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  • Writer's pictureLuis Rueda

A Rebuttal to Victor Davis Hanson

I have been fermenting this post for some time now. And although it is probably overtaken by other events, I read Professor Hanson’s opinion piece (link above) several times and it merits comment. I should first disclose that I am a big admirer of Professor Hanson. I have read his book The Western Way of War five times and will likely read it another five times before I give up the ghost. Who Killed Homer, written with John Heath on the death of classical education in American universities, is, I believe, an important book and very illuminating. That having been said, I had some issues with his opinion piece. Actually, I had a lot of issues with his opinion piece. I do agree with some of the factors Professor Hanson outlines that make for a nation’s well-being, especially a first-rate education. An educated populace is critical to a viable and functioning democracy. However, I have several points of disagreement. So let’s look at them.

We are now witnessing a concentrated effort to alter the constitutional order and centuries of custom and tradition. The left believes that’s the only way it can retain its transient power, given the unpopularity of most of its current agenda.

This is an excellent example of how people and organizations work to manipulate you. Notice how it is the left that is attempting to maintain its transient power. That seems vile. Yet, is the right also not trying to maintain power? They have clearly articulated that the new voting laws they are passing are designed to keep the right, Republicans, in power. Why is it fine for the right to want to stay in power but not the left? And If the left’s agenda is so unpopular, the right would have no trouble staying in power given a free and open electoral system. However, polls show that when stripped of political party labels, the left’s agenda is very popular with the American people by a large margin. It is when you apply a political party label to the agenda that it becomes a party-line split, and even then a majority of the American people support the “left’s agenda.” As to transient power, isn’t power supposed to be transient in a democracy? Only the right seems to believe that power should not be transient, but it should reside permanently on the right.

Already gone is the 176-year-old tradition of a pivotal November Election Day. The 152-year-old nine-member Supreme Court, the 184-year-old Senate filibuster and the 62-year-old idea of a 50-state union are all being targeted by the New Democratic Party.

This statement is so patently false. None of this is gone. Simply talking about these things does not make them “gone.” Given the gridlock among our legislators, it is unlikely that any of these things will be gone. All these things remain in place, maybe with some exception to the “176-year-old tradition of a pivotal November Election Day.” That was jeopardized, not by “the left” but by the right, in its refusal to acknowledge defeat and accept that pivotal 2020 decision. Legislatures dominated by the right are presently passing laws that allow them to overturn the will of the voters. These laws would allow the legislatures to simply not certify the will of the voters and decide themselves to whom they will give the state’s electoral votes. If this succeeds, there will be no point in voting or holding elections. We will just simply follow the North Korean model of the ruling party “electing” the next President.

As to the “tradition” of a 50-state union, it isn’t a tradition. In fact, we have actually had an over 200-year tradition of increasing the number of states. Remember, we started out with 13 states. In the over 200-year history of this nation, we have always increased the number of states. The issue here is not this so-called tradition, the issue is that the new states will be Democratic-leaning, pure and simple. If they were right-leaning, there would suddenly be no 50-state tradition.

What is happening in this passage is an attempt to stoke fear, fear that America as you know it is being destroyed. Cherished “traditions” that make America what it is are being violated by out-of-control leftist radicals. Can these things happen? Of course, anything can happen. However, discussing changes is not the same as making changes. Discussion is always good. Discussing changes could lead to other changes or new ideas that help America, not damage it.

Given that the last presidential election was hotly contested, that Democratic congressional majorities are minuscule, and that the Supreme Court is unsympathetic, the left seeks to change the rules to stay in power rather than adjust its unpopular policies.

This sounds way too much like the right, like the Republicans. They are changing the rules, but at the state level, to ensure they remain in power. Remember, they have stated this publicly.

We are running up vast multitrillion-dollar annual deficits as we race to a $30 trillion national debt.

This is amazingly hypocritical. Again, Republicans never raised any concern about deficits when they were in power and actually creating the deficit. This is only an issue if Democrats are in power. Over the last 40 plus years, it has been Republican administrations that have added to the deficit in significant amounts, greater than Democratic administrations, who have also added to the deficit. It is hard to get accurate figures. I have found a variety of numbers on the internet, which is troubling in itself since we can’t even seem to get a grip on our deficit. What is interesting to note is that Republican administrations have been more profligate with spending than Democrats, and each Democratic administration has found itself with some type of economic crisis left by the Republicans. I begin to wonder whether Republicans even know how to govern.

