Victor Davis Hanson joins Brian Anderson to discuss the ancient and modern history of citizenship, the hollowing out of civic duty in today’s U.S., and the irresponsibility of American elites. His new book, The Dying Citizen, is out now.

Audio Transcript

Brian Anderson: Welcome back to the 10 Blocks Podcast. This is Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal. Joining me on the show today is Victor Davis Hanson. Victor is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, he's a longtime contributing editor of City Journal, and he's the author of many books. Most recently, The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization are Destroying the Idea of America. It's a vital book about a vital topic. So Victor, thanks for joining us as always on 10 Blocks.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you for having me.

Brian Anderson: Your book is organized around six forces that you argue are undermining citizenship, citizenship as we have traditionally have understood and embraced it in American history. The first three, you say, are pre-modern: ancient political, economic and ethnic ideas that are coming back in force. The next three are post-modern ideas espoused by what really is a small number of American elites that threaten to, in your view, dismantle constitutional governments and erode our sense of nationhood.

So let's start with the pre-modern or pre-citizenship trio: peasants, residents and tribes. What runs through the illuminating historical discussion in this part of the book is a very important point that authentic citizenship in a consensual society is not a given, that history is filled with far less attractive political orders. So could you say a little bit of about each of these reversions, these pre-modern reversions that you see going on in contemporary America? Now, by peasants, you don't mean that people are going back to the land, right?

Victor Davis Hanson: No. Yeah, we've never really had the word "peasant" in the American experience, because from the very beginning this constitutional republic was based on a solid and broad middle class and they were landowners, and then as agriculture became less dominant in the economy than they became suburban homeowners or independent business people. But the theory that the Founders or Alexis de Tocqueville, who were channeling classical reference and experiences, was that if you had a broad middle class, then the power of the wealthy to influence government or to leverage their riches and to also have dependencies in sort of a lord-and-serf relationship was limited. And on the other end of the spectrum, the poor then would not be more numerous than the middle class, and therefore the people dependent on a government or the wealthy for largesse would not be as large as the middle class.

So the middle class would then keep elected officials, honest, they would elect them, they would audit them as the largest group in society. They would keep people who were not elected honest. They would vote on when to go to war when not to, revenues, expenditures, et cetera, et cetera. But when that middle class starts to attenuate, then you get sort of a futile, medieval society of lords and serfs or peasants, as we see it's happening in California. And I argued in the book, if you look at a lot of different criteria or data, whether it's the age when people marry or have children or buy a home, it's being delayed and delayed into sort of a prolonged adolescent cycle. And then you look at actual wages after inflation over the last 12 years, I think until 2017, they have been frozen or diminished. Or then you look at the ability of middle class kids that go to school, they have $1.7 trillion in aggregate college debt.

And so the middle class that was at once vibrant in terms of how many months out of the year does it take to pay off your mortgage each year or to make your mortgage agreement, or what's the percentage of debt versus household income, it's been declining. By the same token we've got this idea in America that borders are now constructs, that you don't need a sacred space in which to inculcate traditions and customs and have like reference for everybody. Everybody should know what the 4th of July is or what the electoral college is or who is Abraham Lincoln, but when you don't have that space, it's sort of wide open, you have migratory populations coming back and forth, then you have created this idea that residents are co-equals with citizens.

I mean, if you look at the classical distinctions between the two in American history, I don't think there's very many left, we have a lot of states, and local elections that are allowing residents who are not citizens, whether illegal or legal residents to vote. They're eligible for all the entitlements that citizens are. They can serve in the military. They can cross a border without a passport in a way that many citizens who go to particular countries have to show a passport or a visa maybe. And so the only thing I can think of that distinguishes a citizen from a resident is the ability to hold office, and that's under assault right now. And so we're kind of creating a late Roman empire phenomenon of people just coming in for, I guess, economic reasons or fear of security reasons at home, and then they're not asked to assimilate or integrate. Indeed, the host has no confidence that they came to a better place and therefore wanted instruction.

