The 2020 News Cycle Will Look Very Different

The Russia collusion narrative and associated Robert Mueller hysteria are all but over.

Mueller’s obstruction of justice narrative involving the non-crime of collusion is ending, too.

Donald Trump’s tax-return psychodrama is going the way of the Emoluments Clause, the Logan Act, the 25th Amendment and the comical in-house coup attempt of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

What takes the place of Mueller and “the noose is tightening” bombshells? Perhaps the new narratives involving Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FISA abuse, or Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion probe—far quieter, far more serious.

The media for three years obsessed over a false “Trump did it” story. But in the next 17 months, the storyline may change from the myth of the “walls are closing in” on the president to the reality that Obama-era officials committed serial felonies—from perjury and lying to federal officials, to leaking classified documents, spying illegally on a political campaign, deceiving a FISA court, and obstructing justice.

As we have already seen with the flare-up between former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who signed a FISA writ, who wrote the memo for Comey’s firing, who appointed his old boss Robert Mueller as special counsel, and who, McCabe says, joined him for a moment in contemplating removing Trump) and former FBI Director James Comey (who likely lied under oath, deceived a FISA court, leaked classified documents and ordered informants placed in the Trump campaign), at some point, these culpable grandees will start turning on each other, and it will be hard to stop.

Even Christopher Steele is rumored to be offering his expertise about the birth and life of his fallacious dossier. And perhaps even the British government will confess behind the scenes that members of its intelligence services may have had suspicious contacts with their U.S. counterparts who were intent on destroying the current U.S. president.

Once federal attorneys present all of these players with real legal exposure, it may be that John Brennan, James Clapper, Comey, McCabe and the rest will fall back to the classic he-ordered-me-to-do-it defenses. And as the next two years wear on, the effort to find who commanded the commander below to command felonious behavior will introduce us to an even more newsworthy group of miscreants.

There are still other possible news narratives in the two years ahead.

The Non “Non-Crisis” on the Border
The old “there is no crisis on the border” progressive reassurance is untenable. The question is not whether hundreds of thousands (1 million so far this year alone) of illegal aliens are crossing the border, with far more on the way, but why and why now?

The obvious answer is not something in the interests of the majority of American voters—as opposed to remittance-receiving Latin America and Mexico, the profit-minded cartels and drug dealers, the captains of our identity politics army, the new demographers of the Democratic Party, and the hate-Trump crowd that is for anything that Trump is against.

Trump is not wrong that support for an open border translates into bad optics and worse ratings.

The Fading Ancient Liberal Regime
The Democratic field is not really Democratic as we used to define the party. Rather, it is a mix of socialists, identity-politics activists, and angry hard-core leftists—and front-runner Joe Biden, who appears to be freeze drying his entire political past in order to microwave it back once he wins the nomination.

In American politics, if the candidate is not an intrinsically charismatic JFK or Ronald Reagan, the trick has always been during the primaries to veer to the hard-core base to get the nomination, but without going on record with too many vapid and embarrassing concessions that will dog the nominee in the general election, as he veers back to the center to pick up independents.

Most of this new party don’t seem to understand that old canard. At least, most of the candidates seem to be fearlessly embracing the Green New Deal, reparations, virtual infanticide, “Medicare for All,” a wealth tax, a new 70 percent top income-tax bracket, free college, the abolition of student debt, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, and the Electoral College and more still that no one can run on even at this late date in America.

Yet the “centrist” Biden is polling in front of the pack precisely because he ostensibly has not embraced what he more or less is insidiously now beginning to embrace. Bottom line: we are going to witness a strange drama in which a party that has had it with white males has no Barack Obama to replace them with.

A party that systematically turned off the “bitter clingers” and “deplorables” needs just those irredeemables in the general election to restore the blue wall. And a perennially reckless, foot-in-the-mouth, ethically challenged Joe Biden must be recalibrated as a sober and judicious wise man and all-knowing Yoda that smiles at, but does not embrace, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s puerility.

All that is a volatile drama that does not necessarily translate into a supposedly serious, measured, and calming alternative to the Trump presidency, which, after all, in 2020 will likely still have a solid record on the economy and a foreign policy of restored deterrence.

Hating the Most Loyal of Democrats
Valerie Plane was back in the news cycle a few weeks ago. The former CIA agent announced her bid as a Democratic candidate for Congress from New Mexico and opportunistically offered some context for her prior tweets that endorsed (“very provocative, but thoughtful. Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish . . . Read the entire article and try, just for a moment, to put aside your biases and think clearly”) an article titled, “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars.” The essay, inter alia, stated that Jews “own the media,” and embrace views that are as toxic as “a bottle of rat poison.”

About the same time, news reports noted that Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn continue to be attacked regularly on the street—and, when covered honestly, mostly by black and Latino youth.

