By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall
A presidential campaign is figuratively called a “race.” Two runners sprint toward the Election Day finish line for the prize of the presidency.
But the 2016 presidential campaign has spawned lots of weird races.
The first sprint is one between embarrassments and scandals.
Will another WikiLeaks disclosure confirm that Hillary Clinton is a dishonest and conniving hypocrite? Or will yet another open-mic tape, disgruntled beauty queen or old Howard Stern interview remind us that Donald Trump’s private life was — and perhaps still is — uncouth?
The winner will be the candidate leaked about the least by Election Day.
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The shells of our institutions maybe survive the 2016 campaign, but they will be mere husks.
The infamous neutron bomb was designed to melt human flesh without damaging infrastructure.
Something like it has blown up lots of people in the 2016 election and left behind empty institutions.
After the current campaign — the maverick Trump candidacy, the Access Hollywood Trump tape, the FBI scandal, the Freedom of Information Act revelations, the WikiLeaks insider scoops on the Clinton campaign, the hacked e-mails, the fraudulent pay-for-play culture of the Clinton Foundation — the nuked political infrastructure may look the same. But almost everyone involved in the election has been neutroned. Read more →
By Victor Davis Hanson // Town Hall
Pessimists often compare today’s troubled America to a tottering late Rome or an insolvent and descending British Empire. But medieval Europe (roughly A.D. 500 to 1450) is the more apt comparison.
The medieval world was a nearly 1,000-year period of spectacular, if haphazard, human achievement — along with endemic insecurity, superstition and two, rather than three, classes.
The great medieval universities — at Bologna, Paris and Oxford — continued to make strides in science. They were not unlike the medical and engineering schools at Harvard and Stanford. But they were not centers of free thinking.
Instead, medieval speech codes were designed to ensure that no one questioned the authority of church doctrine. Culturally or politically incorrect literature of the classical past, from Aristophanes to Petronius, was censored as either subversive or hurtful. Read more →
There is reason to worry about both candidates abusing power as president, because Obama and the press normalized executive overreach.
Donald Trump’s supporters see a potential Hillary Clinton victory in November as the end of any conservative chance to restore small government, constitutional protections, fiscal sanity, and personal liberty.
Clinton’s progressives swear that a Trump victory would spell the implosion of America as they know it, alleging Trump parallels with every dictator from Josef Stalin to Adolf Hitler.
Part of the frenzy over 2016 as a make-or-break election is because a closely divided Senate’s future may hinge on the coattails of the presidential winner. An aging Supreme Court may also translate into perhaps three to four court picks for the next president.
Yet such considerations only partly explain the current election frenzy.
The model of the imperial Obama presidency is the greater fear. Over the last eight years, Obama has transformed the powers of presidency in a way not seen in decades. Read more →
Hillary Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ have their antecedents in Obama’s ‘deplorables.’
One of the strangest transformations in the era of Obama has been the overt and often gratuitous stereotyping of so-called white people — most often the white working classes who have become constructed into veritable unthinking and unrecognizable zombies. For progressives especially these were not the sympathetic old foundation of the Democratic party, who were once romanticized as the “people” pitted against the industrialists and the bluestockings, but rather have become monstrous caricatures of all sorts of incorrect race/class/and gender behavior and speech.
Stranger still, this disparagement was concurrent to the release of a variety of recent studies that have shown that the white working class has been “losing ground” in far more dramatic terms than have other ethnic groups, especially in key areas such as health and life expectancy. Such news might once have earned liberal sympathies rather than derision. Odder still, the so-called one percenters — that includes high percentages of whites, who have benefited from globalization and changes in the U.S. economy — are often precisely those who damn the less fortunate for supposedly enjoying racially based privileges that are largely confined to themselves.
From ‘tricks’ to ‘clingers’
Obama himself had long ago made popular the idea that there are not individual white people, good and bad, lazy and industrious, but more generally a collective Borg of racist and culpable “white people.” Or, as he characterized his own “effective” tricks over clueless whites in his admittedly fictional memoir Dreams from My Father, “it was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned: [White] People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves.” Read more →
Without traditional battle lines to fight over, Hillary Clinton is lying low while a frenetic Donald Trump talks nonstop.
In most presidential elections, the two candidates spar over issues. The president campaigns for his party’s nominee in hopes of continuing his legacy.
Democrats champion liberalism, Republicans conservatism. In numerous press conferences, journalists try to force newsworthy and embarrassing admissions from the two candidates.
Not this year.
Barack Obama, who less than two years ago dipped to 40 percent in approval rating, is nowhere to be seen. He seems to know that the more he is absent and quiet, the more the public likes the idea rather than the reality of him as president — and his approval rating has risen to 51 percent.
In his self-imposed retreat, Obama makes no effort to defend the Affordable Care Act, which is all but disintegrating, as major insurers pull out and costs skyrocket.
Ditto the Iran deal. Obama is learning that it is better to be quiet about Iranian violations, ransom for hostages, and provocations than to explain them away.
Obama months ago gave up mentioning how the crushing national debt has almost doubled to nearly $20 trillion under his watch. No one seems to be defending the Obama administration’s lax immigration and border-enforcement policies.
He is also silent on his foreign policy — “reset” with Russia, the abrupt pullout from Iraq, the intervention in Libya, the growth of the Islamic State, the disintegration of Syria, and the decision not to associate global terrorism with radical Islamism.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile for someone who’s running for president. She has not held a press conference in more than nine months, counting on a compliant press to keep giving her a pass on her e-mail scandals.
Her campaign strategy is to agree to occasional one-on-one interviews with pre-selected friendly journalists, and to engage in chitchat on frivolous morning and late-evening TV talk shows. Clinton avoids large rallies, where she often grates rather than enthuses.
The Clinton strategy is to sit on her small lead in the last two months of the race, expecting that the mercurial Donald J. Trump will finally destroy his campaign with another outburst. She apparently assumes that nonstop fundraising, attack ads, and an army of staffers will bury the amateurish Trump campaign. Read more →
If you playact being shot by the police, cry “racist!” on Twitter, or denounce capitalism, you, too, can feel good about your capitalist’s privilege.
In an affluent postmodern society of nearly unlimited freedom and opportunity, elite celebrities, pampered athletes, comfortable academics, conniving politicians, and careerist journalists find it hard to prove that they are still relevant in a revolutionary or rather cool sense.
In medieval times, privileged sinners found absolution for their guilt through more formal contractual penance. Churchmen consulted books of penitentials that prescribed precise medicinal doses — donations, pilgrimages, fasting, and a host of other sacrificial acts — to offset particular sins to get them right again with God. The key was to find a way to keep enjoying sinning and still get to heaven on the cheap.
In our atheistic and agnostic society, inexpensive, loud, and public virtue-mongering has replaced church penance — with Black Lives Matter, La Raza, Al Sharpton, network anchor people, NPR, the New York Times, and such acting as the new bishops who can dispense exemptions.
The wealthy, the influential, the intelligentsia, and the cultural elite all broadcast their virtues — usually at a cut-rate rhetorical price — to offset their own sense of sin (as defined by feelings of guilt), or in fear that their own lives are antithetical to the ideologies they espouse, or sometimes simply as a wise career move. Sin these days is mostly defined as race/class/gender thought crimes. Read more →