Will DEI End America—or America End DEI?

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

At the nexus of most of America’s current crises, the diversity/equity/inclusion dogma can be found. The southern border has been destroyed because the Democratic Party wanted the poor of the southern hemisphere to be counted in the census, to vote if possible in poorly audited mail-in elections, and to build upon constituencies that demand government help. Opposition to such cynicism and the de facto destruction of enforcement of U.S. immigration law is written off as “racism,” “nativism,” and “xenophobia.”

The military is short more than 40,000 soldiers. The Pentagon may fault youth gangs, drug use, or a tight labor market. But the real shortfall is mostly due inordinately to reluctant white males who have been smeared by some of the military elite as suspected “white supremacists,” despite dying at twice their demographics in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they are now passing on joining up despite their families’ often multigenerational combat service.

The nexus between critical race theory and critical legal theory has been, inter alia, defunding the police, Soros-funded district attorneys exempting criminals from punishment, the legitimization of mass looting, squatters’ rights, and general lawlessness across big-city America.

The recent epidemic of anti-Semitism was in part birthed by woke/DEI faculty and students on elite campuses, who declared Hamas a victim of “white settler” victimizing Israel and thus contextualized their Jewish hatred by claiming that as “victims,” they cannot be bigots.

There is a historic, malevolent role of states adjudicating political purity, substituting racial, sex, class, and tribal criteria for meritocracy. They define success or failure not based on actual outcomes but on the degree of orthodox zealotry. Once governments enter that realm of the surreal, the result is always an utter disaster.

After a series of disastrous military catastrophes in 1941 and 1942, Soviet strongman and arch-communist Joseph Stalin ended the Soviet commissar system in October 1942. He reversed course to give absolute tactical authority to his ground commanders rather than to the communist overseers, as was customary.

Stalin really had no choice since Marxist-Leninist ideology overriding military logic and efficacy had ensured that the Soviet Union was surprised by a massive Nazi invasion in June 1941. The Russians in the first 12 months of war subsequently lost nearly 5 million in vast encirclements—largely because foolhardy, ideologically driven directives curtailed the generals’ operational control of the army. After the commissars were disbanded and commanders given greater autonomy, the landmark victory at Stalingrad followed, and with it, the rebound of the Red Army.

One reason why the dictator Napoleon ran wild in Europe for nearly 18 years was that his marshals of France were neither selected only by the old Bourbon standards of aristocratic birth and wealth nor by new ideological revolutionary criteria, but by more meritocratic means than those of his rival nations.

Mao’s decade-long cultural revolution (1966–76) ruined China. It was predicated on Maoist revolutionary dogma overruling economic, social, cultural, and military realities. An entire meritocracy was deemed corrupted by the West and reactionary—and thus either liquidated or rendered inert.

In their place, incompetent zealots competed to destroy all prior standards as “bourgeois” and “counter-revolutionary.” It is no surprise that the current “people’s liberation army,” for all its talk of communist dogma, does not function entirely on Mao’s principles.

Muammar Gaddafi wrecked Libya by reordering an once oil-rich nation on Gaddafi’s crackpot rules of his “Green Book.” At times, the unhinged ideologue, in lunatic fashion, required all Libyans to raise chickens or to destroy all the violins in the nation. I once asked a Libyan why the oil-rich country appeared to me utterly wrecked, and he answered, “We first hire our first cousins—and usually the worst.”

There were many reasons why the King-Cotton, slave-owning Old South lagged far behind the North in population, productivity, and infrastructure. But the chief factor was the capital and effort invested in the amoral as well as uneconomic institution of slavery.

After the Civil War, persistent segregationist ideology demanded vast amounts of time, labor, and money in defining race down to the “one drop” rule—while establishing a labyrinth of segregation laws and refusing to draw on the talents of millions of black citizens.

Yet here we are in 2024, ignoring the baleful past as the woke diversity/equity/inclusion commissars war on merit. Institutions from United Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration to the Pentagon and elite universities have been reformulated in the post-George Floyd woke hysteria. And to the delight of competitors and enemies abroad, they are now using criteria other than merit to hire, promote, evaluate, and retain.