And then, finally, tribalism. That's the ancient bane where we all identify by the superficial, by superficial appearances. We thought the great challenge to America was slavery and Jim Crow and the civil-rights movement. And here we are, essentially 50 years after the civil-rights movement, which achieved many of its aims, and we're going back to the idea of pre-civilizational tribalism: that this person shall be hired because they look like this person, or I'm going to associate with this person. And I'm not exaggerating, I mean, certain campuses in California you can select your roommate on the basis of their ethnic or racial background, or there are places at the campus where I work, at Stanford, that are safe spaces that are set aside for people of particular races.

Brian Anderson: You have graduation ceremonies right now in some universities?

Victor Davis Hanson: We have about, where I worked before, Cal State, I think there were six different graduations. So what's astonishing about it is we were the only multiracial democracy in history that's ever worked. I mean, India and Brazil exist, but they're not doing a very good job of it. And why we would want to go back to a pre-civilizational identity politics, I don't know because the evidence of Rwanda or Iraq or former Yugoslavia is not very encouraging. And those were the pre-civilizational, that were natural to people before civilization and citizenship emerged. And so kind of a retrogression back to them.

Brian Anderson: Let's turn to the other three, which you call postmodern threats to citizenship. And these are all associated with forces that are behind the political distortions right now of our constitutional democracy. So you call them the unelected, and these days they go by the name of often administrative state bureaucrats. Evolutionaries, these are the progressives, I guess, who want to free America from the past. And finally, globalists. So maybe you could say a bit about these citizenship figures briefly?

Victor Davis Hanson: Yes. Well the common theme in the book is that the progressive message is not resonating on its own merits, that each of these issues where it's the Green New Deal or identity politics or new monetary theory, it doesn't have a majority nor do the people who advance them have majorities. And so they do one of two things, they allow pre-civilizational forces to undermine the citizen, change the demography, or make race more important, let's say, than class or diminish the middle class. But they also, from the very top, deliberately try to attenuate citizen ship. And the first category I looked at is this, as you say, it's the permanent state, the administrative state, the deep state. And we can acknowledge that every society has these permanent bureaucrats, whether they're autocratic or not, they were at Versailles, on the Bourbons or Napoleon, they're at the El Escorial and the Spanish Empire, or the Kremlin, et cetera.

But in a democracy you would expect that the people would exercise some level of audit, yet with the size of the federal government now approaching two million workers, and 40 percent of us nationwide working for local or state or federal government, it's very hard for the citizen to hold people accountable. And by that, I mean, even our electric representatives depend on staff and bureaucracies of permanent employees, many of them are not subject to dismissal to inform them, to tell them what the Department of Interior is or how the the endowment for the humanities works, or what's going on in the Pentagon procurement. And these people have taken a life of their own, they're starting to exercise judicial, executive and legislative power. So I think conservatives and traditionals were kind of shocked because they were the sources of support for the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, et cetera.

And now the IRS even, and now they're starting to see in the age of Lois Lerner, or General Milley, or James Clapper, or John Brennan, or Andrew McCabe, that there's a lot of people in the permanent administrative class that engage in politics. They're not subject to censure. They habitually lie, as James Comey said he could not remember 240 times under oath to a congressional committee. Or John Brennan was twice caught not telling the truth to a congressional committee, and James Clapper admitted it so, so did Andrew McCabe, but they habitually did not tell the truth, and yet there's no consequences to that. Even when they forged documents, as in the case of Kevin Clinesmith, the FBI lawyer, there's very little consequences of that, at least in comparison to what a citizen would face if they were to do that.

And so these people now have enormous power. As I said, they can create the Steele dossier, they can seed it. They can create an illusion of the hoax. They can be the spearheads of impeachment. They can drive public policy. And I try to tell people that it's insidious, and I gave the example that I discovered in 1983 that I didn't even own the raisin crop on my vines, that the federal government owned it. And the raisin administrative committee could tell me what I could do with raisins that I harvested and was going to lose money on, and yet I couldn't wash them and stem them and sell them because they belong to the federal government, who wanted about 70 percent either to destroy or sell as cattle feed. And so it's pretty ubiquitous.

