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Category Archives: American Culture

The Great Regression

Today, it seems that Orwell’s 1984 would better have been titled 2016.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

The Immigrant’s Dilemma

Defining Ideas

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Barbara Kelley

Nearly a half-century ago, Bob Dylan wrote a mixed ode to the immigrant, in a way that no doubt might earn him charges of racism, nativism, and xenophobia in today’s politically-correct age. Yet Dylan was trying to express the paradoxes of leaving one’s homeland for an entirely new political and cultural landscape that often overwhelms the newcomer. “I pity the poor immigrant,” he sang, “Who wishes he would’ve stayed home.”

Never has the immigrant to the West been more confused. In the twenty-first century, immigration almost always moves in a single direction—poor and desperate non-Western people abandon their homes in Latin America, Africa, and Asia seemingly to join quite different cultures in Europe and the United States. The West has neither the population growth nor the poverty any more to send huddled masses to the new lands. And yet, today, these immigrants arrive in Western countries that are strange fantasylands compared to what they were expecting. The newcomer is rarely reminded of why he left home, or why, after doing so, he chose the West, and not Russia, China, Bolivia, or the Sudan for his destination.

Western governments and the larger culture could easily instruct the immigrant that the Western tradition is far more likely to embrace constitutional government, personal freedom, free-market economics, the importance of private property, religious tolerance, free expression, due process, an independent judiciary, and a larger culture of self-criticism and introspection. But to do so would put the lie to multiculturalism and the belief in different but equal cultures.

These precise Western values allow the immigrant to enjoy a security, affluence, and freedom unknown in his abandoned homeland. Yet, we, the host, prefer not to “judge” those other places, and thus do not fully embrace the immigrant’s ostensible wish to become one of us. We dare not ethnocentrically elevate our culture over others. Instead, we rebrand the human sins of slavery, sexism, and racism as uniquely Western depravities rather than age-old pathologies that predated the West and still exist unchecked outside it. The immigrant immediately senses that his troubled Western host is not so much privileged as unsure and unhappy—and ripe for psychological exploitation. Hyphenation and tribalism, not the melting pot, are often seen as the natural, expected and more “authentic” path for the recently arrived.
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Hillary’s Neoliberals

Some Republicans have cultural and political affinities that are pulling them away from Trump and toward Clinton.

By Victor Davis Hanson //National Review Online

Why borders matter — and a borderless world is a fantasy

By Victor Davis Hanson // Los Angeles Times

Borders are in the news as never before. With Muslim refugees flooding into the European Union from the Middle East, and with terrorism on the rise, a popular revolt is taking shape against the so-called Schengen Area agreements, which give free rights of movement within Europe. The European masses are not racists, but they now apparently wish to accept Middle Eastern immigrants only to the degree that these newcomers arrive legally and promise to become European in values and outlook—protocols that the EU essentially discarded decades ago as intolerant. Europeans are relearning that the continent’s external borders mark off very different approaches to culture and society from what prevails in North Africa or the Middle East. Read more →

Three Modest Propositions

 

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Fundamentally Transformed

Have we reached a point of no return?

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Multicultural societies — from 19th-century Austria–Hungary to contemporary Iraq, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda — have a poor record of keeping the peace between competing tribes. They usually end up mired in nihilistic and endemic violence.

The only hope for history’s rare multiracial, multiethnic, and multireligious nations is to adopt a common culture, one that artificially suppresses the natural instinct of humans to identify first with their particular tribe. America, in the logical spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was exceptional among modern societies in slowly evolving from its original, largely European immigrant population to a 21st-century assimilated, integrated, and intermarried multiracial society, in which religious and racial affiliations were incidental, not essential, to one’s public character and identity.

But such a bold experiment was always tenuous and against the cruel grain of history, in which the hard work of centuries could be easily torn apart by the brief demagoguery of the moment. Unfortunately, President Obama, ever since he first appeared on the national political scene in 2008, has systematically adopted a rhetoric and an agenda that is predicated on dividing up the country according to tribal grievances, in hopes of recalibrating various factions into a majority grievance culture. In large part, he has succeeded politically. But in doing so he has nearly torn the country apart. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to suggest that no other recent president has offered such a level of polarizing and divisive racial bombast.
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The Trump Nuclear Bomb

Other public figures won’t admit they agree with him — but they often quietly adopt his ideas.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

Donald Trump has a frightening habit of uttering things that many people apparently think, but would never express. And he blusters in such an off-putting and sloppy fashion that he alienates those who otherwise might agree with many of his critiques of political correctness.

