Finally, to make the once controversial the new convention, demonization and character assassination were essential. Opposing trillion-dollar deficits meant that you were a fat cat who didn’t build your own business and didn’t know when you had made enough money, a suspect 1-percenter who did not pay “your fair share,” and who junketed to Las Vegas or lopped off patients’ limbs for profit. To oppose Obamacare meant that you wished the vulnerable like Sandra Fluke to have to choose between eating and having access to exorbitantly priced condoms. Or perhaps you wished those with lymphoma to go without medical treatment.
Wariness about Congress’s rush-to-judgment haste to infringe on the Second Amendment was proof that you were callous toward the parents of the Sandy Hook victims, with veritable blood on your hands in a repeat of the Gabby Giffords tragedy. Gun owners were now to be divided into the good Joe Biden and John Kerry types who, outfitted in proper L. L. Bean attire, each year ceremoniously fired off a few rounds at skeet from their Italian shotguns — and the overweight and sunburned clingers who, in places like southern Illinois and rural Pennsylvania, slaughtered deer for the hell of it with sinister black machine guns, when they weren’t indulging in militia play-acting in bandoliers and camouflage.
America may have had the most liberal immigration policy, both legal and illegal, in the world, which inordinately favored illegal entrants from Latin America. But nonetheless the desire to enforce federal legislation was tantamount to being a “nativist” and “racist” who, as “an old angry white guy” could not “get over” “the new demography” — incorrect behavior by “enemies” that warranted a vow from the president to “punish” them. Those who opposed gay marriage but were willing to accept civil unions were “homophobes” who had set out to demonize the children and grandchildren of us all.
* * *
What are we to make of this creeping brave new world?
The scary part, at least for now, is not the ends so much as the means used to achieve them. The reason that Orwell, a man of the Left, made his farm animals and lost urban souls the victims of tyrannical left-wing megalomaniacs was his sense that the far Left, much more so than the far Right, could insidiously distort reality and destroy free expression. The right-wing dictator is typically an identifiable thug who transparently stifles free speech to benefit a small coterie of aristocrats and insiders. In contrast, the left-wing dictator is always a misunderstood reformer who was forced by counterrevolutionaries to break a few eggs in order to make the collective omelet. Think of the reaction to drones, renditions, and Guantanamo under Bush compared to that under Obama. After all, there are no Pinochet T-shirts on campus to rival the romantic depiction of Che — a psychopath in service to a Cuban autocracy that came to power killing far more than did Pinochet in Chile. We are long conditioned to airbrush the word “socialism” out of Hitler’s “National Socialism” and must only with care remark that the collectivist Mao was the greatest mass murderer in the history of civilization. Our popular culture is currently engaged in canonizing bombers and murderers from the 1960s campuses, but not the equally violent anti-abortion activists who likewise sometimes took the law into their own hands in service to their own purported sense of the greater good.
We are in revolutionary times, but of the French rather than the American sort. The popular effort is not to preserve liberty from an all-encompassing government, but rather to have an all-powerful state impose an egalitarianism of result — and increasingly by any means necessary.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear in May from Bloomsbury Books.