by Victor Davis Hanson
The proper conservative response to last Wednesday’s violent entry into the Capitol and vandalism, as well as assaults on law-enforcement, is to identify the guilty parties and ensure they are arrested.
Such deterrence will prevent any future devolution from legal popular protests into thuggery. No constitutional republic can tolerate its iconic heart stormed, breached, and defiled.
Is Some Violence Worse than Others?
Of course, there is no such thing as “good” or “acceptable” violence of either Trump supporters or of the Antifa and BLM sort.
Yet the latter were largely exempt from any consequences for most of the summer – despite Joe Biden’s demagogic implication that the now multibillion-dollar funded BLM was treated harshly in comparison to the rogue Trump rioters.
Do we remember the authorities’ exemptions given to “warlord” Raz Simone and his armed thugs who, with absolute impunity, took over a Seattle “autonomous zone” known as CHOP or CHAZ, where four shootings and two deaths followed? Who exactly destroyed or vandalized thousands of state and federal public monuments – some in Washington, D.C. – and burned and looted hundreds of buildings with impunity?
Those who wrongly demanded to defund the police, now rightly deplore the lack of a Capitol police presence. Their only consistency is their own perceived political self-interest.
Biden himself rarely if ever, without exceptions, outright condemned the atrocious violence of Antifa and indeed contextualized it as an “idea” – a disincarnate entity that apparently could magically also burn and loot.
Again, his inaugural call for unity was quickly superseded by his surreal accusations that the police were racist in not quelling the violence. Yet the problem at the Capitol was not that security was racially selective, but that there was not much security at all. And the lapse was probably not by design as much as sheer incompetence.
The president-elect’s demeanor and furor certainly were not compatible with his media image as the supposedly angelic uniter of the country. Within 24 hours he had gone from blasting the police authorities as racists to the old reductio ad Hitlerum trope of comparing a few Republican senators to Nazi propogandist Joseph Goebbels, in a hysterical rant that descended into incoherent numerology about the bombing of Dresden. I’m sure Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Khamenei were impressed by his historical recollections.
Would that summer candidate Biden had just once said a word on behalf of the victims of Antifa and BLM – more than 700 injured law enforcement officers, billions of dollars in damage, and dozens killed over a summer of hateful violence that also wrecked the lives of thousands of struggling small business owners and their employees. What Kamala Harris said about the violent summer protests was appalling, and she was most worried about bailing out those arrested for street violence. Somehow a summer of hate and destruction earned BLM $10 billion in corporate gifts. Did anyone suggest that CEOs were subsidizing violence by crassly buying protection?
One might add that the D.C. police shooting of an unarmed white female Air Force veteran fortunately did not precipitate the sort of unhinged looting and arson seen a few months ago. And so far, police authorities, to their credit, have had no hesitation in immediately releasing the names and photos of the suspect Capitol intruders. But then again, that was a deterrent modus operandi that also might have curbed Antifa and BLM violence earlier, had it been as well implemented widely against such miscreants.
In the 24 hours after the initial outrage of the unchecked violence in the Capitol, a weird cancel mob formed quickly. Democrats were demanding senators resign who voted against the legitimacy of the electors.
Lawyers who defended Trump were hounded and their firms leveraged to fire them. Book deals of suspect senators were canceled. Resignations were the order of the day.
One would have never remembered that leftist protestors were once with impunity beating on the doors of the Supreme Court to get in during and after the Kavanaugh hearings, as others stormed into the halls of Congress and bullied senators. Still others this June lit up a church in their “mostly peaceful” efforts to enter the White House grounds. Very few Democratic senators then called for calm and to take a step back.
Multimillionaire Michelle Obama, who seems seldom to allow a serious crisis to go to waste, was calling for the complete weaponization of social media and the permanent banning of Trump. A scared Mark Zuckerberg seemed to agree. The multibillionaire had infused $350 million of his own money into key preselected precincts to boost voting turnout in a way the Left in the old days would have called the dark money that undermines democracy.
The Chinese Model
A day after Michelle Obama’s call, Trump coincidentally was indeed banned from Twitter “for life,” along with a number of conservatives, and “indefinitely” canceled from Facebook. Trump followers fleeing to alternate social media sites discovered that their apps could be blocked by Apple and Google.
Amazon joined in blocking the servers of one of these, again coincidentally. The Left and a few terrified Republicans planned to impeach Trump even if out of office, sort of like those grotesque stories of those who hang, decapitate, or chop up the corpses of the dead.
The trillion-dollar social media monopolies, on cue from the Obamas and the Left, are now making the necessary adjustments for a hard left-wing controlled presidency and Congress.
Soon, in calmer times, antitrust lawyers will be suing Big Tech for its efforts to destroy its business rivals and ideological opponents as a textbook case of corporate market rigging.
In the 19th century, “progressives” sought to curb the power of monopolies and trusts on the logic that the proverbial people had only the railroads or telegraphs to travel or communicate, and should be freed from their octopus “tentacles.” The railroad argument, “Ride a horse if you don’t like us,” never washed.
Now progressives enlist social media monopolies to ensure that they alone can control, censor, and cancel incorrect communications over the publicly owned airspace. “Just email or use your cell phone, if you don’t like us” won’t wash either. Progressives are no longer the watchdogs breaking up trusts. They are the trusts breaking up watchdogs.
Soon we may see all alternative social media emasculated, those with conservative views deplatformed, and the United States becoming essentially a closed society. How can we resist China when we become China – the model of efficiency in the mind of many progressives, some of whom praise their control of the social media and their solar and wind energy authoritarianism.