Nonetheless, when the dust settles, we often see that Trump’s megatonnage strikes a chord — and, with it, sometimes has effected change. In an odd way, the more personally unpopular he becomes for raising taboo issues, the more resonant become the more refined variants of his proposals for addressing these festering problems.

For the last several months, anti-Trump demonstrators have sought to disrupt his rallies; they attack his supporters and wave offensive anti-American and often overtly racist placards, while burning American and waving Mexican flags — often with a nonchalant police force looking on.

Trump shouts back that their antics are only further proof of his general point: Illegal immigration and an open border have subverted our immigration laws and created a paradoxical movement that is as illogical as it is ungracious. After fleeing Mexico, entering the U.S. illegally, and being treated with respect (try doing the same in any Latin American country), some foreign nationals have been waving the flag of the country they do not wish to return to, while scorning the flag of the country that they demand to stay in. But apparently they are not fond of Trump’s larger point, disguised by his barroom rhetoric, which is that the old melting-pot protocols of rapid assimilation, integration, and intermarriage have been sabotaged — and now the American people can at last see the wages of that disaster on national TV.
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Politics, Not Personalities, Will Likely Determine the Presidential Election

The candidates may be unconventional, but their political agendas fall along a conventional divide.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

At first glance, 2016 sizes up as no other election year in American history.

For more than 30 years, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been high-profile and controversial celebrities. Both have been plagued by scandals and are viewed negatively by millions of voters. Clinton is facing possible federal indictment; Trump is being sued over Trump University.

If elected, Clinton would be first female president in U.S. history. If Trump prevails, he would be the first president to assume office without having held a political or cabinet office or a high military rank.

Yet the race still could prove more conventional than unorthodox.

Trump is considered uniquely crude. But take some of our most iconic political figures and one can find comparable extremist rhetoric.

As California governor, Ronald Reagan once said of University of California at Berkeley protesters, “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.” When the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst and forced her family to distribute food to the poor, Reagan quipped, “It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.”

Barack Obama has scoffed this his own grandmother was a “typical white person,” called on his supporters to “get in their face” of his opponents, invoked a variation of the phrase “bring a gun to a knife fight” in an attempt to fire up supporters during his first presidential campaign, and compared his own bad bowling to the supposed competition level of the Special Olympics.
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Election 2016: Knowns and Unknowns

We still have five more months of Trump vs. Hillary. Then four or eight years of — what?

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

The Disaffected. Will stay-home so-called establishment Republicans outnumber renewed Reagan Democrats, Tea Partiers, and conservative independents, some of whom likely sat out 2008 and 2012, but who now are likely to vote for Trump? The latter energized group will probably continue to support Trump even if he persists in his suicidal detours like the legal gymnastics of Trump University, or if he keeps repeating ad nauseam the same stale generalities he has served up throughout his campaign.

And will the ranks of the #NeverTrump holdouts, despite claims to the contrary in the spring, thin by autumn, should Trump change a few of his odious spots and become a more disciplined candidate? Will his populist message be recalibrated to appeal to minorities who, albeit less publicly than their white counterparts, resent illegal immigration and its effects on the poor and working classes, are angry about record labor nonparticipation and elite boutique environmentalism, and appreciate tough, even if crazed, El Jefe talk in place of politically correct platitudes?

If Trump comes up with a detailed, even if clumsily delivered, conservative agenda, and if a now-die-hard-leftist Hillary Clinton continues to deprecate and caricature the entire conservative tradition, will he who seems a buffoon in June prove preferable in November to ensuring a 16-year Obama–Clinton regnum?

Anti-Hillary vs. Anti-Trump. Will Sanders holdouts roughly approximate the number of Republican #NeverTrumpers? For now, it would be more socially acceptable for a Sanders supporter to vote for Hillary than for an anti-Trumper to give in and vote for Trump. Voting for Hillary would not entail the social and class costs for a Sanders supporter that voting for Trump would for a Republican of the “not-in-my-name” Romney or Jeb Bush wing. The Wall Street Journal is more likely to show repugnance for the idea of finishing the wall than an advocate of Sanders’s 70 percent top tax rate is to reject Hillary’s less radical, though radical enough, idea of upping the current 39.5 percent top rate. An oddity of the campaign is that the Republican establishment applies a higher standard to its own candidate than it has applied to either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, who, with a modicum of research, can be proven to have matched Trump, slur for slur.

