Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

From an Angry Reader:

Mr. Hanson,

You seem intent on defining progressives as people who loathe Donald Trump, as clearly defined group who have a unified strategy of driving him out of office.


The tactic of defining—and dismissing—all progressives with a broad brush is a convenient way to give Trump supporters a clearly defined enemy to hate. That style of rhetoric has more in common with Rush Limbaugh than a respected academician. It is also the type of divisive and overwrought discourse (from both sides) that we are currently awash in.


I am a progressive, which to my mind describes what I am for, not against.


I do deeply regret that, though fairly elected, Donald Trump is our president, but that is unrelated progressivism or conservatism.  Even if I were apolitical I would find President Trump deeply lacking in so many non-ideological ways. He is thin-skinned, untruthful and doesn’t seem to grasp the import of his position and seems to lack the character and intellect for the presidency.


I agree that he is being relentlessly attacked from many quarters (not just progressives), but his detractors do not need a strategy to bring him down. The media does not need to constantly vilify him to destroy his credibility. Simply observing his behavior, listening what he says and reading his tweets is sufficient to irreparably damage his presidency. He will likely bring down his own presidency with very little outside help.



Glenn Shellhouse

Colorado Springs, CO


Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader Glenn Shellhouse,
I do not think nor did I write that all progressives wish to drive Trump from office.
But what political rubric would you use for those who wished to subvert the Electoral College, or sued to nullify the voting results in three states, or boycotted the Inauguration, or seek to impeach Trump after 120 days, or to sue him under the Emoluments Clause, or to invoke the 25th Amendment, or seek to trump up false charges of collusion, or obstruction of justice, or demand recusals, or stonewall appointments? Are they reactionaries? Conservatives? Perhaps libertarians? Some generalized rubric is needed.
And what do Madonna, Snoop Dog, Bill Maher, Steven Colbert, etc. have in common? A shared conservative vision?
“An enemy to hate”? Who is using scatology, and the f— word? Who videoed a ritual decapitation, or dreamed of blowing up the White House, or wanted to punch Trump in the face? Independents? Moderates? Palecons?
It seems the vast majority of threats are from the left and their target is Trump, in a way not true of conservatives in their opposition to Obama. I was very critical of Obama’s policies and often polarizing rhetoric. I think he crippled the economy and left us vulnerable abroad, but I never translated that opposition to any personal hatred of the President, and most certainly I would never have gone the CNN or Chris Matthews route. Let us confess, so far the hate is mostly a left-wing phenomenon.
Trump is certainly flawed as you point out. But his agenda is far preferable to the Obama-Clinton trajectory. And we have had pretty creepy presidents in the past. So far Trump is not seducing and bedding 20-something interns as did JFK routinely, or as Bill Clinton frolicked with an unpaid intern of 22 (and then lied about it to the nation and under oath in a deposition). He has not tried to pack the Supreme Court as did FDR, or report book profits as capital gains to escape income taxes, as did Ike. We must in part see Trump’s excesses in a context of past presidencies. I thought de facto suspending federal immigration law was revolutionary and harmful to the state.

Trump is the first president who has neither political nor military service, so obviously the landscape is very different, and of course Trump’s style is over-the-top and often ad hominem. All regrettable. But with Obama the venom was directed at entire groups (“punish our enemies”, “get in their faces”, “take a gun to a knife fight”, the clingers, the “lazy” Americans, etc.).

As to your point of Trump’s self-destructiveness, time shall tell. He certainly is diverted by the trivial, such as two failed morning hosts without an audience. But the Shorenstein Center noted that 80% of all media coverage of Trump was negative, and in the case of CNN, 93%.  We’ve never seen that level of bias before. Nor the level of hatred and assassination talk: celebrities and public figures have variously talked of decapitating Trump, ritually stabbing him, hanging him, blowing him up, shooting him, beating him to a pulp—all without consequences. So, yes, we are in new territory.
Finally the polls, to the degree they are credible after the 2016 fiasco, suggest Trump enjoys only 40%—quite an amazing number actually when 80% of all news coverage is negative.
 Yet the media polls much lower, about 30-35% expressing confidence in journalists.
Trump has exposed the utter corruption of the media (Wikileaks did the same), but in the process he has diverted attention from the real issues at home and abroad. Tweeting is a wise way to communicate directly over  the heads of the media, but only if focused and confined to existential issues.
What you or I think about Trump won’t matter in 2020:  if the economy hits 3% GDP growth, he will be likely reelected, if it does not, he may not even run. Let us wait and watch the issues play out and we will see whether a sharp decrease in illegal immigration, an increase in oil and gas production, less regulation, and lower taxes,  enrich the citizens or impoverish them.  If the former, a crude Trump will win; if the latter, even Trump an angel would still lose.
Victor Hanson
Selma, CA
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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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