(American Greatness) — We should remember the now modern proverb of Nixon-era economic advisor Herb Stein to the effect that what cannot go on (without destroying the nation), simply will not go on.
In some sense, the country for recent years has been cruising on the fumes from prior and likely better wiser generations and institutions. In 2024, the tab for our current apathy, toxic politics, and incompetence will come due.
So next year we will likely see the climax to a number of current dangerous ideas, events, and forces, which finally will either overwhelm us or be addressed and remedied. We live in a Neronian age but can recover if we first understand how we got here and the nature of the suicide we are committing.
In 2023, it became clear, to even the most loyal supporters of the Biden administration, that the U.S. has simply lost or indeed forfeited American deterrence abroad. Our enemies do not fear us; our friends do not trust us; and neutrals do not care either way.
After the 2021 Kabul debacle, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 2023 brazen Chinese spy balloon’s uncontested trajectory over the United States, the recent Hamas invasion of Israel, the serial Iranian-fueled terrorist attacks on U.S. installations in the Middle East, and the terrorist Houthis’ veritable absorption of the Red Sea, many of America’s opportunistic enemies drew conclusions and adopted strategies that would have been previously unthinkable.
Either adversaries will be so emboldened to start regional wars — an impotent Iran now brags it will block the entire Mediterranean — or a United States will be shocked into action and have to deter Iran, the Houthis, and Islamic terrorism, while dealing with an opportunistic China eager to annex Taiwan, and Russia determined to finish off Ukraine.
Those challenges will force the military to staunch its recruitment hemorrhaging, rectify low morale, and rearm. Such rebooting in turn will require discarding the woke agenda, stopping the DEI proselytizing and virtue signaling, and returning to a meritocracy focused on military preparedness and battlefield efficacy.
Since January 2021, the Biden administration has flagrantly and unapologetically dismantled federal immigration law. It destroyed the border as we once knew it. It has already greenlighted more than 8 million illegal entrants — with another quarter-million entering each month.
No one in government has offered any projected costs to states and federal agencies of offering health, food, housing, legal, and education subsidies to millions — who broke the law by entering the U.S. and continue to violate it while residing unlawfully here. Is that the sign of a promising American citizen — that the first thing he does upon entering America is to break his host’s law?
Incredibly, no one has even explained to Americans why millions of illegal aliens are exempt from the vaccine mandates, background checks, and adherence to the law that is demanded of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. We will soon demand “real” IDs of American citizen airline travelers, while we fly illegal aliens all over the states without any identification?
In fact, those who blew up the border can’t honestly even explain to the American people why they did so. Was it to ensure future (or even present) political constituents? Cheap labor? To ensure higher taxes to pay for more government services and to “spread the wealth?” Obeyance to the diversity/equity/inclusion lobbies? To make up for fleeing blue-state population?
The United States has now exceeded, both in real numbers and in percentages, all past numbers of non-native born American residents — at a time when civic education, the idea of the melting pot, and adherence to assimilation have never been more under assault.
In 2024, either the border will close, or the United States will suffer radical political realignments, sheer chaos in our major cities, protests from Americans furious over the complete flaunting of federal law by their own elected officials, and a likely impeachment of Joe Biden for deliberately forsaking his oath to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.”
The Oct. 7 Hamas invasion of Israel and premodern massacring of nearly 1,200 Jews — and the virulent anti-Semitism that swept our elite campuses and big cities even before the Oct. 27 Israeli Defense Forces’ retaliatory invasion of Gaza — was a wakeup call about the racialized hatred and anti-Semitism now endemic on the Left.
Campus protestors dropped the prior protestations that they were not anti-Semitic in their hatred of Israel. Instead, they now call out Jews by name. They disrupt their homes and businesses, regardless of their views on Zionism. Pro-Hamas protestors feel free to harass Jews, and with impunity and arrogance chant genocidal chants promising the destruction of Israel and its Jewish population.
The main campus culprits for these sudden unabashed hatreds are tripartite. First, wealthy, mostly white leftist students — increasingly as ignorant of history as they are arrogant in their zealotry — feel it pays psychological and careerist dividends on campus to mouth orthodoxies of hating Israel and de facto siding with the Hamas killers.
Most have no idea of the Hamas charter, where flows the Jordan River, or what the British Mandate for Palestine or the Balfour Declaration were. Few of the loudest could never even find Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza on a map. No matter: being heard and seen on campus hating Israel is considered a necessary fad like 1970s bellbottoms or pet rocks.
Second, huge numbers of full-tuition-paying Middle-Eastern visiting students and green-card holders, along with Gulf-fueled and endowed faculty, assume that they are exempt from any legal consequences. So they often deface the federal monuments of their hosts, shut down traffic, swarm Jews on campus and in the street, break the law, and battle with police — with absolute impunity.
Third, just as startling are the undisguised hatreds emanating from radical diversity/equity/inclusion students and faculty. As the declared oppressed, they too feel exempt from any charge that they are mouthing racist and anti-Semitic venom, as they conflate Israel with the now maligned stereotyped “white” people.
The apogee of such extremism was evident in the congressional testimony of three ethically challenged Ivy-League presidents. They reminded the nation that no campus president would unequivocally condemn, much less punish, any anti-Semites on a campus, who openly called for the destruction of Israel and its Jewish population. And they lied about “free speech” constraints on their punishment of mainstreaming anti-Semitic and genocidal threats — given they routinely expel, censure, and variously punish all sorts of “hate speech,” but only if it is directed against their own DEI constituencies.
