Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

How the Obama Precedent Empowered Trump

By
American Greatness.com
April 27th, 2017

Donald Trump was elected president by sizing up the Electoral College, and the voting public, and then campaigning accordingly. A number of the things that explain Trump’s election also point to unique opportunities to overturn the Obama legacy. This, in turn, explains why the Left is understandably upset about the unprecedented scope of the presidential landscape they bequeathed to and therewith empowered Trump.

Weaponizing the Presidency

After complaining for years that he was constitutionally unable to grant executive-order amnesties, Obama lost all such scruples after his 2012 election. His legacy was not so much the number of executive orders that he issued, but rather the unapologetic overreach of them—whether granting blanket amnesties, ordering convenient pen-and-phone non-enforcement of federal immigration laws, green-lighting sanctuary cities, changing the idea of due process on college campuses, recalibrating the order of Chrysler bankruptcy creditors, or delaying the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act for reelection advantage.

The Left is understandably apprehensive of Trump because Obama set the modern precedent that a contemporary president can do almost anything he pleases by executive orders (and in Nixonian fashion can weaponize federal agencies, from the NSA to the IRS, in order to monitor and hound political rivals and perceived enemies). Sen. Harry Reid’s near suicidal destruction of the Senate filibuster captured the unreality of the times, as if Obama progressivism most certainly would be America’s new orthodoxy for generations to come.

The Media Implosion

A supposedly disinterested media’s ecstasy over Obama’s election ensured that its subsequent revulsion at Trump could be taken no more seriously. Once a journalist declares a president a god or capable of sending shocks down one’s leg, then he would be no more credible if he were to pronounce another president the anti-Christ or capable of causing boils on one’s appendages. And once a political novice is declared a worthy Nobel laureate on the basis of professed intentions, then why would anyone worry about any other president’s political inexperience?

When Obama joked (to general media laughter and applause) at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner about sending Predator assassination drones to take out potential suitors of his daughter, one can then hardly sympathize with media hurt feelings when Trump skips the embarrassing charade altogether. The Obama administration occasionally expressed contempt for media toadies who proved so useful to him, whether defined by Obama’s frequent jibes that the media slavishly was in his corner, or by Attorney General Eric Holder’s monitoring of Associated Press journalists, or by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’s haughty disdain for obsequious reporters (the “echo chamber” that “knows nothing”).

If a prejudicial media’s smarminess nonetheless earned derision from its icon Obama, why should not its hostility earn the same from Trump? If a marquee partisan reporter confesses (in the Podesta Wikileaks trove) of his Clinton partisanship that he is a “hack,” why should Trump argue with such self-described assessments?

A critical media is not a mere reset button that one turns on and off at one’s convenience. Instead, once it was short-circuited after 2008, its burned-out switch cannot be flipped back on in 2017. In sum, there is no longer a believable media that can offer credible critiques of the Trump presidency.

The New Democratic Party

The Democratic Party metamorphosed in 2008. Obama convinced it that identity politics and new demographic realities meant that record minority turnouts and bloc-voting—coupled with the disengagement of the vanishing “clinger” white working class—ushered in a new hard left Democratic generation of power.

Progressives sipped this tainted moonshine and the result over eight years was the disastrous losses of the majority of state governorships, legislatures, the House, the Senate, the presidency and, likely for a generation, the Supreme Court. In truth, the polarizing “hands up, don’t shoot” /”you didn’t build that”/”punish our enemies” assorted rhetoric deemed necessary to galvanize Obama’s progressive base also both polarized and riled the “deplorables” and “irredeemables.” Or to put it another way: historic minority participation and identity politics zealotry were not commensurately transferrable to a 69-year-old, multimillionaire white woman; but the working-class estrangement that accompanied such an effort most certainly was. Clinton inherited all the downsides of the Obama paradigm without, at least in her case, any of its upsides.

After the emergence of an even harder left Democratic National Committee leadership, and President emeritus Obama’s own vows to lead a sort of shadow progressive resistance movement, there is little chance that a stung Democratic Party will jettison polarizing identity politics issues and its neglect of the middle classes, and learn from the 2016 defeat. The problem is not just that the Democratic establishment leadership—Jerry Brown, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi—ranges in age from their late sixties to eighties, but also that the younger, and more robust next generation—Keith Ellison, Kamala Harris, Tom Perez—has embraced an even more polarizing politics. Are orthodox and old preferable to radical and young?

In sum, Trump is the beneficiary of a dysfunctional opposition whose reaction to the close loss of 2016 is reminiscent of the unhinged Democratic response to the narrow defeat of 1968, when it doubled-down, went harder left, gave up on middle-class concerns—and was demolished in 1972.

There is as yet no credible response to Trump and certainly no opposing coherent agenda. Instead, the “Resistance” is being waged by cherry-picking liberal federal judges in hopes of delaying and slowing down executive orders in the courts, along with states-rights nullifications, organized advertising boycotts of conservative media figures, media collusion, jamming town hall meetings of conservative representatives, campus antics, and waging war on social media.

At least for now, all these slow-downs are not substitutes for legislative action, but more evidence of political impotence.

https://amgreatness.com/2017/04/27/obama-precedent-empowered-trump/

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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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