John Anderson Direct: With Victor Davis Hanson, Historian and Writer

Victor Davis Hanson with his insights into Trump's presidency, the threat of China and the irrationality of the current cultural revolutions.



John Anderson: [00:00:00] Professor Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in classics and military history. At the Hoover Institution at Stanford in California, he’s one of America’s most published and respected public intellectuals. He’s written dozens of books on warfare and classical history, and his latest books are a History of World War II and also an account of Donald Trump’s coming to Power.

Victor, thank you very much for joining us from rural California. Yeah, all the way from. To Northwest New

Victor Davis Hanson: South Wales.

Globalisation, COVID, and China

John Anderson: Thank you. Can I ask, uh, to open the batting, so to speak, in world history terms, are we now at some sort of major tipping point going through a traditional period when an old order is being a sta being replaced by a new one in your view?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, the old order I think has been replaced and it’s, it’s analogous to the postwar, decolonization of the British Empire and the, the emergence of a new engaged America. But this is, I think, a little bit more dangerous cause we were embracing globalization and I think people very naively thought that everybody was on board.

With the Western paradigm of consumer capitalism, transparency, individual rights, constitutional government, respect for minority opinion tolerance and diversity of religions. And that’s, and that did not prove true. And one of the catalysts that was this covid, um, Contagion because we learned very quickly that China was neither transparent or sincere, and many of the world international organizations have been warped by Chinese influence.

And then we learned that getting from San Francisco to Shanghai and 16 hours, which we had praised for 20 years was maybe not such a good thing because the virus was leaving Wuhan on direct flights, San Francisco and Los Angeles at time. The Chinese. Was forbidding flights from Wuhan to domestic destination.

So the virus reminded us that it’s very hard to globalize along this, the assumptions and presumptions that we thought would happen under globalization. Some of us were very skeptical, but we were drowned out. And I think now, I think we don’t know what’s ahead of us. I, and um, so we’re in a circling pattern, a period of uncertainty, but I don’t think there’s many advocates of globalization.

In the United States, at least,

John Anderson: I’m sure that’s true everywhere. Uh, some of the work that the Henry Jackson Society in Britain has done on the dependence of the Five Eyes Nations, which of course are Britain, America, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. And their dependency upon Chinese, uh, manufacturers and materials and what have you, uh, for their supply chains is really deeply concerning.

It’s gonna be very, very difficult to unwind that dependency. Without shooting ourselves in the foot. It seems to me, even in the case of Australia, where, uh, Australian farmers, you’re a farmer, I’m a farmer. Um, Australia exports a higher percentage of its food production than any other country in the world.

Because we have such a small domestic population. Uh, we would appear to be as self-sufficient as any nation in the world in terms of food production, and yet we’re not. We’re dependent on certain key chemicals and so forth. Now from China. Same

Victor Davis Hanson: to even to a greater degree. There’s the same apprehension.

We keep talking about returning industries to the United States, especially protective equipment, medical supplies, pharmaceutical strategic materials, military applied tech technologies. But what we’re learning is that our education system has been in decline and the so-called STEM graduates or the people necessary.

To ensure us, not the, not the original research, but the next level of operational research, we don’t have enough graduates and we’re not competitive yet unless we, you know, re-engineer our universities and it’s gonna be, and a lot of our corporate magnets feel that they wanna move back, but they’re gonna lose capital, they’re gonna lose bank accounts, and it’s making it very hard to do so.

And, One of the problems we’re having in the western world is with the rise of progressive government and its emphasis on race, class, gender issues. The Chinese are much more brilliant in terms of propaganda than we are so. By any measure [00:05:00] of classical liberality, the Chinese are very reactionary. They have a million, as you know, people, the wags in concentration camps, if I could use that term, reeducation camp.

They’ve silenced democracy, extinguished it in Hong Kong. They’ve destroyed indigenous culture and T in terms of me. They’re an international trade outlaw. They bullied their neighbors, and I think we’re gonna learn that either out of laxity or worse or responsible for a half million deaths. From Covid and yet, and yet, when this crisis arose, when we had a travel ban, they were very effective in suggesting that we were racist.

This is a very undiverse society saying that we are racist, and every time that we try to make a concerted effort to push back, they used that left wing. You’re racist, you’re insensitive. It’s the yellow peril again. And they’ve really infiltrated the United States entertainment industry, Hollywood and even the N B A.

The N B A is very vocal in their criticism of, uh, supposed social activism and things in the United States. And yet when China crushed Hong Kong, they, they pretty much silenced all of their players. In fears, they would endanger that 6 billion and growing N B A market in China. So they’re a very insidious rival, and I don’t think yet we have any imagination of their potential and their capability in terms of propaganda and messaging.

John Anderson: That’s a very chilling perspective To come to the question of education, two comments, firstly, in relation to the STEM subject. As an Australian looking America, we still see this remarkable capacity for innovation. Uh, you know, you still dominate the patent markets, uh, uh, uh, uh, applications and, and what have you.

The impression you have is that in those STEM subjects, America’s still very strong. You’re saying that though, that there’s been a shortage of graduates in that area. If you haven’t got the people you need to to keep the

Victor Davis Hanson: technology edge, I think what I was trying to say is that when we look at the quality of engineers that are being trained at Caltech, Stanford, mit, they’re the best in the world, but the next tier of people who translate abstraction into operational efficacy, we have about 70% are foreign students are necessary, or because we just.

