By Victor Davis Hanson
Photo: Protesters set fire to an American flag near President Donald Trump’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, part of the event put on by the Revolution Club in Los Angeles on July 4, 2020. Kent Nishimura via Getty Images
In truth, “insurrection” has been fueled by the Left since 2015.
For 120 days in summer 2020, violent protesters destroyed some $2 billion in property and injured 1,500 police officers in riots that led to over 35 deaths.
Because blue-state mayors and governors saw BLM and Antifa instigators as useful street soldiers, most of those arrested were never tried in court. Street thugs paid no price for declaring themselves de facto owners of downtown areas of Seattle, which police themselves conceded were no-go zones. Why did public officials in blue states ignore the violence? They were certain that it enjoyed majority support among their leftwing constituencies.
Indeed, some leftist icons cheered on the violence. Well after the failed attempt to storm the White House grounds, in June 2020, the Democratic candidate for vice president Kamala Harris warned us that protestors were “not going to let up, and they should not.” What did Harris mean by “should not?”—when she knew numerous protests that summer had ended in terrible violence? Was she reckless in the manner Trump was said to be by encouraging a demonstration on January 6?
The architect of the “1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones assured the nation that vast destruction of (someone else’s property) was not a real crime. CNN’s Chris Cuomo gushed that violent demonstrations and riots were American traditions. Were these national voices urging calm during weeks of violent rioting and looting?
There were no investigations, no congressional committees, and no voices of outrage from the left-wing establishment over months of such carnage. Indeed, much of the organization of the violent protests was facilitated by social media that was apparently unbothered that the medium under their stewardship was used to torch and loot.
The Attack on Norms and Customs
Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) urged her followers to tail, dog, and get in the faces of Trump government officials to the point that they would lose their freedom to even be seen in public. “And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” she famously admonished.
Corporations began boycotting events deemed illiberal in fears of being boycotted themselves. Not saluting the flag for professional athletes was considered patriotic, saluting it insurrectionary. Mobs of leftists, cheered on by Democratic grandees, began tearing down statues of Confederate generals—but only as a preliminary to defacing the Lincoln Memorial and other statues of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Frederick Douglass.
From 2015-16, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with impunity had wiped away thousands of her supposedly personal emails on a likely illegal private server. To cover her tracks, she ordered her devices destroyed, despite many being under subpoena.
Clinton also sought to warp the entire machinery of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Clinton’s skullduggery was hidden behind three firewalls—the Democratic National Committee, the Perkins-Coie legal firm, and the Fusion GPS opposition research firm—to mask her likely illegal payments that enlisted a foreign national and ex-spy, Christopher Steele, to assist her campaign by destroying Donald Trump.
Steele proved a clumsy, grifting con artist who tapped Clinton’s money, her friends, and her former subordinates in concocting a fake “dossier” of gossip, lies, and slander aimed at rendering Trump unelectable. No matter—Steele used Clinton’s State Department contacts and former government clients to compile and seed the lies among a toady media to undermine her political opponent and later sabotage the Trump presidency.
The War Against Institutions
The Left, in revolutionary fashion, has waged a sustained and unapologetic attack on constitutional norms and long-held institutions—whenever it senses they no longer prove conducive to its own radical agendas.
Barack Obama declared during a funeral oration for the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) that the filibuster was racist and must end—although as a senator Obama had used it and declared it essential.
The Electoral College? When the so-called “blue wall” fell, it transmogrified from valuable to a bankrupt fossil. In fact, the Left has wanted to create two new blue states (the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to fast track four left-wing senators, and cram through a national voting law to make the states’ constitutional prerogative to require voter IDs illegal.
There is no border. For two years, Joe Biden, again in true revolutionary fashion, has simply abrogated federal immigration law by fiat. In less than two years, he has welcomed 3 million illegal aliens without audit—or COVID-19 tests or vaccinations—during a pandemic in which unvaccinated federal employees and military personnel faced dismissal. Biden had taken an oath of office to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, but then shortly thereafter destroyed immigration laws as we knew them. No prior president has simply rendered an entire corpus of law null and void.