The greatest problem historically with hiring and promoting based on DEI-like dogma is that anti-meritocratic criteria mark the beginning, not the end, of eroding vital standards. If one does not qualify for a position or slot by accepted standards, then a series of further remedial interventions are needed to sustain the woke project, from providing exceptions and exemptions, changing rules and requirements, and misleading the nation that a more “diverse” math, or more “inclusive” engineering, or more “equity” in chemistry can supplant mastery of critical knowledge that transcends gender, race, or ideology.

But planes either fly or crash due to proper operation, not the appearance or politics of the operator. All soldiers either hit or miss targets, and engineers either make bridges that stand or collapse on the basis of mastering ancient scientific canons and acquired skills, training, and aptitude that have nothing to do with superficial appearance, or tribal affinities, or religion, or doctrine.

The common denominator of critical theories, from critical legal theory to critical social theory, is toxic nihilism, which claims there are no absolute standards, only arbitrary rules and regulations set up by a privileged, powerful class to exploit “the other.” Yet, not punishing looting has nothing to do with race or class, but everything with corroding timeless deterrence that always has and always will prevent the bullying strong from preying on the weak and vulnerable.

Defunding the police sent a message to any criminally minded that in a cost-to-benefit risk assessment, the odds were now on the side of the criminal not being caught for his crimes—and so crime soared and the vulnerable of the inner city became easy prey.

Another danger of DEI is the subordination of the individual to the collective. We are currently witnessing an epidemic of DEI racism in which commissars talk nonstop of white supremacy/rage/privilege without any notion of enormous differences among 230 million individual Polish-, Greek-, Dutch-, Basque-, or Armenian-Americans, or the class, political, and cultural abyss that separates those in Martha’s Vineyard from their antitheses in East Palestine, Ohio.

Moreover, what is “whiteness” in an increasingly intermarried and multiracial society? Oddly, something akin to the old one-drop rules of the South is now updated to determine victims and victimizers—to the point of absurdity. Who is white—someone one half-Irish, one half Mexican—who is black—someone one quarter Jamaican, three-quarters German? To find answers, DEI czars must look to paradigms of the racist past for answers.

Moreover, once any group is exempted and not held to collective standards by virtue of its superficial appearance, then the nation naturally witnesses an increase in racism and bigotry—on the theory that it is not racist to racially stigmatize a supposedly “racist” collective. And we are already seeing an uptake in racially motivated interracial violence as criminals interpret the trickle-down theory of reparatory justice as providing exemption for opportunistic violence.

Throughout history, it has always been the most mediocre and opportunistic would-be commissars that appear to come forth when meritocracy vanishes. If there was not a Harvard President and plagiarist like Claudine Gay to trumpet and leverage her DEI credentials, she would have to be invented. If there was not a brilliant, non-DEI economist like Roland Fryer to be hounded and punished by her, he would have to be invented.

The DEI conglomerate has little idea of the landmines it is planting daily by reducing differences in talent, character, and morality into a boring blueprint of racial stereotypes. Punctuality is now “white time” and supposedly pernicious. The SAT, designed to give the less privileged a meritocratic pathway to college admissions, is deemed racist and either discarded or warped.

In its absence, universities are quietly now “reimaging” their curriculum to make it more “relevant to today’s students” and, of course, “more inclusive and more diverse.” Translated from the language of Oceania, that means after admitting tens of thousands to the nation’s elite schools who did not meet the universities’ own prior standards that they themselves once established and apprehensive about terminating such students, higher education is now euphemistically lowering the work load in classes, introducing new less rigorous classes, and inflating grades. In their virtue-signaling, they have little clue that inevitably their once prized and supposedly prestigious degrees will be rendered less valued as employers discover a Harvard, Stanford, or Princeton BA or BS is not a guarantee of academic excellence or mastery of vital skill sets.

Toxic tribalism is also, unfortunately, like nuclear proliferation. Once one group goes full tribal, others may as well, if for no reason than their own self-survival in a balkanized, Hobbesian world of bellum omnium contra omnes. If our popular culture is to be defined by the racist hosts of The View, or the racist anchorwoman Joy Reid, or members of the Congressman “Squad,” or entire studies departments in our universities that constantly bleat out the racialist mantra, then logically one of two developments will follow.