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) offered an Ilhan Omar-like anti-Semitic riff that won sympathy from Democratic stalwarts such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), afraid that an Ocasio-Cortez-style candidate might primary him next year. Tlaib had been called out for her unhinged revisionist narrative that she had been proud of her Palestinian ancestors for offering sanctuary to Jews fleeing to the Holy Land from the Holocaust—a recognition that explained why Tlaib had offered that thoughts of the Holocaust had a “calming” effect on her.

Hoyer was angry that some literate Americans were angry at the illiterate Tlaib for suggesting the fascist efforts of Palestinian leaders of the 1940s, such as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, to destroy Jews not just in Palestine but in fact throughout the Middle East and beyond, had been recontextualized as support for doomed Jews.

I could go on, but the point is that in the age of Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Linda Sarsour, Keith Ellison, loud members of the Congressional Black Caucus (e.g., Rep. Hank Johnson and “termites”) and the not-to-be-forgotten Ilhan Omar, leftists are no longer shy about announcing their anti-Semitism. Far more importantly, the geriatric hierarchy of the Democratic Party has made a choice to go with the anti-Semitic progressive Left—thus Hoyer’s grandstanding and the recent failure of fossilized Democrats to pass a simple condemnation of Omar’s serial anti-Semitic views.

Such appeasement likely will only encourage more overt anti-Semitism. At some point, the Jewish community will realize the new, hard-left Democratic Party—especially its minority and youthful members—largely despise Israel. They resent Jews for infringing upon their monopoly victim status for daring to suggest the Holocaust was . . . well, the Holocaust. They conflate Jews with wealthy white privileged Western oppressors. By November 2020, the weekly anti-Semitic narratives and the appeasement of it might finally siphon off at least some of the traditional overwhelming Jewish support of the Democratic ticket.

The News Cycle
We do not know what the economy will be like in 2020. But there is little likelihood of roaring inflation and ascending interest rates.

For all the tariff frenzy, China remains far more vulnerable to the Trump showdown on trade than is the U.S. economy, which remains twice the size of China’s(achieved by a population one third its size), far more versatile, energy and food independent, and not dependent on technological theft and espionage. More importantly, even Democrats and Europeans know that China cheats in trade and America does not. China steals patents and copyrights and America does not. And no one yet has dared to call China out except Trump.

No one knows whether there will be war abroad or backlash at perceived failing U.S. foreign policy as we saw in 1979 and again in 2007. But Trump has understood two things about the world abroad and the American electorate: they do not like to be pushed around, to apologize, or to appease, and they do not want to invade, occupy, and nation-build another country, especially in the Middle East.

That paradox means that if an Iran or North Korea believes it can stage an incident to embarrass Trump during his 2020 reelection campaign, he will likely retaliate, but in a way that minimizes American exposure. For example, if Iran hijacks an American boat or lands a missile a few yards in front of a carrier, or puts a drone hole in an American flagged merchant ship, Trump will likely not invade Iran or try to convert it to democracy.

Nor will Trump ignore the attack. Nor will he respond at the point of contact. Rather he will likely bomb the base that launched the rocket or ship—and do it again and again in tit-for-tat fashion for each fresh assault.

Scandals, unpopular wars, and recessions sink presidencies and reelection efforts. The absence of them reelects incumbents.

Back to the 2016 Future
Trump is currently enjoying polls that are about equal to or better than where both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were at this juncture in their respective presidencies. His midterms were not as damaging as either of theirs. His record is substantial heading into 2020 where in 2016 it was nonexistent. Trump is polling at or above where he was when he won in 2016.

The press, the progressive machine, and the punditry are all writing Trump off in the manner they did last time, on the theory that lightning never dares to strike the aware, woke, and sophisticated twice. We are once more warned, as in 2016, that the size of Trump’s rallies, his zealous and enthusiastic supporters, and his animal energy and cunning matter little compared to sophisticated polling, esoteric analytics, and expert modeling of the Silicon Valley masters of the universe.

In contrast, few consider whether Trump will receive more minority votes than in 2016, whether he will raise more money, or whether the NeverTrump diehards are now irrelevant.

No “There” There
Hillary Clinton, for all her pathologies, was more or less an advertisement that Clinton, Inc. would return and continue the Obama agenda but with some attempt at centrism, and wink-and-nod old-girl machinations. In 2020, if Bernie Sanders or Beto O’Rourke or Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren is not nominated, it is likely that a Biden or Pete Buttigieg will have either an agenda or running mate that would make Joe Biden look circumspect.

If one is progressive and in dispassionate fashion calibrates the present Democratic field, and anticipates the likely quite different news cycle that is emerging post-Mueller, then one logically would escalate the rhetoric of “Trump should be impeached,” “Trump is a racist,” “Trump is a fascist,” “Trump is mentally ill,” and “Trump is a cheat.”

Otherwise, the Democrats and the media have nothing.

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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.