Why The Left Always Projects

The Left is addicted to projection—the psycho-political syndrome of attributing all of one’s own sins to one’s opponents. The woke apparently do this out of some Freudian effort to square the circle of their own guilt or sense of privilege, by fobbing off their own fearful realities onto others. It is the atheist version of confession or medieval penance. In addition, in the spirit of “always being on the offense,” wokists know that those who slander do so most successfully when they lodge exactly those charges most familiar and applicable to themselves.  

The Privileged Damn Privilege 

Take for example, the worn-out charge of “privilege,” as in the phrase “check your privilege.” This trope originates exclusively from the Left. Purportedly, it signifies a rigged system in which white males have gained, unfairly and undeservedly, “privilege” to exercise cultural, economic, political, and social control over the “other”—occasionally defined as women, more often “people of color,” and most frequently African Americans. 

How odd, given that by any indicator the political Left is the party of wealth and privilege. The wealthiest ZIP codes are found in blue states such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. Twenty-six of the 27 wealthiest congressional districts, gauged by per capita incomes, are represented by liberal Democrats. 

Registered Democrats on average have higher incomes than their Republican counterparts. Democratic presidential candidates have vastly outspent Republicans over the last 20 years. Note that the old liberal saw about “dark money” has steadily disappeared from the left-wing lexicon (nothing is darker than Mark Zuckerberg’s infusions of cash to warp particular voting precincts). Likewise, in the once trendy academic trifecta of “race, class, and gender,” class” has been dropped quietly.

The most elite and wealthy institutions in America are predominantly liberal bastions: Silicon Valley, entertainment, universities, professional sports, Wall Street, the mainstream media, and foundations. Most “people of color,” who are the loudest about focusing on the evils of privilege and lack of equity, are themselves multimillionaires or multibillionaires, such as the Obamas, Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Jay-Z, or Meghan Markle. 

Accusing an entire group—white people, or conservatives, or Trump supporters—of being privileged deflects the apparent shame of elitism away from oneself on the cheap. After all, accusing some part-time lecturer or Trump deplorable of “white privilege” is a lot easier, both psychologically and materially, than giving up a nanny, trading in the gas-guzzling big Mercedes, or just saying no to private jets.

The elite accuser knows especially how to level such charges given his own intimacy with what wealth, power, and influence bring. Worse still, the projectionist feels he is making the greatest sacrifice of all by his empty confessions—even as he is a beneficiary of the rigged system that he demands be ended.

When Barack Obama flies to Glasgow to lecture the western world’s climate-wrecking middle class that it is going to have to be content with less—while acknowledging that his own wealth and privilege mean he will suffer less than others—one wonders why Obama simply does not, right now pledge to live in just one mansion rather than two? 

After all, if Obama urges the middle to class to cut back on energy use and to forfeit lifestyle privileges, why wouldn’t  Obama himself set the moral example, given his huge carbon footprint. Why would he be so cynical to warn the world that our shores will soon be inundated shortly after he himself bought a shoreline estate?

The answer, of course, is that by constantly projecting their covetousness onto others, the woke feel that they can enjoy their own privileges with diminished guilt, claim the psychological higher moral ground, and, as performance artists, show they suffer on our behalf as “traitors to their class.”

Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

The Colluders Invent Collusion

“Collusion” is also a good example of the absurdities of leftist projection. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment simply concocted the charge that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was colluding with the Russians, based on rumors and lies collected by an incompetent and long-retired British left-wing spook, a couple of Clinton cronies at home and abroad, a washed-up Wall Street Journal reporter, and various Hillary functionaries seeded among beltway bureaucracies, media megaphones, and law firms. 

Remember, it was Team Hillary, after the 2016 election, that rounded up celebrities to cut commercials  urging the electors not to honor their states’ popular votes. Then we went to the surrogate Jill Stein’s lawsuits challenging voting machine counting. And finally, during the transition and Trump presidency, Hillary bragged of the new maquis “Resistance” that spread her fake Steele-Clinton dossier throughout the State Department, FBI, CIA, and Justice Department. There is a slight chance that John Durham may eventually work his way up to this largely illegal effort—from Hillary’s minions to those in her inner circle.  

As far as the charge of Russian collusion itself, both the Left and Hillary, Inc. always knew that in comparison to their own Clinton and Obama years (e.g., the red plastic reset button, the prohibition of offensive weapons sales to Ukraine, the anti-drilling agenda in the United States, the snoring while Putin gobbled up Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and the “tell Vladimir to wait till after the election” hot mic Obama moment), the Left had for years insidiously appeased Putin.

In contrast, Trump’s reversal of the reset (such as selling offensive weaponry to Ukraine, the push to produce more gas and oil, beefing up U.S. and NATO military preparedness, killing Russian mercenaries in Syria, and pulling out of a missile treaty with Russia) reestablished deterrence against Russia that Obama’s administration frittered away. How strange, then, that Trump, the supposed Russian “asset,” increased deterrence against Russian aggression, while the promulgators of the collusion charge deliberately weakened the United States in relation to Russia.

Yet with the recent indictments from Durham, collated with the Mueller report bust, the House Intelligence Committee majority report, and the inspector general’s internal audit, most are beginning to concede that Hillary Clinton cooked up the idea of sabotaging a rival presidential campaign by enlisting the aid of Russians, or at least those familiar with Russia in partnership with her own team. 

She sought to hide both the funding and expenditures of this effort to plant lies throughout the U.S. government—with the aid of the FBI and likely Obama appointees in the Justice Department, CIA, and State Department—by the firewalls of the DNC, the Perkins Coie law firm, and Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS front. 