We’ve had a radical readjustment the last 50 years in higher education, and we’re not. A lot of our most talented people, unfortunately, have been going into Wall Street finance and law, and to a lesser degree in the humanities, and we haven’t. We haven’t, for the ambitious programs we have and for the sophisticated innovation that we develop, we’re not utilizing it.

In a way that’s self-interested because we’re so dependent. So when we say we wanna become autonomous from China, a lot of our more informed scholars, I know that if I write something like that in an op-ed, I get a call from a very distinguished person off the record and says, Victor, we don’t have, or we only have 20%, 30% of the PhDs in electrical engineering, or, you know, nanotechnology that we need.

And we’re dependent on foreign students and we careful. This divorce is done in such a way that we’re not punished in the short term. So it’s something that I think we’re all aware of and um, it’s kind of frightening how China does not, is not competitive with the Western world in absolute, in pure research.

But it is more than competitive in translating that pure research into viable products and, uh, innovative designs, consumer products. And part of it is, it’s not just that they’re renegades and they don’t follow pin uh, patent and copyright wall, but they have the fusion of the government, the private sector to the degree that we can call it a private sector, and then the whole machinery of government.

And, um, they understand American politics I think much better than Americans do sometimes. And that’s, that’s very frightening.

Are the humanities doomed?

John Anderson: So, uh, and the other side, the second question on, on education seems to me is the non stem, uh, STEM areas, the humanities, if you like. It seems to me that right across the west for 50, 60 years at least now, uh, there’s been this relentless attack on the institution.

Uh, of our own freedom, uh, this undermining and reinterpretation of our history that has left people actually in a, in a state of self-loathing of Western culture. And part of that has been an incredible naivety. I would put it to you about what communist communism has actually visited on the world whenever it’s

Victor Davis Hanson: been, uh, trial.

Yes, that’s a very good point. You know, in the ancient world, uh, people. [00:10:00] From FU to Plato to Aristotle, and in the Roman world, some of the neo like Suetonius or Petronius and even in and then ours in the German world, Nietzche and whatnot, they spotted these two characteristics of Western consensual government and market capitalism, that it creates so much wealth and it’s so efficient in providing material bounty for its citizens.

And yet it also. Protects individual expression, that if we’re not careful and we don’t have the breaks, so to speak, or the bridles of family, religion, tradition, community, then we can be, you know, we can, we can become decadent and we give into excess. And part of the problem and the crisis of the postwar western world is in the English speaking world in particular, but also in Europe.

We were very affluent, we were very leisured, and we pushed the boundaries of, of freedom without any, uh, historical reminders that we were destroying the community, the religion, the traditions that said, yes, that’s free and, and you’re your legally free to do that. But I wouldn’t say that or I wouldn’t do that because it’s dangerous to the body politic.

And so that, Was something that it’s plagued Western civilization for a long time, since its beginning that that irony And then we in the West with a decolonization movement and the United States is radical change in immigration. We brought in people throughout Europe and the former British Commonwealth and in your country and in our country, that we felt, uh, we were going because we’re the only civilization, the western.

Paradigm is the only civilization that says we’re about ideas. We’re not about blood and soil. Anybody can come to Australia and if they embrace Australianism and Western tradition, there’s, there’s Australian, even if they’re from China or from Africa. As an Australian, we have the same concept.

Unfortunately, that is a very fragile concept and it depends on the host having confidence in its own values and saying, you came here, you voted with your feet. It’s our duty to instruct you, to assimilate you, to integrate you, and to embrace our culture. Doesn’t mean that we say in the West, oh, we don’t want your food, we don’t want your music, we don’t want your fashion, we don’t want your family.

We say that can all, uh, enrich our core values, but we’re not going to change constitutional, government free speech and the whole, the whole paradigm. Unfortunately, with people coming so rapidly in such numbers to enjoy the bounty of the Western paradigm. And then we had this cynical elite that we just talked about.

We didn’t prepare people to acculturate and there, and then we, it was worse than that. We said that a quality, not freedom is our only value, and it’s a quality of results. So if you’re not equal when you get to Australia, let’s say from the Philippines or China or South America, Or you’re not equal. When you come up from Oaxaca, Mexico to California, then we’re culpable because we did something wrong because you’re, you have less money.

And the old paradigm was, it would take, this was a very ambitious project. It might take two or three generations and we were, we weren’t going to condemn the host because they didn’t provide instant parody. But it’s, we’re in revolutionary times now because we’re not assimilating integrating our immigrants and our elite.

Is completely intellectually and morally suspect.

China’s Behaviour During COVID-19

John Anderson: Yeah, I, I sympathize entirely with your views. I find them very, very concerning. Um, can I pose to you that just perhaps Chi China’s handling of Covid 19 and the extraordinary? I know, I agree with you when you say that they are, they probably understand our Democratic system better than us.

Goodness only knows how and where they’ve been in, in, you know, peddling influence. Uh, and we’ve been very conscious of that now in Australia. Nonetheless, I would say, The way they’ve handled Covid 19 and the belly coast reaction that we’ve had from them on issues such as a proper inquiry into Covid 19.

Do you think that may yet serve as a as, as a, a massive wake up call? And if so, is it in time? Can we turn this around? That, that’s

Victor Davis Hanson: a very good question and something deeply about, and.

And I, I would say it’s ambiguous. I think you’re absolutely right that Trump is no longer in the United States, a voice in the wilderness of a warning about China. Everybody is now trying to outdo each other in concern and worry about China. And, uh, we, we’ve kind of broken through the Chinese taboo. We now can say, What you’re doing with the wags is wrong and what you’re doing to Hong Kong is wrong.