One, so-called whites in minority-majority states like California will copy the tribal affinities of others that transcend their class and cultural differences, again in response to other blocs that do the same for careerist advantage and perceived survival. Or two, racism will be redefined empirically so that any careerist elites who espouse ad nauseam racial chauvinism—on the assurance they cannot be deemed racists—will be discredited and exposed for what they’ve become, and thus the content of our character will triumph over the color of our skin.

Finally, do we ever ask how a country of immigrants like the United States—vastly smaller than India and China, less materially rich than the vast expanse of Russia, without the strategic geography of the Middle East, or without the long investment and infrastructure of Europe—emerged out of nowhere to dominate the world economically, financially, militarily, and educationally for nearly two centuries?

The answer is easy: it was the most meritocratic land of opportunity in the world, where millions emigrated (legally) on the assurance that their class, politics, religion, ethnicity, and yes, race, would be far less a drawback than anywhere else in the world.

The degree to which the U.S. survives DEI depends on either how quickly it is discarded or whether America’s existential enemies in the Middle East, China, Russia, and Iran have even worse DEI-anti-meritocratic criteria of their own in hiring, promotion, and admissions—whether defined by institutionalized hatred of the West, or loyalty oaths to the communist party, or demonstrable obsequiousness to the Putin regime, or lethal religious intolerance.

Unfortunately, our illiberal enemies, China especially, at least in matters of money and arms, are now emulating the meritocracy of the old America. Meanwhile, we are hellbent on following their former destructive habits of using politics instead of merit to staff our universities, government, corporations, and military.

Our future hinges on how quickly we discard DEI orthodoxy and simply make empirical decisions to stop printing money, deter enemies abroad, enforce our laws, punish criminals, secure the border, reboot the military, regain energy independence, and judge citizens on their character and talent and not their appearance and politics—at least if it is not already too late.

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34 thoughts on “Will DEI End America—or America End DEI?”

  1. At least 1 other thing is beginning to happen as well. Illegals are being moved from NY and other liberal areas to conservative areas as factory laborers. So, what do you think the result of such will be? 1. Rescue failing NY and others from their own DEI insanity by moving them out thus preserving failing governors and mayors, and 2. jerrymandering of smaller conservative areas to flip even more congressional districts. Remember Minnesota using Samali immigrants to flip the district once represented by Michelle Bachman. The left is expert at setting up false flag operations where there is no win for the nation as a whole, but they maintain and gain power. While the media is screaming about Texas shipping illegals to liberal areas, the silent move to conservative areas continues unnoticed and largely ignored.

    1. So true, Mike (knew Morgans with Richfield Bloomington roots?) as a Mn resident, I saw the Somali voter fraud- harvesting influence via the Mn DFL party (of Death, Fraud, Leftists) that brought us, Gov Walz, Islamo- Leftist AG Ellison (and the anti LE -G Fl*yd murder hoax and riots) and Islamo- Leftist anti -American US Rep MN5 to Ihlan Omar plus pro-abortionists know- nothing US Rep Angie Craig, Sen’s Tina Smith (defeated Mr Right Jason Lewis in 2020) and Amy Klobuchar. It appears the MN Dumb- for-Life crowd prevails. Not sure if I’m going to stay in MN in retirement…

  2. John B Balchunis

    A brilliant summary of our current state of affairs and unfortunately does not paint a bright picture of our future.

  3. edward McFarlane

    Prof Hanson – our enemies are the ones fostering DEI, and our politicians are too compromised to do anything about it. I think a soviet leader once claimed that via the education system and the media the west (i.e.: USA) will fall without a shot being fired. While they had a few bumps in the road via the elections of Reagan and Trump, the bumps are smaller and the people more brainwashed than they ever were. Hence, while I hope I am wrong, we are doomed to fail because the media and education establishments have been so well infiltrated … and they have now moved on to the military and law enforcement to cement our demise. Given the likely cheating in the upcoming election none of this will change in time to save the USA as founded. We are only 2 supreme court appointments away from completely institutionalizing this disaster and the left as well as our enemies know this.

    1. I heard a guy say the other night that if the nation does fall without a shot being fired then maybe the 2A really wasn’t worth the paper it was written on? A fair statement one might say.

      1. Craig Brookins

        Exactly right! Thomas Payne wrote in 1776 in his essays “The American Crisis”: THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

  4. Michael Fisher

    America has always been the land of economic opportunity first and foremost. Any other type of opportunity, to include DEI, only exists if economic opportunity exists. DEI is anti-economic opportunity. DEI may kill the America we know/knew, but in doing so it will kill itself. Then we start over.

