After the election of Donald Trump, there arose a self-described “Resistance.” It apparently posed as a decentralized network of progressive activist groups dedicated to derailing the newly elected Trump administration.
Democrats and progressives borrowed their brand name from World War II French partisans. In rather psychodramatic fashion, they envisioned their heroic role over the next four years as that of virtual French insurgents — coming down from the Maquis hills, perhaps to waylay Trump’s White House, as if the president were an SS Obergruppenführer und General der Police running occupied Paris. Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone wrote admiringly about the furious Resistance’s pushback against Trump, with extravagant claims that his agenda was already derailed thanks to a zillion grass-roots and modern-day insurgents.
Hillary Clinton belatedly announced that she too had joined up with the Resistance (“I’m now back to being an activist citizen and part of the Resistance”), apparently in approbation of both its methods and agendas.
Appropriating the name of heroic World War II fighters to characterize a loosely formed alliance of Trump resisters has since proven a mockery of history — and creepy as well.
Resisters of various sorts have made use of repugnant assassination pornography: a Shakespearean troupe ritually stabbing Trump-Caesar every night, a widely viewed Trump decapitation video, loud boasts by Hollywood’s stars such as Robert De Niro and Johnny Depp of their desires either to beat Trump to a bloody pulp or to do a John Wilkes Booth hit on him, street demonstrations where the likes of multimillionaire exhibitionist Madonna dream out loud off blowing up the White House, while various state legislators, professors, and activists talk of presidential assassination. Is there a new division at the Secret Service whose sole task is solemnly informing the media that it is “investigating” the latest celebrity’s threat?
In more mainstream fashion, Democrats in Congress have often stalled Trump’s appointees, blocked Obamacare reform, and talked of removing Trump through impeachment or the 25th Amendment or the Emoluments Clause. The Resistance has gone from melodramatic charges of Trump’s collusion with the Russians, to amateur diagnoses of his mental incapacity, to fear-mongering about his supposed wild desire for a Strangelovian nuclear war with North Korea, to castigating him for his apparently callous and uncaring reactions to Hurricane Harvey victims.
The Democratic National Committee leaders in their speeches resort to scatology to reflect their furor at Trump’s victory. The media, led by CNN in its visceral hatred of Trump, has given up past pretenses of disinterested reporting. Indeed, a number of journalists have sought to ratify their prejudices by claiming that Trump is so toxic that old-style protocols of fairness can no longer can apply.
Street brownshirts such as those of Antifa (too rarely and belatedly disowned by a few mainstream Resistance leaders) justify their anti-democratic and anti-constitutional violence on the grounds that Trump is found guilty of being a Nazi — and therefore those alleged to be Nazis have to be resisted by any anti-Nazi means necessary.
In the olden days, demonstrators decked out in black, with masks and clubs, would have been deemed sinister by liberals. Now are they the necessary shock troops whose staged violence brings political dividends? Antifa’s dilemma is that its so-called good people wearing black masks can find almost no bad people in white masks to club, so they smash reporters, the disabled, and onlookers alike for sport — revealing that, at base, they perversely enjoy violence for violence’s sake. As the cowardly Klan taught us in the 1920s and 1960s: Put on a mask with a hundred like others, and even the most craven wimp believes he’s now a psychopathic thug.
For the most part, the Resistance leadership is not the modern version of a group of grass-roots idealistic outsiders living hand-to-mouth between missions in the scrub. Their announced leaders, such as Hillary Clinton, are often the embodiment of the status quo rich, influential, and elite America. The Resistance sees nothing incompatible in attacking Trump while working out of a townhouse in Georgetown, living in a Malibu compound, flying in a private jet, making a quarter-million a year as a university-endowed professor or a Southern Poverty Law Center grandee, or being a life-time Washington fixture or corporate CEO.
Indeed, anti-Trump activism and privilege may be symbiotic. If one were to look at a county map of the United States calibrated by average income, the Resistance leaders could be identified by their homes clustering in the nation’s most affluent enclaves on the two coasts. They are most certainly not resisting the market capitalism, Washington-establishment politics, and old-boy networking that so empowered them.
Nor is it very brave to loudly announce one’s membership in the Resistance, given that the powerful organs of popular culture and the American status quo — both the Republican and Democratic intellectual establishments, the foundations, universities, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street — are, in orthodox fashion, anti-Trump.
Which of the following is a smarter career move at Google, in a CNN newsroom, or in the Yale faculty lounge: to admit to voting for Donald Trump, or to proudly proclaim you are a member of the Resistance?
