Trump Needs to Scale
the Real Wall of 2020

Donald Trump is trying to break through a 2020 wall. 

By January 2019, after over three years of failed efforts to impeach him, sue him, indict him, impoverish him, and destroy him, the Left had failed. The economy was booming. Trump’s tweets were mostly bragging about his accomplishments. And the Left was dumbfounded that both impeachment and Mueller, in Nietzschean fashion, had only made Trump stronger.

Then came an unexpected trifecta catastrophe—plague, a quarantine-induced recession, and a leftist cultural revolution in the streets. Suddenly, the Left saw all of that as a gift that might succeed where its own self-constructed melodramas had failed.

By late May, Trump’s polls had dived. 

His enemies declared this time he was really, actually, truly finished. NeverTrumpers hit the media to boast they were finally redeemed. 

The discredited pollsters of 2016 reemerged, this time even convincing once-burned, never-again Las Vegas bookies that Trump was toast. Leftists, depressed over the progressive implosion in the Democratic primaries, now rebranded Joe Biden as a useful septuagenarian. He could carry them to victory before being pushed aside. 

Biden was put on ice, a virtual prisoner of the Democratic establishment, who gave him teleprompted messages and pre-canned interviews to stumble through on Skype. “Keep silent, keep hidden,” was the motto of Biden’s keepers.

Trump railed. He fumed. As a furious Achilles, he tweeted about the unfairness of it all—how he had defeated concocted attacks, but suddenly a virus from his nemesis China had unleashed sheer madness, with him as its target.

To get back on track, Trump almost alone became the defender of tradition under assault, of security, and safety. He deplored the statue toppling, the madness of cancel culture, the racial obsessions of the Black Lives Matter/Antifa cultural revolution. He praised America’s goodness and reminded the country it was good without having to be perfect. And still, the Left hobbled him. 

In truth, the media, the universities, and the Left by weaponizing plague, lockdown and riot had found a winning strategy. The mere threat of being called a “racist” in such a Reign of Terror climate could win over unlikely allies, abettors, and appeasers. Corporate America, the retired and serving four-star officer class, local and state government apparatchiks, and many terrified Republican politicians and pundits (hoping to be dismembered last by leftist wolverines) began pledging their allegiance to the Left or staying mum. 

In Hollywood, directors promised to begin calibrating their casts by race, or as the unabashed racialist director Jordan Peele recently put it, “I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie before.” According to this logic, I suppose a Latino NFL coach one day could say something similar, “I don’t see myself casting a black dude as the lead on my team. Not that I don’t like black dudes. But I’ve seen that team before.”

Suddenly, American CEOs shined the sneakers of rappers, on video no less. There were to be “black” and “white” national anthems played at NFL games. “Diversity training” would be rebooted as segregated white reeducation sessions in full Maoist style. In New York, all protests were dangerous to public health, except those of Black Lives Matter, as if the virus was political in its targeting.

The more Trump was bleeding out from a thousand such nicks, the more his enemies marshaled for the kill, and the more his political supporters hedged their bets. 

What then was Trump to do? Three things. 

Defend America

Trump already is starting to do the first superbly: stand up for America prior to May 25 (when George Floyd was killed), and tell Americans that in this 244th year of their existence, they will not cowardly renounce their heroes like Washington and Lincoln. Thomas Jefferson was not Jefferson Davis. 

They will not topple statues, like frenzied Taliban, in the dead of night. They will not reduce their rich history and traditions to “racism.” And they will not embrace McCarthyism and destroy lives and careers. 

But they will protect the Bill of Rights. They will honor dead Americans who bequeathed this current lucky generation the freest, the most secure, and the most prosperous nation in history. 

He might also remind the country that the United States is the beacon of freedom and anti-racism. Try naturalizing as a black citizen in China or South Korea. Try to become a white Christian citizen of Pakistan. Try living as a Catholic Latino in Saudi Arabia. Try opening a private roadside canteen in Cuba or Venezuela. Try founding a Jewish or Buddhist temple or evangelical church in Iran or Turkey. Try dealing with the police in Somalia or Sudan. Try rallying against illegal immigration, radical Islam, the European Union, or wind and solar power in Germany.

A Contact, A Plan, A Blueprint

Second, Trump cannot just talk of his pre-virus administration. He can of course remind Americans that he knows how to resume the booming economy as the virus wanes. He is right to remind us that he did close the border and is now making good progress on the wall. Given China’s culpability, he is justified in reminding the country that his lone voice was prescient in warning of the multifarious dangers emanating from the Chinese Communist Party. He did deregulate and expand our energy resources. All that by 2021 will help restore prosperity.  

But that is now, unfortunately, ancient history for a terrified public assuming a fetal position in the face of a public health threat. The swing voters, independents, and purple-staters are framing their 2020 choice in the stark terms of  who will “make it all go away.” They want a magical end to the virus, the quarantines, the violence, the hate, and the division. And at this point, they want near-divine interventions to do all that and more. 

But in November, less than four months from now, rightly or wrongly, they will see their choices both rationally and emotionally. 

Tweeting cannot be about the past, but only the present and future. Trolls, washed-up celebrities, know-nothing pampered athletes, and hack leftists don’t deserve mention in the campaign’s final 100 days.

