Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The Double Standard in the Progressive War against the Dead

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review

 

Will Progressives erase the history of their racist heroes, or only their racist enemies?

 

Much of the country has demanded the elimination of references to, and images of, people of the past — from Christopher Columbus to Robert E. Lee — who do not meet our evolving standards of probity.

 

In some cases, such damnation may be understandable if done calmly and peacefully — and democratically, by a majority vote of elected representatives.

 

Few probably wish to see a statue in a public park honoring Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan, or Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who wrote the majority opinion in the racist Dred Scott decision that set the stage for the Civil War four years later.

 

But cleansing the past is a dangerous business. The wide liberal search for more enemies of the past may soon take progressives down hypocritical pathways they would prefer not to walk. Read more →

From An Angry Reader:

Angry Reader Southern Poverty Law Center:

 

Cf: (https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/08/22/american-freedom-alliance-event-blames-immigrants-california’s-destruction)

 

“They keynote speaker for the event was Victor Davis Hanson, a Hoover Institute (sic) fellow and author of Mexifornia, a book that romanticizes the California of old, when whites were a large majority of the state’s population. Davis Hanson (sic) talked about how in parts of California, you can go 10 miles in another direction and it ‘looks like you’re in a different country.’ Hanson also attacked California’s Democrats, saying:

 

We don’t want assimilation so we’re going to give you as much amnesty, sanctuary states, sanctuary cities, we’ll do whatever we can so you can remain tribal in your outlook. Your tribal racial and ethnic identity is essential, not irrelevant to your character.

 

Hanson also expounded upon the reconquista conspiracy theory promoted by anti-immigrant activists. It stems from the ‘Plan Espiritual de Aztlan,’ a document produced by MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) in the 1960s calling for Chicanos to reclaim land. It is not endorsed by any mainstream groups, but for nativists it serves as the genesis of a conspiracy theory claiming that Latinos want to take back American land for themselves.

Davis Hanson ended by saying, “The state is regressing into a Third-World country.” He also attacked undocumented immigrants, essentially claiming they are incapable of being law-abiding residents, stating, ‘When I came to the States, the first thing I did was break the law, so why would I follow the rules out of necessity now?’”

________________________

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Angry Reader Southern Poverty Law Center,

 

A few preliminaries: Mexifornia, written nearly 15 years ago, was not a romance about “white” California, but a warning that if assimilation, intermarriage, and melting-pot integration continued to be caricatured and eroded, and if massive immigration continued to be illegal, non-diverse, and not based on ethnically blind meritocratic criteria, then one day California would be faced with ethnic polarization, given its various ethnic groups, large numbers of struggling newcomers without legality, English, or high school diplomas, and a state unable to meet its commitments to ensure first-rate public education, infrastructure, transportation, and safety for all its residents. I feel the book was prescient; if you disagree, find an argument instead of using the buzz word “white.” Read more →

From An Angry Reader:

Dear Prof. Hanson,

 

I read your analysis of Trump’s electoral prospects with some interest:

https://amgreatness.com/2017/08/14/anti-trump-bourbons-learning-forgetting-nothing-time-2020/

Since I’m a centrist Democrat, I will emulate your advice about Trump’s tweets – namely, I will ignore the barb-filled bromides you level against Democrats. (Which may greatly satisfy you and/or your audience emotionally, but add nothing to the persuasiveness of your argument.)

 

That said, I was the only one of my liberal friends who believed that Trump had a real shot. That might arise from my extensive experience as a volunteer for my party in a deep red state. (Indiana, which we local Democrats affectionately refer to as the “Northernmost Southern State.” Remember what JFK said about DC? Here, we are blessed with northern winters and southern culture.).

 

I am most certainly not saying that Trump is doomed. However I think your analysis, while insightful, is missing a number of critical factors. My bottom line is that Trump has essentially no margin for error. He has to pick up one or more voters for every voter he loses.

 

You get credit for observing that Trump’s support is probably little diminished since election day. However you fail to note that there is a very small slice of his voters who are definitely gone: these are the disenchanted Democrats who either voted against Clinton, or who felt that Trump was on the side of the “little guy” against the “Wall Street elites.” Will economic growth (such as it may be), trade tweaks, or massive deportations keep them? Not unless their own personal situation improves. And it’s unlikely that it will if they live in the “forgotten America:” the only sector that appears to be benefiting is mining and minerals, and this is probably not enough to compensate for the collapse of retail.

 

You imply that minority voters are going to ignore Trump’s tweets and dog whistles to the same extent as white voters due to economic growth (speculative) among other things. Perhaps, although if we continue to see these racially-tinged episodes such as what happened recently in Virginia, the African Americans who stayed home in some of these urban areas like Detroit, Philly and Milwaukee might not do so again. They are also going to notice some changes at DOJ, such as the return to more severe sentencing policies and increased enforcement of marijuana laws (which African Americans rightly see as a cudgel).