The second is these evolutionaries, these are people who believe that human nature changes and therefore the constitution and our customs and traditions must be altered accordingly. That's what they say, but of course they're partisans, and they feel that their message is not getting out as it once was under the existing system. So the 233-year Electoral College after 2016 or 2000 must go, or the nine-person Supreme Court is now considered packed if they're not representative of liberals, and that has to go after 150 years. And the filibuster that Barack Obama counted on when he was a senator, he filibustered the nomination of Judge Alito, that has to go after 150 years. And of course the Senate doesn't have enough liberal representatives, so let's add to two states and get four senators and get rid of that 60 year tradition of 50 states. And we can also alter the voting laws, it's in the constitution that the primary responsibility of national elections for balloting procedures belongs to the state, but of course they don't want a state asking for an ID to vote.

And so they're after the system, and that was just is manifested. But as I pointed out in the book, if you read some of the legal literature or political science literature, and as a footnote, what happens in the faculty lounge is usually translated in about ten years to the political Left and they are ready to implement that should they gain power. So a lot of the stuff we're seen are unhinged ideas that came out of the faculty lounge that nobody took seriously. And one of them, of course now is, why do we have two senators for each state? It's not fair, it doesn't result in equity. Why do I in California have one senator for 20 million and somebody in Wyoming for 250,000? And they're not interested in reading about the history of that idea from Montesquieu or classical Roman republicanism or the founders or the federals, they just want it changed now.

And finally, we've created in the age of globalization, that is the harmony of goods and services, fashion, music, worldwide; there's a bicoastal elite from Boston to Miami and from San Diego to Seattle. And they have tapped a seven billion person market brilliantly, if you had those skills, they couldn't be Xeroxed, media, law, academia, finance, corporate, social media, et cetera. And so we've got these levels of wealth on the coast that we've never seen, the endowments of Harvard, I think are near $60 billion, Mark Zuckerberg's worth about $80 billion, Jeff Bezos, maybe $150 billion, maybe until his divorce, at least. And they exercise a lot of power, but the people in the interior confusing cause and effect, they were considered losers, because their muscular labor was outsourced or offshored. And out of that globalization, where it's starting to permeate culture, that people feel that the international criminal court should adjudicate American behavior in the battlefield. Or the Paris Climate Accord should tell us whether we can burn natural gas. Or the U.N. should be invited in by Tony Blinken to see whether we're racist or not, despite offenders like China, North Korea, or Iran.

And so it becomes very persuasive for this very wealthy and influential, intellectual and for financial class to say, "You know what, America's just an oddball. They have weird ideas about opposing abortion or our Second Amendment." Or even the First Amendment, that they claim now promotes hate speech. And the world abroad has much better ideas. I quote some pretty astonishing remarks from people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said we should look at the South African constitution for inspiration, and people who talked about US military being put on international observation by UN authorities, or using the UN in a way that would be antithetical to the presence of US troops.

And so those are pretty much what the elite has tried to do to manipulate these organic forces coming up from ground level. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of people standing up for this citizen. He's been caricatured as white male, or racist, or sexist, or transhomophobe. But when that white male, or that Mexican-American male, or that black male, whatever is an incidental race or ethnic of the middle class disappears, and I'm afraid that the idea of government as we knew it is disappearing, I think it is already in places in our major cities, for example, like Chicago or San Francisco, maybe New York, where you are as well.

