by Victor Davis Hanson
America will weather its current hysterias.
But the tensions and furor are reminiscent of the last generations of the Roman Republic. In its last century, Romans began to adjudicate politics by obsequious partisan town criers (their version of our media), mass demonstrations, and freelance street gangs. Looters, arsonists, and demonstrators did pretty much as they pleased in the streets of Rome without fear of legal consequences.
In our time, the media has now vanished – kaput, no more, ended.
Within a few hours, it goes from a Ministry-of-Truth love session with Joe Biden to a steaming verbal assault on the president’s press secretary – without a shred of awareness how ridiculous they appear in their passive-aggressive schizophrenia. The only constant is that reporters unapologetically seem to jettison their principles and professionalism to calibrate what they say and do by whose politics they support. They would prefer to be entirely discredited under a Biden presidency than be real journalists during a Trump Administration.
The current unspoken subtext of the media-progressive party fusion line is the following: It would be a felonious crime should conservatives now dare to disrupt a transition in the manner that the Left did in 2016. They should not dare to sue about voting machines in key states as did the Clinton surrogate Jill Stein. They would never attempt, in 2016 fashion, to sabotage the Electoral College voting by appealing to constitutionally appointed electors, or surveille top Biden campaign and transition officials and coordinate such monitoring inside the Trump Oval Office.
The point of the Steele dossier, the Russian collusion hoax, the calls for future impeachment even during the Trump transition, the abuse of the foreign intelligence surveillance courts and the weaponization of the FBI, CIA, and Justice Department was to weaken the Trump campaign, to disrupt the Trump transition, and to wound fatally the Trump presidency. For the architects, abettors, and enablers of those past efforts now to accuse Trump officials of adhering to what they created on a massive scale is comic.
Even more importantly, the media poorly prepared the nation for their envisioned Biden presidency. To foster that agenda, journalists have done enormous damage to the country. The bias inherent in Silicon Valley’s monopoly of the internet and social media communications was poorly disguised in efforts to aid the progressive effort. It is a matter now of only when, not if, these trusts and monopolies will be regulated and broken up.
There will still be half-hearted defenses of episodic accurate polling at the national or state level. But these pleas will be in vain, given that by and large, pollsters, as in 2016, did not just get the critical state voting wrong but predictably wrong in a predictable direction for predictable purposes. In pursuit of short-term gain, pollsters irrevocably ruined their reputations.
A frail Joe Biden was never fully vetted. Rather, he was protected and sheltered by the media. Now 330 million Americans will see whether cognitively he is up to impromptu press conferences, 18-hour days, tough negotiations with opportunistic foreign leaders, and the demands of traversing the country to rally both the country and his party adherents. A media that fed 25th Amendment hysterias during the Trump administration will have to pivot, and now declare any such talk absurd – lest Biden be subjected to the same sort of Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test that Trump aced.
The disturbing revelations about the Bidens and Burisma in October were never covered. As a result, for the duration of the Biden Administration, Hunter Biden will remain an object of scrutiny and investigation, along with many of his now angry associates who feel betrayed and are ready either to talk of their misplaced loyalty or broker ways out of their complicity. Who knows how long the media, without their ratings propped up by the Trump bogeyman, will ignore the buzz of a Biden familial syndicate – with a Kamala Harris always waiting in the wings.
So no one knows to what degree further revelations will emerge about Biden family corruption – only that all these allegations have heretofore not just been ignored but deliberately smothered by the media. And that is not a sustainable effort. The smell of scandal will linger throughout the Biden presidency.
After the 2017 machinations to lever Robert Mueller and his dream team into power, few on the Left can ever credibly decry a possible appointment of a disinterested special prosecutor to look into Hunter Biden and familial associates. If Trump were to follow in the spirit of his enemies’ own protocols, what should he do – appoint a special counsel to look into the Bidens, with a Trumpian twist of pardoning the incoming president in advance for any crimes that emerge?
But most importantly, Americans have no idea of what the latest incarnation of Joe Biden will bring. Biden gave only scripted and teleprompted bromides from his basement. The media never pressed him to be clear on issues like the China reset, the Middle-East recalibration, fracking, the Green New Deal, reparations, the wall and open borders, proposed tax increases, and on and on.
So the country has little warning whether the Biden Administration will be guided by the hard Left agenda of Kamala Harris, “the squad,” or Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – or stung by the rejection of progressive extremism in the congressional elections and the close presidential race enough to move to the center.
Will Biden pursue or give up notions of ending the Electoral College, packing the court, admitting in new states, ending the Senate filibuster, neutering the Second Amendment, and other assorted radical promises? Whatever he decides will disappoint his leftwing BLM/socialist base, swing-state terrified congressional Democrats – and likely the bewildered American people.
What About the GOP?
The Republicans, too, are in disarray, at least for a few weeks.
First, the good news is that they picked up a dozen or so House seats – when they were forecast to lose at least five more. They are in position, with luck and work, to hold the Senate. Conservatives saw Trump come within a few thousand strategically placed votes of winning the Electoral College on election night.
