Do Americans Today Still Deserve Liberty?

Victor Davis Hanson’s brilliant essay, “Autopsy of a Dead Coup,” describes how America’s leviathan bureaucracy effectively attempted a coup against a democratically elected president to abrogate the surprising 2016 election result and continue onward, unabated, in its warped agenda for the country.

This “deep state” of unelected, unaccountable, government bureaucrats, whose identities remain obscure to the American public, was abetted by high-ranking officials in the FBI and Justice Department. These included such names as James Comey and Andrew McCabe, who are now familiar to the public. They were joined, says Hanson, by journalists working for mainstream news outfits like the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, who, alongside DNC proxies conveniently positioned at CNN, collectively worked to prepackage the phony Russian collusion narrative for the public. This was a public that was made ill-disposed to President Trump from months of premeditated, unrelenting negative coverage of him.

In short, a deep state comprised of government bureaucrats launched a full-out assault on a president they despised, for reasons that have to do with power above all. In so doing, they unleashed years of the pent-up frustration of those who are part of the infrastructure of government today, ranging from top-level agency heads to mainstream media allies, and all of this culminated in the first verifiably attempted coup in American history.

In connecting all these dots, one gets the impression that even Hanson remains a bit stunned that such an operation could actually play out. No less, in our purportedly free and democratic republic. These, Hanson concedes:

[are] not oligarchs in private jets, not shaggy would-be Marxists, but sanctimonious arrogant bureaucrats in suits and ties [who] used their government agencies to seek to overturn the 2016 election, abort a presidency, and subvert the U.S. Constitution.

In other words, this isn’t the stuff of a far-fetched Ian Fleming novel. This tried-and-failed coup played out real time in the United States of America. And it happened in a time of relative peace, in the age of information where such things are supposedly thought to be impossible.

Deep State Shock
Americans who are halfway attuned to the history of the United States in the post-war era will likely absorb this information in somewhat more measured terms. True, it remains shocking when you begin to realize that the federal bureaucracy has magnified to the point that it could think itself capable of pulling off such a feat (fortunately its attempt backfired—this time). History demonstrates time and again pride’s inebriating effect on the mind, prompting the downfall of powerful individuals.

But consider the history of the United States in the past seven decades or so; the advent of the military-industrial complex, the creation of the permanent political technocratic class, the influence of lobbyists and dark money on federal legislators, the rise of mission creep in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Once America became a global empire, it required the machinery to keep the gears running. This machinery was developed at the expense of America’s own citizens beyond the Beltway, who have been treated like soulless cogs and now suffer even more palpably from the costs of running an impossibly utopian project; one that certainly was never intended by our Founding Fathers.

High rates of suicide and divorce, the loss of meaningful well-paying jobs, the loss of community, and racial resentment are but a handful of the social costs that have accompanied the political atomization and the resurgence of aberrant ideologies like socialism in the electorate. Together these represent the natural outgrowths of a diseased and deracinated public. Or, to paraphrase Tucker Carlson, healthy republics do not elect Donald Trump for president. Though Trump may be a blessing for us now and in the end, the fact that he was needed at all is symptomatic of deeper malignancies that are currently ravaging America.

A Foreshadowing of Our Loss of Sovereignty?
Nearly 50 years ago, Gore Vidal, perched inside his villa overlooking the Mediterranean on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, waxed apoplectic about the condition of the United States. It was in a pitiable condition, he bemoaned in one of many television interviews. He argued that America was controlled by faceless players who do the real work behind the scenes like a black hand, tactfully manufacturing for the rest of the polis an illusion of sovereignty.

In touching on this theme, which he did increasingly in his later years, Vidal would channel his inner-H.L. Mencken in inveighing against the amnesiac condition of his countrymen. On the whole, he opined, they were utterly oblivious or simply indifferent to those who held true power in their foundering republic. They neither tried nor cared to learn more than what they were spoon-fed by the Washington Post or New York Times, for which Vidal harbored deep antagonism.

Separated by time and space, Americans find themselves in as bad a condition as any of Vidal’s wildest premonitions. Today every American—not just conservatives—has more to lose if the political revolution President Trump jumpstarted two-and-a-half years ago becomes immobilized by these anonymous actors. Trump openly has admitted that even he was hoodwinked upon taking office by the sheer extent of their influence. Though many of them profess loyalty to the president in public, they are happy to undermine him at every turn behind closed doors, though no one elected them or asked them to do it.

What Remains to Be Done
The stubborn fact remains there is no guarantee another President Trump will follow on the heels of the current one. From today’s vantage point, the possibility of a similarly minded individual coming to the fore, though possible, is unlikely even if competent to have the original’s seismic effect on the political arena. Trump has no natural successor, which means it’s essential that the work begun in 2016 must be followed through to its intended conclusion if Americans have any hope of political salvation.

That is not hyperbole. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in a sense is Trump’s anti-establishment counterpart on the Left, proposes an antidote—socialism—that is fundamentally incompatible with America’s design as a free and rights-bearing people. Socialism is a phony palliative for America’s political anxieties, which, if prevented from treatment by the full-package Trump offered on the 2016 campaign trail (the wall and all), could very well trick America into settling into it.

At the turn of the 20th century, Bolshevism may well have taken root in America were it not for the trust-busting escapades of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s modern-day successor must be given license to see his program to fruition, unadulterated, even if it forever dismembers the old GOP brand. This we must do if we are to circumvent socialism’s insidious clasp on the country.

Unfortunately, it remains most likely that the bureaucratic-media-complex will have its way, possibly catapulting America into the paroxysms of totalitarianism from its own insatiable appetite. This could happen either democratically—if America embraced socialism outright—or through the blithe capitulation of the populace to the shadowy forces that control this country.

Philosophically speaking, liberal societies tend inevitably toward greater dependency: as individual autonomy is maximized to the greatest possible extent, the paternalistic edifices of the state invariably must take hold by replacing family and community. If that is where we end up, it will be in no small part the fault of a citizenry who had the chance to curtail that unenviable outcome with Donald Trump, but instead chose, owing perhaps to its own docility or pride, to fall into subservience in exchange for the illusion of “security.”

Liberty only befits a people competent enough for self-government. The American people have the opportunity at this unique juncture in history to decide whether Donald Trump’s presidency marks the beginnings of true reform or a continued descent into tyranny. If it proves to be the latter; a mere stop-gap or swansong that history would ultimately judge to be an aberration, perhaps that might be explained as the emergency response by our founding fathers who hardwired a last-ditch chance for freedom for a future people on the precipice of absolute tyranny.

If that is the situation that ultimately materializes, we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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About Paul Ingrassia

Paul Ingrassia is a Claremont Publius and John Marshall Fellow and served in President Trump’s National Economic Council. He graduated from Cornell Law School in 2022. His Twitter handle is: @PaulIngrassia.