So, in the end, we are left with the post-2016 Hillary Clinton loudly yelling “rigged!” and “collusion!” even as she had first sought to rig the election by smearing her opponent with Russian dirt, and then explaining away her own self-created defeat by fueling further the “collusion” hoax. 

No political figure in modern memory has done more damage to the political process than Hillary Clinton and her unethical and illegal effort to sabotage a rival campaign and then manufacture a hoax both to mask her own culpability and to sabotage an American presidency. 

In sum, Hillary Clinton already proved herself master projectionist when she fobbed off the Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation escapades onto others, but the Russian collusion hoax remains her greatest masterpiece of deceit.  

Election Denialists Scream Denialist

Then we come to the projections of “undermining the integrity of elections” and “subverting democracy.” 

Donald Trump complained and is still complaining about the 2020 election. To the degree that anything was “rigged” or can be proven to have been “rigged,” an entirely alterable election likely cannot be tied to Election Day per se. The real anomalies occurred in spring 2020, when activists, often with help from left-wing billionaires, funded lawsuits that persuaded local magistrates and bureaucrats to overturn balloting procedures established by their state legislatures. And then under the cloak of the COVID-19 lockdown, 102 million ballots were not cast on Election Day—over twice the 2016 absentee and early-voting numbers. Even as the number of ballots to be counted radically soared, the rejection rate mysteriously dropped.

So, the more the Left trashed Trump’s insistence of voter irregularities, the more we forget that casting doubt on election integrity has long been a staple of Democratic losers. 

Hillary Clinton repeatedly claimed that Donald Trump did not win the 2016 election, and that in essence over half the country should have no confidence in the nation’s election integrity. Three years later she was still calling Trump “an illegitimate president”—based on nothing more than the very Russian collusion hoax that she had birthed and paid for, while using her vast network to destroy a presidency and erode confidence in the 2016 Electoral College vote count. She urged Joe Biden not to concede the 2020 election “under any circumstances”.

“Selected not elected” was long a left-wing mantra leveled at George W. Bush as the “illegitimate” president who “stole” the 2000 election in “hanging chad” Florida. Al Gore was shamed into publicly accepting the verdict only to go on a lifelong public jihad whining about how he was robbed, an obsession that eventually drove him in some sense quite mad and resulted in his current diminished state. 

Even after the undisputed 2004 election, the Democratic minority in the House still forced Congress to hold hearings on the supposedly rigged election and “illegitimate” Ohio electors—the first such challenge since 1877. 

There is no need to say much about the strange career of the denialist Stacey Abrams, who has spent the better part of three years playing shadow governor of Georgia. She has never fully accepted the results of her not-even-close 2018 loss by some 50,000 votes. And yet screaming voter fraud made Abrams a folk hero among progressives to the point that they asked her to deliver the State of the Union response in 2019. 

Racists Cry Racism

Racism is the latest left-wing projectionist tic. White liberal elites, who live mostly privileged and segregated lives, are obsessed with calling their opponents racists, elite blacks, on the other hand, focus on conservatives—e.g., Winsome Sears, Larry Elder, Tim Scott, Clarence Thomas—for special racial vituperation. So, in the Left’s lexicon of racist smears, Virginia Lieutenant Governor-elect Sears becomes a mere black mouth spouting white-scripted supremacy, talk-show host Larry Elder is rendered the “black face of white supremacy,” and Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is reduced to an Uncle Tom.

Projection is an innate human trait. Perhaps it is hard wired as a survival mechanism into the human brain, dating back to our Neanderthal predecessors. But in the early 21st century, projection has been honed and refined as a special trademark of the Left, largely because of the growing contradictions, paradoxes, and hypocrisies that are inherent in the postmodern woke movement. 

 Progressives and the Democratic Party in general once professed empathy and solidarity with the lunch-bucket crowd. But through globalization, the Left got rich—and all the richer because the professional and credentialed classes in the media, law, finance, academia, investment, entertainment, and sports found 8 billion consumers for their wares. Unfortunately, that wealth didn’t reach the muscular classes and the ancient trades of earthier production in assembly, manufacturing, farming, mining, timber, and construction, which faced new competition abroad through offshoring, outsourcing, and relocation. 

We can see the radical changes in the Democrats’ utter abandonment of the white working classes in the red state interior. In their place grew a romantic leftist infatuation with billionaires who can make things happen with big money, bypassing old-time penny-ante fund-raising. That’s why the Left loves and has enlisted the likes of Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Mark Zuckerberg along with the Google, Apple, and Twitter fortunes. They find it cute that their own capitalists are using their capitalist-created fortunes to push anti-capitalist and left-wing cultural agendas. 

In the ancient days, what Mark Zuckerberg did in the 2020 election (channel over $400 million to appropriate the duties of state polling officers in key swing precincts) or the vast left-wing effort of the rich to warp the election—as boasted about in a now-infamous Time essay by a preening Molly Ball—would have created screaming headlines of “dark money.”

The Mind of the Projectionist

In sum, the Left got woke because it largely got rich. 

Wokism is now an elite scramble for the best seats on the cruise ship’s top deck—who gets into Harvard, whether the new diversity, equity, and inclusion provost is higher or lower than the dean on the academic totem pole, which anchor grabs the prime-time slot, and whether the white hard-Left actress or a “diverse” rival wins the coveted superheroine role in the latest Hollywood schlock comic book film. 

Yet when wokeness trickles down finally to the middle classes, it is often seen as nonsensical. As outsiders, those without privilege see that real wokeness is racist, segregationist, careerist, and narcissistic—the guilty accusing the innocent of their own perceived guilt. The woke blame the steerage class below them for their own perceived sins of privilege—slurs and smears levelled all the more toxically because their promulgators have always known them firsthand as their own.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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