the Biden Administration. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allotted to reward those illegally entering America, who can expect free legal support from the U.S. government to ensure they are not subject to the laws of the United States.
In a sane world, Biden would have been impeached for deliberately destroying the very federal laws he swore to uphold. On the prompt of his hard Left controllers, he was eager to alter the electoral demography of the nation rather than ensure immigrants came in reasonable numbers, legally, with audit and background checks, and safely in a time of a pandemic. The former illegal arrivals were seen as needed constituents, the latter legal immigrants too politically unpredictable.
The Left in about a year has negated American gas and oil independence. Biden, who promised to end America’s use of fossil fuels on his watch, cast adrift millions of his fellow citizens to choose between driving and eating. Much of what the Left had traditionally demonized and wanted gone from American life—from gasoline to beefsteak to new pickup trucks—became so inflated in price as to be nearly unattainable.
The electrician now pays five times more for his wire, the carpenter eight times more for his plywood, the plumber six times more for his pipe—as all three have to pay off-the-books cash for rare workers who prefer to get checks from the Biden Administration. The Biden printing press has destroyed both the idea that all citizens will work if there are just good-paying jobs, and that affordable necessities for life—food, fuel, and shelter—form the basis for a middle-class life.
If the Left did all that in 14 months, imagine what it can still do before losing the Congress in 2022.
The Biden Administration’s profligate multitrillion-dollar budget, inflation of the currency, de facto zero interest rates, destructive subsidies that undermined labor participation, and incompetence at addressing the supply-chain and clogged port crises will all by midyear likely achieve a 10 percent annualized inflation rate. Carter-era stagflation is on the near horizon.
When an American president predicts a food shortage in what used to be the breadbasket of the world, then we see the wages of socialism in all their unapologetic cruelty. When the Left can scarcely hide its glee that diesel fuel hit $7 a gallon in California, the public is finally seeing that the Bidens, Newsoms, and AOCs of the world care nothing for the real-life consequences of their elite utopian green fantasies. How did America ever stoop to begging communist Venezuela, theocratic Iran, and dictatorial Russia to pump oil for us that we have in abundance but will not produce? Which insane person thought up the idea of using Vladimir Putin’s Russia as our mediator to restart the Iran Deal?
The now unfettered woke revolution seeks to Trotskyize American history and its heroes. A disastrous foreign policy of appeasement has ended U.S. deterrence. After the worst military humiliation in 50 years in Afghanistan, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea all seek to capitalize on a rare American Phaethon moment. The world’s superpower has turned over the reins of its deterrence chariot to a ninny and his gurus. And before crashing the country, they aimlessly rebound from one self-created crisis to the next self-induced disaster.
The Clerks Come Out
Aside from the dismal left-wing political record, the public has also witnessed an unapologetically leftwing federal bureaucracy now completely unbound. Our top echelon of the administrative state is defiant in its weaponized assumption of legislative, executive, and judicial powers.
We are learning that the likes of Anthony Fauci have all but destroyed the reputation of once time-honored federal health agencies. In their contradictions, about-faces, and deceit, they focused mostly on controlling their multibillion-dollar public fiefdoms, hounding critics, rewarding sycophants, politicizing “science,” hiding culpability about routing money to lunatic gain-of-function research in China, and marginalizing outspoken voices of audit.
The military apparat after Afghanistan—defined as woke Pentagon functionaries, revolving door and politically weaponized corporate generals, and outspoken politicos—managed the impossible: a once revered military now cannot even win a 50 percent vote of confidence from the American public.
The intelligence agencies are worse. Former kingpins such as John Brennan and James Clapper, both pundits for hire on leftwing cable networks, lied under oath before Congress without consequences. When 50 retired intelligence officials during the Biden 2020 campaign claimed publicly that Hunter’s laptop was likely a Russian plot, what then is left of any semblance of nonpartisan professionalism and integrity?
James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Christopher Wray have all eroded the reputation of the FBI by fueling the Russian collusion hoax, the Alfa Bank hoax, and the Hunter laptop disinformation hoax. Since when does the FBI go after journalists in their underwear or moms and dads at school board meetings, as if it is now an extension of the teacher union or DNC?
Along with Robert Mueller—who claimed no knowledge of either the Steele dossier or Fusion GPS—the Washington FBI hierarchy did to the agency what Lois Lerner infamously did to the IRS. Just as Lerner became an extension of the Obama 2012 reelection effort and corrupted tax law, so the FBI descended into becoming the wayward Biden family’s retrieval service—eager to keep quiet Hunter’s incriminating laptop and to rescue Ashley Biden’s lurid diary.
When the evidence becomes overwhelming that the collusionary media lied about the laptop or the origins of COVID-19, there is never a retraction, only a Soviet-style silence about past untruth. And then it is on to the next false narrative.
Add in the conduct of FBI luminaries such as the forger Kevin Clinesmith, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, who preferred to investigate conservatives rather than enemies of the nation. What characterizes, then, our once revered intelligence agencies is not just institutionalized mediocracy. Rather it is a dangerous zeal to enact by fiat politicized agendas that cannototherwise be ratified by a legislative vote—all with the expectation that these sanctified agents of political change are above the law and will be rewarded accordingly.
Our Ill Institutions
Americans had tuned out many of our major institutions that are now openly hostile to American exceptionalism. In their nihilism, leftists seek to destroy the very organizations they absorbed.
Professional sports? Multimillionaire basketball players are more likely to refuse to salute their own flag than to say a word of dissent to their autocratic and often ethnocentric Chinese paymasters.
Higher education? A Yale law school dean contextualizes the loud disruption of free speech by leftist law students at a conference. Only that way can she ensure that rules about open expression remain theoretical, and not real for the woke.
Entertainment? Hiring, promotions, and awards are now based as much on race, gender, and sexual identity as on merit.
Forty years ago, face slapper Will Smith would likely have been removed from the Oscar ceremonies for rudely shouting and interrupting the worldwide show. Twenty years ago, he might still have been rebuked for profanity and yelling the F-word in a live televised event. Now he is neither arrested nor even removed for physically assaulting comedian Chris Rock. His belated contrition is belied by his refusal to leave the ceremony and to go dancing and partying into the post-assault wee hours. Will there be open brawling on stage next year?
The Left got what it wanted and now controls academia, the media, the internet, K-12 education, corporate boardrooms, the Pentagon, Wall Street, and Hollywood. And they more or less have turned each of these into versions of Pravda. The sermons, arrogance, and narcissism of these woke cultural imperialists now explain why they are disliked as much abroad as they are at home.
In sum, we are watching a rare laboratory experiment in which the traditional American fringe is now in control of the government. In pursuit of its utopian omelet, the Left cares little about the millions of middle-class Americans it must break to make it. The result is an unmitigated disaster that not only has tarred the Democratic Party, corrupted once-revered agencies, and alienated half the country from our cultural institutions, but now endangers the very health and security of the United States.