Fueled by leftist billionaires, the Left waged a multiyear effort to elect big-city district attorneys whose agendas were pure nihilism: to not enforce laws, to release arrested criminals without indictments, to end cash bail, and prematurely to release convicted and hardened lawbreakers. The guiding principle was the revolutionary theory that the law was a simple construct used against marginalized peoples and the poor, and therefore simply could be ignored or discarded.
There is no longer free speech on college campuses. Guests who voice minority opinions are in danger of being shouted down or put into physical danger—with the near certainty that their attackers will face few if any consequences.
“Safe spaces,” dorms, and graduation ceremonies are often racially exclusive—all knowingly in violation of the spirit and the letter of once vaunted civil rights legislation. At many colleges, faculty and potential faculty are asked to write “diversity statements,” apparently in emulation of the old McCarthy “loyalty oaths” that likewise served both to eliminate any dissent and to frighten would-be apostates. Any dissident professor will have his biography thoroughly scanned for thought crimes, and then be libeled as a “racist” or “sexist”—as a clear warning to others to keep silent.
There is a revolutionary war now being waged against the Supreme Court, because it no longer characteristically legislates from the bench. If the Court was once beloved as an iconic institution that was a sort of liberal judiciary, legislature, and executive all in one, it is now utterly despised as counterrevolutionary. Indeed, it is declared illegitimate, and its rulings to be ignored.
Former law professor Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) screams about a need to pack the Court—an insurrectionary attempt to end 160 years of judicial law and custom, that would be impossible without first ending the 180-year filibuster.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called out Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh by name at the doors of the Court, issuing biblical warnings of violence to both: “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
What sort of “force” did a U.S. senator refer to by screaming to a mob about what might “hit” the justices or when he further threatened, that the two “have released the whirlwind and [they] will pay the price”? What price? What whirlwind?
Did such physical threats incite would-be nuts to seek out a court justice—as in the recent case of 26-year-old Nicholas John Roske arrested armed near the home of Justice Kavanaugh and who currently faces a charge of attempting to murder an associate justice of the Supreme Court?
Illegally leaking rough drafts of future opinions is now not unlawful but a voice of conscience—as long as it is seen as another effective leftist tool to intimidate conservative justices.
Leftists, egged on by Democratic politicians, now routinely mass, circle, shout, and seek to intimidate at the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices—a felony violation that is never prosecuted.
Joe Biden, who claimed Trump showed insufficient respect for the judiciary, now while abroad savagely attacks the U.S. Supreme Court in off-topic rants before his smiling foreign hosts.
In sum, laws are said to be irrelevant and to be ignored by states, cities, and counties at will—depending on their usefulness or impediments to the Left’s agenda.
Indeed, leftists are at times states’ rights extremists. They attack the federal government’s authority on immigration issues and simply nullify it—as evidenced by 550 sanctuary city jurisdictions in blue states designed to render inert federal immigration law.
Yet at other times, the Left seeks to crush states’ rights. Currently it is calling for the federal government, in violation of the Hyde Amendment, to nullify states’ rights to establish abortion laws—by creating abortion clinics on federal military bases and national parks inside red states (that is, in states where about 10 percent of the nations’ yearly abortions occur).
The common denominators are not principles—but only the retention of power, and the notion that law is fluid and gains legitimacy only when advancing leftist dogma.
Our Revolutionary Agencies
Former Obama Administration Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan both lied under oath—without legal consequences—to the Congress.
The FBI itself has descended into a sort of revolutionary police force rather than a disinterested investigative body focusing mostly on intrastate and federal crimes. The fired former Director James Comey feigned amnesia or ignorance 245 times in his responses under oath to a House committee.
The subsequent interim director Andrew McCabe admittedly lied three times to federal investigators and likely discussed wearing a wire to entrap the president of the United States. He was never charged with any federal crime.
An FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith altered a federal affidavit to warp a FISA court hearing. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller claimed under oath that he had no idea what the Steele dossier or Fusion GPS was, even though, arguably, they were the goads that prompted his own 22-month-long investigation.