Whereas before [00:15:00] corporate and university interest in a very strange symbiosis silence. I know as a pop an op-ed columnist, when I wrote critically of China, I would get a call from the console in San Francisco with the prob. And so, and that’s good. And I agree with you, but I think we’re in a second very critical phase now because I think if I should be so bold, To imagine the Chinese response.

It was something like this, oh my gosh, this virus has ruined our brand. It’s united our enemies. It’s woken up the western world to what we were planning to do. And now we’ve got indigenous people within our system that are angry. We’ve got Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, our neighbors. We’ve got the, you know, and that’s good, but I think now they’re becoming a little bit more.

Machiavellian and I, from what I’m reading about China, it’s more, if I could put words into their mouth, is, yeah, we screwed up and the virus went out and maybe our narrative that came from wet market, it wasn’t quite right and it came actually from the Wuhan lab and maybe, or maybe not, it was an engineered, not for a weapon maybe, but maybe for a vaccination.

But we don’t really care. So what we screwed up and now what are you gonna do about it? In fact, what are you gonna do about? Because when cannot not, it can happen again. And if a virus can shut down the entire Western world and with a quarantine, that’s never happened under any other plague, ruin the economy.

Cause the biggest power in the history of civilization to fall on its knees and internal divisiveness, the United States, that’s something that we should consider because it achieved far more goals. Even though it was nihilistic or accidental, then anything we had done in the past with our propaganda, and now we’ve got a deterrent proposition that anytime the United States or the West tends to galvanize against us, we can have some dissident general on specs.

Say, you know what, there might be a, a virus loose and uh, a province of China. So I think it’s pretty scary because I think now after their, their own initial, uh, Apologies if I could say it wasn’t much of apology. But their defensiveness has now been transmogrified into a new assertiveness, and they’re starting to realize that they’re not gonna be apologetic at all.

And they’re gonna be more on demand because they feel, they found a weakness in the entire social, cultural, uh, and political matrix of the west that they had no idea, uh, about. And this virus has really exposed it, I think.

Does China still need the West?

John Anderson: Uh, how would you, um, uh, in that context, what you say is very chilling, uh, respond to those who would say, well, China still needs the west.

Uh, they can’t produce semiconductors. Uh, they can’t, uh, prosper without trade, I suppose all, you know, it still depends on us having the willpower in the west to pull ourselves together, doesn’t it? And that’s what’s perhaps the biggest question of all can we reinstitute belief in ourselves? And that’s where the Black Lives matters.

Protests come into it. The deep self-loathing of our culture seems to me to be almost impossible

Victor Davis Hanson: to turn around now. It’s very difficult because just as just this, in the last 48 hours in the United States, We’ve had a moderate writer for the New York Times resign and suggest that the climate there was so anti-Semitic and divisive and censors that she couldn’t even write anymore.

We’ve had a number of prominent black entertainers, voice, uh, uh, Nick Cannon, who’s a entertainment host, voice, some antisemitic racist things that I, I. I mean that you can’t even imagine. But, but then he basically said, I’m African American. I can do what I want. I’m not gonna apologize. So there’s a new assertiveness there and, and I think what people are saying in the United States, we’ve, we’ve now transcended from we want a quality and we want proportional representation.

And if we don’t have proportional representation, we call it disparate impact. There has to be an implicit bias somewhere, or we would’ve the same number. We being people of color would’ve the same number of brain surgeons at Stanford as as others. But we’ve gone beyond that now, and what I think people make a mistake, they think that Black Lives matter as a sophisticated Marxist organization, they’re not interested in class.

They believe that Oprah or LeBron James is just a much a victim as somebody in the inner sitter. It’s a racial and it’s a racial movement and its ambitions transcend black nationalism of the 1960s. It’s saying the, that 30% of the United States. Is going to [00:20:00] go by the one drop rule of the old Confederacy.

We we’re not white and therefore we’re superior and we’re we, we don’t share in this legacy of racism, slavery, oppression, that people who are white, it’s absurd. Somebody could come from any country and we don’t know what their pigmentation is. We don’t know what their DNA is. We don’t care. But I think we have to be very careful because this is not a liberal movement.

This is not a Marxist movement drawing on, uh, the traditions of the, even the Soviet Union. This is a weird racial angry movement. And it’s deep down, it’s, it has an element of racism, racism in it. It’s getting more and more pronounced, and you can see the reaction of, uh, the, uh, progressive white. Liberal class in the United States.

They feel that the crocodile is gonna eat them last, but it’s gonna eat them and they’re trying to appease it. Um, they just fired the head of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a very distinguished artist historian for the crime of saying, I’m not going to forbid white artists from being, uh, displayed their work because I don’t believe in reverse discrimination.

They fired him. And when you take Teddy Roosevelt statue down from the Museum of Natural History, the pressure is there. And what it requires is all of us here in the United States and indeed the western world, because something analogous is happening everywhere, especially in the English speaking world, is we have to say no, we’re, we’re not ashamed of our traditions.

You don’t have to be, uh, perfect. You don’t have to be perfect to be good. We don’t measure somebody by their bad characteristics alone. We, we measure them up with the great good they did. And millions of people own slaves, but millions of them were not like Thomas Jefferson, that were aware of the complexities and the immoral issues involved, but we’re not getting enough of those voices.

Cause right now they feel that, that there’s a nexus between corporations with money that depend on emerging markets. And the universities, and they, they’ve just, in the case of China, so in the case of Black Lives Matter and this cultural revolution, they have been welded together. This is a, it’s

John Anderson: a, it’s a very ugly phase indeed.

