Politics & Policy

Of Cannibals and Kings

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel (Scott Olson/Getty)
Liberals are eating their kings.

Black Lives Matter and other, related groups are still demanding that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel step down well before his term expires. It appears that Emanuel did not release for over a year a police video showing the possibly unjustified shooting of criminal suspect Laquan McDonald. He apparently was too afraid of losing his reelection bid to another liberal — and expected that, as a former Obama confidant, he would be granted immunity from inner-city anger.

Is liberal anger at the liberal Emanuel a new trend? Will populists one of these days go after the newly declared populist Hillary Clinton for her Wall Street shakedowns? Will greens cannibalize Al Gore and John Kerry for their dinosaur-sized carbon footprints? Will reformers swallow Barack Obama for his scandal-ridden administration?

In Baltimore, crowds of angry minorities rioted and burned stores over the death of detained suspect Freddie Gray — despite the reassurances of a black mayor, black police chief, and black prosecuting attorney. Community anger at police is now a hallmark of nearly every major American city.

RELATED: In Chicago, Rahm Emanuel Faces a Crisis Brought on by Progressive Politics

Note that in all these cases the protests and riots were directed at city hall and its assorted bureaucracies — run for generations by liberal Democrats. There is not an easy villain, like Bull Connor or Lester Maddox, to be found among current American officials. In both his elections, Obama, for example, captured overwhelmingly the votes in megalopolises like Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. None of these cities in recent years has elected moderate Republican reformers demanding greater transparency, meritocratic hiring practices, lower taxes, less regulation, open bids for municipal services, balanced budgets, and an end to union monopolies.

Instead, the liberal municipal template of generous government pensions, lavish subsidies and welfare, unionized workforces, identity politics, lots of regulations, and high taxes apparently has ensured permanent underclasses of Democratic voters in the inner city. And for some reason, they are now furious at Democratic city halls, the police, and city administrators.

RELATED: Chicago and Rahm Emanuel: Partners in Corruption

The same theme characterizes the current targets of university protests — whether they are over supposedly endemic racism or nonstop sexual assault. Quite liberal student activists are enraged at their quite liberal professors and administrators for not being quite liberal enough.

Serve ethnic foods — and they are not ethnic enough. Water down protections for free speech, and there are protests that there is any free speech. Turn the curriculum into therapeutic gut courses — and why are there not more of them? Ignore meritocratic criteria for admissions, and why are not more students accepted on the basis of race or gender? Expand two genders to three — and students furiously ask why not four, five, or six?

The ancients warned us about radical egalitarianism immune from law, custom, and tradition.

How can all this anger arise when there are almost no conservative administrators or professors on most major American university campuses? Has there been any liberal demand on campus that has gone unheeded in the last half-century? Do activists hate even more those authorities who cave in to them, as if unprincipled weakness is more contemptible than principled resistance? It is almost as if students would prefer to be told no by John Wayne than by Tom Hanks.

I remember that 45 years ago at UC Santa Cruz, students demanded pass/fail grading — only soon to want back grades when their transcripts proved indistinguishable and uncompetitive. When co-ed dorms were not enough, co-ed floors followed — only to be followed by female anger at the lack of privacy. When street people were idolized and offered immunity on campus, rich students whined that the homeless were camped out in their lounges and bathrooms. Finally, anarchists grew angry at the enablers of their own anarchy. The point was not protests directed at particular people or policies, but protests for the sake of protests without consequences.

RELATED: Missouri’s Lesson: The Campus Wars Are about Power, Not Justice

The ancients warned us about radical egalitarianism immune from law, custom, and tradition. Aristotle worried that those who were equal in voting would soon demand that they be equal in all other respects as well: Equality of opportunity, he warned, always begat the illogical demand for equality of result. A more cynical Plato thought the logic of enforced equality would not play itself out until the donkeys and dogs roamed the city as equals.

#share#We are now in a classic downward revolutionary spiral. In daily psychodramas, pampered students want statues toppled and hurtful names airbrushed. First, they Trotskyize Confederate heroes. Then they go after illiberal liberals like Woodrow Wilson. Will they next turn on often-callous womanizers, such as Bill Clinton, JFK, and Martin Luther King Jr., who might serve as models of how not to treat young women on campus? We know Harry Truman and LBJ used the N-word; will their images and names vanish as well?

RELATED: The Left Has No One to Blame but Itself for Madness on Campus

Students have turned micro-aggressions into nano-aggressions. After raging at the living, why not dig up the long dead? If there are rock-climbing walls and latte bars on campus, then why not safe spaces? If one dean will grovel and welcome reeducation from uneducated 20-year-olds, why not the president, the board of trustees, and the alumni?

For the spirit of Black Lives Matter to thrive, the movement must canonize the lie of “Hands up, don’t shoot”; ignore the daily carnage of young African-Americans murdering each other with near impunity; brush off the fact that young black males, who form a tiny percentage of the population, account for nearly 50 percent of violent crime; deny that protests have called for violence against police; and forget that blacks are eight times more likely to commit interracial crimes than are whites.

Leftist revolutionaries cannot be satisfied, because they have long ago been given all they asked for

Abroad, we see the same tired scenario. The European Union did its best to end national sovereignty, to create a spread-the-wealth socialist utopia, to disarm, and to glorify noble non-Europeans over the politically incorrect Europeans. Now the continent is ablaze and ready to cannibalize its own liberal kings. Millions ask why is there no border security, why are there no jobs, why are we collectively defenseless, and why do so many young males from the Middle East swarm our cities and yet show contempt for their hosts? Is the reason for all this a half-century of rule by oligarchic aristocrats, heartless free-market libertarians, right-wing bureaucrats, or narrow national chauvinists?

Civil wars are often more virulent than other types of conflict. The rage often originates from within. Familiarity breeds contempt and excites age-old envies and jealousies amid claims of betrayal and sellout. The West is ablaze with protests not just because of the failure of the Left in the cities, on campuses, and across Europe to offer a workable paradigm, but also because of the Left’s canonic assurances that it could and would.

RELATED: We Have Officially Reached Peak Leftism

Deans and mayors promised utopia. When it did not arrive, the only concession they had left was more failed efforts to achieve the unachievable. People turn on their own more violently than they turn on others, as if a liberal, paternal dean should be able to snap his fingers and make liberal students happy. When he so promises, his ensuing failure only makes things worse.

#related#All the banned micro-aggressions, all the safe spaces, all the trigger warnings, and all the fired deans will not make today’s postmodern students happy, much less appreciative, any more than would mandating authentic ethnic cooks and more year-round hot-tubs. Like addicts, they believe one more cheap fix from a compliant supplier will finally do the trick. Don’t expect the addict to show gratitude to his dealer.

Leftist revolutionaries cannot be satisfied, because they have long ago been given all they asked for, and are now rebelling for the idea of rebelling against something, even if it is reduced to a micro-aggression or founded on a myth like “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Millions of inner-city youths are as furious as are elite students. They got the liberal city and the liberal university they wanted — only to rage that human nature is not liberal and that contentment cannot be found through mirror-image government, but only within themselves. How can you rebel against that age-old truth?

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.

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