Trump Has Reason to Rage—But Needs to Stay Calm and Get Even Rather than Mad

Donald Trump gave one of his best and most conciliatory speeches of his political career after his win in the recent Iowa primaries—that might explain why the media would not cover it. Later, to answer an ad hoc ambush reporter’s question whether he would hold grudges, he emphatically said he did not.

Yet after his win in New Hampshire, Trump went ballistic at Nikki Haley’s earlier charges that he, rather than Joe Biden, was cognitively challenged, past his prime, and a perennial loser of popular votes.

In response, Trump shed his short-lived Iowa temperance. He went wholehog after Haley’s dress and her affectations and trashed her character. He tweeted that she was a “birdbrain,” and on and on.

For six years, observers have noted the disconnect between Trump’s stellar record of governance, his occasional sense of humor and even self-criticism—and his ad hominem venom that often turns off the 3-7 percent of the electorate in the suburbs who otherwise might vote for him.

Reasonable calls to tone it down by pundits, aides, and friends do not work with Trump, and perhaps for several understandable reasons.

One, Trump is reactive in his “they started it, I finish it” mode. His theory of deterrence is to be disproportionate in retort to eliminate future preemptive attacks. Almost all of Trump’s crudeness was in disproportionate response, sometimes even to minor offenses.

In such a world of Trump deterrence, if you do not relish a crude Trump, then don’t first talk about cutting off his head, blowing him up, stabbing him, shooting him, or lighting him on fire, or don’t spread lies like “Russian collusion,” “laptop disinformation,” or that the influence-selling Biden consortium was innocent of shaking down foreign interests for millions of dollars that were routed into the clan’s coffers.

To put it another way, remember how Barack Obama went ballistic over the yarns, often fueled by Trump himself, that he was born in Kenya (a mythos he himself fueled by allowing his book to be plugged as the work of a Kenyan-born, exotic-named author, e.g., “born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.”).

But what would a prickly Obama have done had right-wing prosecutors, mirror images of a Letitia James, Alvin Bragg, Fani Willis, or Jack Smith, indicted him over his garnering and intentionally not reporting the names of major contributors in 2008 (rather than the federal election commission taking five years to fine Obama $375,000 for what was essentially campaign fraud).

What would Obama have said or done had a federal prosecutor indicted him for bribery, extortion, or tax fraud over the illegal Tony Rezko lot deal? What would have been his reaction to his “wingman.” Eric Holder’s, being jailed for his refusal to obey a congressional subpoena (such a transgression may well earn both Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro jail sentences).

Trump was pilloried for the Russian collusion farce. But the reality was that the 2015-17 Russian collusion conspiracy farce was discussed and greenlighted in the West Wing by a lame-duck but knowledgeable Obama, who unleashed his FBI, CIA, and DOJ to do whatever, legal or not, it took to stop Donald Trump.

Currently, Donald Trump was just fined $83.3 by a left-wing New York jury presided over by a left-wing judge in a suit filed by a left-wing writer who was funded by a left-wing Silicon Valley billionaire—all possible because a left-wing state legislator had recently lifted the statute of limitations on allegations of sexual assault to allow three-decade-old charges like E. Jean Carroll’s to be refiled.

So Trump blew up and charged out of the courtroom, lost his cool in the courtroom, and hurt any slight chance he had to escape such an outrageous and politicized fine.
But again, note the surreal nature of the suit. Carrol cannot remember even the year in which she and Trump, she claims, ended up in a department store dressing room.
She was mistaken about the dress she wore on the day of the assault.
Long after the alleged assault, she praised Trump’s Apprentice as her favorite TV show.
She created an app game called Damn Love, described as: “You’re shown two people who are madly in love. Your object is to break them up. Shown a pair of options, you choose the ones more likely to stir up shit, given each person’s personality and proclivities, and the quicker you can make them split, the more you increase your evilness and rise through the ranks.
Carroll’s narrative about being sexually assaulted in a department store dressing room is eerily almost the identical narrative of a 2012 “Law & Order: SVU” episode that focused on an alleged sexual assault in the lingerie dressing room of the very same Bergdorf Goodman department store. Coincidence or inspiration?
And thus, to refute all the above, Trump was criminalized as a defamer and fined $83 million.
Under such rules of evidence and damages, what would Joe Biden have had to pay when his former senatorial aide, Tara Reade, accused him of a sexual assault, only to be widely defamed by legions of Biden’s left-wing flacks?
So much of Trump’s rage is an understandable reaction to the sustained, unhinged venom of the media and left.

Two, Trump’s base, unlike his other supporters, does not differentiate between Trump’s solid governance and his volatile character. They see what he does and says not as antithetical but complementary. Trump, in the base’s view, gets things done precisely because he displays open, unfiltered contempt for the swamp, the bipartisan political class, the globalists, and the media.

His 24/7 bellicosity, MAGA diehards feel, ensures he will always be hated by the media and establishment—and thus not compromised even if he wished to be. In other words, for MAGA, whom a president is despised by is more important than by whom he is liked. For the base, the role of a mercurial and disruptive Clinton Eastwood gunslinger is preferable to that of a jolly Roy Rodgers crooner.

Three, Trump is seen as the MAGA rabid pit bull, who, from time to time, is to be unleashed and pointed in the proper direction. For those who were smeared collectively and nonstop by Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or a late John McCain variously as clingers, deplorables, irredeemables, racists, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, chumps, dregs, semi-fascists, hobbits, bizarros, and crazies—and as smelly and toothless by the media—Trump is their payback.