Brian Anderson: Let's talk a little bit more directly about this notion of citizenship, properly construed. As you argue in the book, citizenship is a reciprocal idea. Citizens have rights, but with those rights come duties and government can make laws only with the consent of their citizens, who in turn agree to follow the rules. So today it seems the threats to citizenship, as you're describing them, come from both above and below. Americans may be happy to claim their privileges and immunities, but they have less patience for the obligations that are supposed to accompany them. And at the same time their rulers, as you were just describing, well credentialed, serenely confident that they have earned their wealth and status and power, well, they're showing increasing contempt for the idea that they're supposed to consult the masses at all before making any decisions. So in your view, which do you think is the biggest danger here to American life as we've understood it? A declining sense of civic responsibility among the people or this increasingly unaccountable elite that just disdains ordinary citizens?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I think they're connected. And by that I mean, if you don't have people, as when I was growing up, that want to go to the polls and make sure that voting laws are enforced, or you don't have public fora, or you have sort of a bipartisan agreement that if you want to vote you should have some kind of identification as you do in you buy alcohol or get on a plane, in that laxity or that vacuum then you have somebody like Mark Zuckerberg who will infuse $420 million in pre-selected precincts in the 2020 elections to sort of energize a type of voting or a type of polling employee that they feel will be conducive to their political agenda. So that's worrisome, it's the inability of the citizen to assert their sovereignty. And part of it is this lack of any civic education.

And I know that as a university, if I have students that come to see me and they're very confident, very confident about the diversity, equity, inclusion agenda. But if you ask them just a simple question, who was William Tecumseh Sherman, or what was the Battle of Iwo Jima, or what was the Missouri Compromise or what was Sutter's Fort in California? They have no idea whatsoever. They've lost all reference of the American system, its history, other than what was spoon-fed to them that proves a preexisting agenda that people were put in camps, or there was racism, as if that's not common to the human condition, and that America's unique in trying to address it.

So I think that educationally, socially, culturally, the citizen has abdicated that responsibility to audit and participate in government. And in that vacuum, the very wealthy, especially on the Left, the elite have said, "You know what? The watchdog is drugged. The watchdog is asleep. The watchdog has gone somewhere and I'm going to intervene and I'm going to push my agenda." Whether it's the Soros Foundation that's going to fund these district attorneys who believe in critical legal theory and that the law doesn't have any innate morality, it's just a construct that can be dismantled or deconstructed. Or it's, as I said, Mark Zuckerberg.

Or it's people on the national level who feel that the United States is racist, or is doomed or is obsolete, and they're developing these very strange relationships with China. I'll give you an example, LeBron James is very critical of the United States, but he has about a billion-dollar lifetime contract with Chinese communist-affiliated companies, which employ servile labor and Uighur work camps at Nike. And then we've got Anthony Fauci, who lectured us on the superior reaction, as did Bill Gates, of the Chinese, who in some sense let this virus get out of a lab, that's the most likely scenario. And yet we find out that Anthony Fauci will not be candid about channeling money to what is essentially gain-of-function research. Or General Milley saying that he's so familiar with his Chinese counterpart at the People's Liberation Army that he has no qualms about calling him and tipping them off because he says, "Democracy is messy, and he's afraid of Donald Trump, so he wants to warn the Chinese." Or the Biden family and Hunter Biden still owns 10 percent of a stake in a communist-affiliated financial group.

So part of this worry that I have, on the top end of globalism and the deep state and the evolutionaries, is that on the international level so many of them are compromised. When you get Michael Bloomberg lecturing the country that China is essentially a consensual society, and that it's leadership have to be held to account by their people, and they are, when you learn that he's preempt about $10 billion to help market capitalize new Chinese startups, it's very scary.