Add all that up—along with the MAGA inclusion of a new middle-class Republican constituency that seeks to transcend race, and the quiet but growing public disgust at the lawlessness, violence, and racism of Antifa and BLM – and 2022 could see a repeat of the prairie-fire shake up of 2010. And this time the House Republicans would have better chances of institutionalized rather than transitory advantage.
But there are fissures in the party. The NeverTrumpers feel their efforts to sabotage Trump changed minds among white males with college degrees – the one key constituency that Trump seems to have done less well with than in 2016. And emboldened by this tiny supposed triumph, they are trying to recapture the Republican Party for an ossified McCain-Romney-Bush establishment. As they gyrate from snark to whine, they never have had any self-awareness that their case for significance would always be as polarizing to conservatives as their prior pitying admissions of irrelevance.
Meanwhile Trump’s once-solid ranks may be in danger of fracturing. Half believe that not just his long-term legacy, but also his short-term utility in winning Georgia are endangered by unsubstantiated claims of a stolen “landslide” victory of a 70 percent majority and 400-some Electoral College votes. Of course, Trump supporters are furious over the weaponization of polling, and the violations of the voting laws of state legislatures that led to irregularities, controversies, and suspicious data, endemic with massive mail-in voting. But they are not assured that either episodic or systematic skullduggery automatically translates into a provable case that Trump won the election, much less won by historical proportions involving fraud of the sort never witnessed in past elections.
The other half is convinced of just such a “landslide” victory taken from Trump by computerized trickery and engineered through a vast coverup and conspiracy, again the greatest political scandal in American history.
The challenge is not only that many of the advocates of this vast corruption of computer voting – well beyond what was needed to overturn small Biden margins in the swing states – have so far not produced evidence at all commensurate with their astounding claims. Rather, the rub is also that to do so requires implicit trust that their allegations will eventually be proven accurate over weeks if not months of litigation and media frenzy – a bridge too far for most Trump supporters.
But in the world of politics and perceptions, if the Kraken is really not to be birthed as a canary, overwhelming data should be produced immediately, given the arena is not just electoral and legal but now political.
Then there remains the rendezvous with reality on January 5 in Georgia. The Republicans, despite likely being outspent, so often censored on social media, on the receiving end of traditional media and polling biases, and suspicions about the integrity of Georgia’s glitchy computerized voting systems and recent mass new registrations, can still win the two Senate races and hold the Senate, the last redoubt against the resurgence of neo-socialism.
But that hardscrabble effort will require party unity. It will be achieved, first, by the base’s support for Trump’s three weeks of initial legitimate complaints about the will of legislatures being unconstitutionally overturned that might have had ramifications in close-call states. Yet, second, the people will also harbor simultaneous reluctance to join the current furor of his self-appointed legal team, without overwhelming evidence that a conspiracy robbed Trump of a gigantic victory, supposedly due to computer hackers, coders, leftists, foreign meddlers, corporate renegades, corrupt bureaucrats, and progressive operators acting in close concert.
Trump the Kingmaker?
In sum, only Trump, the Jacksonian fighter and aggrieved victim of quarantine-induced new voting protocols and often unconstitutional changes in voting protocols and methods of transparent tabulation, can rally the base to come out in January to match big money, big tech, big media, and big bureaucracy.
If Trump can do that, hold the Senate, reunite the MAGA ranks, and abort crazy ideas about packing the court and ending the Electoral College, then he will be a virtual kingmaker for the foreseeable future. It will be his call alone whether he wants to pursue a Grover Cleveland-like second term, or institutionalize his recalibration of the Republican Party throughout future Senate, House, and local elections – or both.
But again, all that is jeopardized, if Trump’s ad hoc legal team does not produce overwhelming evidence early within a day or two of fraud unmatched in U.S. history, and instead seeks to win through elector reselection and congressional intervention – and thereby loses the people. That is not a partisan, but an empirical observation and assessment – and I accept that it will not please many fellow Trump supporters.
Nonetheless, the American people are trending toward the Trump agenda that is winning despite the overwhelming odds against it. Even the combined efforts of Wall Street, academia, the media, Silicon Valley, the corporate boardrooms, the Washington government establishment, entertainment, and professional sports cannot beat an angry and mistreated people–if they are united.
The Trump base has won without all of the above, and will win without emulating the Left’s tactics of street brawling, mass violence, looting, and arson. Nor has it sought to undermine the federal courts, abuse the intelligence services, warp the Justice Department, or welcome the help of the retired officer corps or anonymous sleeper opponents within the bureaucracy. It was the self-righteous Obama, not the much pilloried Trump, who sought extra-legal means to monitor his opponents, weaponize the government, and likely violate the law.
There is a series of battles to come in January 2021, in 2022, and in 2024. And they can be won and will be definitive, if the chaos of 2020 does not become even more chaotic.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He was a professor of classics at California State University, Fresno, and is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004.