Class, Trump, and the Election

If the ‘high IQs’ of the establishment have let America down, where is a voter to turn?

By Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online


Donald Trump seems to have offended almost every possible identity group. But the New York billionaire still also seems to appeal to the working classes (in part no doubt precisely because he has offended so many special-interest factions; in part because he was seen in the primaries as an outsider using his own money; in part because he seems a crude man of action who dislikes most of those of whom Middle America is tired). At this point, his best hope in November, to the extent such a hope exists, rests on turning 2016 into a referendum on class and a collective national interest that transcends race and gender — and on emphasizing the sad fact that America works now mostly for an elite, best epitomized by Clinton, Inc.

We should not underestimate the opportunities for approaching traditional issues from radically different perspectives. The National Rifle Association is running the most effective ads in its history, hitting elites who wish to curtail gun ownership on the part of those who are not afforded the security blankets of the wealthy. Why should not an inner-city resident wish to buy a legal weapon, when armed security guards patrol America’s far safer gated communities? For most of the Clintons’ adult lives, they have been accompanied by men and women with concealed weapons to ensure their safety — on the premise that firearms, not mace, not Tasers, not knives or clubs, alone would ultimately keep the two safe.

Fracking provides jobs and cheaper fuel; the elites of the Democratic party care about neither. Indeed, Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu proclaimed their desire for spiraling gas and electricity prices. Boutique environmentalism is a losing issue for the Democrats. The very wealthy can afford to be more concerned for a three-inch smelt than for irrigation water that will ensure that there are jobs for tractor drivers and affordable food for the less-well-off. When Hillary Clinton talks about putting miners out of work, she’s talking about people she has no desire to see unless she needs their votes.

Illegal immigration is another issue that offers class leverage. Middle-class Mexican-Americans cannot afford to put their kids in private schools when local districts are overwhelmed with non-English-speaking students. Trying to provide parity for 11 million or more illegal aliens naturally comes at the expense of fewer safety-net protections for minority citizens, just as driving down wages is good for the employer but hardly for the citizen who competes with illegal aliens for entry-level jobs. And what about lower-middle-class communities that are overwhelmed with foreign nationals whose backgrounds were never checked.

Outsourcing jobs affects predominantly the lower middle classes; no pundit, D.C. staffer, or New York lawyer is replaced by some cheaper English-speaker from the Punjab. Obamacare follows the same pattern. Elites who praise it to the skies either have the money or the Cadillac plans to navigate around it. I doubt that Rahm Emanuel and his brothers queue up at a surgery center, hoping to win five minutes with an ophthalmologist who now treats 70 patients a day to survive under Obamacare.

Donald Trump is unlikely to defeat Hillary Clinton unless he, an insider billionaire with little political knowledge, can appeal to the concerns of millions that cut across the Democratic firewalls of race and class. If a mom in Orange County thinks that Benghazi did make a difference and ISIS is a murderous Islamic terrorist enterprise, if an African-American youth believes that someone should try to hire him on a building site in preference to an illegal alien, and if a cosmetician believes that one violation of a federal law will land her in jail while many violations may land Hillary in the White House, then class trumps identity politics.

The entire establishments of both political parties are losing the illusion that they are clothed. The Clintons and their appendages famously became rich by monetizing their public positions through shakedowns of the international corporate set, under the patina of egalitarian progressivism. No one in the media for a decade has said a word about their criminal enterprise; commentators were more likely to donate to the Clinton Foundation as a sort of business investment or indemnity insurance. And how in the world does a middle-class ex-teacher and congressman with a 20-year tenure like Dennis Hastert end up with millions to pay hush money to the victims of his alleged pederastic assaults? How did a Harry Reid become a Nevada multimillionaire? How many middle-class workers’ annual incomes does Hillary Clinton trump in a single 20-minute Wall Street speech, whose content is vacuous? Where, then, is Occupy Wall Street?

Why the NeverTrump movement has so far failed is in part a matter of class as well, defined not so much in terms of cash, as of influence, education, and lifestyle. In 2008 it was gauche to bring up the vicious racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose trite cast-off slogan “audacity of hope” inspired the title of Barack Obama’s campaign primer. In 2012, it would have apparently been rude for Mitt Romney to have fired back at Candy Crowley, “How dare you hijack a presidential debate!” Yes, Trump may be creepy, but the reluctance to challenge our present naked emperors is just as creepy. Is the so-called establishment going to warn us that Trump would be capable of running up $10 trillion in debt, socializing our medical system, unleashing the IRS and EPA on perceived enemies, and weakening friends and empowering enemies abroad, as he offers the world historically challenged pop riffs on Islam, Hiroshima, and global geography? For each take-down of NeverTrump, can we at least have commensurate analysis of how and why a monstrosity like the Clinton cash operation was allowed to thrive without audit; or how it is that the secretary of state and her minions snubbed the law and behaved in a fashion that would have put any other federal employees in jail; or how it is that 155 years after the start of the Civil War over 300 cities, counties, and states have declared federal law null and void in their jurisdictions — and with complete impunity?

Turn on an evening cable show and ask which interviewer is married to which anchor on another channel, or which of the pundits are former politicos, or how many in the White House worked for Big News or are married or related to someone who does. How many pundits were advisers to political candidates or related to someone who was? How does Ben Rhodes do an interview on CBS News or George Stephanopoulos interview Hillary Clinton or a writer expound on the primaries when he is also an adviser to a particular campaign? The problem is not just that all this is incestuous or unethical, but that it blinds a tiny elite to what millions of quite different Americans value and experience.

Charles Murray recently wrote in anger, addressing those who would vote for Trump because “Hillary is even worse”: “I know that I am unlikely to persuade any of my fellow Establishmentarians to change their minds. But I cannot end without urging you to resist that sin to which people with high IQs (which most of you have) are unusually prone: Using your intellectual powers to convince yourself of something despite the evidence plainly before you. Just watch and listen to the man. Don’t concoct elaborate rationalizations. Just watch and listen.”

I wish that the high IQs of the establishment class had taken Murray’s sage advice eight years ago and just listened to what Obama had said in denigration of the Pennsylvania working classes or the “typical white person” grandmother who raised him; or to his pseudo-macho references to guns and knives, and “get in their face”; or to the hokey promises to lower global temperatures and stop the seas from rising; and all the other Vero possumus tripe. Or that they had used their presumably formidable mental powers to review Obama’s public record as a state legislator and a U.S. senator — which presaged everything from Obamacare and the unconstitutional undermining of federal law to the apology tours and the near-destruction of 70 years of bipartisan foreign policy.

Murray has a point that Trump’s crudity and buffoonery should be taken seriously, but when he says establishmentarians have “high IQs,” what exactly does he mean? Did a high IQ prevent an infatuated David Brooks (whom he quotes approvingly) from fathoming presidential success as if he were a sartorial seancer, from the crease of Senator Obama pants leg? What was the IQ of the presidential historian who declared Obama the smartest man ever to be elevated to the White House? Or the Newsweek editor who envisioned an apotheosized Obama? Or the MSNBC host who motor-mouthed about the tingle in his leg at the sound of an Obama speech? Or, yes, the conservative policy analyst (and self-confessed “Starry-eyed Obama groupie”) who wrote approvingly (“flat-out plain brilliant”) of the Obama race speech in March 2008, in which Obama revealed to the world that his own grandmother — the sole steady working breadwinner of Obama’s extended family, whose labors sent him to prep school — was a supposedly “typical white person” in her prejudices, while he further contextualized the abject racism and anti-Semitism of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — a speech renounced by Obama himself when Wright later felt empowered to double down on his racism. Or perhaps the conservative wit who once wrote that Obama has a “first-class temperament and a first-class intellect,” and that he is the rare politician who “writes his own books,” which were “first rate”?

Establishmentarian high IQs? The point is not to castigate past poor judgment, but to offer New Testament reminders about hubris and the casting of first stones — and why hoi polloi are skeptical of their supposed intellectual betters.

So how did a blond comb-over real-estate dealer destroy an impressive and decent Republican field and find himself near dead even with Hillary Clinton — to the complete astonishment, and later fury, of the Washington establishment?

Simply because lots of people have become exhausted by political and media elites who have thought very highly of themselves — but on what grounds it has become increasingly impossible to figure out.

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