Victor Davis Hanson Breaks Down How Elites Are Destroying What It Means To Be An American Citizen In New Book

  
Via:  Vic Eldred  •  2 months ago  •  12 comments

By:   Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson Breaks Down How Elites Are Destroying What It Means To Be An American Citizen In New Book
Yet never have such efforts of the evolutionaries been so focused and holistic as they are today. Original constitutional avenues for amendments are now often seen as too cumbersome to effect change, given the need for three-quarters of the states to ratify what two-thirds of the Congress has previously enacted. Instead, the subtext for radical reformers remains, why let old white men of a bygone age continue, from their graves, to impose their ossified values on a far more enlightened,...

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The US Constitution — the foundation of the oldest constitutional republic still in existence today — was primarily designed to protect personal freedom, property, and individual liberty from both oppressive government elites and periodic mob frenzies. The American Revolution, unlike the later French Revolution, was intended neither to ensure
mandated equality of result (what we now call “equity”) nor to extend state control over the private lives and thoughts of citizens, much less to create a communitarian ideal of citizenry. Few, if any, of the Founders embraced what the later French Revolutionaries would champion as égalité and fraternité.

This American foundational idea of citizen control of government on major matters of life and death, however, is waning. And given that the Constitution is difficult to amend, reformists are constantly seeking evolutionary avenues to render it inert or to change it by unconstitutional means. These “evolutionaries,” who wish to move beyond the Framers’ ideas, assume that the public has lost confidence in its ability to control its own republic or now prefers a radical, equality-of-result democracy to its own prior 234 years of constitutional history.

Indeed, rarely in American history have so many powerful and influential Americans become so unhappy with the US Constitution and its emphases on liberty and individual freedom rather than on government-mandated equality. Most critics see the need for a far more powerful presidency to ensure that an obstructionist Congress does not stymie progressive issues such as immigration expansion, climate change, and income redistribution.

Political scientist Terry Moe, for example, argues that the Founders “designed a government for a tiny agrarian nation — and they assumed that, as society changed, future generations would change the Constitution to meet new and evolving needs. But future generations didn’t do that. Instead, they put it on a pedestal to be worshipped.” Democracy scholar Larry Diamond has argued that to ensure fairness in American presidential and national elections, we need both to abolish the Electoral College and to adopt ranked-choice voting (RCV), that is, allowing citizens to rank their preferences for multiple candidates, as a way to green-light further changes in how we conduct elections. Of the latter, he argues, “Once RCV is adopted, with its greater incentives to moderation and diversity in our electoral process, other democratic reforms may become more achievable.” Such constitutional critics assume that as the nation constantly becomes more just, fair, and humane — reflecting the natural moral progression of human nature — it also needs to rewrite its charters to improve on the blinkered documents of the late eighteenth century.

Of course, throughout American history there have been lots of both necessary and questionable legal and formal attempts to redefine citizenship as set out in the Constitution — well beyond the formal efforts of adding twenty-seven amendments, the last in 1992. Federal and state courts, the administrative state, and presidents wielding sweeping executive orders have all become would-be modernizers. All felt the eighteenth-century Constitution’s singular devotion to liberty hindered the natural progression to an equality of result. And all presidents, on the Left and Right, increasingly feel that executive orders should augment or even replace congressional legislation, especially when a president does not enjoy party majorities in the Congress.

Yet never have such efforts of the evolutionaries been so focused and holistic as they are today. Original constitutional avenues for amendments are now often seen as too cumbersome to effect change, given the need for three-quarters of the states to ratify what two-thirds of the Congress has previously enacted. Instead, the subtext for radical reformers remains, why let old white men of a bygone age continue, from their graves, to impose their ossified values on a far more enlightened, ethnically and racially diverse, and knowledgeable twenty-first-century nation? Why not allow a simple majority of Americans or a panel of distinguished jurists to fix what is obviously irrelevant or wrong in the Constitution? After all, the naive and blinkered Founders assumed that human nature is fixed and constant rather than fluid, which — with enough mandated correct education, funding, and technology — would be malleable and subject to radical improvement in its expression.

So the latest discussions about “updating” American institutions are not matters of adding a twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth, or thirtieth constitutional amendment. Instead, they are far more structural and cover everything from admitting new states to redefining the way we elect presidents. And the efforts represent an assault on the origins, spirit, and current status of our constitutional republic. Progressives no doubt would redefine a citizen, first, as a sort of judge, legislator, and executive through more direct elections and plebiscites and, only second, as a constitutional republican if he does not get his way and needs to fall back on constitutional redress through the courts.

