Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Is the American Elite Really Elite?

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be predicated on titles, brands, and buzz.

 

Establishment furor over the six-week-old Trump administration is growing.

 

Outraged New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently compared Trump’s victory to disasters in American history that killed and wounded thousands such as the Pearl Harbor surprise bombing and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

 

The New Republic — based on no evidence — theorized that Trump could well be mentally unstable due to the effects of neurosyphilis.

 

Talk of removing the new president through impeachment, or opposing everything he does (the progressive “Resistance”), is commonplace. Some op-ed writers and pundits abroad have openly hoped for his violent death.

 

Trump is in a virtual war with the mainstream global media, the entrenched so-called deep state, the Democratic-party establishment, progressive activists, and many in the Republican party as well.

 

The sometimes undisciplined and loud Trump is certainly not a member of the familiar ruling cadre, which dismisses him as a crude and know-nothing upstart who should never have been elected president. (Had Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and served a full term, a member of either the Bush or Clinton families would have been president for 24 years of a 32-year span.)

 

But who, exactly, makes up these disgruntled elite classes?

 

In California, state planners and legislators focused on things such as outlawing plastic grocery bags while California’s roads and dams over three decades sank into decrepitude. The result is crumbling infrastructure that now threatens the very safety of the public. Powerful Californians with impressive degrees also came up with the loony and neo-Confederate idea of nullifying federal immigration law through sanctuary cities.

 

Sophisticated Washington, D.C., economists produced budgets for the last eight years that saw U.S. debt explode from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion, as economic growth sank to its lowest level since the Hoover administration.

 

For a year, most expert pundits and pollsters smugly assured the public of a certain Hillary Clinton victory — until the hour before she was overwhelmed in the Electoral College.

 

Rhodes Scholar and former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice lied repeatedly on national television about the Benghazi debacle. 21st-century repute is accrued from the false gods of the right zip code, high income, proper social circles.

 

From the fabulist former NBC anchorman Brian Williams to the disreputable reporters who turned up in WikiLeaks, there are lots of well-educated, influential, and self-assured elites who apparently cannot tell the truth or in dishonest fashion mix journalism and politics.

 

Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. But when universities embrace a therapeutic curriculum and politically correct indoctrination, how can a costly university degree guarantee knowledge or inductive thinking?

 

Is elitism defined by an array of brilliant and proven theories?

 

Not really. University-sired identity politics has not led to racial and ethnic harmony. Is there free speech or diversity of thought on campuses? Did progressive government save the inner cities?

 

Are elites at least better-spoken and more knowledgeable than the rest of us?

 

Long before Trump’s monotonous repetition of “tremendous” and “great,” Barack Obama thought “corpsmen” was pronounced “corpse-men,” and that Austrians spoke “Austrian” rather than German.

 

Not long ago, Representative Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) warned that if Guam became too populated it might just tip over and sink.

 

The Western world is having a breakdown. The symptoms are the recent rise of socialist Bernie Sanders, Trump’s election, the Brexit vote, and the spread of anti–European Union parties across Europe.

 

But these are desperate folk remedies, not the cause of the disease itself.

 

The malady instead stems from our false notion of elitism.

 

The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be predicated on titles, brands, and buzz, rather than on demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The idea that brilliance can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, or courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm, is foreign to the Washington Beltway, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley.

 

Instead, 21st-century repute is accrued from the false gods of the right zip code, high income, proper social circles, and media exposure, rather than from a demonstrable record of moral or intellectual excellence.

 

In 1828, the wild and unruly Andrew Jackson was elected president because the rapidly expanding country had tired of the pretenses of an exhausted elite of tidewater and New England mediocrities.

 

The hollow, tiny coastal establishment of the 1820s perpetuated the ancestry and background of the great but all-but-disappeared Founding Fathers such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Yet otherwise, the Founders’ lesser successors had not earned the status they had assumed from their betters. The outsider Jackson won by exposing their pretenses.

 

What got the brash Trump elected was a similar popular outrage that the self-described best and brightest of our time are has-beens, having enjoyed influence without real merit or visible achievement.

 

If Donald Trump did not exist, something like him would have had to be invented.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445371/american-elites-donald-trump-conflict-over-shaking-establishment
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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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