Criminality. No one knows at this point whether Hillary will be indicted or, if she is not, whether her exemption will trigger outrage in the FBI ranks that will garner headline notoriety even in the liberal media. Almost daily, yet another detail in the e-mail scandal emerges that reinforces the narrative that everything Hillary has said so far about her e-mails has been demonstrably false. More importantly, the Clintons, especially post-2000, became a near-criminal enterprise. Almost weekly over the last few months, we have learned of a new wrinkle to the Clinton Foundation’s pay-to-play syndicate. Bill Clinton was apparently, at $4 million a year, the highest-paid “chancellor” in the history of American higher education, for steering toward the scandal-plagued Laureate “University” millions of dollars in business from the State Department, which was run by his wife. Because the Clintons became so rich so quickly, and without any apparent mechanism other than leveraging government service, there is a two-decades reservoir of scandals that is largely untapped — suggesting that Balzac’s aphorism should be amended to read in the plural, “Behind every great fortune there are plenty of great crimes.”

The Obama Matrix. Pollsters are still trying to calibrate to what degree Hillary will recapture Obama’s record minority registration, turnout, and block voting — and whether such pandering will in turn spike the white-male anti-Hillary vote to record levels. There is something foreign and uncomfortable about Hillary’s faux-accented performances; perhaps her shrill obsequiousness will strike at least some minority voters as a sort of elite white and repugnant condescension. No one likes a transparent suck-up, especially by someone whose past record of honesty and character is so disreputable. Conventional wisdom suggests that the supposed “new” demography will allow Hillary to replicate the Obama coalition, but that assumes that minority voters, who supposedly vote along ethnic and racial lines, are comfortable with Hillary’s tastes and with her disingenuous career, and will vote as they did in 2008 and 2012, more than making up for new white-working-class converts to Trump.

Trump Factor X. Will the so-called “Trump disconnect” continue, an intangible that for over a year has humiliated pundits who have made serially erroneous forecasts of his demise? In other words, no one has yet been able to calibrate the degree to which Trump has made politics irrelevant and substituted harsh, politically incorrect, and often crude expression and rhetoric for any kind of detailed agenda. No one knows quite how the weird Trump factor that propelled him through the primaries will play in the far wider arena of the general election, but all of us have met in our own circles the most surprising and unexpected Trump supporters, who cite no resonant political affinity with Trump other than shared furor over politically correct and censored speech, and the need for someone — almost anyone will do — to throw a wrecking ball through the politically correct glass houses of our society. No one knows how many of his supporters are silent, embarrassed to state publicly their support for one so uncouth; no one knows what he may say or do on any given day — or the full effect of his outbursts — and no one quite appreciates that what appears outlandish to elites may appear genuine and earthy to others. Today experts laugh that a supposedly buffoonish Sarah Palin sank the otherwise sober and judicious McCain campaign; but, in truth, polls at the times suggested that she was either not a factor or perhaps a plus to the ticket. In any case, the McCain–Palin ticket was ahead of Obama until the Wall Street meltdown in September of 2008. Elites who said they knew no one who liked Palin in truth must have known very few Americans at all.

The Media. Trump sailed to primary victories on a Machiavellian wave of media manipulation; he had Kardashian-like pull, and at very little cost could leverage network attention — either on the premise that his buffoonery was a ratings plus, or because leftist flutists were willing to play for Trump in the hopes of leading Republican lemmings over the cliff. What is certain is that in the general election, the media will revert to form and become an institutionalized extension of the Clinton campaign; Trump mania will no longer be useful to either their profits or their political objectives. Then we will see just how adroit Trump is as a media showman, when journalists are out to get him rather than to be entertained by him. Moreover, the billion-dollar-plus free publicity of early 2016 may have left the Trump organization complacent, expecting that it could glide to a general-election victory without massive fundraising and a serious ground game. That delusion might mean that Trump’s people will never quite catch up with Hillary’s money and get-out-the-vote machine.

Septuagenarians. Will the health of the 68-year-old Clinton and the nearly 70-year-old Trump hold up under the grueling next five months of summer and autumn campaigning? Actuarial tables suggest that both would likely be able to finish out two terms, but the point is not necessarily longevity, but robustness. In other words, which of the two elderly candidates — in combined age, they are the oldest nominees in two-party history — will be the more likely to crisscross the country and put in 16-hour days? While Trump — at about the same age as the hollowed-out, wraith-like Bill Clinton — does not seem to be a model of fitness, so far he exhibits an animal energy lacking in Hillary.

