After having served for years as an Army Green Beret in Europe and the Pacific, followed by years as a national security analyst in Washington, Jim Hanson said he made a startling discovery: The real threat is at home.
“The most dangerous things were all inside the country,” Mr. Hanson said. “The left has been conducting a war against the U.S. in an effort to ‘fundamentally transform’ the country, and they’ve been very successful. They were concentrating on changing things here at home, and they succeeded at it.”
Mr. Hanson and his wife, Samantha Nerove, are the executive director and the CEO, respectively, of America Matters, a conservative advocacy group they founded in 2016 that is dedicated to issues such as education and veterans’ rights.
It is perhaps unsurprising that a former master sergeant in the Army Special Forces would use military jargon to describe what he sees ailing America and what he thinks can fix it. But Mr. Hanson says he sees troubling signs that a militaristic mindset is calling the shots on domestic policy.
“‘Wokeness’ is rebranded socialism with a touch of identity politics,” he said. “The riots and insurrections last year showed that domestic terrorism works. With Black Lives Matter and Antifa, violence and the threat of violence is a core element of their tactics: ‘If we don’t get what we want, we will burn the country down.’”
Nevertheless, Mr. Hanson, 56, believes there is a peaceful way out of the dilemma, which is why the subtitle of his new book “Winning the Second Civil War” is “Without Firing a Shot.” (The 192-page treatise is published by Republic Book Publishers, which focuses on conservative thinkers.)
It wasn’t always this way. Mr. Hanson looks back fondly at the brief time he spent at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a tenure cut short by a misplaced emphasis on kegs over classrooms.
“Madison is definitely the Moscow of the Midwest, but I loved it,” he said. “It was a fun place, and you had the ability to argue with leftists. They would be like, ‘This is Jim, my conservative friend,’ but now we’ve lost that.”
At an accelerating pace, liberals have squeezed the conservative voice into the margins of the public square, Mr. Hanson said. By turning every issue into a moral crusade and consequently equating a political stance on an issue with a moral one, the left has demonized the right and made conservative positions impolite, he said.
This is all by design, Mr. Hanson said, pointing to “playbooks” written by the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci and others that call for the left-wing to march steadily through “the institutions,” such as the media and academia; gradually assert complete control over how messages and thoughts are disseminated, and then fill those outlets with one side of any given argument.
President Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was one turning point, he said.
“He lit the powder keg of activism,” Mr. Hanson said. “That gave oxygen to the fire in the activist wing of the left.”
President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 only fanned the flames, he added.
“We saw the violence once Trump came to power,” Mr. Hanson said. “That’s when the activist left ripped off the mask and declared, ‘We don’t like this country.’”
Last summer marked a “Fort Sumter moment,” Mr. Hanson said when unrest in multiple cities left some neighborhoods and small businesses as smoking ruins — a reference to the start of the Civil War.
“The idea of an actual civil war is more figurative, although I do know people and see people talking about the possibility of it in ways I don’t ever remember hearing before,” he said. “There is no common ground. The woke left won’t accept that and thus now it is the right which is the tolerant party.”
But Mr. Hanson isn’t advocating violence to combat violence; America Matters isn’t a recruiting post for soldiers, and his book isn’t some manual on guerrilla tactics. Instead, it is a plea for civic action.
“There’s no safe space for conservatives on the sidelines anymore,” he said. “You didn’t have to go to school board meetings or City Hall meetings before. You have to go now. You can’t just agree to disappear.”
Stories are popping up everywhere about parents aghast at what is being taught in their childrens’ schools, he said, and the suddenly real idea that Washington Democrats could pack the Supreme Court or willy-nilly add stars to the flag should awaken people shuffle from their somnambulism.
His ideas were honed by running counterinsurgency operations around the Pacific Rim. Among the unclassified work he did was a study of the New People’s Army in the Philippines, a “neo-Maoist” group similar to those rising in the U.S.
“I see the same neo-Maoist principles in Black Lives Matter, Antifa and some of the right-wing militias,” Mr. Hanson said. “With extremist groups you see similar patterns in their recruiting methodologies and their demographics.”
At the end of his stint with special forces, Mr. Hanson found himself crafting plans with the National Security Council to extricate U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, but since becoming a civilian, he has seen more to worry about internally.
Mr. Hanson revised Winston Churchill’s famous aphorism to describe the current situation: “There’s no more appeasing the crocodile,” he said. “He’s nibbling at your feet now.”
“There’s no magic bullet for all this beyond getting involved,” he said. “Most of these protests we see are an angry mob trying to oppress people and we have to start pushing back.”
To dodge the crocodile’s bite, conservatives must make some big changes in their approach and not rely on extant control of mediums, according to Mr. Hanson’s argument. For example, “we need to write off the educated class for a few generations,” he said.
In addition to keeping a closer eye on local politics, Mr. Hanson would like conservatives to take advantage of streaming and other sorts of entertainment to make an impact on culture.
Just as Gramsci once urged Marxists to take over existing frameworks and win power away from the purely political sphere, conservatives should view the altering media landscape as an opportunity, in Mr. Hanson’s opinion.
In the past, conservative efforts in the entertainment world smacked of religion. Now, with the left’s monopoly on entertainment and corporate advertising making entertainment more like propaganda, conservatives have more room.
“It’s always been a little too religious to pass as entertainment before,” he said. “But movies can be made. Look at what it is now. They love stories about broken people who have no morals, and now conservatives should look at themselves as Gen X.”
To be sure, some of this already is happening, but Mr. Hanson thinks it can move at a faster pace now that Mr. Trump has left Washington.
“2020 was an ‘anti-Trump’ election and I don’t think he’ll run again,” Mr. Hanson said. “He was such an outsized disruptive factor that he helped the left.”
The seeds of the modern, gentry liberals’ destruction lie in their relentless negativity and the fact “their system is one of inherent cognitive dissonance.”
For instance, few Americans think racism should be used to combat racism, but that is exactly what is being proposed with much of the current agenda, Mr. Hanson said.
“In America today it seems we are celebrating the tail ends of the bell curve and the overriding concern is that no one have their feelings hurt,” he said. “People see the unfairness in this reverse racism, and they are just trying to use a mythical boogeyman to divide the spoils.”
Without Mr. Trump and with renewed engagement, Mr. Hanson said conservatives have a chance to wrest control of the narrative and the country away from forces he believes seek its downfall.
“We should be unapologetically American,” he said. “I think it’s still a longshot to think there would be actual shooting in another civil war. The conditions now are actually better for the right, I think, because the leftist view is being forced down from the elites to the masses. People don’t like being told what they must do.”