Progressives Bearing Gifts

Donald Trump in 2016 did not only run against the planted rumors of the fake Steele dossier, 90 percent negative media coverage, his own boisterous past, and the “Access Hollywood” tape. He also was campaigning against Hillary Clinton—and the nation’s quarter-century weariness with the Clinton scandals, crimes, money-grubbing, and hypocrisies.

For a quarter of the country, independents especially, a vote for Trump was not a referendum on a Democrat or Republican, or even love or hate for Donald Trump, but rather reflected a “Never Hillary” desire to be done with the very name Clinton.

So, too, in 2020 Trump will not be running only on his own record, or even his person but also against a living and breathing alternative candidate, one that both offers a precise antithetical agenda and displays a concrete personage.

Considering all of that, during the last week, Trump has been given great gifts in a way no one might have imaged just a month ago.

True Lies
Trump in 2020 might have controversially slurred his future Democratic rival as a socialist, radical late-term abortion advocate, open borders chauvinist, a Medicare destroyer who wished to make it free for everyone, or wacko environmentalist intent on banning gas and diesel engines.

Now he won’t have to smear anyone: the Democrats have largely done that to themselves. Policy-wise the 2020 choice will be between Trump’s mostly doctrinaire conservatism, spiced with populist trade and immigration agendas, and what is a now a new Democrat orthodoxy of Bernie Sanders’ adolescent socialism and incoherent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Neverland something or other.

Trump legitimately will be able to say of a 2020 opponent, “Candidate X wants over the next 10 years to junk your present car, to scrap your combine, to stop your jet travel, to ban your cruise ship, to take away your lawn mower and snow blower, to outlaw your snowmobiles and jet skis, to shut down the fracking industry, the heavy equipment manufacturing sector (I doubt there will be a replacement battery-powered Cat D-11), the pipeline and rail business, and to make every homeowner an indebted remodeler, refitting his house while for all his green trouble and expense he still will be paying more for solar and wind-generated electricity.

Trump can legitimately also say to an independent or swing voter, “You may not like my tweets, but you will really won’t like infanticide, a 70 percent income tax, a diluted Medicare for everyone including those who have never paid a dime into the system, open borders, and guaranteed incomes for all.”

In other words, for the all the NeverTrump hysteria over Trump’s “nationalist-populist agenda,” his record so far is so far arguably more Reaganesque than either of the Bush presidencies or what was likely to come from a McCain or Romney Administration.

The Wild Bunch
In contrast, some of the Green New Deal Democrats are self-described socialists and embrace all sorts of positions antithetical to the Democratic traditional base:  anti-Israel, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-firearms, even anti-infant. Or put another way, an independent voter is likely to have more in common policy-wise with a MAGA hat-wearing Trumper at a Midwest rally than with hooded Antifa street protestors or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s latest racialist rant about “Latinos” having some sort of ethnic entitlement to cross the U.S. border illegally.

Trump will also run against real people with established records. For all practical purposes, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has revealed that she was a knave, not just a dunce. For years she has insisted that while she may have been informally self-identified (albeit falsely) as a Native American, she never actively did so for official purposes. Any preference she received was supposedly due to the inferences of institutions and agencies, but not through her own solicitation. Last week we discovered that was all an abject lie—given that her Texas state bar registration card reemerged, with her own handwritten description of her race as “American Indian” (not even the politically correct “Native American”).

“Good ole Joe” Biden is often seen as the Democratic frontrunner, given his five decades in state government, the U.S. Senate and as Barack Obama’s vice president. But about the time of Warren’s meltdown, an old tape resurfaced in which Biden, in defining his opposition to federally mandated school busing, argued for the desirability of racial segregation and why it had enhanced blacks especially—a goofy statement that only emphasized his existing large corpus of past racialist stupidities, from “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” to “They’re going to put y’all back in chains” (The outraged are supposed to want the governor of Virginia to resign over youthful costuming in blackface, but are OK with a likely Democratic nominee for president who flat out once stated that pre-Obama African-American politicos were all but tongue-tied, dense, unkempt and homely?)

Early Biden reminds us why vintage Biden was always a motormouth who, as Obama feared in 2008, at any moment could “say something stupid.” Recall sober and judicious Joe advised George W. Bush in 2008 to go on television in the manner that he thought FDR had done during the Great Depression (FDR was not president in 1929 and there were no commercially available TVs). Lately, Biden on at least two occasions has boasted of wanting to take the sitting president of the United States behind the gym to beat him up.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) perpetually grimaced on television in the congressional gallery as Trump said supposedly controversial things like wishing to close open borders that allow drugs and traffickers into the United States or noting that minority unemployment is at an all-time low. Harris recently went on an anti-Catholic rant while berating a nominee to the federal bench, and already has signed on to the Green New Deal without a clue what such a program would entail. She, too, had a terrible few weeks.

A group of female House members appeared at the Trump State of the Union in suffrage white, to suggest that they were on the veritable barricades as their sisters a century ago. At almost every Trump homily about racial healing, every piety about declining minority unemployment, every vignette about a heroic American, they grimaced, they frowned, they pouted—until Trump mentioned their own achievements in a positive context, at which for the first and only time they cheered. . . for themselves. One reason three-quarters of TV viewers may have approved of Trump’s address is that they no doubt concluded that, compared to such bitterness, Trump was genuinely inspirational.