Obama — on the Back Nine or on the Stump? As long as Barack Obama keeps out of sight, and things run on autopilot, half the country likes the abstract idea that he is president. In contrast, when he campaigns, demagogues, slurs, and expresses his inner narcissism, his ratings dip to near 40 percent. If he slams Trump from abroad, delivers another stuttering, incoherent rant against Trump, offers the Clintons more snarky backhanded compliments (Hillary is “likeable enough”), or issues more end-of-the-regime executive orders, he will prove by November more a negative than a plus. For now, Hillary is flummoxed about how to win his allegiance (both political and legal) without having to defend a disastrous $11 trillion in additional debt, a mess overseas (in which, to be sure, she had a hand), Obamacare, and a sluggish economy of slow growth and record labor-force non-participation — or what Bill Clinton summed up succinctly as the “awful legacy of the last eight years.” Obama could help Hillary best by giving a pro-forma endorsement and then staying on the golf course until November. If, instead, Obama goes on the stump for her, it may be counterproductive — and in some subliminal fashion therefore preferable for the egocentric Obama.

The News. If Putin stays within his boundaries, if the Chinese and North Koreans refrain from doing something stupid, if Iran curbs its braggadocio and does not hijack another American boat, if ISIS fails to pull off another major terrorist operation, and if the economy continues to stagger along, then the superficial calm works to Hillary’s advantage. But if in the next five months we have a foreign crisis or an economic slowdown, then Hillary in relation to Obama replays the role of McCain in relation to Bush in 2008 — but squared, given Hillary’s tenure in the Obama administration. Obama, with massive defense cuts, lead-from-behind and reset diplomacy, and treating allies as neutrals and enemies as friends, has endangered America abroad and weakened it at home. The tab is coming due, but whether it will arrive before November is unclear. Certainly, the latest tragedy of the the mass shooting in Florida suggests that having a president and a would-be president who, for politically correct reasons, cannot utter the phrase “radical Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” in the context of Muslims who kill innocents out of religious zeal and hatred is not a sustainable proposition.

The Rot. We do not quite know to what the degree the public is sick of the New York–Washington rot, encompassing Obama’s petty identity politics, the Clintons’ grifter enterprises, the sanctimonious and ossified Republican establishment, the incestuous network of cable and media pundits, and the general sense that our elites of both parties never expect the consequences of their own ideologies to apply to themselves. The general repugnance for traditional politicians, cable-news wizards, and Wall Street profiteers fueled both Sanders and Trump, despite the contradictions of their own relationships with big money, big politics, and big media. But as Sanders drops out of the race, Trump alone will remain the more populist and anti-establishment of the final two candidates. The idea of socialist Sanders supporters flocking to Trump should seem wholly lunatic. But the same youthful incoherence that drew the naïve to Sanders might to some degree draw them now to Trump, on the basis that he dislikes Hillary, Inc., even more than did Sanders. The wonder (to paraphrase Dr. Johnson on female preachers and dancing dogs) is not that Trump might capture a fair number of Sanders voters, but that he could capture any at all.

Final thoughts: If Trump were to win, the Democratic/Clinton establishment would be mostly discredited and the party would move even further to the Left, in McGovern 1972 fashion, while its Republican establishment counterpart would wander in a post-1964-like wilderness.

If Hillary prevails, we will likely see a 16-year continuum of fundamental change, the likes of which have not been seen since the 20 years between 1933 and 1952 — though Obama has none of the redeeming virtues of FDR on foreign policy, nor Hillary those of Truman. Meanwhile the blame-gaming among Republicans that would follow a Clinton victory (with one wing arguing that stay-homes sabotaged Trump and the other wing saying it was Neanderthals who nominated him) might well destroy the party, given that its class fissures, first revealed in the defections to the 1992 and 1996 Perot campaigns, have now become an abyss.

In the meantime, perhaps #NeverTrumpers should adopt one rule for the sake of party unity: For each of their attacks on the Republican nominee, vow to match it with one attack on the Democratic nominee. And for each conservative guest editorialist in the New York Times or Washington Post deploring what the Republicans have done, perhaps a #NeverHillary liberal might write a commensurate critical op-ed about Clinton in The Weekly Standard or National Review.

America: History’s Exception

We should seek to preserve the ideals that made America successful.

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online

The history of nations is mostly characterized by ethnic and racial uniformity, not diversity.

Most national boundaries reflected linguistic, religious, and ethnic homogeneity. Until the late 20th century, diversity was considered a liability, not a strength.

Countries and societies that were ethnically homogeneous, such as ancient Germanic tribes or modern Japan, felt that they were inherently more stable and secure than the alternative, whether late imperial Rome or contemporary America.

Many societies created words to highlight their own racial purity. At times, “Volk” in German and “Raza” in Spanish (and “Razza” in Italian) meant more than just shared language, residence, or culture; those words also included a racial essence. Even today, it would be hard for someone Japanese to be fully accepted as a Mexican citizen, or for a native-born Mexican to migrate and become a Japanese citizen.
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