 

Asian-Americans like myself are not impressed by Trump’s push to restrict legal immigration. We remember the Chinese Exclusion Act, and are not as easily influenced by economic growth (such as it may be), since we are already better off than the population as a whole. We also skew Democratic as you know, and are just as influenced by Trump’s exploitation of ethnic animus for political purposes as other voters of color.

 

Latinos and Chicanos might like some of Trump’s policies on illegal immigration, and might also be influenced by whatever economic growth he achieves, but Trump’s ambiguous stance on DACA, his battle against sanctuary cities, and his objective of making immigration enforcement more unpredictable are sewing a great deal of fear into their communities. Ironically, Trump is actually deporting fewer people than Obama, but he is unlikely to make that argument. And as far as restricting legal immigration goes, that’s not likely to play well with these voters.

 

Everyone who will now fail to get a raise because of DOL’s rejection of Obama’s rule that changes the minimum salary for “managerial” workers (who will not get overtime) is going to notice it.

 

GLBTQ voters, while a small share of the population, are not going to forget Trump’s tweet about transgendered members of the military. This group is obviously particularly sensitive to such things and unlikely to dismiss it as another example of Trump’s “erratic” tweeting behavior. Those of us who are heterosexual may not notice this, but Trump’s tweet represents the first step backwards after decades of progress. It’s a bit like a synagogue being burned down: trust me, Jews notice such things. (Mormons probably think likewise, it comes from the perspective of being a historically despised minority.)

 

Speaking of being a historically despised minority, I don’t have to say anything about Muslim voters, do I? Some may have neglected to show up last year because they thought Trump couldn’t win. Won’t happen in 2020. And BTW there are a lot of Muslims in Michigan.

 

There will be 15 million potential new millennial voters in 2020. Broadly speaking, they skew more liberal and more Democratic in their preferences than the population as a whole, and are much more concerned about the “hoax” of climate change. At the same time, Trump’s core age demographic of senior citizens will represent a smaller segment of the voting population, as older boomers and “silent generation” voters die off. The rural areas that are seeing alarmingly high rates of premature deaths among whites will be most severely affected.

 

You do make a good point about the possibility of new voters from Trump’s core demographics, especially rural white Evangelicals. Many of these voters believe that Trump is a “blessing” from God, and may even regard him as part of a new “Holy Quaternity,” or at the very least share the “Flight 93” concerns of Anton (i.e. America is being overrun by un-Godly and un-white people to the point where the foundational culture of the nation is at stake – you know, like the Irish and Italians were threatening it back in the nineteenth century). White Evangelicals already vote at much higher rates than the general population, and skew Republican by a 5-to-1 or greater margin. If Trump is re-elected, this asymmetry will have to become even more extreme.

 

I’ll close by making one final point about the Democratic party. No screed penned by you or anyone else is going to change the fact that Democrats are likely to put their chips down on health care, which is an issue that affects everyone. The chances of Trump and Republicans in Congress working with Democrats to remedy defects in the ACA seem remote at best. The American health care system is going to continue to deteriorate, and Republicans will have little to offer here except blame and deflection.

 

So here’s the bottom line. Trump has the devotion of rural white Evangelicals plus other elderly white voters to count on, and there is always the possibility that their already-stratospheric turnout rates can be pushed even higher. He may stand to gain from economic growth (although this might not help him much in the parts of the country where he’s strongest). But at the same time, he has no margin for error, he is not broadening his base, Clinton’s not going to be on the ballot, and there are a lot of demographic groups which might be more inclined to turn out against him next time.

 

I agree with you that no one should be counting their chickens here. But your presentation (minus the mean-spirited nature of the invective) fails to acknowledge the entire panoply of potential factors.

 

—raj

 

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Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

Dear Raj,

 

Your letter is long so I cannot answer it in detail. When you allege “barb-filled bromides” and “mean-spirited nature of the invective” you must give examples to have any credence.

 

I have always said in a 50/50 country that Trump has no margin of error; my argument was instead that forecasts of his demise are premature given that the formula that won him the election of 2016 so far has not disappeared.

 

His chances hinge on the economy continuing to improve, rallying his base, curbing his erratic and extraneous editorialization, and appealing to minority and women voters to increase his respectable prior margins (in Republican terms).

 

But your exegesis leaves out a point I made; Trump will be running against somebody and he or she may be even worse a candidate than Hillary. As I wrote, look at recent DNC heads—Perez, Ellison, Wasserman-Schultz, Brazile; they are either unhinged, profane, or mired in ethical scandal. The Democratic Party is also at war with itself, in the fashion of 1972 when McGovern ensured a Nixon victory. Never underestimate the stupidity of either party to nominate a candidate that cannot win (McGovern, Dole, Mondale, etc.).