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) again last week reminded us of his “Spartacus moment” during the Kavanagh hearings, when incoherently cross-examining a judicial nominee and inferring she was biased or worse in not previously hiring gay clerks—while having no idea she had never been a judge in a position to hire any legal clerks at all. On cue, each time Spartacus had offered a platitude about “can’t we all just get along,” it was followed by a partisan slur or polarizing virtue signal.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) likewise seemed bewildered last week. He was flabbergasted at his diminishing novelty that once accrued from being Congress’s only true edgy “socialist.” That label has been considerably diluted lately by all sorts of younger, hipper “Democratic Socialists” recently elected to Congress. And when a picture just emerged of a younger, shirtless Bernie Sanders singing intoxicated Woodie Guthrie songs along with his Soviet buddies during his honeymoon in the USSR in 1988—at a time when Ronald Reagan was still trying to ensure the collapse of that “evil empire” and the liberations of hundreds of millions behind the Iron Curtain—we did not know whether to laugh or cry. Was he a proto-Beto O’Rourke, or even stupider and more dangerous?

As far as Beto O’Rourke, it is one thing to run as a pseudo-Latino against right-wing Ted Cruz, and quite another to do so in an upcoming Democratic primary with a legion of identity politics activists. In a series of bizarre statements, the former Texas congressman seems to be having a proverbial quarter-life crisis, manifested with texting out selfies at the dentist, growing a beard, driving solo across the country, and in Hamlet fashion sort of, sort of not announcing his presidential aspirations by scheduling a protest rally at the border. Like Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida, Beto seems famous mainly for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of free adulatory publicity—and then losing his 2018 race.

The Souls of Celebrities
A lot of rabid Trump haters had bad weeks too. When the Virginia blackface hysteria peaked, it almost seemed that blackface had always been a common Democratic rite of youthful passage. Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who has made a comeback career out of slamming Trump and Fox News, saw one of his earlier skits resurface. In racist fashion, he had dressed up in blackface and donned a basketball uniform in the manner of African-American NBA star Karl Malone, and then went on supposedly to emulate black patois by speaking mostly gibberish in a caricatured and cruel ungrammatical slang.

Joy Behar, infamous for admitting that fake news epidemics are to be explained by an admirable and universal desire to abort the Trump presidency, also confessed that she too dressed up in blackface in her distant past, but purportedly only as a “beautiful African-American woman”—note the arrogant and condescending subtext of suggesting that her innate beauty can make any costume proud.

Apparently wearing blackface inadvertently had become the new Freudian projectionist key that unlocks the mystery of why so many wealthy white people so loudly accuse innocent others of racism.

Robert de Nirolong ago exhausted the vocabulary in which he would punch, beat up, smash, and box in Trump’s face. But after emerging irate from a divorce court hearing onto the streets of Manhattan, in front of the paparazzi he loudly on his phone screamed at his own limousine driver for not double parking for the actor’s convenience—proof again that progressive lovers of humanity in the concrete can be not so humane.

But Trump’s strangest gift came from Virginia, where its top three Democrat state officials circled off and almost blew each other up in “The Good, Bad, and the Ugly”three-way gunfire.

The Virginia Circus
Governor Ralph Norman started off justifying infanticide in clinical vocabulary, an assurance with which his radical and generous Planned Parenthood donors would be pleased. But then he was caught with college yearbook photos of a Klansman posing by a white buffoonish character in blackface. Northam at once denied, then admitted, next hedged, and finally confirmed the entire story—only to bookend it by admitting that he once upon a long time ago also dressed up in black shoe polish to emulate Michael Jackson (who usually did his best to wear white makeup).

The lying-in-wait Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, an ascendant African-American Democrat, seemed ready to take over from the sure to be Twitter-lynched Northam. But then his own sudden fame prompted latent accusers to emerge. One, in particular, charged that 15 years ago Fairfax had coerced her, a fellow 2004 Democratic convention goer, to service him with oral intercourse.

Fairfax apparently somehow assumed in the post #MeToo, Brett-Kavanaugh age that he said/she said assault charges of years past required some sort of additional proof, or rather perhaps he thought his own minority and progressive status might trump gender victimization. In any case, he purportedly blurted out to aides on hearing the ancient sexual assault charge voiced, “F—k that bitch”—a most regressive slur.

Third-in-line attorney General Mark Herringhad already raced to virtue signal his disgust with the supposedly racist governor Northam (but was apparently OK with the governor’s calm discussions of infanticide) by calling for his resignation. And then almost immediately Nemesis struck yet again, as Herring confessed that he, too, at 19-years-old had dressed up in a black caricature fashion, emulating the skin color and dress of a black rapper.

Oddly there was some indication that the press and the Democratic Party might have had or should have had, some inkling that their top three Virginia state officials respectively had trafficked either in racist caricatures, could not tell the truth, or were sexual assaulters, but in the past had passed on such rumors in hopes of flipping Virginia blue.

The larger point, however, was simple: a party that non-stop smears Trump as a sexual assaulter and racist seems incapable of dealing with alleged racists and sexual assaulters among its top state officials. Or put more cynically, is there one single liberal Democrat state official in soon to be liberal Virginia who had either not worn youthful blackface or been accused of sexual assault, or could at least tell us what were the post-Kavanaugh rules of due process?

Republicans were wise enough to let progressives play out the entire psychodrama. They allowed social justice warriors to sort out the hierarchies of progressive identity politics, whether #MeToo trumped identity politics, or whether “she must be believed” was now “he must be believed,” or whether due process and statutes of limitations had returned, or whether those who shout loudest “racist!” do so in self-doubt that they themselves suffer from what they accuse.

Donald Trump was lucky in having such a motley crew of enemies. Or were these liberal embarrassments in part due to Trump’s own political cunning in helping to rip off the thin veneerto reveal something quite ugly beneath?

And now? Donald Trump might be in the unique position of being a bit more quiet in order to let his opponents speak for, and thereby reveal even more of, themselves.

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Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author of the just released New York Times best seller, The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation, published by Basic Books on May 7, 2024, as well as the recent  The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump, and The Dying Citizen.