VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Where Did The New Insane Left Come From?

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America has experienced surges of mainstream anarchism, socialism, and communism, most profoundly during the late 19th century, amid the Great Depression, during the Soviet-American alliance of World War II and afterward, and in the 1960s. But rarely have these radical movements openly and without apologies made such inroads into and inside government and the establishment as during the past decade…

Bouts of extreme leftism are frequent throughout History. Plato’s Apology, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Vladimir Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? — all offer us insight into the mind and methods of the hard Left.

America has experienced surges of mainstream anarchism, socialism, and communism, most profoundly during the late 19th century, amid the Great Depression, during the Soviet-American alliance of World War II and afterward, and in the 1960s. But rarely have these radical movements openly and without apologies made such inroads into and inside government and the establishment as during the past decade.

We had earlier seen massive rioting, looting, and iconoclasm, similar to the chaos of summer 2020. But seldom did they continue with the de facto approval of mayors who restrained the police and turned their downtowns over to virtual occupiers setting up “autonomous” zones. Nor had we see seen city councils defund police operations. New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio and Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan were not so much hard-Left Democrats or socialists as they were anarchists who ceded control of parts of American cities to other anarchists.

We cannot recall any district attorney in memory who simply declared that an entire array of crimes no longer existed, and that those convicted of them would be let loose on the public. Yet Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascón recently announced that his office will not be charging anyone arrested for making criminal threats, possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia possession, being publicly intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance, loitering to commit prostitution, resisting arrest, or a host of other crimes.

In essence, Gascón simply overrode the California legislature and his own county statutes. He has made up his own laws in his own private fiefdom of Los Angeles County — a jurisdiction of over 10 million, larger than 40 states.

Where and how did radical ideas such as the non-enforcement of laws, the Green New Deal, open borders, the -studies curricula of the university, or the political weaponization of professional sports come from?

What happened to the mainstream liberal, left-wing party of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton that it has been transmogrified into the neo-socialist movement of the Squad, Antifa, BLM, Kamala Harris, Bernie, Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren? When and how did the three-decades-long socialist loudmouth of the Congress, perennially barking at the moon, suddenly become the driving force of the Democratic Party? Worldism.

Globalization certainly changed the financial dynamics of the U.S.

Big Tech, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street became not multibillion-dollar centers of commerce, but multi-trillion-dollar nexuses as they capitalized on a new 7-billion-person market. This staggering concentration of wealth had a number of profoundly negative effects on the country.

Many in the new plutocracy were not business people in the traditional sense of making, growing, or transporting things. The old fortunes of timber, farming, railroads, gas and oil, construction, real estate, mining, manufacturing and assembly, and shipping paled in comparison with global finance, communications, media, entertainment, social media, and computer/Internet access. There was a certain grittiness, grounding, and earthy realism to the old money that is completely lacking in the new.

Once our generation’s multimillionaires reached billionaire status, they turned utopian. They psychologically squared the circle of their own privilege by supporting the sort of left-wing causes that would never have allowed them to make their own money. And they did this always with the understanding that they had enough money and influence to ensure that the consequences of their utopianism did not apply to themselves: Walls on the border are passé; walls around Silicon Valley and Napa estates are necessary; guns should be banned, except for my security detail; big carbon footprints are killing the planet, except those of my own private jet.

The really big global money now came more quickly and easily, as billionaires were harder left and younger, and discovered that they were exempt — in their tie-dyed T-shirts, flip-flops, and nose rings — from the usual leftist hits on capitalist “parasites.”

As a result, staggering amounts of penance and indulgence money have poured into left-wing media, foundations, universities, and Democratic-driven activism. The monopolist Mark Zuckerberg’s various fronts invested $350 million to “help” government bureaucracies “oversee” the vote. The piratical George Soros’s giveaway empire explains the rise of city and district attorneys whose radical agenda is to decriminalize much of what we used to call criminality.

The old “dark money” no longer exists. The once-demonized Koch brothers’ funding of conservative political activism is mostly now apologized for by its original architects — and yet it’s small potatoes compared with the new Democratic slush fund.

In radical-chic fashion, nothing makes a hip billionaire hipper than to brag at cocktail parties that he funded a local BLM chapter. Corporate boardrooms, enmeshed in vast lucrative partnerships with the Chinese and enjoying global markets, are now among the most powerful forces of radicalism.

CEOs assume that they have a blank check from the Left to leverage as much Chinese money as they wish, as long as they subsidize the radical agenda. And so they do, as they fund and advertise the entire climate-change, identity-politics, and globalist cause. None of this elite moral preening is completely new, when one remembers the naïve, culotte-wearing aristocrats who joined the Committee of Public Safety during France’s Reign of Terror, or the Russian landed gentry who believed that Lenin would work out for them too, or the mau-mauing flak catchers Tom Wolfe described in his account of late-’60s radical chic.

Indebted Wannabe Geniuses

From the 1970s to the 1990s, universities had lots of culture wars. But they were still constrained by budgets from hiring too many nonessential diversity and inclusion czars. Globalist capital had not yet quadrupled college endowments. Nor was there yet $1.6 trillion in federal money to institutionalize the new idea of massive student debt, which posed a moral hazard for the country.

Students and universities now no longer worry about budgets, inflationary tuition, or cost-to-benefit analysis of the new therapeutic undergraduate curricula.

The result?

Today 45 million students are in debt. Many are credentialed but ill-educated, and they lack the means to pay off their compound-interest obligations. They have grown accustomed to the good life on campuses, many of which are Club Med retreats where late teenagers play-act by bullying faculty and administrators with primal screams.