The Racism of Identity Politics

John Anderson: It seems to me that one of the great problems you’ve got, uh, is indeed, as you say, it’s a, it is actually in itself the reemergence of racism. It’s a racism that says whites are morally inferior and culpable for ills all over the place, and yet there must be many, many middle African Americans. Who are themselves deeply disturbed by this, I mean, there are many, many, you know, wonderful, gracious and frankly middle class African-Americans now for whom America has not been such a terrible place.

Uh, as I understand it, when Martin Luther King was active, only around 30% of African-Americans were middle class on middle class incomes. It is now close to 60%. No one denies that there are problems because all human beings are subject occasionally to being racist. There’s no doubt about that. It flows every which way.

I was a member of parliament for many years. I saw racism directed against whites, but I saw racism directed against minority groups by other minority groups. It’s, it’s an ugly aspect of human nature that we ought to seek to correct, but you don’t correct it with hatred. And you don’t correct it. Surely with denying, in this case some actual facts that in many ways there must be many African-Americans for whom America’s been a land of hope, despite what has happened to their, might have happened to their forebears.

Victor Davis Hanson: I, I think there has some of the most eloquent critics of the Black Lives Movement and this new racism, steel and colleagues Hoover.

Senator Scott and uh, John McCord we have, and then the middle class as well. And I think what’s happening though is for a lot of the African-American middle class, they don’t know which way this is going to end up. They don’t know whether Black lives will ultimately be successful and, and push this agenda down America’s throat and then they’ll be punished.

And so they’re like, in some ways the white middle class, they’re, they have their finger in the proverbial air just as the mob during the reign of terror in 1793. And they don’t know whether robes Pierre is going to guillotine all of them, or he’s gonna get guillotine himself. So there’s a waiting period.

But they are privately, I think most African-American, and I live in an area that’s about 90% Mexican-American. I can tell you. The vast majority of Mexican-American people are appalled by this. [00:25:00] And so the left says that there’s a monolithic white and non-white population, and they say that because by the 1960s and seventies, their agendas of larger, larger government, less, less individual freedom, more and more spending, more and more therapeutic growth was not working.

And there was the Reagan revolution. And so they, they again saw that they needed new demography and new messaging to reconstitute the demography of the United States, both through illegal immigration and through new, uh, anti Martin Luther King messaging. Not integration, not intermarried, not assimilation, but separatism.

And we as the white liberal, patriarchs liberal, will mentor you into our political movement. And I think a lot of people don’t like that, and they’re, they’re starting to rebel. The problem is that in the Republican party, the official, uh, political, uh, organization in this country that supposedly ESPs and protects conservative, traditional thought, they were not sensitive to these issues.

So they traditionally, John McCain, uh, MIT Romney supposedly are most progressive. They only got eight to 10% of the African-American vote. If any major candidate were to get 15% of the African-American vote, that would mean that the entire progressive project blows up under our electoral system. That means that a Democrat could not get enough votes in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, uh, Detroit.

And, um, Columbus, Ohio to balance the conservative surge in the rural parts and would lose those states. Donald Trump achieved the inexplicable when he broke that blue wall because he got about 10% of the black vote, and he got a, a huge, I guess we would call it Reagan, democrat ro populist nationals vote.

But if there was a poll yesterday that said that he had 15% of the black vote, And that would suggest that defunding the police and dismantling the police, the wages of that insane policy fall most heavily as we’re seeing from these epidemic of shootings in places like Chicago and New York on the inner city.

And once people realize that what they say to their leaders and their community organizers and what they do in the ballot box could be a different thing. And if were get this poll suggested, that would be a watershed event, but. A lot of what we’re talking about in at least as far as this country and maybe indeed the world, the subtext is A2 20 election.

So how you interpret the contagion, how what your views are on the quarantine, what your views are on the violence, it’s all predicated on to what degree does that. Impair the reelection possibilities of Donald Trump. I, I know that’s a reduction statement, but I can tell you that talking to people on both sides, that’s where we are now.

And the la this next hundred days are gonna be something that we’ve never seen

White Elitists and Globalisation

John Anderson: before. Yeah, I can quite believe that and I’d love to come to that in a moment. Can I ask you a couple of questions first? Um, presumably it’s not just intellectual elites and, uh, you know, uh, newspaper editors and so forth who are at the forefront of.

Backing this movement in many ways, there must be serious money. And no doubt some of that comes from seriously wealthy white elites does it? Yes,

Victor Davis Hanson: it does. That’s one of the strangest things I think that’s happened throughout the western world. It’s, I know I followed Australian Europe, and it seems similar to the United States that much of the great money that was made in finance and high technology in our country, Silicon Valley, uh, is left wing and progressive.

And when you look at our Forbes list of 500. Billionaires. Now, not millionaires, but billionaires, almost all of them are progressive. So the great moneyed institutions in the United States, well Microsoft, the Bill Gates Fortune, or the Warren Buffett Fortune, or the Zuckerberg Facebook, or the Google Fortune, or the Apple Fortune, um, or the Mike Bloomberg Media Fortune, whatever fortune we look at, all of these people feel that they have done so well in the United States.

That their theories of utopia can now be imposed quite undemocratically on less woke people, and they feel that they’re never gonna be subject to the ramifications of their own ideology. So if they want in California open borders, then they have walls around their own home if they wanna stop irrigation, transfers not stopping drinking water transfers to the Bay Area.