 

When activists go after Lincoln busts, or demand the end of the Jefferson Memorial, they do Trump an enormous favor. The country was rightly repelled by Nazi and Confederate regale in North Carolina, but also by the now serial leftwing violence on campuses and the sort of assassinations that we saw at Fort Hood, and Dallas, and shootings against the House leadership in DC. As I also wrote, some of Trump’s policies that are caricatured—ending illegal immigration, bringing back jobs, a muscular foreign policy, and lowering taxes—appeal to all people regardless of their ethnic identifications.

 

Your analysis is marred by psychodramas. Returning legal immigration to a meritocratic, legal, and diverse enterprise at levels common of 15 years ago of 500,000 a year (we are at record levels of foreign born currently in the U.S. in a manner that has not been typical of our long history) is hardly exclusionary. Why the exaggerations, given the U.S. is the most welcoming of all nations to immigrants and will continue to be, albeit in legal fashion?

 

Obamacare, passed without a single Republican vote and with serial mistruth about the inviolability of doctors and plans, is going broke on its own. Trump did not create that monster.

 

And why the patronizing caricatures of Trump’s so-called white evangelical voters? You sound like those who slurred them as clingers, deplorables, and irredeemables. Past groups did not arrive illegally. And the melting pot not the salad bowl was the model.

 

Trump’s base rallied to Trump not on the basis of race (most of his primary challengers and Hillary were white), but because his campaign appealed to those dispossessed by globalization and caricatured (as is your wont as well) as ignorant. When Obama was elected, were you worried he appealed to racial solidarity (remember his faux-inner city patois, though not as clumsy as Hillary’s), and therefore achieved record bloc voting at unprecedented rates? I think his “get in their faces,” “punish our enemies,” “bring a gun to a knife fight,” etc. were all intended to rally his base. Racial polarization was part of the Obama electoral plan and it worked well for him twice, although disastrously for his party that lost most state offices, Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court.

 

Democrats’ problem, as I wrote, was that Obama’s base was not transferrable to Hillary, given that some of it was based on racial fides, but his downside (polarizing the white working class by associations with the like of anti-Semites and racists like Rev. Wright or Al Sharpton) was.

 

—vic

Our War against Memory

by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review

 

The new abolitio memoriae

 

Back to the Future

Romans emperors were often a bad lot — but usually confirmed as such only in retrospect. Monsters such as Nero, of the first-century A.D. Julio-Claudian dynasty, or the later psychopaths Commodus and Caracalla, were flattered by toadies when alive — only to be despised the moment they dropped.

 

After unhinged emperors were finally killed off, the sycophantic Senate often proclaimed a damnatio memoriae (a “damnation of memory”). Prior commemoration was wiped away, thereby robbing the posthumous ogre of any legacy and hence any existence for eternity.

 

In more practical matters, there followed a concurrent abolitio memoriae (an “erasing of memory”). Specifically, moralists either destroyed or rounded up and put away all statuary and inscriptions concerning the bad, dead emperor. In the case of particularly striking or expensive artistic pieces, they erased the emperor’s name (abolitio nominis) or his face and some physical characteristics from the artwork.

 

Impressive marble torsos were sometimes recut to accommodate a more acceptable (or powerful) successor. (Think of something like the heads only of the generals on Stone Mountain blasted off and replaced by new carved profiles of John Brown and Nat Turner). Read more →

The Silliest Generation

By | American Greatness

Every generation, in its modesty, used to think the prior one was far better. Tom Brokaw coined “The Greatest Generation” to remind Americans of what our fathers endured during the Depression and World War II—with the implicit message that we might not have been able to do what they did.

For the Roman poet Horace to be a laudator temporis acti (“a praiser of a past age”) was a natural if sometimes tiring inclination. His famous lines at the end of his Ode 3.6 on moral degeneracy run, “Worse than our grandparents’ generation, our parents’ then produced us, even worse, and soon to bear still more sinful children”—and managed in just a few words to fault four generations for continual moral decline.

Yet what is strange about the present age is that our current generation uniquely believes just the opposite. Apparently, we believe that most cadres before us were not up to our standards. Indeed, we are having to clean up their messes of racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia, as well as environmental desecration and global warming.

