The Present American Revolution

By Victor Davis Hanson, November 13, 2018

Destroying the Constitution and seeking state-mandated equality of result

The revolution of 1776 sought to turn a colony of Great Britain into a new independent republic based on constitutionally protected freedom. It succeeded with the creation of the United States.

The failed revolution of 1861, by a slave-owning South declaring its independence from the Union, sought to bifurcate the country, More than 600,000 dead later, slavery was abolished, a Confederacy was in in ruins, and the South was forced back into the United States largely on the conditions and terms of the victorious North.

The 1960s saw efforts to create a new progressive nation by swarming democratic and republican institutions. The sheer force of a left-wing cultural revolution would supposedly transform a nation, in everything from jeans, long hair, and pot to rock music and sexual “liberation.” It was eventually diffused by popular weariness with the extremism and violence of the radical revolutionaries, and the establishment’s agreements to end the Vietnam War, give 18-year-olds the right to vote, phase out the draft, expand civil rights to include reparatory action, legalize abortion, radicalize the university, and vastly increase the administrative state to wage a war on poverty, a war on pollution, and a war on inequality.

Our present revolution is more multifaceted. It is a war on the very Constitution of the United States that has not yet brought the Left its Holy Grail: a state-mandated equality of result overseen by an omnipotent and omniscient elite. The problem for today’s leftists is that they are not fighting Bourbon France, a reactionary Europe of 1848, or Czarist Russia, but an affluent, culturally uninhibited, and wildly free United States, where never in the history of civilization has a people attained such affluence and leisure.

Poverty is not existential as it once was, given high technology and government redistribution. The grievance is not that America is destitute (indeed, obesity not famine is our national epidemic). The poorer do not lack access to material goods (everything from iPhones to high-priced sneakers is in the reach of about everyone).

Instead, the complaint is that some have far more than others, and the government, despite its $21 trillion in debt, seems unable to guaranteed universal parity, especially when the people seem unexcited about joining “taking a knee” protests or “swarming the homes” of counter-revolutionaries. In other words, millions of Americans will never join Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or Occupy Wall Street on the barricades; nor will they worry that in Texas 59 percent of white women voted for Latino Ted Cruz while 95 percent of black women voted for white male Robert O’Rourke. They apparently prefer instead to live private lives on their own terms.

Taking a drive in a Hyundai today is far more comfortable, reliable, and safe than touring in a 1970 Rolls Royce. An inner-city youth with an iPhone has more computing power and global access in his palm than did an estate owner in 1990 with a row of mainframe computers in his basement. So revolution is not so easy anymore and requires changing the very idea of the state, the law, and the ancient institutions that uphold them.


Sovereign and secure borders do not lead to the sort of demographic upheaval that fuels progressive agendas. Measured, legal, meritocratic, and diverse immigration does not result in a vast impoverished shadow population in need of self-appointed advocacy; it enhances individual assimilation, integration, intermarriage, and Americanization.

If in the past nullification of federal laws led to the states’-rights crises involving southern states in 1828–32, 1860, or 1962, today there is apparently little worry about ignoring federal immigration statutes. We simply have allowed more than 500 municipalities, counties, and states to declare full enforcement of federal immigration law null and avoid within their jurisdictions — period.

Immigrants 1,000 miles away, intent on crashing the southern border and residing in the U.S. illegally, sue the federal government to force acceptance of their anticipated illegal entry. Again, the revolutionary idea is that progressive messaging cannot win 51 percent approval without changing the demography — and changing the demography is impossible without constitutional nullification.

Elections and Courts

Voting does not always result in the result that progressives desire. Unfortunately for the Left, more than half the country still believes America is unquietly good, blessed with a wonderful inheritance by its brave and ingenious ancestors, a beacon of freedom and security in a scary world, and constantly improving. Even a progressive media, university, Hollywood, and a progressive plutocracy, Antifa, and street theater cannot yet change that fact.

So the revolution again turns to upending the constitution and the law. In Florida, local violations of state election laws seek to warp the result and elect the more progressive candidate. More fundamentally, why does a Wyoming of 600,000 souls deserve two senators, the same number as in California with its 40 million? Are not 39,400,000 California citizens deprived of their “rights” of proportional senatorial representation?

Why is there an electoral college that violates the spirt of Athenian democratic direction elections? Why is there a Second Amendment that allows “automatic” assault weapons and “nuts” with handguns?

For that matter, why is there a counterrevolutionary First Amendment that protects “hate speech” and de facto promotes right-wing racists, homophobes, nativists, xenophobes, sexists, and climate-change deniers, allowing them to propagandize and pollute the public discourse and infect campuses with right-wing rhetoric?


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Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. @vdhanson