All this is not tenable.
Our top universities are facing a perfect storm. Declining pools of students, crushing student loan debt, spiraling tuition and room and board costs, administrative bloat, defecting donors, and the public’s distrust of such people being entrusted with their children’s higher education, will all soon lead to a general reexamination of the very need of these universities in the first place, at least as they are presently constituted.
Their racialist admissions, hiring, retention, and promotion protocols are destroying meritocracy. Their mediocre curricula, grade inflation, and campus polarization have convinced the public that they are no longer deserving of the many taxpayer indulgences that shield campuses from market realities — such as massive federal research grants and subsidies, tax-free billions of dollars in private donations, tax-free endowment income in the tens of billions of dollars, and taxpayer subsidized $2 trillion in student loans.
So insulated are these atolls of privilege that they cannot recognize growing public anger over the damage they are doing to the country. Iconic Harvard University cannot even fire its DEI president Claudine Gay, despite serial instances in her own past of plagiarism (which prompted Harvard’s sycophantic board to defend her by embracing a new euphemism — “duplicative language” as if to signify the tiny clerical lapse of stealing the ideas and prose of others).
In 2024, radical changes in university administration and values will begin to be made, or higher education will face a reckoning from the public and a newly elected government.
Currently, Colorado has tentatively removed Donald Trump from its 2024 ballot on the specious grounds that he is an “insurrectionist.” Thus, the state insists that he is subject to the 14th Amendment, Section 3 clause of 1868, that calls for the disbarment from future government employment or service those former federal officials and employees who had joined the Confederacy.
Aside from the misapplication of the spirt and letter of that post-Civil War legislation, those responsible for erasing Trump know that he has never been charged with, much less convicted of “insurrection. And he never will be.
They understand that half the country knows the Jan. 6 “riot” was the work of unarmed, overzealous, and buffoonish protestors, who broke the law by entering the Capitol, but otherwise had no master insurrectionary plan. And the majority surrounding the Capitol did in fact obey the president’s call to protest “peacefully” and “patriotically.”
The left privately understands that their latest weaponization of government follows their “Russian collusion hoax,” their “laptop disinformation” farce, their two politicized impeachments, their performance-art Mar-a-Lago documents raid, and thus are all part of a systematic degradation of our campaigns, elections, and political customs, tradition, and discourse.
A jaded public knows too well that such punitive measures never applied to the 2016 Hillary Clinton crimes of destroying subpoenaed emails and devices, or the FBI’s illegal alteration of FISA documents or its contracting out social media to suppress news stories, or its hiring of a foreign national Christopher Steele, who compiled a fake “dossier” to destroy the candidacy of Donald Trump.
A majority of Americans further know that had Donald Trump not chosen to run for office in 2024, state and federal prosecutors such as the publicity-seeking and partisan Alvin Bragg, Letitia James, Jack Smith, and Fani Willis would never have indicted him.
All privately know that the entire Biden family, including the president, could just as easily be indicted on state and local felonies, but the Biden consortium finds itself exempt both for its leftist ideology and its current control of the Department of Justice.
What then do the campaign and election of 2024 foreordain?
We will be in entirely new and completely dangerous territory. The likely Republican nominee who currently leads incumbent president Joe Biden will be for most of 2024 the constant target of a coordinated state and local Soviet-like effort to destroy his candidacy before the voters can even vote for or against him in the November election.
The United States’ 2023 annual budget deficit is about $1.7 trillion; the nation is burdened by a $34 trillion national debt — even though the federal government since 2021 has raised all sorts of new income and excise taxes.
The era of printing money, zero interest rates, “modern monetary theory,” and spending wildly is drawing to a close. The mounting interest on the national debt is now crowding out optional but soon essential annual federal spending. At some point soon, one generation of Americans is going to have to exercise spending restraint or accept a continuing decline in its living standards.
In sum, in 2024, we will either see the destruction of presidential electoral politics as we have known them or a complete repudiation of lawfare. The current new normal that the party in power indicts the leading candidate of the opposition is not sustainable or compatible with the idea of America.
Either the military will have to deter dramatically our growing number of opportunistic enemies, or it will descend into something like the French army between the world wars — plagued by ideology, ossified brass, corruption, mediocrity, misplaced investments, and bankrupt strategies.
If there are not radical changes in higher education, our Ivy League and self-identified elite campuses will go the way of Bud-Light, Disney, and Target — once premier brands reduced to red ink and laughing-stock caricatures.
The United States is cracking under 8 million illegal entries; it cannot sustain another year and 2 million more illegal entrants — or a total of 55-60 million foreign-born residents, with no idea of how many are U.S. citizens, illegal aliens, or green card holders — or how many are employable, or free of criminal records or in need of massive federal and state subsidies.
In 2024, the U.S. will begin to see that to meet its spiraling debt, it will either keep inflating its currency, or slash spending, or raise even further taxes to the degree that even the lower middle class will have to pay 50 percent of their income in state and federal taxes, or renounce its debt, and thus go full-Third World.
Will we meet these challenges or ensure the ongoing decline?
If what we saw after Oct. 7, or the wild and out-of-control reign of weaponized local and state prosecutors, or what we watch nightly on television at the border, or the paralyses we witness abroad of our military, or the breezy way in which our officials promise groups here and abroad billions of dollars in easy money, continues into 2024, then the country as we knew it will become unrecognizable.
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. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won and The Case for Trump.