If they want very high power rates, they can afford it. They live in a. Pretty temperate climate on the Bay Area. In the Bay Area, but not others out in the desert or where I’m, and so that’s been a very dangerous thing in the West, that in the old days, the, the so-called robber barons or the great 19th century magnets that built [00:30:00] my country and your country, there was always a sense that the system allowed them to do that.

That they were very. Gracious, and they had some gratitude that freedom and a constitutional system and the protection of property and a tax code allowed them to be prosperous and thereby to lift everybody up with them. And then private philanthropy was something that religion and community and tradition urged them to give back.

But I think what’s happened now, that idea is completely gone. And this new progressive billionaire class feels that. Whether it’s climate change or whether it’s racial relations, or whether it’s high density, mass transit, congested living, that they have the answers and uh, they’re going impose on others.

We got a glimpse of that, unfortunately, from Barack Obama because in series of statements that were quite astounding, he laid out a philosophy. Incomplete, though it was, he said, you know, it’s time to share the wealth. He pointed at a person said, now is not the time to profit. At some point you’ve gotta know when you’ve made enough money and don’t need anymore, and, uh, you didn’t build that.

Most notoriously you didn’t build that business, the government did. And that ideology really sent investors into the shadows. And in part, I think psychologically explained our sort of static iner economy until 2017, but it also, uh, reflected this new idea of these, of these different billionaires.

They’re a very different group than what I remember. Wealthy being, uh, as a young person, and I see them very closely at Stanford University. If I write a column, uh, that’s critical of, I, I call. And if I ever meet one of them and I do on occasion, what do you do with a guy with cutoffs and flipflops and a t-shirt and he is worth 5 billion?

Yeah, it’s an insidious. It’s an, it’s a very bizarre social matrix, and I’m very worried about those guys.

The History of Democracies

John Anderson: So you are a, you know, a, a great student and writer of, uh, classics, uh, and, and of history. Let’s turn then to what perhaps, uh, what we might learn from history. Uh, the earlier democracies failed. They ate themselves out from within Greece.

Rome. Um, what can we learn, uh, uh, from, from, uh, that history? You know, democracy is not something that has a guaranteed survival. We thought it might have back when the Berlin will wall fell. Uh, you know, the end of history and all the rest of it. But history, real history shows us it’s, it’s not secure. It needs to be nurtured.

Are we in risk, at risk? Uh, in fact, are there those who have given up on democracy or is it just that we need a wake up

Victor Davis Hanson: call? Well, it requires a great deal of investment to be an Athenian citizen or citizen of ancient thieves or a member of the Roman Republic. A great deal of, uh, time and commitment. And traditionally these democracies were associated with a viable middle class.

And there’s a chauvinism in Greek and literature about. The 10 acre farmer or the small business person, and the idea is that they were the complete citizen. They used their head, they used their muscles. They were responsible for their own defeat and failure. They were autonomous. And what they warned about is when you have great concentrations of money and a few hands, the aristocracy was not merit, but based on birth or you had a bread and circuses.

1 million people with no means of support by the second century in Rome then you were not, you were not democratic. It wasn’t gonna work. You had too many people that wanted subsidies from the government and they thought that the rich were going to pay. And the riches, their biggest, uh, occupation it seems like from forensic speeches of the ancient world is how to hide their wealth and, uh, they were not, and how to indulge themselves as we see imperial literature.

So I’m about. Here in our country, we have middle class kids with 1.7 trillion in aggregate student debt. Yep. Except no moral hazard for issuing these loans as they jack up in tuition above the rate of inflation. Until 2017, we hadn’t had a rise in, uh, middle class wages in about 12 years, and, uh, we had a static, we had unemployment about six to 7% for a number of years, and so, If you don’t have a viable middle class, then you’re not gonna have the core constituency for consensual government.

And that what it turns into is the lower classes wanting subsidies from the government and the wealthy using their power and influence to get exemptions. And that’s [00:35:00] what’s happened. I’m speaking in a state that was once a model for the United States, California in the 1970s on terms of freeways housing.

Uh, reservoirs, recreation, power, power plants. It was by far the best state in the country, and we’ve lost about 10 million middle class people have fled and they have been replaced by enormous amounts of wealth in Silicon Valley. And then, um, enormous amounts of poverty. We have the highest poverty rate in the United States, 21%.

One third of all welfare recipients live in California. Terrible homeless, that California is a canary in the mind. What can happen?

Learning from Historical Revolutions

John Anderson: The other thing that comes to mind, you touched on it a moment ago, uh, was the French Revolution, which seemed to me to be the, uh, you know, an early example of just how ugly identity politics can ultimately be.

Think of four great revolutions, uh, over recent centuries. The French, the American, the Russian, and the Maoist Revolution. Only one produced freedom. What can we learn? It seems to me that America’s increasingly looking like, I think you might have made this comment yourself. It certainly looks to me increasingly like, uh, like France before the revolution, which of course turned into a complete disaster.

Unlike the American Revolution, there’s incredible emphasis on, there’s the detachment of virtue from, um, From the classic understandings of virtue, if you like, and of right and of wrong, uh, and what have you, and it’s realignment with people and causes. So you get into a situation where the world really is a battle between, uh, good people and evil people.

If you just get rid of the evil people, everything will be all right. It always seems to me to be a very dangerous mistake that. Conservatives don’t make, they’re the one group who understand human nature never changes. We’re all a mixture of the good, noble, and the poor scum, uh, tendencies to wanna do the wrong thing, but, Is America able to learn something from understanding its own origins and its own revolution versus the French model?