  5. Unfortunately, Harvard and schools like it have been training their products, for decades, how to obfuscate their failings just long enough to avoid being at the same position when the companies fail. How many, if any, Harvard grads actually stay at a position for much longer than 2 years? Not many.

    In the history of human wars, critical failures that led up to the war would take time to fester and reach the explosive state needed to excuse the war. As humans have progressed from an agrarian society to industrial and now information based, the time it takes to reach those explosive states is diminishing. I’ve got an uncomfortable feeling that we’re about to find out that the time needed is MUCH less than ever before.

  6. Excellent… Watching the NCAA March Madness games this weekend showcased the true meaning of merit. The same observation can be made when watching any National Basketball Association broadcast. Based on merit, coaches and schools wanting to prevail on the basketball court, rely almost exclusively on Black players. Black athletes constitute at least 80% of the players, while white players make up the remaining 20%. Black players dominate because in general they are superior athletes.

    Why don’t we see any Asian players on any roster either collegiate or Pro? I know, Zhou Ming and Jeremy Linn are two Asian players who made the NBA. But I would guess they constitute less than .0001% of all who have ever played in the NBA.

    The answer lies in the desire to win basketball games. In basketball, Black athletes dominate and merit is all that counts. This is probably true in football as well. Examining the rosters of collegiate football teams and the National Football league would find a similar dominance of Black athletes.

    The US needs to follow the meritocracy of the basketball court or football fields to, hire, promote, evaluate and retain the best in every field to staff our universities, government, military and businesses!

  7. Thank you again Victor! So perfectly written, and important in the craziness going on in our country now. I look forward to every you wright and your podcast 4 times a week! You give us hope and your just the best. Nancy

  8. You wrote,
    “Finally, do we ever ask how a country of immigrants like the United States—vastly smaller than India and China, less materially rich than the vast expanse of Russia, without the strategic geography of the Middle East, or without the long investment and infrastructure of Europe—emerged out of nowhere to dominate the world economically, financially, militarily, and educationally for nearly two centuries?
    The answer is easy: it was the most meritocratic land of opportunity in the world, where millions emigrated (legally) on the assurance that their class, politics, religion, ethnicity, and yes, race, would be far less a drawback than anywhere else in the world.”

    When I was young in the 1940s a common refrain was “that anyone could become president”.
    That thought grew out of the fact that the US was the most “meritocratic land of opportunity in the world”.

    Nobody says that now (even though the current presidential race makes you believe it’s true).

  9. Wow, yes! I (B.A., Princeton, Ph.D., Harvard) confess I did feel a momentary “ouch,” but what you write is so true. It is encouraging that many among the so-called “oppressed” would acknowledge the importance of prioritizing merit.

  10. Sad that we have continued to ignore Geo Washington’s farewell address: The best way to be prepared for peace is to be prepared for war.

  11. Words fail in describing your thoughtful and brilliant assessment of the inevitable demise of America under the rule of the radical left. They work fast – I’ll give them that but they make swine seem virtuous.

  12. I don’t even see this DEI influence getting reversed and will only get worse like Mao’s CCP. I put a lot of the blame on this at the feet of the Right. While I have never voted for the left and likely never will, I have to give them credit. The had a strategy and plan and the were creative, bold, crafty and successful over a 30 year period, playing the slow game. Mind you I don’t like it but I appreciate their approach. The Right just sat by, mired in their establishment thinking and let this happen with no defense and certainly no offense of their own. The only shot at hope as I see it is for the America First movement to continue to grow, root out the old Right/RINO establish and rally around the energy this movement has and go on the offensive. This has to start with voting and also a grassroots level to get candidates in local and state offices to start.

