The Dying Citizen | Victor Davis Hanson

Summary of: The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America
By: Victor Davis Hanson


In ‘The Dying Citizen,’ author Victor Davis Hanson delves into the disintegration of America’s middle class and the threats posed to democracy by progressive elites, tribalism, and globalization. Hanson explores how the dwindling middle class affects political stability, the challenges of integrating immigrants into a united American identity, and the dangers of the deep state’s unchecked power. Additionally, readers will learn about the resurgence of tribalism within the United States, the progressive attack on the Constitution, and the dilution of the country’s resources due to globalization.

The Rise and Fall of the Middle Class

The middle class was the backbone of ancient Greek democracy, and it still plays a crucial role in modern Western societies. However, the American middle class is disappearing, and the resulting wealth disparity poses a threat to democracy. In ancient Greece, the middle classes were seen as trustworthy because they were self-sufficient landowners who combined hard work, independent thought, and an interest in political stability. Today, the hollowing out of the middle class means America is moving closer to a two-class society, with a sharp dichotomy between the rich and poor. This is not conducive to a functioning democracy and poses a problem for all of us.

United We Stand

Immigrants melded together to form a homogenous people in pursuit of the American Dream, despite their differences. Today, illegal immigration poses a threat to the American way of life by creating a lack of integration and citizenship.

America has always been a nation of immigrants, and in the nineteenth century, people far and wide flocked to this vast untamed land. Their main objective was to secure greater freedom and opportunity than they’d received back in their homelands. By the end of the century, immigrants from Europe, Latin America, and Asia were making their way to America. In this way, they all came together to mold themselves into a single united people.

The US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution both prominently state that every man is created equal. This single radical statement smoothed the path towards unity, despite the differences in religions, ethnicities, and nationalities among immigrants in the nineteenth century. It meant that all could be treated as equals in the grand cultural and ethnic melting pot that was the United States.

This amicable process of integration required new Americans to make substantial sacrifices to earn American citizenship, such as adopting English as their mother tongue. The traditional customs and ways of their home countries were gradually replaced by American traditions within a few generations. The founders of the United States had good reason to encourage their citizens to become a homogenous people with a shared language, as they were apprehensive about the ever-persistent religious, ethnic and civil conflicts within European countries that might have occurred. They feared that if they allowed cultural identities to take root within different immigrant groups, it would breed disharmony and trigger conflict.

Today, the American ideal of citizenship is under threat. Instead of immigrants legally pursuing citizenship and adopting American values, language, and traditions, a massive influx of unchecked illegal immigrants has become an issue. Since 1986, the number of illegal aliens has increased from 5 million to nearly 20 million. This poses a severe threat to the American way of life. Immigrants who remain illegal immigrants or transition to the ambiguous claim of residency are not under any responsibility to integrate or become full citizens.

Exposing the Deep State

In a democratic nation like the United States, citizens assume they decide who wields political power through their elected representatives. However, the notion of the “deep state” suggests that many unelected individuals, such as those in intelligence agencies, the military, civil service, elite universities, media outlets, and Wall Street, wield substantial political power. The deep state exerts influence over universities’ teachings, newspaper contents, and regulatory bodies. The IRS’s 2010-2013 investigation of nonprofit organizations’ political allegiances, specifically targeting right-wing leaning nonprofits, reveals the deep state’s biased focus, which advantaged Barack Obama’s presidential campaign financially in 2012. Although the IRS eventually apologized, no one was held criminally responsible. With millions of unelected bureaucrats administering over 175,000 pages of federal rules through around 450 federal agencies, the deep state is getting worse.

The Danger of Tribalism

Tribalism, the norm before nation-states, rewards based on ethnic or religious connections, with devastating consequences. This summary reflects on the resurgence of this dangerous phenomenon in the US and the world. Bernie Sanders advocating for racially segregated campus theme houses and the University of Chicago openly telling graduates that they should only study Black authors are examples of how tribalism is making a comeback.

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