Even their statues must fall as bothersome reminders of their moral depravity. And the way they come down would do either Hitler (who carted off to Germany the French dining car in Compiègne that had been commemorated as the site of the 1918 armistice) or Stalin (who primitively photo-shopped out each year’s new enemies of the people) proud. Usually our generation kills the dead by the mob or a frightened mayor in the dead of night—rarely by a majority vote of elected representatives, referenda, or the recommendations of local, state, and federal commissions and carried out in daytime. Read more →

From An Angry Reader:

I have heard your act numerous times, mostly on the John Bachelor show, and I find it tiresome.

 

You really need to spend more time on your “idyllic” farm and not venture out into reality.

 

Times change, places change, and people change, but you will not change or cause change.

 

I am a California native, born in San Francisco and raised in Los Altos, so I have seen, firsthand,

 

the decline in California and especially the Bay Area during my 66 years.

 

I cannot argue with many of your observations, but much of what you say is not unique to

 

California.

 

The opioid crisis is but a symptom of a much larger national problem.

 

That problem being that many capable, working age persons have given up on working and are

 

merely leading lives of ignorant dissipation at increasing rates.

 

They have fundamentally given up on life and are just marking time until their sad lives end.

 

The worst part of this death spiral is that there is no end or improvement in sight.

 

No government leaders can come up with a solution to this problem.

 

The U.S. is headed down the road to second class status in the World and there appears no

 

solution or national will to reverse things.

 

Nothing said by you and your ilk will change this. The toothpaste has simply left the tube.

 

Maybe you would do better to adopt my philosophy.

 

That is that I grew up during a golden time in both California and the Bay Area and that no one can

 

take my fond memories away from me.

 

Let the newcomers squabble over the crumbs while I am looking beyond California and what it has become.

 

They will never know what you and I know having grown up in one of the best areas on Earth.

 

Victor Davis Hanson’s Reply:

 

Dear Angry Reader Kevin Curtin,

 

You need to define what you mean by “you and your ilk.” And if you find “it tiresome,” there is no penalty in turning the channel. Otherwise, I find your angry reader note not so angry, but somewhat incoherent. Is your criticism that I fault present leadership, suggest changes, and lament the trajectory of California downward—when I should just accept it and lament the consequences?

 

In a nutshell, massive amounts of unprecedented wealth in a few coastal enclaves—the result of globalization and high-tech Silicon Valley—and epidemic interior poverty (the result of massive illegal immigration and flight of the middle classes out of state) have created two states that are ungovernable as one.

 

Otherwise, I agree we can retreat to the monastery of the mind to remember a lost California that once worked.

 

Victor Davis Hanson

Questions

From An Angry Reader:

If you publish my letter on your website, it may best be placed in the “Angry Reader” category. I only agree with you 10 percent of the time, but I’m not angry. You are one of the two or three best conservative commentators, in my view.

Three questions and one observation:

1) Who is the currently serving U.S. Representative, Senator or Governor that you most admire?

2) Who is the left-wing writer or commentator that you most respect? (The lefty VDH, if you will.) Read more →

Silicon Valley Billionaires Are the New Robber Barons

by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review

Progressives forget their history of breaking up mega-corporations as they lionize tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Progressives used to pressure U.S. corporations to cut back on outsourcing and on the tactic of building their products abroad to take advantage of inexpensive foreign workers.

During the 2012 election, President Obama attacked Mitt Romney as a potential illiberal “outsourcer-in-chief” for investing in companies that went overseas in search of cheap labor. Read more →

The Anti-Trump Bourbons: Learning and Forgetting Nothing in Time for 2020

By | American Greatness

Just seven months into Donald Trump’s administration we are already bombarded with political angling and speculations about the 2020 presidential race. No one knows in the next three years what can happen to a volatile Trump presidency or his psychotic enemies, but for now such pronouncements of doom seem amnesiac if not absurd.

Things are supposedly not going well politically with Donald Trump lately, after a series of administration firings, internecine White House warring, and controversial tweets. A Gallup Poll has him at only a 34 percent positive rating, and losing some support even among Republicans (down to 79 percent)—although contrarily a recent Rasmussen survey shows him improving to the mid-forties in popularity. Nonetheless, we are warned that even if Trump is lucky enough not to be impeached, if he is not removed under the 25th Amendment or the Emoluments Clause, if he does not resign in shame, even if he has the stamina to continue under such chaos, even if he seeks reelection and thus even more punishment, he simply cannot win in 2020.

In answer to such assumed expertise, one could answer with Talleyrand’s purported quip about our modern-day Bourbons that “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”

Namely, Trump’s enraged critics still do not grasp that he is a reflection of, not a catalyst for, widespread anger and unhappiness with globalization, interventionist foreign policy, Orwellian political correctness, identity politics, tribalism, open borders, and a Deep State that lectures and condemns but never lives the consequences of its own sermonizing.

In particular, the current conundrum and prognostications ignore several constants. Read more →

Is There Still a Conservative Foreign Policy?

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