For now, some swing voters are in paralyzed despair. They believe if BLM, Antifa, the media, the Left, the universities, the corporations, the military, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street just get Joe Biden, perhaps they will put an end to the furor. 

Perhaps the anarchy and chaos will just go away if Trump does too. The leftwing victors, in theory, could be magnanimous and their frenzy was just over Trump, not over America itself. 

Of course, not all swing voters are not so dumb. They rightly suspect that eventually there will be a terrible price to pay for such a superficial calm. But right now, in the dead of contagion and lockdown, with “racists!” under every bed, they are willing to give in to surrender and win the pseudo-calm of cultural defeat. 

About half of swing voters, however, remain defiant. They want no more apologies; in lieu of just another defense of America, they want a plan to go forward and make it even more prosperous and secure. 

To win these swing-state voters, Trump needs to offer a blueprint for 2020 that builds upon his proven 2016 economic restoration. 

But he must address the causes of the current turmoil in terms of solutions to many of the root causes of the current chaos. 

First, Trump, the builder, can outline a renaissance effort to reconfigure infrastructure, especially in light of the failed high-density, mass transit, high-rise progressive model that proved a feeding trough for the contagion—and will again when the next Chinese virus arrives. 

A far better alternative is to diversify our demography and to reboot smaller cities and towns, along with reconnecting to rural living. America’s small towns are underpopulated, while big cities of plague, protests, and panic are overpopulated, overpriced, and overpopularized. We could start by ensuring rural spaces high-speed internet (still unavailable as I can attest in the rural center of supposedly high-tech California), a repair of our crumbling interstate freeway system, and completion of the long-planned highways, reservoirs, bridges and transmission lines that were canceled over the last 50 years in the elite green-era madness of “small is beautiful.” 

The crisis of the inner city is not just the erosion of the black family, high crime, fatherless children, dismal schools, cynically concentrated abortion clinics, racism, and tribalism, but the old nemesis of segregation. Black families should have the alternative of moving out of Chicago or Baltimore into smaller towns and the countryside, where race far more easily becomes incidental, not essential, to one’s persona. 

Second, he needs to create a task force to deal with the next epidemic—and we can be sure that there will be one, given China’s realization of how easily it went from global goat responsible for the veritable murder of hundreds of thousands, to an unrepentant and terrifying bully who might do it again unless concessions are made. 

Such a plan would entail a national board of medical experts including front-line doctors who do not work for government; a national stockpile of protective equipment and medicines; a graduated plan of quarantine, with red/yellow/green phases known to the public in advance; and national standards that define viral lethality, define cases of infection, and evaluate dispassionately possible treatments.

Third, of course, people need liquidity now. And the mega-deficits for the present have staved off depression. But the public is terrified of the aggregate debt that is now nearing $30 trillion. It is serviceable only by perennially zero-interest rates that themselves warp the economy. Trump could dust off the recommendations of the now old and forgotten Simpson-Bowles commission, update them, and remind Americans that a restored economy, not a depression, will soon be the time to control spending and avoid financial Armageddon. 

Fourth, in some sense, higher education fueled this entire frenzied refutation of all that is good about America—the attacks on its founders, its history, icons, music, and culture. The quarantine pulled away the curtain of campus overcharging and showed the public that tele-teaching does not require a vast overhead of counselors, facilitators, and busybodies. The ways universities treat guest lecturers, use star-chamber proceedings against their own students, and stifle free expression explain much of the present street violence and cancel culture. Constitutional protections were under relentless assault for a half-century by a leisured and exempt class of professors and administrators who fed venom to an indebted and now embittered generation of lower-middle-class youth, who lack all the material opportunities of those who radicalized them. 

Large endowments over a specified size should have their interest and stock income taxed. The federal government should no longer guarantee student loans, but shift their bonding to vocational schools, where training is quicker, and will lead to a sustainable wage. The argument for a well-rounded liberal education for half the country’s youth was the university’s selling point, but when it junked that idea and replaced it with indoctrination, so went any obligation of the government and people to subsidize their own extinction. Teaching credentials and the school of education should have no monopoly on K-12 education; master’s degrees in academic subjects should also certify teachers. Federal aid to higher education should be predicated on guaranteed campus adherence to the Bill of Rights. 

Fifth, the ghost of Joe Biden: Trump need not be cruel but remind the country that Joe Biden is not really a candidate. He is a wraith, a specter. Trump must remind America he is not running any more against even the facsimile of Biden, but rather against an entire socialist cultural revolution—a pirate ship with Joe Biden no more than its carven wooden figurehead.

Restoration 2021

Finally, Trump needs to emphasize not just the efficacy of his administration but its effects on real people. 

In truth, he needs to eschew “I” and substitute “we.” A record low percent black unemployment rate? That translated into job seekers having leverage over employers and with it dignity and value. Gas prices falling due to expanded oil production? That means the minimum wage worker can afford her commute. Returning industry? That means more clout, honor, and a good living for an unemployed middle-aged worker in Ohio and Michigan, and less fuel for the Chinese Communist Party.

Tweeting cannot be about the past, but only the present and future. Trolls, washed-up celebrities, know-nothing pampered athletes, and hack leftists don’t deserve mention in the campaign’s final 100 days. 

Ignore them all and focus on Restoration, 2021—and how the president has a detailed plan to focus on all classes and races, while reminding us of what we owe the dead and all that they have given us.

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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.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

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