2021 Worse than 2020?
As a day-late, dollar-short, now contrite Trump was belatedly calling for calm, and finally a peaceful transition and unity, the Wall Street Journal also belatedly wanted Trump to resign now and leave a few days early. Would he do a public perp walk out of the Oval Office, so that in “Game-of-Thrones” fashion the mob could throw trash and feces at him?
Some of Trump’s cabinet members apparently virtue gabbed to the media that they had considered removal of Trump by the 25th Amendment. Time will tell whether that was a wise career move or performance art, given incoming Joe Biden does not seem always alert.
Even a few White House appointees resigned early to illustrate to the nation their utter shock at the uncouthness of the president that they had gladly served for months or years. How odd that so many appointees willingly joined the Trump team who would never have been appointed again to much of anything before 2017, then enjoyed their tenure, and then when fired or resigned over their policy recommendations, suddenly lectured the nation, in their newfound moral superiority, for voting for a supposedly now evil Donald Trump.
There will be about another week of this ritually hating Trump through impeachment or removal, and then he will leave office quietly.
The Impending Revolution
Attention will turn to President Biden, and whether there will be an end to the Senate filibuster, the nine-justice Supreme Court, the Electoral College, and a 50-state union – and an entire remake of the United States as we knew it.
The Left will need this new monopoly on information as dissent grows. No wonder then, in a few hours of national panic, it took care of the family business, as Michael Corleone once put it. After all, who could be bothered by a plague, stalled state vaccinations, a recession, and a country torn apart by an election that saw 100 million votes cast before election day?
The central question of Joe Biden’s first months hinges on whether the media and his handlers can shield him from cross examination, as they did so well during the presidential campaign. Wiser leftist heads no doubt squashed talk of 25th Amendment removal of Trump, given the fear of Biden “senior moments” in the months ahead and perhaps even someday a request for a Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test result.
Who knows, maybe even Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee, on the invitation of Vice President Kamala Harris, can return for a cameo congressional appearance with more talk of “interventions” to remove a supposedly confused president.
In general, it is always a lousy idea to destroy the institutions that might protect one later in extremis. But the Left did just that in the Trump years.
So we will see in six months how smart it was in 2019 to impeach a first-term president over a phone call inquiring about Biden, Inc., or to fund a special counsel with a $40 million budget, politically warped FBI investigators, and a partisan legal dream team over a hoax—especially given in the next year the possible exposure of the 10 percent take, likely untaxed, for the “big guy.”
As for Trump, there was a road, a far better road for him, not taken. He likely knew by the second week in December, when the electors were chosen, that his flurry of month-long lawsuits, recounts, and objections would not lead to either a new national election or the disqualification of votes in four or five key states. The kraken of Sidney Powell was already a crawdad, and the fantasies of Lin Wood were increasingly perverse.
So Trump erred in pressing his unrealistic claims of winning the election and thereby giving his supporters expectations that the irregularities in the voting would translate into a Trump second term. Again, fairly or not, legally or illegally, rightly or wrongly, that simply was never going to happen. To insist that it would was to mislead his most loyal base. And the disconnect from the finality of November 3, may have contributed to a Republican Senate lost in Georgia, and, for now, has clouded his legacy of real achievement.
Meanwhile, for a few final days his enemies will still replay the now tired celebrity arguments of Winter 2017 about how best to remove the then newly inaugurated Trump (e.g., blowing him up, beheading, stabbing, incinerating, punching, and shooting) as if just letting him ride off signals their own defeat. Kathy Griffin popped up retweeting the decapitated head of Donald Trump – apparently without worry of a Twitter ban.
But the country in 2021 – worn out by riot, arson, looting, plague, lockdown, recession, and election fatigue – is facing a number of existential crises that will only accelerate in the months ahead.
The Trump haters must concede that his caricatured Operation Warp Speed gave the states millions of COVID-19 vaccinations in just 10 months. Yet many Trump hating governors for some reason can’t use their stocks to just vaccinate the people and save thousands of lives. How sad that the hated Trump did get vaccines within the promised year into the hands of the beloved governors, who conducted their own Operation Turtle when it came to vaccinating their own residents.
The national debt will soon exceed $28 trillion. No major political leader of either party offers any sort of blueprint on how to reach a balanced budget, much less an eventual reduction of the debt without sending the economy into a recession or worse.
We are still in a recession. But we have already exhausted stimulatory medicine with de facto zero interest, a massive federal budget deficit, and unsustainable national debt.
No doubt once the public is unlocked and unleashed, pent-up demand will spur some kind of recovery. But whether the uptick is sustainable on a pile of borrowed money remains to be seen.
China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia see Trump’s increases in the defense budget, the once-robust 2019 economy, and his deterrent unpredictability as ancient history. They, too, are taking care of business and clamping down on their own while the world watches the American meltdown.
They savor the likelihood of slashes in the Pentagon budget, a predictably accommodating 78-year-old and often confused commander-in-chief Biden, and a reset return to the 2016 world of the Iran nuclear deal, unquestioned Chinese mercantilism, promiscuous North Korean missile testing, and Russian hacking and bullying of its neighbors.
Let us hope they are weaker than they boast and Biden is stronger than he seems.
So February through April could be an iffy period. Biden likely will allow his own hatred of Trump to lead to a renunciation of what have been largely successful policies overseas.
Given Trump’s last two weeks, the Left will seek process, not just policy, changes, in a manner not seen since 1932 or 1964. It wants to “cleanse” those with whom it disagrees and destroy rather than defeat them. It is quickly consolidating the means of public communication and corporate culture, made easier by a COVID-stricken, quarantined, and financially strapped population. For now there is nothing to stop them.
So hang on. It is going to be Mr. Toad’s wild scary ride for all of 2021.
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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. 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 (Basic Books).