Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The “Deplorables” Get Their Say

By Craig Bernthal


Most of the pundits I’ve been reading on the Democratic side who have decided to explain this election chalk up the Trump victory to an America which turned out to be far more racist and misogynistic than they’d ever believed. Among the most hysterical and bitter was Garrison Keillor in the Washington Post,, and any internet survey will find much of the same. Paul Krugman had a vision of the apocalypse,, colleges across the country called out their grief counselors, people started wearing Brexit-inspired safety pins (another way of perpetuating fear and division), and riots, possibly pushed by, are all over TV. The vitriol hurled at Trump voters by progressives is truly astonishing. It does not just show a hatred of half of America, but astounding ignorance about it. Racists! Half the country is racist! (And this claim despite Trump getting 29% of the Hispanic vote and 8% of the African-American vote, bettering Romney’s performance.)
I did not vote for Trump. After he called John McCain a loser for being captured, that did it for me early on. I found his comments about women particularly disgusting.  I didn’t like what he said about Judge Curiel. I saw Trump as a thin-skinned narcissist, a bully, and a potentially dangerous loose cannon on foreign policy. May I be proven wrong. But I didn’t vote for Clinton either, and when the election went for Trump, I felt a vast sense of relief: relief that the corrupt Clinton machine, supported by 80% of the media, had been turned out once and for all, that they hadn’t gotten away with it yet again, that a progressive in the White House wouldn’t continue to talk down to me for the next eight years.

I watched the last two weeks of the election in Michigan visiting friends and relatives and fishing for steelhead. I grew up in “the Thumb” of the mitten and my wife’s family lives in Grand Rapids. I think I have a fairly good sense of what motivated the rural American rustbelt to turn out in droves to vote for Trump. I chalk it up to two things: the stagnant Obama economic recovery and a backlash against the Olympian condescension of our leaders in both parties and especially the media. In two days, as I drove from Grand Rapids to Bad Axe, I saw that Trump lawn posters vastly outnumbered the ones for Clinton. Even fishing on the Muskegon River, I saw Trump posters on the banks. And then, both campaigns flooded Michigan the week before the election. Trump rallies had a huge attendance. You could almost feel the state turning from blue to red.

People who live in the Michigan countryside tend to be independent. A lot of small farms still survive. They make their way in small businesses of their own or franchises. I fished with two guides. One was a high school teacher and coach, and one was a full time guide. Both were voting for Trump. One had a wife with several small businesses. They both thought Trump would be better for small business. Many of the people I talked to, including two old high school friends, one a civil engineer who had spent most of his career in the Middle East, the other a retired banker, were hoping Trump would get the economy moving. So, “it’s the economy, stupid,” Bill Clinton’s theme in the 90s, was very much on people’s minds.

But there was also an edge to a lot of this. People were sick of being called racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, and being basketed as deplorables—one of Hillary Clinton’s rare moments of candor. They were sick of a condescending political and media culture which insulted them as “clinging to their religion and their guns,” (presumably instead of their safety pins), sick of being told they were incapable of rational thought. I talked with several Trump voters who seriously said, “I don’t think I’m a racist,” and would then lay out a mini-biography of their cordial relations with African-Americans, gays, and in the case of the engineer, the many Muslims he’d worked with and considered friends. They felt bad that they were being talked about in those terms. It was personal. But hoping to prove you are not a racist to a determined progressive is like hoping for a Lion’s Superbowl victory. If you are not consciously racist, then you are unconsciously racist. If you are one of the 54% of white women who voted for Trump, you have “internalized misogyny.” If you are white, you are the beneficiary of “white privilege”; even if you are an unemployed auto-worker or coal miner you are implicated in structures of oppression. People got sick of this, and they were not all white. I got a haircut in a Mexican-American barbershop in Clovis, California, during the primaries, and everyone in the place—all of Mexican heritage except me—were for Trump because “he’s not politically correct.”

The progressive post-election theme is, “See! We told you they (white knuckle-draggers) were stupid and insecure and racist. “Racism” for many academic and media progressives is a mystical term. It is the progressive version of original sin, inescapable, and something whites must grovel about for the rest of their lives. They must rake their conscience for sins and confess them at diversity consciousness-raising sessions, a diversity which includes everything but white. This was the “I’m not going to grovel anymore” election, the “I’m sick of being slandered” election, not a vote for David Duke and the KKK.

Way under-reported in all of this has been the vote of pro-life evangelicals and Catholics, a make or break issue for a lot of people. I went to a mass at a church in a middle class section of Grand Rapids. It had its own grade-school which feed students to Catholic Central, the mark of a substantial parish with a diverse congregation. The priest gave a homily, based on the torture and execution of the 7 brothers in Maccabees, under Antiochus Epiphanes. His point was that, if you want to know what people believe, watch what they do, not what they say.  Tim Kaine was never mentioned. But the priest’s point was that there was no line in the heart between “personal belief” and public policy. People just do what they believe, and the subtext was that despite everything Trump had said, Catholics had only one choice about who to vote for. Evangelicals, 83% of whom supported Trump, were more in agreement on this than Catholics.

That this was the racist election, the misogynist election, the stupid election may provide solace to progressives who know nothing about the people they are slandering, but it provides nothing in the way of enlightenment. This election was complicated. If prejudice and racism is applying ugly labels to vast numbers of people you don’t know, then the left is as prejudiced and racist as it accuses the right of being. Hats off to the few progressives I know who are trying to think about this election in a complicated way.


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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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