Brian Anderson: Victor, you see California in the book as a place in America where citizenship has perhaps eroded the most from these forces that you described. California, you write, "Has become the progressive dream for the future and the middle class nightmare of the present." Californians are beset by high taxes, there are stifling environmental regulations. There's basically uncontrolled immigration in the state. There's the willful non-enforcement of laws. And in general, a lot of misgovernance. Yet Californians voted for many, if not all of these changes, and the state's cultural elites seem unbothered by them. So if California is the bellwether of America's future, what does that mean for the country? And are there reasons for optimism on that front?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I devoted, I think, about 20 pages to that very fact, that California is a medieval society. Now we've had about eight to ten million people, we think, it's very hard to get the exact numbers, who've left California in the last 30 years, and we think they're mostly from the middle classes. And they've left because they feel that the more taxes they pay the worse infrastructure and social services become, and then they're psychologically targeted by state franchise tax, border regulation. And the result of that is it happened at the same time when the California border was open, essentially from 1970 until the new wall. And we've had about 15 million people come under illegal auspices to California from south of the border, and it makes it very hard to assimilate, intermarry, and integrate that group quickly. And they're very dependent on federal largesse. We have one out of every three welfare recipients in the union live in California, 21 percent of the state is below the poverty level. The town that I live in the per capita income is about $16,000. Half of all births in California are funded by Medi-Cal.

And so we don't have a middle class as we used to, and it's disappearing more rapidly as people migrate to Florida or Texas or Idaho or Utah. And we have a large group of dependent poor, and then we've had this very strange coastal community grow up. When I was a young person a price of a house in Santa Cruz was about the same as it was in Fresno, because you could build homes over there as you could in Fresno, and Fresno was a very lovely community, so people had no problem living in Fresno. But as this social problems mounted, regulations mounted, that house over there is about anywhere from five to six times more expensive. And you've created an elite along this thin, thin coastal slip from La Jolla to Berkeley that are among the richest zip codes, whether it's Montecito or Atherton or La Jolla in the world, not just the United States.

And this is where all of the money is. This is where Facebook is. This is where Google is. This is where Apple is. This is where Twitter is. This is where Bank of America is. It's where Chevron is. This is where Stanford is, Berkeley is, UCLA, USC, Caltech. And so we have a... I think Joel Kotkin has brought up that old word out of the English lexicon, clerisy, of a very well educated, self-important class. And what they feel is that they have conquered the day to day challenges of living as far as food, shelter, et cetera. And they are more worried about cosmic justice or cosmic environmental concerns, and so they have used their money along with the votes of the very poor to ram through an agenda that is antithetical to the disappearing middle class.

And what do I mean by that? I mean, the teachers unions control California education, but the people who allowed that to happen, their children are in private schools. I have a apartment in Palo Alto on campus at Stanford, and I work in the Hoover Tower, I have never turned on the heat or cooling there. And yet where I live, 180 miles away, I see people in Walmart trying to get free air conditioning because it's 27 cents a kilowatt some hours when it gets 107 south of Fresno. And so people are immune again, as I use this phrase a lot, from the consequences of their own ideology, and because they can navigate around them by their money and their influence.

Nancy Pelosi, who just waxes eloquently about what she's going to spend for the poor, if that would be true then her grandchildren would be in public schools, and she wouldn't have a fence around her Napa Palazzo, and her husband, they wouldn't be worth a hundred million in part because there's a nexus between government service and knowledge about government contracts, et cetera. I could say the same thing about Dianne Feinstein or Gavin Newsom, or almost any prominent California politician. They're very, very left wing, they're very, very woke and they're very, very intent that that agenda does not apply to themselves but falls on the middle class that they feel lacks their culture. And it doesn't have the romance of the distant poor.

Brian Anderson: This theme of the middle class, robust middle class being historically an essential ingredient of a healthy democratic society, and this has been true, you say from ancient Greece to the United States: why is it the case, just to speak a bit more about this, that the middle class is so essential to democracy?

Victor Davis Hanson: Well, in the United States, I think Alexis de Tocqueville warned America. He said, "It is the situation of mankind in general, and say the European peasant in particular, that human nature being what it is, most people would prefer to be equal and poor, than have everybody much better off, but some very, very much better off." And this goes back to the poet Hesiod that says, "Envy is the strongest of all human emotions." So in that long discussion Tocqueville said what was unique about America was that although the founders were aristocrats, they were megaphones for an agrarian broad based yeomanry that had enough land where a man could go out with his family and get 40 acres and be completely self-sufficient, and therefore not dependent on patronage from the wealthy or not a peasant class that was in serfdom to a land owning elite or was not just starving in the big cities.