After costly strategic stagnation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, our military is now turning on its own. Some of the politicized top brass seem more worried about the politics of their own soldiers than the dangers of foreign militaries

No. Simply no. The military remains very focused on foreign threats, first and foremost. Are they concerned about white supremacists, Nazi sympathies within the ranks? Yes, and they should be. Are they concerned that there are elements in the military that would advocate or support a coup in this country? Yes, and they should be. Professor Hanson’s argument is like saying it is bad that the military focuses on traitors within the ranks, potential foreign spies.

Our public schools and colleges are systematically downplaying meritocratic curricula and substituting ideological, racial, and cultural litmus tests. Admissions now often hinge as much on race, gender, and ethnicity as on quantifiable achievement. The First Amendment and Fifth

Amendment, covering free speech and due process, has vanished from most college campuses.

I am not going to argue this, it would take forever, but I do agree with some of his points. We have multiple problems in our education system and that’s concerning because we need to have a strong educational system. That is a national security interest. An educated population is necessary for a functioning democracy, as it is for a vibrant economy and culture. I worry about meritocracy being thrown away at universities as well, but here is the kicker: This idea of meritocracy seems like a no-brainer. The best should get into universities and fulfill their potential. The problem is that people, politicians especially, use it to stoke your anger and fears. What they mean by the loss of meritocracy is that “those people” are stealing your rightful places in the universities. They are getting in by the color of their skin or their gender, not because they are good. First off, as you can expect, it's more complicated than that. You have numerous, wealthy white people getting into universities by virtue of their money, not merit. Trump and his family are prime examples. Many of these Affirmative Action admissions have excellent grades and qualifications. It shouldn’t be assumed they are the lesser candidates. These terms and ideas are meant to make you angry, resentful. Even if you would never have gotten into college on your own, you are angry because someone seems to be getting something for free, moving ahead of you on the line. It wasn’t too long ago that women and minorities, no matter how capable, how qualified they were, were not allowed into universities. Anyway, more on education in a later post.

The year 2020 saw the most destructive riots in American history. Yet very few of the looters, arsonists and rioters were ever indicted. Most were never arrested.

DC alone arrested 300 protestors during the BLM protests. I also doubt these were the most destructive riots in history, not by a long shot. So not true.

Private monopolies that control most of the written communications of Americans censor expression entirely on the basis of politics.

I agree 100 percent, assuming Professor Hanson is also including the right-wing media, especially his hosting platform Fox News. While many conventional news outlets do have a left-of-center bias, the right-wing news media is reduced to a North Korean-style propaganda organization. They not only tilt right but right-wing media lies and purposefully puts out propaganda.

I believe the heart of the matter in Professor Hanson’s opinion piece is what he views as the assault on customs and traditions. I can see some of the logic behind this. Customs and traditions unite and bind a people together. They provide a sense of national identity, which is very useful when faced with tribalism and divisions. But many of these very same traditions were waived by former President Trump. He was touted as an unconventional candidate and president who flouted custom and tradition. He would not be bound by the traditions of the past. This was hailed as a positive aspect of the man. Now all these traits are deemed dangerous to the republic. We must uphold customs and traditions if they benefit the right but they can be ignored, again, when it benefits the right to do so.

Finally, back to the topic of tradition and custom. Here I vehemently disagree. It is the nation that adapts, changes, and moves forward that thrives and survives. The nation that throws itself on tradition and custom, that tries to stop change is a nation that will eventually collapse—left behind by history, and history is full of such nations. We have always been a nation of change. We started as revolutionaries, throwing out the customs and traditions of the United Kingdom and building a nation where we were not bound by tradition. We made our own way, our own history. Sometimes that history was glorious, sometimes it was shameful. That is part and parcel of being a nation, of being human. There is no nation that is pure and perfect, no nation that has not done terrible things. Our strength has been that we recognize those terrible things and move to change them, no matter how hard and how long it takes. To throw ourselves on tradition and custom, to fight change is our death knell.

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