Which of the following is a smarter career move at Google, at an Aspen Institute colloquium, on the set of Disney, in a CNN newsroom, at a Citibank retreat, in the Yale faculty lounge, on the beach at Martha’s Vineyard, while sunning on David Geffen’s yacht, or talking on a panel at the National Press Club: to admit to voting for Donald Trump, or to proudly proclaim you are a member of the Resistance?
Yet in contrast to the media-driven “Resistance,” there is a more authentic ongoing resistance that Trump himself capitalized on, but hardly originated. It is a pushback against the corporate and government conglomerate of identity-politics McCarthyism, and elite coastal globalism, in which everything from going to a football game and hearing the national anthem, to watching a tennis match, to visiting a cemetery or park, to keeping up with the news of horrific weather devastation is calibrated by politics. Or rather what bothers most Americans is politics now defined as nonstop sermonizing in which a rich athlete, a Pajama Boy activist, a demagogic politician, or a quarter-educated billionaire movie star lectures less fortunate Americans on the various deplorable racists, sexists, homophobes, and Islamophobes among them.
There is a populist and growing resistance to the Orwellian idea that free speech is hate speech, that equality of opportunity is defined only by equality of result, and that identity politics determines the degree of government-mandated penance and reparations.
Sometimes individual voices of this far-growing resistance movement write credos aimed at the Google-mandated reeducation seminars. Sometimes a few faculty members simply do not show up at their required university diversity-indoctrination workshops.
Sometimes, millions of viewers flip the channel when jocks at ESPN lecture as if they were wizened philosophers.
Sometimes when multimillionaire athletes claim victimhood and won’t stand for the national anthem, viewers of NFL games never view again.
And sometimes they vote for flawed candidates like Donald Trump, whose virtue of saying almost anything to anyone at any time is considered a sort of harsh medicine that targets the malady of identity-driven political correctness, a chemotherapy to stop metastasizing malignancy.
This rather different resistance is tired of Warsaw Pact–like drabness in which, like dead souls, they must virtue-signal one reality while in their private minds resisting the groupthink. Cynicism abounds, as it always does in egalitarian utopias like the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Venezuela, or Cuba, because the Animal Farm commandments on the barn wall are pro forma, not reflections of revolutionary zeal.
The diversity trainers who contract with universities to profit from their captive audiences are in their second and third generations of treating self-created angst. Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters are about as radical as Amway sales people. The Southern Poverty Law Center issues “hate maps” that include Christian organizations — while it gins up millions of dollars in donations, some of which are offshored to Caribbean tax havens to ensure six-figure salaries to lawyers who can find few victims of hate and fewer hate groups to litigate against on behalf of the Southern impoverished.
Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters are about as radical as Amway sales people.
Racially or politically inspired violence is a horrific sin, but there are lots of varieties of it well apart from the occasional vile acts of the disgusting and mostly impotent and irrelevant band of white supremacists.
All political mayhem deserves equal condemnation if we are to deplore crime itself rather than to massage politics out of it, such as when a leftist assassin tried to take out many of the Republican House leadership at a D.C.-area baseball game or when a recent serial killer in Kansas City went on an anti-white rampage and murdered five innocents — grotesquely acting out his prior assertions that he hated white people (“kill all white people”). Somehow these acts do not warrant the same amount of attention as the equally deplorable violence in Charlottesville.
When everything is politicized and calibrated in terms of careerist advantage, there can be no politics other than a quiet resistance to the entire idea of politics itself.
Every leftist movement, from Lenin’s to Castro’s, serves first an apparat that finds ways to avoid the real consequences of its own ideological agendas — consequences that fall on the far poorer, less glamorous, and less influential others. As a result, millions in the other resistance are now tired of those celebrities and corporate activists who own private jets while demanding immediate remedies for global warming, of those in Washington who talk most of deteriorating racial relations while being the most likely to put their children in Sidwell-Friends School (tuition $40,000 a year) rather than a public school, and of those grandees in Silicon Valley who lecture the working classes on their progressive shortcomings while being the most likely to monopolize, outsource, and offshore.
After 2008 and 2012, the large-R Resistance still believes it can stitch together various tribes and identity blocs; the small-r resistance is far more insidious, with an anger that transcends race, class, and gender and therefore disqualifies no one from its appeal by their superficial appearance.
The quiet resistance is far larger than the loud Resistance and far more revolutionary. Its nature is still not fully understood by the elite Left, especially the growing wrath at two-dimensional traditional politics, dreary social-science platitudes, and economic orthodoxy.
Millions of the resistance, as the nation learned in 2016, apparently can express misgivings about Trump while expressing their greater misgivings about the alternatives to him — especially those candidates of both parties whom they have both voted for and against in the past. And they have become sorely disappointed for having done either.
— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, to appear in October from Basic Books.