So the idea of the constitution was, that although we might not always be a rural people, we were going to create people that had property and were viable and they were economically independent, and we could do that by government policy, to the extent government needed to be relied upon, limited fashion though it was. So we had the Homestead Acts where people could actually get land if they showed that they had the initiative and the hard work to develop them. I'm sitting on what was 180 acre land, and then it's now... I just have 40 acres, but it was originally partly homesteaded by my great, great grandmother, and then partly the railroad who was given land on either side of the railroad, the Southern Pacific Railroad. But they were, again, then asked to sell it very cheap to families who developed it, and we bought some of it. My great, great grandmother and her husband bought some from the railroad in the 1870s.

So what I'm getting at, there were policies that said, we have to have a middle class. That was what the GI Bill was about. That was about federal subsidies for first time house buyers, et cetera. And that gets overwhelmed when you have an enormous amount, 45 million people who were not born in the United States. Legal immigration, one million a year is, everybody praises it, and they should because it's very good for the country. But when you have that many people, social services are taxed. Most of the people are coming from impoverished areas. And when you have a wealthy class that hates the middle class, and I mean, think of the vocabulary they used under the guise of saying they were Trump supporters, but really it was an attack on the clingers, a pre-Trump by used by Obama or the deplorables, or the irredeemables, or the dregs, as Biden said, and the chumps, or McCain said the crazies. Or General Milley saying that he's going to find white rage, or General Austin saying he's going to scour the ranks.

So there's a sense that the snowmobiler, or the guy who has a Winnebago, or he has a Dodge Ram truck, or whatever, he's somehow the target, and that middle class is starting to shrink. And we're glorifying, I think, we're glorifying romanticizing the poor and we're exempting the wealthy from audit, and it's pretty amazing what the wealthy have been able to do. And I'm not saying in class terms, just that... I shouldn't say just wealthy, the elite. When General Milley, who is a general, and he violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he's really our iconic top officer as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And he says to a journalist, Bob Woodward, as Afghanistan crumbles, he says that his president is Nazi-like, or Mein Kampf-like, which is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, there's no consequences.

He doesn't deny that he said that particular thing. And he interrupts a chain of command against the statute that says that the joint chief shall not interrupt the chain of command, and he did so and he boasted about it when he interrupted the chain of command, according to nuclear codes. And there's no consequences whatsoever. And yet we know that lower officers who've spoken out face a lot of consequences. And we've kind of lost the power to affect change or to keep people accountable because of this vast concentration of government, power and money.

Brian Anderson: It's finding ways to turn this around to keep the dying citizen alive. I was inspired by your pages in the book on what education should be about, and you talked a little bit about this earlier, the role it can play in freeing people from tribal identifications, giving them a proper conception of being citizens in a rural governed democratic society. And we can conclude on this, you give an example from your own experience in teaching, what was a very multiethnic working class group of students, the classics. And earlier you talked a bit about civic education and how we need to get back to that. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the educational vision in the book, and how we might go about renewing some of those possibilities in our society?

Victor Davis Hanson: I think a lot of the identification by tribal identity comes out of a fear that a person won't be as successful as he or she thinks they should or can, and then when they're not, they feel that it was because of racism or they were victimized or oppressed. And the solution for that is that people who feel such should be given the opportunity for the most rigorous education. So what I thought I would do when I was 30 or 29, I would leave farming and go to Cal State from Fresno and see if I could sort of give students from the lower classes, the Oklahoma diaspora, Mexican-American, black, a lot of Southeast Asians that were Mang from Vietnam. I would say to them, "I can give you an education that is like Andover, or I can give you one as like the Menlo school in Palo Alto, but it's going to be rigorous. And it's going to be holistic education in the sense of history and literature and philosophy, and we're going work at your diction and your grammar and your written word and your spoken word."