Or are they determined? Are we reaching a point where we’re going to replicate the terrible mistakes that that through France into a

Victor Davis Hanson: mess? That’s the subtext of all of the discussions that we have every day in this country, whether they’re on television or debates on talk radio or in the op-ed columns.

Or in local and regional and state elections, that it’s basically two paradigms. The French Revolution, the malice, the Bolshevik versus the American Revolution, and the code words throughout history are always the same when you start to hear equality rather than freedom and liberty, and you hear internationalism.

The Bolsheviks, were always talking about an international Bolshevik resolution, MAOS, uh, Asian model. Uh, pan-Arabism Bism was another one, and the French said they were gonna sweep all of Europe into a uh, French Revolutionary Commune. And whereas the United States was always that we have a particular problem in the United States.

And we’re gonna solve that. And within our borders, we’re going to not, we’re gonna not presume that we can go out and slave dragons, that was sort of the idea of America. And we’re gonna, if we give people le uh, freedom and liberty, then we have confidence in human nature that we have non-governmental, uh, agencies, operations, traditions that will.

Inculcate virtue and the person who makes money, rather than take it from him or, or define how much he can make with deleterious consequences on the economy when you do that, is that we can encourage him and uh, persuade him to give back. And that was a pretty good model. American universities, were all product of that, and we have the largest private Phil philanthropy in the world.

Europe doesn’t have anything comparable. To Harvard, Yale, Princeton, uh, Stanford, Caltech, duke of these private endowed universities. But when you get into this revolutionary year one mode where you’re going to be holistic and systematic, and we’re all gonna suits, and I’m not, I’m not exaggerating, that’s what we are in the United States.

These people want to tear down and replace all of our statuary. They want to replace the very date when the United States was founded from 1776. 1619 and that way it’s, it’s almost uncanny how close it is to the Year zero, uh, movement in the French Revolution. And they had a cult of the supreme being.

Black Lives Matter is almost a deity now. And I, I’m, again, I’m not exaggerating. We had the chief c e [00:40:00] o of Chick-fil-A who said that it was time for everybody to take a knee and wash the feet. Of African Americans, and then he got down on his knees and he shined the sneakers of an African American raptor.

And we have, uh, in the, uh, colonate of the US Capitol, Nancy Pelosi puts on a kinte cloth, supposedly symbolizing, you know, the, a aristocracy of Africa and the pre-colonial pass, then taking a knee. And it’s almost a religious experience. And it is, it is, um, it’s very scary and. This will be a test of the American traditions and resiliency and the constitutional forethought of our founders.

Cause we, we’ve had a civil war before, and anytime when these ideological differences polarize or crystallize around geography, it gets very dangerous. We saw that in 1861, but what were happening now in the United States, and I think it’s maybe somewhat similar to you. In Australia, but we have two cultures that were beneficiaries of globalism from, uh, Boston to Washington and from Seattle to San Diego, and then maybe a spot around the Great Lakes or Atlanta, but.

That culture is antithetical to the other culture. Yep. I can tell you at Stanford, all my colleagues have never been to Bakersfield or Fresno, but they’ve been to Shanghai and Tokyo, and when I go to the East coast, they’ve all been to London, Paris, but they’ve never been to Youngstown, Ohio. Yeah. And they don’t care.

We have two different cultures and they’re, they’re very angry at each other. And, uh, one was a loser of globalization and one was a winner. And, uh, a lot of what we’re talking about, I, I, I think was, nobody thought Donald Trump was going to win. It was supposed to be a 16 year regnum of Obama and Hillary, and then when he won, they thought he really didn’t think he would win.

He really wouldn’t go through with these policies of energy development questioning optional wars in the Middle East. Getting tough with China, bringing industry back, a populist naturalist middle class, and it wasn’t just that they were opposed to it, they were Democratic party was very scared. This was the first time a Republican elite had actually talked about jobs and had a following among lower middle class people that might even as it seemed to transcend race.

If we had this conversation in January of this year, we would probably be talking about a sure Trump win. And how he was able to create a class coalition that transcended race was. And I think there’s no surprise that the reaction to this contagion and the lockdown had been, had been. Aimed at that, at stopping that effort or, or canceling it.

The Geniuses Behind Western Civilisation

John Anderson: Uh, let’s, uh, explore that in a moment. But before we do, can I ask a question? As I look back at, and I don’t pretend for a moment to have read much of the Federalist Papers, for example. Nonetheless, when you look at the incredible intellectual depth of the, and the extent of the thinking and the writing that took place, uh, amongst America’s founding fathers, they were profoundly influenced by what might be called a.

A Christian worldview of individuals. Uh, the, the snits idea, the dividing line between good and evil is not in fact between man and woman or black and white, captor and captive. It lies somewhere across every human heart. So the

Victor Davis Hanson: great,

John Anderson: uh, experiment was to maximize freedom. But underpinned by deep awareness of that excess power, excess influence, excess money would go to people’s heads because we’re fallible.

Pride would undermine everything. That’s all washed out of the system now, hasn’t it? As you said, it’s almost the David Hart a goodheart idea from Brexit, uh, with the somewheres and the anywheres, those who still have some attachment to traditional values, worldview their own community, uh, to their, uh, their faith versus those who have become international citizens are and have frankly, uh, become quite contentious.

Of people who hold traditional values, and that seems to me to be the most massive shift in America. And yet you still have the impression, you’ve alluded

Victor Davis Hanson: to it,

John Anderson: that in middle America, in a geographical sense there, there may still be some residual strengths, some understanding, some for what of a better word, some good old fashioned horse sense and realism.