All too many lecture the country on their superior morality — and then graduate and face the reality that no one cares whether the barista who serves you a beer or the Uber driver who gives you a lift has a degree in environmental studies. Delayed marriage, delayed childbearing, delayed home purchases, delayed everything — all further radicalized youth, who are intrinsically prone to radicalism.

Again, the most dangerous cohort in history has been the half-educated — the on-and-off university student or upper-middle class elite who is aggrieved that his youthful genius is neither appreciated nor justly compensated.

“Elite glut” well describes millions in debt who feel they are owed quite a lot. The nasal-twanged Antifa wannabe Bolshevik is mostly furious that we who watch his psychodramas on television have not extended to him the status and wealth he thinks he has long ago earned.

Big Tech

Big Tech, as an original offshoot of university research centers, and geared to self-described young geniuses, became a leftist monopoly. When social media and the Internet began, the naïve assumed these were just delivery systems, not new tools of ideological persuasion.

But like a virus that alters the DNA of the host, the very ways we now access knowledge, communicate, fathom the news, advertise, buy, and sell are controlled, massaged, politicized, and weaponized by a few thousand prolonged adolescent, thirtysomething techies in Silicon Valley and its spin-offs.

When an ideology can use its monopolies to Trotskyize the past, cancel a career, depersonalize, censor, and ban — or warp the very ways we retrieve information — then 1984 is already here. We scarcely appreciate Silicon Valley’s power and how it has vastly changed our very language, culture, and politics.

The Obama Years

Barack Obama really did, as promised, “fundamentally transform” the country. He destroyed the old pretense of a centrist Democratic Party helmed by Southern twangers like Jimmy Carter (who promised to kick Ted Kennedy’s ass in the 1980 primary and did), Bill Clinton (who used to decry illegal immigration), and an earlier incarnation of Al and Tipper Gore (who used to rail about music-industry-sponsored pornographic lyrics).

Obama’s chief accomplishment was twofold. One, he ended the idea of affirmative action as a “white” population owing reparatory consideration to a largely African-American population in admissions and hiring as atonement for the wages of slavery, Jim Crow, economic disparity, and what is now known as “systemic racism.”

Two, Obama mainstreamed “diversity” as the new binary replacement. Anyone with even one drop of nonwhite ethnicity in his ancestry, or who was not male or heterosexual, joined an updated “rainbow coalition” of victims — including even Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill. And the oppressed didn’t need to worry about their own actual ancestry, the historical basis for claims of discrimination, or their own private experiences with prejudice — or lack of same.

Class mattered not at all. Nor did intermarriage, which under the melting pot had been making race a superficial construct, as the pedigrees of Americans became increasingly multifarious.

The consequences of this retrograde return to one-drop racialism and the stigmatization of the white male was that suddenly 30 percent of the country — from Oprah to Colin Kaepernick to Lisa Jobs to Pete Buttigieg to Jorge Ramos — was “diverse,” meaning somehow the victims of a toxic majority, which in truth under the new race and gender rules was a minority.

Barack and Michelle could be worth $100 million, own three mansions, enjoy multimillion-dollar corporate-consulting sinecures — and yet venture out from their enclaves from time to time to lecture the lathe worker in southern Ohio or the insurance salesman in Tennessee on their “systemic racism,” or hijack a funeral encomium to badger the country on the need to get rid of the “Jim Crow” filibuster and the ossified idea of a 50-state United States.

Residence on a bluff in Martha’s Vineyard was not at all incongruent with the radicalism of kindred souls hitting the streets to protest “systemic racism” and capitalist exploitation. Antifa and BLM were grifters whose criminality in the street, like Roman gangs of the past, could be turned on and off before the election as needed. No such groups would ever march, burn, or loot on Martha’s Vineyard or in Kalorama.

Once class under the tenets of cultural Marxism was largely ignored, the ranks of the victimized not only swelled and but grew wealthier and more powerful. So influential were they that the nation embraced flagellantism. Qualifying as a victim (however slight the grounds) meant that one could now castigate the entire unprivileged lower-middle working classes as privileged.

The immigrant CEO from India, the African-American multimillion-dollar media anchor, the Facebook female mover and shaker — all could now write off the deplorables/clingers/dregs/scum/ugly folk/chumps/irredeemables/smelly and toothless. And they could thereby obtain virtue-signaling tenure, despite their class privileges.

If globalization and the universities had not bifurcated the nation enough, Obama finished the project by divorcing the authentic history of bias, violence, and institutionalized racism of the African-American experience from the new official ecumenical victimhood.

The medieval indulgences sacralizing diversity worked for Obama as well. Who could believe that a diversity president really would build cages on the border, weaponize the IRS for his own political agenda, surveil the communications of Associated Press reporters, run guns to the cartels in Mexico, jail a video maker to mask the scandal of Benghazi, offer a quid pro quo on missile defense with Putin to help his own reelection campaign, and discredit the CIA, FBI, and DOJ to destroy an oppositional campaign, transition, and presidency?

Diversity people just don’t do those things. If they are suspected of unethical behavior, then they must have good reason for it; any perceived lapses are only a result of their passion for fighting bias, racism, sexism, and other -ologies and -isms.

Incredibly rich people in a few zip codes, wealthy left-wingers’ thirst for penance, the global accentuation of class and regional differences, the corporatization of the universities along with the pauperization of students, the construct of a new “diversity,” social media and the Internet, and the idea that the affluent can be oppressed on the basis of their appearance, while the poor and lower-middle class can be privileged on the same grounds — all that has created a radical new/old progressivism.

And our collective madness is just getting started.✪