Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Angry Reader 07-06-2020

From An Angry Reader:

Professor Hanson:

In your recent article Class, Not Race, Divides America, you said:

Whatever Trump was, he talked to blacks just as he talked to everyone else—same accent, same mannerism, same vocabulary. He was not going to feign a black patois and pander in the Joe Biden style of “Put y’all back in chains” or “You ain’t black,” or reinvent himself in Hillary Clinton fashion as a civil rights veteran possessed of a phony drawl, “I don’t feel no ways tired. I come too far . . . ” Think of the logic driving these white liberal elites: “Blacks cannot understand my good English, so I will descend into their poor grammar, diction, and syntax to feign ‘y’all’ and ‘ain’t’ and ‘no ways tired.’”

I think maybe you are right, and probably you are more right than wrong. But it could be that the way Hillary, Biden, and Obama spoke were just efforts to blend, or to connect with their audiences, and there is nothing wrong with that. Trump used twitter and street language or layman terms, or even behaved and acted like one of the labor, low-income class when speaking as though he himself is a citizen, not a president, is another way to connect to his audiences.

Both ways are ok in my opinion, and the emphasis should be how genuinely one speaks. Trump in your eye is genuine even if crude, but who knows if he is a talented actor who went further by standing in with the crowd when in fact he is just an arrogant racist.

To be honest, I agree with you more than with the other medias (who provide too much criticisms without sound analysis) in many matters including Trump’s character. Writing to a well-known professor like you is very uncomfortable, you can guess, but I dare saying my thought because I am inspired by your articles and I am encouraged by your answers to other angry readers that you don’t mind if one has a point to discuss.

Thank you for reading my letter. I wish you well.

Nghia Vu

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Dear Calm and Thoughtful Angry Reader Nghia Vu,

I give you only a 1 (the lower the score, the more professional the angry reader letter), given your letter does not contain the usual three-dot ellipses, capitalizations, exclamation points, profanity, threats, and general incoherence. It reflects a calmer and more thoughtful “angry” reader.

I agree that all politicians pander to a degree, but my point was that Trump does not seem to modulate his accent and mannerisms to fit the sociology and race/ethnicity of particular crowds, at least in the manner that Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and, yes, even Barack Obama did. From what we know, Trump’s accent, grammar, and vocabulary are not contingent on his audience, as his critics note in their disparagement.

I confess I lose your train of thought with “but who knows if he is a talented actor who went further by standing in with the crowd when in fact he is just an arrogant racist.” If you mean Trump tries to disguise his tough talk on sensitive issues, I suggest that he does not. His critics go ballistic precisely because he says anything to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, without filters, euphemisms, or equivocation. His enemies are shocked at his directness; he handlers worried that he needlessly is so explicit.

I don’t mind at all discussing your points. A final one: I agree with those who judge one’s temperament and ideology on what one does rather than what one is interpreted as saying. Take two examples: Trump’s supposed “racism,” and his “Russian collusion.”

Trump’s policies lowered minority unemployment to record levels. He sought to reduce prison-terms for felony drug crimes that he said fell inordinately upon blacks; he championed inner-city charter schools, as well as tax-exempt enterprise zones; he has pardoned, paroled, or commuted the sentences of a number of African-Americans whom he felt were inordinately sentenced beyond what their convictions warranted.

On collusion, Trump has said many wild things about the Russians—most infamously joking that perhaps they could help find Hillary’s deleted emails.

But what he has done far exceeds anything punitive from the “reset” Obama administration: he upped sanctions on Russia, he got out of an asymmetrical agreement with Russia on short-range missiles, he sold weapons to Ukraine, he jawboned against the Germany-Russia natural gas deal, he killed Russian mercenaries in Syria, he crashed world oil and natural gas prices, the essence of the Russian economy, by green lighting horizontal drilling and fracking, and he upped the U.S. defense budget and pressed NATO members to keep their promises—all to the chagrin of Vladimir Putin.

Trump says all sorts of things in his art-of-the-deal manner, and the media often report things he didn’t say as if he did. What Trump actually does is what counts, and he has done more for the African-American community than most prior presidents.

Thank you for your letter.

Victor Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

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.

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