by Victor Davis Hanson
In the old days, Democrats had predictable agendas, supposedly focused on individual rights, the “little guy,” and distrust of the military-industrial-intelligence complex.
The Left, often on spec, blasted the wealthy, whether the “lucre” was self-made or inherited. The old-money rich were lampooned as idle drones.
If the rich were self-made, they were deemed sell-outs. A good example was ’70s pop icon Jackson Brown’s “The Pretender,” whose lyrics railed about “happy idiots” who “struggled for the legal tender.”
Democrats talked nonstop about the “working man.” They damned high gas and electricity prices that hurt “consumers.”
Almost every liberal cause was couched in terms of “The First Amendment”—whether it was the right of shouting obscenities, viewing pornography, or bringing controversial speakers to campus.
The Supreme Court was sacred. Thanks to the holy, liberally packed court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, enlightened, progressive justices supposedly restrained the harebrained ballot initiatives of hick right-wing populists.
Once upon a time, leftist congressional officials investigated the CIA and FBI nonstop.
Progressive political cartoonists cruelly caricatured the Pentagon’s top brass as obese, buffoonish looking clerks with monstrous jowls. Even their uniforms were mocked as festooned with ostentatious gold braids, shiny medals, and ridiculous peaked hats, smothered in gold and silver insignia.
The “revolving door” was a particular leftist obsession. Democrats blasted generals who retired into defense contractor boards and got rich.
For the Left, elite professional sports were the opiates of the middle classes. Wannabe jocks supposedly wasted hours in front of the TV watching grown men toss around little balls.
Unions were sacred. So United Farm Worker kingpins like Cesar Chavez headed to the border to physically assault any would-be illegal alien “scabs.”
Politicians like Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Bill and Hillary Clinton railed against illegal immigrant “cheap labor” that “drove down” American wages.
That was then; this is now.
Liberals soon became rich progressives who transmogrified into really rich hardcore leftists.
Suddenly not just millionaires, but multibillionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, and a host of other celebrities and CEOs were cool and hip.
Deified Silicon Valley monopolists ensured the leftist candidates were usually better funded than were conservatives. “Dirty money” disappeared from leftist invective.
The Fortune 400 became mostly a list of billionaires who did not make their money in the old way of manufacturing, assembly, construction, farming, transportation, or oil and gas production.
The Left got drunk on the idea that they now had their hands on the money and influence in America. So they systematically began targeting institutions. And they leveraged them not from the noisy street with empty protests, but from within.
Suddenly the once revered Supreme Court, with a majority of conservative justices, became an “obstacle” to “democracy,” and had to be packed or restructured.
The First Amendment was redefined as a bothersome speed bump that slowed “progress.” It needlessly protected noisy conservatives and their backward values.
In contrast, the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon were suddenly OK—if staffed with the right people.
Their clandestine power, their chain-of-command exemption from messy legislative give-and-take, and their reliance on surveillance, were now pluses once in the correct hands.
These institutions now became allies, not enemies, and so their powers were augmented and unchecked.
Sports were cool, given they offered a huge platform for social justice players to damn the very system that had enriched them.
The higher gas and electricity prices, the better to shock the clueless bourgeoisie that their club cab trucks and home air conditioners were anti-green and on the way out.
The union shop was written off as a has-been enclave of old white dinosaurs, an ossified, shrinking base of the Democratic Party. Its new hard-Left successor party wanted a bigger, better Democratic demographic—if illegal, indigent, and non-diverse immigrants, all the better.
The media glitterati were no longer to be mocked as empty suits and pompadour fools, but useful Ministry of Truth foot-soldiers in the revolution.
So what happened to turn the party of Harry Truman, JFK, and even Bill Clinton into a woke neo-Maoist movement?
Globalization created a new $8 billion consumer market for American media, universities, law firms, insurance groups, investment houses, sports and entertainment, and the Internet, social media, and online gadgetry.
In contrast, work with arms and hands was passé, the supposed stuff of meth heads, deplorables and clingers—and so better outsourced and offshored.
Traditional Democrats were seen increasingly as namby-pamby naïfs, who rotated power with establishment Republicans.
Now with money, institutions in their hip pocket, and cool popular culture, the Left would not just damn American institutions, but infect them: alter their DNA, and reengineer them into revolutionary agencies.
So here we are with a near one-party system of a weaponized fused media, popular culture, and the administrative state—confident that all Americans will soon agree to love Big Sibling.
– – –
Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.
Photo “Joe & Jill” by Anthony Quintano (CC BY 2.0).