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes, I think that’s a very good point. The totality of the Federalist papers, when. Especially Hamilton was writing about was and Jefferson in his own way. There was a great distrust of cities. Jefferson said, when we all are piled up in cities, we’re gonna lose this country. And when we look at writings like John Dick Pri core letters from American farmers, or even later by to what Tocqueville saw, Tocqueville saw, democracy [00:45:00] in America is founded on the agrarian.

And the person who was not, uh, subject to popular fad and camp independent guy on his farm. And that was the bo that was sort of the essence of the American, uh, experiment. And that tra that, you know, that transcended into the industrial revolution when we had auto workers and small tracked homes and independent families in these suburbs all throughout the.

And they saw that. And the institutionally, this country has some very weird quirks. I don’t think you have them, or Europe has, and the electoral college was designed, so we wouldn’t have a national referendum where people would just visit the Bay Area or LA or in the past, just the cities. And then we had, we have two senators in every state.

Wyoming only has 400,000, four 50,000 people. One senator is, is worth 252 20. Here in California, my vote I have 20 million senator. And that was by intent to balance the popular demagoguery or the, the, the danger of that. And we could go on and on. But within our constitution, there is a characteristic balance.

And check balance and check between the three branches of government and within the states. A federal system that is not radically democratic. They, they opted for the Roman Republic and not the Athenian Democratic model, which they were terrified about. And so what’s scary now is that when you distill the Black Lives Antifa progressive agenda and you look at what the elites are saying at the universities, they have an agenda.

And it’s anti founder. In other words, they want to seriously, within four years repeal the electoral colleagues. They wanna make senators popularly elected, they wanna expand the number in the house of representative. They wanna increase the Supreme Court from nine to 12 or 16. And the locus classicus of all of that is we’ve gotta give more people, uh, direct power without constitutional checks and balances, and they want people.

I, I guess I’ll just finish here by saying they don’t see anything unique about a citizen. A citizen to them is a resident person comes across the border illegally. He’s a resident. He pays his payroll taxes. He’s just as American and he should vote, he should have all the constitutional protections of a citizen, and that’s what they’re encouraging.

It’s, it’s, I’ve used that word too much, but it’s insidious. It’s every aspect. This revolution is 360 degrees. 24 7. It’s, it’s a little less eye. It never sleeps.

Why Trump got Elected

John Anderson: So Victor, then to come to the next few months, as you’ve said, the next a hundred days will be, uh, of breathtaking, uh, uh, significance, uh, for, for America and for the world, quite frankly.

Um, I think you wrote that, uh, it was almost, uh, the, the surprise was not that. Trump won. It was that it took so long for something like that to happen. Well, I suppose another way of putting that is to say Trump’s not the problem. Trump was the re the, the product of the problem. Uh, and, uh, you know that I think you also described him uniquely as perhaps chemotherapy.

Uh, you know, the patient was in such a bad way. We had to take on something very tough and unusual that we knew might be unpleasant. How do you, how do you see it now? As as, as you

Victor Davis Hanson: sit there, I see it the same, pretty much the same way I’ve used the tragic hero from Suffolk League tragedy analogy, or the great Western of John Wayne in the Searchers, or Shane or High Noon, that he’s a person without military or political experience he’s on.

He can be very crude. And his, he came in with a certain set of skills or no investment in the bipartisan establishment and therefore no worry about what they thought of him. And he wanted to get an agenda, and yet he’s now learning that even before these cri, these three crisises, that the more he was succeeding, the more people hated him.

And the people I’ve talked to around him, and I’ve talked to him too, and it seems that. I think he has to be aware that when this is all over, people are not gonna like him and they’re never gonna like him and he is never going. He is gonna be a gunfire that people say, you used the gun to clean up the town now where you leave.

And that’s the dilemma of where he is. But he can do some, he can do a lot of good still, and he is done a lot of good. And if we had not had that type of person at this late date, I don’t know what we would’ve done. What it means in foreign policy is that he would, he’s talked a lot if you, if you distill what he’s saying is that he does, he’s very skeptical of Europe.

He’s almost [00:50:00] suicidally proa, Australian pro, uh, British. He wants to be pro Canadian and he really believes that the Anglo speaking world, the traditions especially we all share are unique and. To say that in this climate is suicidal because it is, um, demagogue is being racist, but it’s not. He’s trying to say that all of us, of every race have a lot to learn from the British system.

And, and so I can, and he is very pro Japanese. He’s, I guess what he is sort of like, uh, reminds me of the, uh, a phrase that Sobar, Sola was not a good guy in Roman Republican history, but he said, no better friend, no worse enemy. If he thinks you’re a friend of the United States, I think that there’s no better president to come to your aid if he feels that.

I think, and I’ll be candid, I think he feels for a variety of historical and contemporary reasons that Germany is now not an ally of the United States. It is a de uh, ally, but it’s not. And so I feel that that relationship on both sides is, is seriously in jeopardy and I mean permanently. Unless something’s done.

And I, that’s tragic. But he feels that, and, and yet I feel that his relationships with our traditional allies, Britain especially, but Australia especially, and he wants to be that way with Canada and Japan and South Korea have never been, Taiwan, have never, and Israel have never been better. And I think when you go to these countries, a lot of the times people recognize that at least privately, but.

You know when the left con, the left has a minority of the, of the demography still, but it controls the foundations, it controls the media, the universities, the popular culture, Hollywood. So it magnifies its importance. It’s got a much bigger megaphone. That’s certainly true in Australia.