The overarching theory of social scientists and historians is the shift from an “equality-of-opportunity” to an “equality-of-outcome” society. This transformation during the New Deal was the requisite for the entire 1960s continuance under the Great Society programs and their redefinition of civil rights to encompass government-ensured economic parity through higher taxes, income redistribution, massive new government spending, and forced proportional representation by race and gender in hiring and admission. Up until then, Americans traditionally had been open to new and stronger laws protecting equality of opportunity but were wary of the destructiveness of envy, the ancient fuel of an equality-of-result society that saw government punish its more successful citizens. As Alexis de Tocqueville warned of upward mobility and the resentment it incurs in a democracy, “In a democracy private citizens see a man of their own rank in life who becomes possessed of riches and power in a few years; this spectacle excites their surprise and envy, and they are led to inquire how the person who was yesterday their equal is today their ruler. To attribute his rise to his talents or his virtues is unpleasant; for it is tacitly to acknowledge that they are themselves less virtuous and less talented than he was.”

As we will see, the mostly elite and formal efforts to change the Constitution — whether by systematically nullifying federal laws, using the courts and the bureaucracy to circumvent the will of Congress, or ignoring or replacing parts of the Constitution itself — share the same ideological geneses that have led to the ad hoc diminution of the middle class, the conflation of citizenship with residency, and the multicultural tribalism discussed previously. The common theme once more is an effort to erode traditions and laws in order to mandate equity and to empower an alliance of the elite and the poor at the expense of the power and influence of the middle class.


Excerpted from “The Dying Citizen:How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America” by Victor Davis Hanson. Copyright © 2021. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won,” from Basic Books.


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Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Vic Eldred    2 months ago

This one is required reading.

The book is 

The Dying Citizen:

How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America”


By Victor Davis Hanson

 
 
 
XXJefferson51
Senior Guide
1.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  Vic Eldred @1    2 months ago

Hansen is right.  Thanks for sharing this review…

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  XXJefferson51 @1.1    2 months ago

He is a neighbor of yours. He grew up on his families raisin farm in near Selma CA, where he still lives. I believe that's the San Joaquin Valley?

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2  JohnRussell    2 months ago

He is kind of interesting when he writes about ancient warfare. As a political analyst he is completely bonkers. I think he wants America to be like ancient Rome, which is neither desirable or possible. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2    2 months ago

He has made some interesting points when it comes to military history. I recall he once said that in America not much military history is taught either at the elementary level or even in higher education. However there are a number of universities offering courses in diplomacy, as if it was diplomacy that settled world conflicts. To this day all the evidence still shows that it is war that ultimately settles the significant issues between and within nations.

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Senior Principal
2.2  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  JohnRussell @2    2 months ago
wants America to be like ancient Rome, which is neither desirable or possible. 

Do you recall what caused the fall of the Roman Empire? If you do, try some association exercises.

Morality being a big one.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.2.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.2    2 months ago
Almost all of the people who are most vocal about keeping interpretations of the Constitution grounded in the 1700's are white. 

After 700 years of civilizing & securing most of the known world, the Roman civilization rotted from within. In the end the city of Rome was ruled by a voting bloc known as "the mob." The city of Rome was filled with foreign factions from all over the empire, Rome's old virtues were gone and replaced by Christianity, the city itself protected by mercinaries and one of it's last emperors wasn't even Roman.

Rome left a great legacy. It left the world a system of justice, a functioning government, technology & engineering, commerce, military organization and some might say, (as Hanson does) Cultural transmission and assimilation. Hanson points out that only the unconquered Germans were left out and that caused the Germans to adopt the policy of "blood & soil."  

Quite a lasting legacy when you think about it.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    2 months ago

When the Constitution was written the world was literally run by white men. China was "backwards" , Japan was in hiding from the rest of the world, Africa was "primitive", and the Arabs were in descent.  White men ruled the world. America WAS a small agrarian nation. The largest US city in 1789 wouldnt be in the top two or three hundred today. 

There is no reason not to adapt the Constitution to modern times, other than white people today dont want to because it may make their political power in America further weaken. 

Almost all of the people who are most vocal about keeping interpretations of the Constitution grounded in the 1700's are white. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
3.1  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @3    2 months ago
When the Constitution was written the world was literally run by white men.

Not in Asia or Africa.


White men ruled the world.

I think what you mean to say is that Europe advanced far more rapidly than other continents. Hanson wrote on that as well. The ancient Greeks & Romans get much of the credit for that.


America WAS a small agrarian nation.

A huge land mass with few settlers that won it's independence from colonial rule.


There is no reason not to adapt the Constitution to modern times

I've already heard what you intend to do. It's not hard to understand. If you can discredit the writers of the Constitution, then you can replace the Constitution itself. Clearly there is a kind of revolution taking place and it is not from the ground up. It is via the elites who control much of the power in America today.


Almost all of the people who are most vocal about keeping interpretations of the Constitution grounded in the 1700's are white. 

Sounds like Kendi?

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3.1.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @3.1    2 months ago
A huge land mass with few settlers that won it's independence from colonial rule.

When the Constitution was written the United States owned only a small part of that land mass. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
3.1.2  seeder  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @3.1.1    2 months ago

And?

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
4  Tessylo    2 months ago

You cannot legislate morality.  

 
 
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