So we even went to the extent that when a person gave a lecture, say on Cicero's Pro Archia, I would say, "No notes, you cannot use a note. You've got to talk as if you're going to present something, because that's what you're going to be doing." And then if they would give a lecture, besides whether it was correct in the sense of classical tropes and history and literature, I'd also say, "You have to be very clear about your pronunciation and your grammar." So we were trying to get a normative competitive student in classical education. And the funny thing, Brian, was it worked pretty well. I had 21 years, I think not that that's the only barometer, but we turned out hundreds of teachers and we turned out, I think 55 people that went from Cal State, Fresno to Harvard, Yale, Duke, Princeton, Stanford, Berkeley. And not all in classic Ph.D. programs, so about 20 of them graduated with Ph.D.s, but mostly in law or medicine, very successful.

And they didn't seem, at least to feel that because they were not "white or male" that they were somehow doomed to fail. The irony was that the criticism that I encountered was always from ethnic people on the faculty. And they always said, "You're culturally appropriating your student's culture. You're telling somebody from Oaxaca that their culture's no good." And I was not at all. I kept saying to all of them that we all are enriched in food, fashion and music by different cultures, but our primary identity has to be American, and we have to have a normative language and written skills and common knowledge of our past in institutions. And yet when people don't want that to happen, and we know that it works, I think they know too, then we have to ask themselves, why are they doing that? And what's the purpose of that? And why are they resisting integration or intermarriage or assimilation, which goes on nonetheless.

So I want to end by being somewhat confident that despite all of the efforts of the Left to disrupt this natural assimilation, we're starting to see it in the second and third generations, people of Mexican-American, to take one example, heritage on the border of Texas, they do not want people who look like them to enter the United States illegally and to break our laws. They feel that they're being overwhelmed in a time of a pandemic. Their own social services are in danger. Their wages made be lowered, and they don't want it, they're not tribalist. And I think the Left is, they're very upset about that.

Here in California, about 50 percent, we think, of Mexican-American males voted to recall, Gavin Newsom, probably higher than the white population. In general terms of both sexes, it was about the same about 43, 44 percent. So there is evidence that we're getting to the point, as we did in the early 20th century, where your ethnic background in particular groups that came from impoverished areas didn't matter anymore. Remember if we ask ourself, in 1900, if your name was Cuomo or Giuliani, we could predict that you would be left-wing, but not so much by the 1960s or 1970s, an Italian surname was not any indications of your political affiliation. I think we're getting that way with Hispanics now or Latino. And that's encouraging, and I think right now, as we see in this disastrous first nine months, people are saying, it's not just Joe Biden, or it's not just his advisors or the squad, they were able to do what they're doing because of serious shortcomings in citizenship. We're not voting, we're not participating in government. We're not holding elites accountable. We're not protesting.

And the result is that you see these board meetings that people are saying, "You know what? I'm not going teach racism under the guise of critical racial theory, and not have it taught to my children." Or, "We're not domestic terrorists, you can call me name in the world, but we're not domestic terrorists." Or pilots who say, "I'm sorry, I got a very bad case of Covid and science tells me my antibodies are as good as a Moderna or a Pfizer shot, and I'm not going to get another shot when I already have antibodies." And so there's popular logical forms of protests that I think are pretty encouraging.

Brian Anderson: Well, thank you very, very much, Victor. We've run a bit longer than we usually do, but it's a discussion well worth having. Don't forget to check out Victor Davis Hanson's work on the City Journal's website, we'll link to his author page. He's written for us, as I mentioned at the outset, for many years now. So we'll link to his author page in the description. His very important new book, it really gives us a deep reading of the dilemmas of our age. It's called The Dying Citizen, and I encourage everyone to pick it up. You can also find City Journal on Twitter @CityJournal and on Instagram @cityjournal_mi. And as always, if you like what you've heard on today's podcast with Victor Davis Hanson, please give us a five star ratings on iTunes. Victor, great to talk with you again and good luck with the book.

Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you, Brian for inviting me, and glad to be here.

Photo by JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty Images

More from 10 Blocks