Has a Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid, or Adam Schiff ever apologized to the nation for daily lying to the American people that the Biden family was never compromised by or profited from Hunter Biden’s skullduggery, that Christopher Steele’s dossier was authentic, that Hunter’s laptop was cooked up in Moscow, or that COVID sprung from a bat or pangolin?

So for the Trump voter, those nightly, serial lies had more deleterious consequences for the nation than a leaked Trump private conversation in which he supposedly said Haiti was a “sh-thole” country.

All of the above may explain, though not defend, what appears to the bicoastal elite and even many Trump supporters as irrational, if not self-destructive, behavior.

However, why Trump does what he does still does not address the central question of 2024—what is now in Trump’s own self-interest—and the country’s?

Before answering that question, most would object that it does not matter. Trump cannot help himself even if he tried, as if Heraclitus was right that a man’s nature is his fate (ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων, often loosely translated as “character is destiny”).

Yet there are reasons to suggest that Trump, in fact, could scale back the ad hominem invective.

One, in the past, he has been magnanimous and certainly did not go after enemies or subvert the levers of government in the manner of the Obama administration that weaponized the DOJ and had West Wing meetings, where the Steele dossier and Hillary Clinton’s subterfuge were openly condoned, if not abetted.

Two, the 2024 election is different from both 2016 and 2020. There is no longer a COVID ruse to change voting laws or conduct a surrogate campaign.

Instead, the left is open now about its intentions to put Biden on ice in his basement, outsource the campaign to handlers and the media, count on billions from big tech and finance to ensure 70 percent of swing state balloting is not on Election Day, and blast Trump as a January 6 insurrectionary and murderer of women in need of abortions.

They will seek to keep him off the ballot in dozens of states and coordinate four prosecutions to jail him during the campaign season. The near billion dollars infused into the election to alter voting laws in 2020 will be seen as child’s play in 2024.

More importantly, the country is imploding in 2024 in a way it was not in 2020, when there was still a border, deterrence abroad, coherent energy policies, deterrent police, and a semblance of the rule of law.

Now there is simply no margin of error.

To be elected, Trump will have to win the popular vote by at least 4-5 percent. What’s more, the error/rejection rate on mail-in/early balloting in most states will be a fraction of what it had been pre-COVID. 2020 taught us that the more purple states are flooded with massive non-election ballots under 2020 altered ballot rules, the more the normal rejection percent of unsubstantiated or illegal ballots declines.

Trump has an enormous responsibility in 2024 to stay calm, reach out, and get even rather than mad.

Why? For millions, he is now seen as the last and only obstacle to what more than half of America believes is the sustained, left-wing attempt to turn the nation into something unrecognizable—an imploding country of open borders, with two million illegal entries per year, racial separatism and tribal chauvinism, the end of deterrence abroad, soaring crime and homelessness, $35 trillion in debt with $2 trillion annual deficits, wars on natural gas and oil, and warping of the administrative state and the law to punish enemies and reward friends.

In sum, Trump should ignore Haley and his old vulture critics in the media and on the left as much as he can.

He must concentrate on the disaster of the Biden administration and reiterate nonstop the agendas of 2025 that will save us from tottering on the brink. That forbearance demands that he speak and campaign in the only way that can win the election: unite the Republican Party, the conservative movement, the MAGA base, independents, disaffected Democrats, minorities, and even Never Trumpers into an eleventh-hour coalition to stop the revolution in our midst before it consumes us all.

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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: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 27: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Big League Dreams Las Vegas on January 27, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump is campaigning in Nevada ahead of the state’s Republican presidential caucuses on February 8. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Notable Replies

  1. I understand Professor Hanson’s reasoning and his intentions, but I honestly don’t think anything Trump does–or doesn’t do–between now and November will make any difference. The elites / Ruling Class have made their decision to deny Trump the White House no matter the cost. However, the sticky wicket the elites have not thoroughly considered is that cost.

    In July of 2022, Compact Magazine published an article by Michael Anton titled, "They Can’t Let Him Back In". The last line of Anton’s excellent piece was summed up with this nugget; "I don’t know which possibility is scarier: that they haven’t thought any of this through, or that they have.

    My personal opinion is fear, loathing, greed, and an insatiable appetite for absolute power have so clouded the judgement of most, if not all, of the Ruling Class that in fact, they have not thought it through. Intoxicated by power, enraged that Trump defies them, and fearful that Trump might go after them as they already have against him, has blinded the elites to what they are about to unleash.

  2. As I have stated previously, the two main factions need a modus vivendi to win. This means that both factions should cool the rhetoric. They don’t need to like each other to work together to win. Neither side will win a purity contest.

  3. Avatar for Alecto Alecto says:

    Trump’s antics support criticisms that he, like Biden, is somewhere on the dementia spectrum. Younger voters reject both candidates based solely on age, and though this is unfair, when have politics been “fair”? Although Trump’s outbursts, unlike President Meat Puppet’s, are a natural response to the unrelenting and unjust assaults by the globalist elites in our government, and throughout every institution in this country, Americans as consumers of information are largely ignorant equating “News” with propaganda. One thing about Donald Trump, he is as unrelenting in his pursuit of his agenda as the entire globalist elite.

  4. Avatar for task task says:

    It’s willful blindness and what is even worse is that they seem not to care about the toys they are playing with in terms of biblical morbidity and death. Even worse is that they seem to want it like a moth drawn into a flame. At least the moth has a biological response - there is no guilt. These sickos are as demented as the terminally incurable insane.

  5. Here’s the deal. Trump stops raging the day that our Democratic friends stop calling Republicans racist-sexist-homophobes.

    After all, what is worse? The locker room or the racist bigotry?

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