by Victor Davis Hanson
For a variety of reasons, the 2020 election is going to be a referendum beyond Donald Trump’s record and his Democratic opposition.
The furor that Trump has incurred, and the radical antithesis to his agenda and first term, have redefined the looming election. It is becoming a stark choice between a revolutionary future versus American traditionalism.
The choice in reductionist terms will be one between a growing, statist Panopticon, fueled by social media, a media-progressive nexus, and an electronic posse. Online trolls and government bureaucrats seek to know everything about us, in Big Brother fashion to monitor our very thoughts to ferret out incorrect ideas, and then to regiment and indoctrinate us to ensure elite visions of mandated equality and correct behavior – or else!
In other words, the personality quirks of a Trump or an Elizabeth Warren or a Bernie Sanders will become mostly irrelevant given the existential choice between two quite antithetical ideas of future America. In 2020 we will witness the penultimate manifestation of what radical progressivism has in store for us all – and the furious, often desperate, and unfettered pushback against it.
Targeting Traditional America
We are also well beyond even the stark choices of 1972 and 1984 that remained within the parameters of the two parties. In contrast, the Democratic Party as we have known it, is extinct for now. It has been replaced since 2016 by a radical progressive revolutionary movement that serves as a touchstone for a variety of auxiliary extremist causes, agendas, and cliques – almost all of them radically leftwing and nihilistic, and largely without majority popular support.
When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a number of Democratic presidential candidates sympathize with the New York subway jumpers who openly threaten the police, then what or who exactly is the alternative to such chaos?
When the media proves 90 percent partisan according to its own liberal watchdog institutions, or reports things as true that cannot be true but “should” be true, what are the forces behind that?
When the violence of Antifa is quietly – or sometimes loudly – condoned, who are those who empower it and excuse it?
If a late-term abortion results in a live baby exiting the birth canal only to be liquidated, who exactly would say that is amoral?
If the leading Democratic presidential candidates openly embrace the Green New Deal, reparations, abolishing the Electoral College, welfare for illegal aliens, open borders, amnesties, wealth taxes, a 70-90 percent income tax code, Medicare for all, and legal infanticide – what is the alternative vision and who stands between all that and a targeted traditional America?
In California, the nation’s largest utility preemptively shuts off power to multibillion-dollar industries and two-million customers, given its ossified grid and over-regulated operations, and the deliberate policy of the state not to clean up drought-stricken dead forests and underbrush that are ignited by wind and antiquated transmission cables. So, who or what then in 2020 would oppose all that?
In a state where half the nation’s homeless use the streets as open sewers and receptacles for refuse, incubating medieval diseases and public hazards, who exactly says that is unacceptable? The California attorney general openly boasts that he believes the state is the home for 10 million immigrants of undetermined legal status; is there any pushback to that agenda? If not, would 20 or 30 million immigrants be acceptable for Californians? Why not 50 to 60 million additional residing foreign nationals legal or otherwise?
Can even a leftwing Facebook, Google, or Apple operate within a landscape that cannot ensure reliable power to run its businesses? Do the progressive masters of the Silicon Valley want to hand over millions per year in wealth taxes on money that has already been taxed – but which is considered by the Warrenites and Sandersites as veritable public property given their own past use of state roads and infrastructure to build their businesses? Do these billionaires really think conservative state policies encouraged tens of thousands of homeless people to sleep in cars and streets near their businesses?
On the social front, we are bombarded with celebrities dreaming of various methods of assassinating the current president. Who speaks out against such incendiary smears? Did Hollywood stars do the same to then-President Barack Obama?
In professional sports, Colin Kaepernick’s circus of not standing up during the national anthem has transmogrified into something far more serious – the National Basketball Association’s wholesale appeasement of the dictatorial communist Chinese government, and the leveraging of U.S. free speech in return for access to the lucrative Chinese market. Who is more likely to speak out against that?
Will Campus Culture Replace Our National Character?
Our universities effectively have eroded the First Amendment and the due process protections of the Fifth in matters of sexual assault allegations. Higher education is now controlled by a revolutionary clique. It institutionalizes racially segregated dorms and safe spaces, matter of factly promotes censorship, and either cannot or will not prevent students from disrupting lecturers with whom they disagree. What or who exactly say not to all that? Who would dare say that America in its third century is not going to change its use of English pronouns or decide that there are not three and more biological genders?
When a progressive mom takes her kids to walk and play in a California municipal park and, instead of relaxing comfortably with her fellow mom friends, finds blood-tainted needles sticking up out of the grass, what sort of policies does she imagine allowed that? When a small business owner in San Francisco finds vagrants defecating near his breezeway or mobs of shoplifters swarming his store, what sort of politics and ideologies will he consider led to that?
Who Is Sovereign Here?
On the national level, what or who created a landscape in which the highest echelons of the FBI, CIA, and Justice Department sought to surveil American citizens, undermine a presidential campaign, and abort a presidential transition and then a presidency? If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, would anyone have objected? Do any object today that she hired a foreign national to work with foreign sources to discredit and smear her political opponent?
Who or what is behind the constant remonstrations that the American people are racist, sexist, homophobic, nativist, xenophobic, and oppressing the transgendered? Who lodges such charges? Who believes them to be true?
Why is gasoline reaching $5 a gallon in coastal cities, when states like California have huge untapped sources of oil and natural gas? Why is lumber sky-high in stores while the state mandates that millions of harvestable drought-stricken dead trees instead slowly rot to serve as kindle for deadly wildfires?
What is wrong with 3.5 percent unemployment? Is there a Democratic plan to lower it to 2.5 percent?
Who exactly wishes to pack the court, to repeal the Electoral College, to nix the difference between residency and citizenship, to promote identity-politics tribalism over collective affinities, to nullify federal immigration law, to hunt down and disrupt political opponents as they eat and sleep – and who not?
Whose ideologies logically lead to promoting iconoclasm and statue-toppling, the Orwellian renaming of streets and buildings, the defacing of public murals?
The Orwellian Jacobins or America First
The new progressive party is Jacobin. It sees politics in all-inclusive French revolutionary terms – encompassing every aspect of American life from entertainment, sports, academia, religion, and family matters to politics, foreign policy, and individual rights.
In his own way, Trump also fights back in 360-degree fashion, from the existential to the trivial, railing against Colin Kaepernick, tit-for-tatting Hollywood stars, weighing in on radical abortion, open borders, power outages, the homeless and subway jumping. The result is not just that there looms a choice between two different agendas, but two quite different American lifestyles and experiences – and histories.
Like it or not, 2020 is going to be a plebiscite on an American version of Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four. One side advocates a complete transformation not just of the American present but of the past as well. The Left is quite eager to change our very vocabulary and monitor our private behavior to ensure we are not just guilty of incorrect behavior but thought as well.
The other side believes America is far better than the alternative, that it never had to be perfect to be good, and that, all and all, its flawed past is a story of a moral nation’s constant struggle for moral improvement.
One side will say, “Just give us more power and we will create heaven on earth.” The other says “Why would anyone wish to take their road to an Orwellian nightmare?” The 2020 election is that simple.
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Victor Davis Hanson is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare.