Book Review: The Case for Trump

“The case for Trump” by Victor Davis HansonThe election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016 was a singular event in the history of the country. Never before had anybody been elected to that office without any prior experience in either public office or the military. Trump, although running as a Republican, had no long-term affiliation with the party and had cultivated no support within its establishment, elected officials, or the traditional donors who support its candidates. He turned his back on the insider consultants and “experts” who had advised GOP candidate after candidate in their “defeat with dignity” at the hands of a ruthless Democrat party willing to burn any bridge to win. From well before he declared his candidacy he established a direct channel to a mass audience, bypassing media gatekeepers via Twitter and frequent appearances in all forms of media, who found him a reliable boost to their audience and clicks. He was willing to jettison the mumbling points of the cultured Beltway club and grab “third rail” issues of which they dared not speak such as mass immigration, predatory trade practices, futile foreign wars, and the exporting of jobs from the U.S. heartland to low-wage sweatshops overseas.

He entered a free-for-all primary campaign as one of seventeen major candidates, including present and former governors, senators, and other well-spoken and distinguished rivals and, one by one, knocked them out, despite resolute and sometimes dishonest bias by the media hosting debates, often through “verbal kill shots” which made his opponents the target of mockery and pinned sobriquets on them (“low energy Jeb”, “little Marco”, “lyin’ Ted”) they couldn’t shake. His campaign organisation, if one can dignify it with the term, was completely chaotic and his fund raising nothing like the finely-honed machines of establishment favourites like Jeb Bush, and yet his antics resulted in his getting billions of dollars worth of free media coverage even on outlets who detested and mocked him.

One by one, he picked off his primary opponents and handily won the Republican presidential nomination. This unleashed a phenomenon the likes of which had not been seen since the Goldwater insurgency of 1964, but far more virulent. Pillars of the Republican establishment and Conservatism, Inc. were on the verge of cardiac arrest, advancing fantasy scenarios to deny the nomination to its winner, publishing issues of their money-losing and subscription-shedding little magazines dedicated to opposing the choice of the party’s voters, and promoting insurgencies such as the candidacy of Egg McMuffin, whose bona fides as a man of the people were evidenced by his earlier stints with the CIA and Goldman Sachs.

Predictions that post-nomination, Trump would become “more presidential” were quickly falsified as the chaos compounded, the tweets came faster and funnier, and the mass rallies became ever more frequent and raucous. One thing that was obvious to anybody looking dispassionately at what was going on, without the boiling blood of hatred and disdain of the New York-Washington establishment, was that the candidate was having the time of his life and so were the people who attended the rallies. But still, all of the wise men of the coastal corridor knew what must happen. On the eve of the general election, polls put the probability of a Trump victory somewhere between 1 and 15 percent. The outlier was Nate Silver, who went out on a limb and went all the way up to 29% chance of Trump’s winning to the scorn of his fellow “progressives” and pollsters.

And yet, Trump won, and handily. Yes, he lost the popular vote, but that was simply due to the urban coastal vote for which he could not contend and wisely made no attempt to attract, knowing such an effort would be futile and a waste of his scarce resources (estimates are his campaign spent around half that of Clinton’s). This book by classicist, military historian, professor, and fifth-generation California farmer Victor Davis Hanson is an in-depth examination of, in the words of the defeated candidate, “what happened”. There is a great deal of wisdom here.

First of all, a warning to the prospective reader. If you read Dr Hanson’s columns regularly, you probably won’t find a lot here that’s new. This book is not one of those that’s obviously Frankenstitched together from previously published columns, but in assembling their content into chapters focussing on various themes, there’s been a lot of cut and paste, if not literally at the level of words, at least in terms of ideas. There is value in seeing it all presented in one package, but be prepared to say, from time to time, “Haven’t I’ve read this before?”

That caveat lector aside, this is a brilliant analysis of the Trump phenomenon. Hanson argues persuasively that it is very unlikely any of the other Republican contenders for the nomination could have won the general election. None of them were talking about the issues which resonated with the erstwhile “Reagan Democrat” voters who put Trump over the top in the so-called “blue wall” states, and it is doubtful any of them would have ignored their Beltway consultants and campaigned vigorously in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania which were key to Trump’s victory. Given that the Republican defeat which would likely have been the result of a Bush (again?), Rubio, or Cruz candidacy would have put the Clinton crime family back in power and likely tipped the Supreme Court toward the slaver agenda for a generation, that alone should give pause to “never Trump” Republicans.

How will it all end? Nobody knows, but Hanson provides a variety of perspectives drawn from everything from the Byzantine emperor Justinian’s battle against the deep state to the archetype of the rough-edged outsider brought in to do what the more civilised can’t or won’t—the tragic hero from Greek drama to Hollywood westerns. What is certain is that none of what Trump is attempting, whether it ends in success or failure, would be happening if any of his primary opponents or the Democrat in the general election had prevailed.

I believe that Victor Davis Hanson is one of those rare people who have what I call the “Orwell gift”. Like George Orwell, he has the ability to look at the facts, evaluate them, and draw conclusions without any preconceived notions or filtering through an ideology. What is certain is that with the election of Donald Trump in 2016 the U.S. dodged a bullet. Whether that election will be seen as a turning point which reversed the decades-long slide toward tyranny by the administrative state, destruction of the middle class, replacement of the electorate by imported voters dependent upon the state, erosion of political and economic sovereignty in favour of undemocratic global governance, and the eventual financial and moral bankruptcy which are the inevitable result of all of these, or just a pause before the deluge, is yet to be seen. Hanson’s book is an excellent, dispassionate, well-reasoned, and thoroughly documented view of where things stand today.

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Case for Trump. New York: Basic Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5416-7354-0.

Here is an Uncommon Knowledge interview with the author discussing the book.

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Fun! Then, more Fun!

Not vouching for this site or author, but I simply can’t contain my joy at the bitch-slapping that was delivered to Pelosi, and can’t stop reading about it.  Don’t be tempted to characterize this as just so much grade school pranking.  If you think like Juan Williams, don’t click on this.  If you think like Emperor Greg Gutfeld, then go ahead.  So much winning!

Trump Outplays Pelosi at Her Own Game

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Past Master

Here is President Trump’s press conference on 2018-11-07.  I have watched press conferences of every president since JFK, and I have never seen such a masterful performance in the face of a uniformly hostile (and often aggressively rude) media.

It is not easy to do this, and he makes it look effortless.  He is a natural.

One technological question: why on Earth don’t they have multiple wireless microphones they hand out to questioners that can be muted if the reporter doesn’t shut up after the question is dealt with?

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“Once More, with Thinking”: a Libertarian on Donald Trump

L. Neil Smith, a libertarian’s libertarian (one of the first members of the Libertarian Party, he was a candidate for Colorado State legislature on the Libertarian ticket in 1978 with essentially zero budget, outperforming any third party candidate in the district before or since, the 2000 Presidential nominee of the Arizona Libertarian party, and a participant in drafting the party’s platform in 2004).  He is the author of more than 35 books of science fiction, fantasy, and political analysis, including Down with Power, a practical guide to hard-edged libertarianism.  He is the founder and publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, a weekly publication which has, on occasion, even featured some of my scribblings.

In 2016, he dismayed and even enraged some prominent libertarians by endorsing and voting for Donald Trump in the presidential campaign.  On several occasions he published articles explaining his rationale, to little effect.  This week’s edition of The Libertarian Enterprise contains a new attempt titled “Once More, with Thinking”.   He begins:

The other day, I was perusing the Internet, as one does, when I saw a message from a longtime friend of mine telling some third party that he thought I might have made a mistake, voting for Donald Trump. Two responses came immediately to mind: first, that I have been engaged in politics since 1962 and I don’t make mistakes like that; second, that I thought I had made my reasons for voting that way “perfectly clear”.

Apparently I had not, so I’ll take one more shot at it now and then forget it. If I can’t teach this lesson, then nobody can, and given that most people’s reaction to Trump is more visceral than cerebral, it probably can’t be taught. I don’t vote with my gut, or by the seat of my pants, I vote with my brain.

He then goes on to analyse the actual choices available to the electorate in 2016, why from his standpoint Trump was the best of those on the menu, and why he no longer considers not voting (which he calls “electoral pacifism”) an option.  He concludes:

Donald Trump is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He is certainly not a Libertarian, nor does he claim to be. For once, that’s quite all right. When I need my roof fixed, I don’t ask about the roofer’s politics, only if he can fix my roof. Trump is an uncategorizable one-off, possibly unique in history. He has traits in common with Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and even Lyndon Johnson. He built beautiful tall buildings in the business-hostile environments of the world’s biggest, most-corrupt cities. He’s just the guy to fix the American roof that was shot full of holes by three previous Presidents who happened to be evil morons.

Read the whole thing.

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When Someone Tells You Who They Are…

….believe them:

So Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin wish to revoke my citizenship?

I’ll repeat what my Texan ancestors said to Santa Anna’s dragoons at Gonzales: Come and take it!

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On Churchill’s Darkest Hour, and Ours

On Monday evening I took the time to watch Darkest Hour, wherein Gary Oldman gives an epic performance as Winston Churchill during the days and weeks after he rose to the prime ministership on May 10, 1940. Toward the end of the film, there was a scene where Churchill decides to ride the London Underground to Westminster. While on the subway, he speaks with a woman carrying a five-month old baby on her lap. Now while that woman and her baby were likely fictional, it struck me that were that baby still alive today, he would be five months younger than my own father, who turns 79 next month.

As William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Churchill, who led the United Kingdom during my father’s lifetime, refused to back down against Hitler’s brutal war machine which had overrun Western Europe and threatened to do the same to Britain, ignoring the advice of his own senior cabinet ministers who wished to pursue a negotiated peace.

I think of my Great Uncle Phil, a dual Canadian-American citizen who answered the King’s call and volunteered for service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, receiving a commission as a flight lieutenant as the Battle of Britain was underway in the fall of 1940.

I think also of my great-great-great grandfather Juan Francisco, a prominent politician in the then northern Mexican city of Laredo, suffering under the heel of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s brutal oppression, but ultimately leading his fellow Laredoans into an alliance with Texas and the United States. On April 25, 1847, he was administered his oath of American citizenship by none other than Mirabeau B. Lamar, former President of the Republic of Texas.

History is not made by the weak, but by those who have the courage to stand fast.

We face a similar reckoning at present, being told that to secure our southern border against alien invaders is inhumane and heartless. No less a personage than former First Lady Laura Bush has called for compassion in dealing with illegal alien children and their alleged parents.

Well I dare ask, where was this vaunted Bush compassion during her husband’s presidency, when on Thanksgiving night in 2005 some Mexican cartel members decided to have a shootout in my parent’s tony upper middle class neighborhood in Laredo, Texas? Nowhere.

Where was this vaunted Bush compassion when hundreds of innocent Mexicans were killed as a result of the Obama administration’s Operation Fast and Furious? Silence.

What of the confederacy of dunces and rats known as the Democratic Party? They make common cause with the illegals and other foreign interlopers against their own people.

And then there is the vile nest of copperheads in the Republican Party who call themselves NeverTrump. What is NeverTrumpism, but the philosophy of despair, the creed of arrogance, and the gospel of surrender?

I will have none of it. Like Horatius at the bridge and Churchill before the Nazi menace, it is time to stand and fight.

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TOTD 2018/5/15: The Ideal and the Real

Why is it that so many of President Trump’s critics seem to have trouble comprehending that the real world does not operate or conform to abstract ideological principles?

Perhaps, as James Day Hodgson observes in American Senryu, what is fundamentally at issue is the inability of the innocent to understand evil:

Ignored evil —
The price too often paid for
Purity of heart.

Hodgson expounds:

“Absence of guile achieved by wearing mental blinders is a dubious virtue. The late British humorist Malcolm Muggeridge was deadly serious when he reminded us that purity of heart has a dangerous two-dimensional shallowness unless accompanied by penetrating perception.  An uncorrupted heart must be coupled with a ruthless eye.”

I would add that those presidents with the most successful foreign policy achievements – Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan among them – understood that one must deal with the world as it is, not how he wishes it to be. An uncorrupted heart is far less valuable an asset in diplomacy than a relentless pragmatism.

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Diplomacy, Machiavelli, and the Art of the Deal

Per EThompson’s recommendation in the comments to my last post, I will share James Day Hodgdon’s verse on Machiavellianism and diplomacy from American Senryu:

Cynics first dictum:
For persuasion to succeed,
Conceal the intent.

Hodgson explains:

“Polls show that the title ‘diplomat’ draws a reaction of great respect among the public. How puzzling! From the time of Machiavelli through Metternich and beyond, diplomacy has been associated with duplicity. Can it be that the triumph of the diplomat lies in his ability to use tools associated with duplicity to fashion a humane result? Possibly.”

Like Ronald Reagan with the fall of the Soviet Bloc a generation earlier, Donald Trump has made great progress toward a goal once thought impossible: peace on the Korean Peninsula.  Trump’s success is a direct result of spurning the conventional wisdom and hidebound ideologies of both the left and right.

That observation is just as applicable on the domestic front.  Buckleyite conservatism is the political equivalent of prevent defense in American football: ceding ground to the opponent for the purpose of achieving victory.  Such an approach has not worked and will never work. One cannot win by continuously retreating.  Any ideology that advocates such must be rejected outright.

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Hodgson on Trump?

In American Senryu, James Day Hodgson ruminates on the subject of enemies with the following verse:

The capacity
To gain the right enemies
Is part of genius.

Hodgson continues:

“No man in his right mind deliberately sets out to make enemies. But few men of character and virility of thought can escape gaining some. In public life, a man is often respected as much for the disrepute of his enemies as for the worth of his friends. What holds true for men, holds true for nations.”

Although this verse was written nearly a quarter century before the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency, it is more than applicable.  An astounding number of the president’s political opponents come off as inveterate social climbers, moral poseurs, and silver-tongued pillocks.  That is no coincidence.

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