  13. What’s left out of the general analysis is rural America. Our Midwest small town is almost entirely dominant culture (Anglo) where rampant and endemic poverty abounds. Have you seen row after row of dilapidated trailer homes in your particular neighborhood? Well, perhaps not in urban areas that enforce strict codes, but here they are commonplace. Schools here, as you might imagine, are overwhelmingly under-performing where mediocrity is the norm. Yet students are praised for lackluster achievements/performances. And those who fail school altogether (or barely pass) are typically absorbed into the ever-growing ranks of meth/alcohol/dispensary marijuana addiction. And they do so proudly while sporting an extra 100 pounds. In addition, there are a slew of individuals here who hold municipal positions of power — not because of merit — but because of family connections. In fact, you stand a good chance of encountering palpable resistance if you are NOT from this area, or are not directly known/related to individuals here. And if you are a person of color (which some of my friends are), magnify and multiply that palpable resistance by 10x. The point I am making is simply this: White rural America along the North/South Midwest corridor can mirror, quite admirably, the SAME anti-meritocratic values we detest. Yet they curiously remain on the invisible periphery of this argument. Time to widen the scope of our polemics.

    1. In my opinion, lack of ‘meritocracy’ in white, rural America is potentially for an entirely different reason that DEI, as it does not stem from a societal objective to create equity among those whose abilities differ. And just as an aside, do you not think that the phrase ‘a person of color’ is just a grammatical difference than saying ‘a colored person’??

  14. Something is happening in my tiny city with a metropolitan area of less than 1 million persons. Many businesses have gone belly up or are forced to merged with “DEI” firms. In particular large, once prosperous, old, established White firms being forced to join Hispanic firms because they cannot compete with DEI firms on public projects where HUB gets more job selection points than experience. As a “minority” working for a DEI firm I have noticed that the work culture too is very different. It is now all about making money for the owner and less about family values and team work. Hispanic owners insist on the biggest house, fanciest car and giving huge kickbacks to their cohorts who give them the work over raises and bonuses for their employees – a new Latifundia! As an Asian-American whose family has been in the U.S. since 1915 I have to believe that the U.S. will become like all the other Latin American countries without English respect for the law, Scottish frugality, Irish fortitude and the uniquely American idea of success based on meritocracy.

  15. Peter Patterson

    Politics needs a good flushing out. Its compromised grossly and tainted with yes men and do-gooders. Term limits may be one idea. We can vote this way and that but if the basics aren’t changed we are doomed to fail like the examples you proffered.

    1. Thomas O'Brien

      I believe true campaign finance reform is the way to go. Basically, you can only financially contribute to those candidates that you are eligible to vote for. This also means you must have a pulse to contribute. Which of course unions and corporations do not.

      So, Mr. Soros, you can no longer buy elections.

  16. Well Stated VDH, love your writing….your commentary sums up our America dilemma well…”China especially, at least in matters of money and arms, are now emulating the meritocracy of the old America. Meanwhile, we are hellbent on following their former destructive habits of using politics instead of merit to staff our universities, government, corporations, and military”

  17. My sentiments exactly! I really started to pay attention after 9/11 and institution of the Patriot Act 2001, which pretty much gave the government the authority to intrude into every American’s life under the guise of “protecting the nation”. They fly “false flags” in order to get the results they want. (Remember the anthrax threat to Senators Daschle and Leahy and staff members, who warned of the abuse the Act might lead to). The new Republicans need to understand that the Marquess of Queensberry Rules no longer apply.

  18. “Hitler and the Nazis wanted to divide us by race, the Marxists want to divide us by class, the Democrats want to divide us by both” – Unknown

  19. Just last night I was scrolling through videos and came across a VDH interview at his farm by Peter Robinson of Uncommon Knowledge, followed by another great piece with Dr. Thomas Sowell (age 93) on Social Justice Fallacies. Professor Hanson has been railing against DEI for several years. The May 2023 interview was more recent but his views have been well established. Dr. Sowell has been at if for decades. This begs the question, when will the nation wake up?

    Considering that China is under the strong arm of Xi, Russia controlled by Putin, Iran a total theocracy and the Kim family entrenched in North Korea since the end of WWII, voters must see the fallacy of dictatorships and one party rule.
    Are we kidding ourselves to believe because we have democrats and republicans we have real choice?
    Just last week this government passed a $1.2 Trillion, pork laden bill that will add another trillion to the national debt funding more border insurrections by ‘newcomers’; billions to NATO to fuel the Russian/Ukraine war and force dirty green energy on the population. Do not think that is the final spending spree of this group of misfits in DC.

    I am in fear more of our own government than the external threats which are in fact real also. IF DEI does not take us down, the burdening debt will and we only have ourselves to blame.

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