There is no need to review the creepy careers and texts of FBI lawyer Lisa Page and her paramour FBI agent Peter Strzok, other than to note both used FBI resources to advance political agendas. The entire agency was knee-deep in fueling the Russian collusion hoax, itself a veritable revolutionary attempt to destroy a political campaign, a presidential transition, and a presidency.
In the fashion of the former East German Stasi, the FBI hounds political opponents on the Right by surveilling parents at school board meetings, sending a SWAT team to arrest a flamboyant Trump supporter Roger Stone, arriving at the house of journalist James O’Keefe in the deep of night to confiscate his files and devices, and putting former White House advisor Peter Navarro in veritable shackles. The common denominator is the FBI devolving into a retrieval service for the Biden family syndicate, whether by putting on ice Hunter Biden’s incriminating laptop or hounding out Ashley Biden’s lurid diary or intimidating Biden critics.
Yet when asked to produce relevant cell phones of possibly wayward agents, the FBI claims that such data was erased, shrugs, and does not comply. Apparently, the FBI leadership fears the progressive Washington political-bureaucratic-media nexus far more than it fears the consequences of violating the law it is sworn to uphold.
Retired four-star admirals and generals no longer just revolve out of service to woke corporate boards and lobbying firms. Now they must first prepare their trajectories by violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in damning their commander-in-chief and thus virtue signaling their bankable corporate orthodoxy.
As a result, the left-wing media and elite have dropped their traditional dislike of such federal authorities, be they the FBI, the CIA, or the Pentagon. Indeed, the Left has come to love those with badges and guns—but solely as a revolutionary force far more efficient than the clumsy Congress in greenlighting their progressive agendas and making life hell for their opponents.
Sort of Sacrosanct Elections, Sort of Not
As far as rejecting the outcomes of federal and state elections, for leftist insurrectionists the validity of an election hinges on whether the Left is a declared winner or loser. Once Hillary Clinton lost the election in 2016, her opponent became “illegitimate.” She joined the “Resistance” and later advised Joe Biden to reject the ballot tally if he lost the popular vote. No one claimed she was endangering hallowed institutions or sounding insurrectionary.
For Time journalist Molly Ball, the billionaire effort to undermine the 2020 election by infusing hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money to usurp the work of selected county registrars was a giddy “conspiracy.” For former Obama Pentagon lawyer Rosa Brooks in 2017, the 11-day tenure of newly inaugurated President Donald Trump was already an occasion to weigh the relative advantages of either impeachment, invocation of the 25th Amendment—or a military coup to remove him.
Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams became a left-wing cult figure by touring the country claiming she was the real governor of her state who somehow, nonetheless and illegitimately, had lost her campaign by 50,000 votes.
Good Threats of Violence
As far as violence goes, the Left has descended into full assault pornography over the last few years.
Former vice president and “uniter” Joe Biden boasted that he would like to beat up President Trump: “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him . . .” or “He’s the bully that used to make fun when I was a kid that I stutter, and I’d smack him in the mouth.”
Do we remember when Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another 2020 presidential hopeful, railed that, “My testosterone sometimes makes me want to feel like punching him [Trump], which would be bad for this elderly, out-of-shape man that he is if I did that. This physically weak specimen.”
Robert De Niro similarly announced that he had his sights on Trump, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Do such threats have consequences? Maybe. On the day Trump was inaugurated, Madonna incited a crowd outside the White House by warning that she had thought of blowing up the White House. Comedian Kathy Griffin trumped that in a video in which she held up a facsimile of a decapitated Trump head.
Few today remember James Hodgkinson—a former Bernie Sanders campaign worker—and his 2017 attempt to assassinate Republican congressmen at a practice for a charity baseball game.
So yes, let us fear that democracy is dying in media darkness. Real insurrectionists are seeking to dismantle the Constitution, to end centuries-long customs and traditions, to justify the use of political violence, and to disobey all the laws they find inconvenient.
About Victor Davis Hanson
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, The Case for Trump and the newly released The Dying Citizen.