John Anderson: A around a third of Australians now self-identify as left wing, and that’s up considerably on what it used to be.

But it means that two thirds do not. Yet virtually all of the public commentary, the people with the megaphones come from that particular perspective and have a great deal of say, um, the future of, um, uh, just to on this issue of, um, American attitudes towards Tru uh, Trump. I recently met an American from the East coast and she started to almost froth at the mouth.

At the mere mention of Trump’s name and listed an unbelievable set of, uh, real and imagined, uh, ills. She said to me, then, how do you feel about even as an Australian? And I said, well, one thing I will say is that he had the courage to call out the Chinese we’re much closer to China than you and Obama did nothing about the militarization of the islands, uh, that are not in Chinese coun uh, territory.

Uh, and at that point she immediately backed off and it was quite interesting and said, yes, I will give you that. I thought it was a very interesting remark.

Victor Davis Hanson: Or inside the left is in a dilemma because some of them had been solitary voices complaining about human rights, Hong Kong, Tibet, wags, and Obama was not interested in that at all.

His Asian pivot was not anti-China, it was pro China and Trump come, came along and he empowered those people. So it’s very funny to see people who are now coming out of the woodwork on the left. And they all have to throat clear before they make their statements. And they say, well, you know, I hate Donald Trump and he’s no good, just what you’re talking about.

But he allowed us to speak about Chinese human rights violations. And so that, that is, that’s something, uh, that’s important. But what, what you’re also describing is in the United States, a lot of us, I know that I’ve had a lot of friends and family that don’t speak to ’em anymore because I wrote a book.

On how Trump won and they have created a climate that it’s not socially done. If I were to put on a MAGA hat, make America great and put American sticker in my car and drive to town, I’d be in trouble. That being said, some of the people who shout at me might, in fact, when they get into the ballot box, vote Trump, and I think that’s the big unknown.

How many of them in the fall. I talked to a, a person yesterday, Mexican-American fellow, uh, law enforcement, and I said, so who are you voting for? Trump? I said, well, you, have you ever been contacted? He said, yes. I said, who do you say you’re voting for? He said, Biden. And I said, why? He said, because if I text, if they text me a, a question, I’m gonna be on some list.

Yeah. And I’m [00:55:00] gonna be, they’re gonna go after me. And that’s not, that’s not crazy anymore in this climate. So it’s, there are little telltale signs. We had a congressional special election for somebody who was removed from Congress and a plus 12 Democratic seat about two months ago. And we had a conservative Mexican-American candidate, was down on the polls, supposedly by eight points, and he won by 10.


John Anderson: It actually happened here last year with a reelection of Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. He was given no chance. Uh, the polls all got it wrong. Uh, even the US Study Center, no one there, uh, seemed to. Call it right. Uh, in relation to Trump, and you’ve got this quite distinct reality now that a lot of people simply won’t tell you what they really think.

Advice for the Average American

John Anderson: That in itself is profoundly troubling. We now feel obliged not only to hide what we really think, but to deny it in public. And so my final question, you’ve been very generous with your time. A decent middle American, worried about their country just wanting a return to some degree of civility. What advice would you have for them?

Because the same will apply in my

Victor Davis Hanson: country. Well, I, I think, and this is kinda contrarian or counterfactual or I don’t think that appeasement and, and a basement work anymore. In other words, uh, I think people like yourself who said to the American, well, he’s been pretty good on China. We need to be a little bit more assertive and we, we need to have people in middle America that say, you know what?

I’m not gonna defund the please. I’m sorry. I’m just not gonna do it. And you know what? I’m not gonna allow you to tear down Father Manipul, Sarah’s statute. And if they stand up and they don’t need to do it acrimoniously or rudely, but they have to be much more forceful because you mentioned these revolutions.

They all had one thing in common. They started out with a minority of the population. The, uh, Jacobins, were a minority. The Bolsheviks were a minority. The malice were a minority. And everybody said they’re gonna devour their own. And they did. And they’re, and they’re gonna dilute their message, and they did.

And they’re gonna be suicidal. And they were, but they won at least for a time because nobody spoke out against them either in fear or because they thought they had no chance. And we’re gonna wait and see what happens in November to finish. And there’s three or four things.

If it wanes by November, Trump will be elected. If the lockdown stops and the economy starts to show real signs of recovery, he’ll win. If Joe Biden gets out on the, the trail and he seems to be cognitively this, you know, impaired in some degree, Trump will win. And if, uh, if Trump has greater degree of discipline, he’ll does so.

We’re all waiting to see which of those four or five factors will play out and how they will play out. But they’re on everybody’s mind and they govern every, every policy decision, every editorial, uh, interpretation of them. We, we just, unfortunately, everything is weaponized in this country. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I grew up in the sixties and it was not even, that was not like this.

It’s scary. But civilization, I really believe is in, is on the brink because if these forces come to full power, um, they’re gonna be taking names and they’re going to, they’re not going to want, um, a, a union of thought. They’re not gonna want, uh, they’re not gonna be gracious about their victory. They’re not going to want unity and healing.

They’re wanna hunt out and eradicate their opponents. That’s what cultural revolutions always do, and they’ll do it again.


John Anderson: Well on that very sobering note, but very, very important note. Uh, can I thank you very much indeed for your time? I’ve enjoyed it immensely and I appreciate your very deep learning and understanding.

It’s been terrific.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it. Enjoyed it. Thank you for watching this episode. We appreciate your support. If you value vital conversations like this one, Be sure to subscribe to the channel there and also click the notification bell to stay up to date with new releases.

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