Published July 12, 2017 | By Victor Davis Hanson
Celebrities, academics, and journalists have publicly imagined decapitating Donald Trump, blowing him up in the White House, shooting him, hanging him, clubbing him, and battering his face. They have compared him to Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. And some have variously accused him of incestuous relations with his daughter and committing sex acts with Vladimir Putin .
Yet all this is alleged to be the singular dividend of Trump’s own crudity, as if his own punching back at critics created such uncharacteristic venom.
In truth we are back to 2004-2008, when the Left did to George W. Bush what it is now doing to Donald Trump.
Assassination? . . . Alfred A. Knopf published Nicholson Baker’s novel, Checkpoint, about characters fantasizing how to kill Bush.
Hate? . . . Do we remember the delusions of Howard Dean, who foamed, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for”?
Even decapitation chic is not new. After Bush left office, his detached head appeared on a stake in an episode of “Game of Thrones”; had they tried the same with Barack Obama, the hit show would have gone off the air.
Yet there is one difference. The Bush Administration went high as progressives went low, and thus chose not to respond in kind. The result was that a battered Bush left office demonized.
The difference with Trump hatred is Trump’s singular counter-punching. It may not be traditionally presidential, but the Trump mode is to nuke those who first attacked him in an effort to create a sort of deterrence. CNN, to take one example, Trump in Samson fashion is quite willing to pull the temple down on top of himself, if it means his enemies perish first.
Trump’s agenda is an encapsulation of various conservative initiatives of prior presidents. His emphases on energy development hark back to the Nixon-Ford-Carter dream of “energy independence.” Long before Barack Obama’s precious “We can’t just drill our way out of the problem,” there were presidential efforts to promote fossil fuel autonomy.
Trump, however, may become the first president to make it actually occur.
His efforts to end illegal immigration are similar to what Bill and Hillary Clinton used to promise. Americans approve of ending illegal immigration and deporting illegal aliens who have committed crimes or ignored past requests for court appearances.
Trump is trying to resurrect Reagan’s radical tax cuts and deregulation. When traditional liberal stimuli—huge annual deficits, near-zero interest, and massive federal spending—fail to achieve 3 percent economic growth, it is time to try free-market alternatives rather than more of the same.
In matters of race, sex, and religion, the old liberal idea was to encourage assimilation, integration, and intermarriage—the melting pot idea of Martin Luther King, Jr., who emphasized the irrelevance of skin color in comparison to the content of our characters.
Trump is a traditionalist as well as a conservative. Trump is hated not because he is proposing radical new solutions, but because he believes that the last eight years were deviant and not characteristic of the American experiment.
The Democrats Are the Extremists – Not Trump. What was radical was not Trump’s immigration agenda but Obama’s earlier efforts to nullify federal immigration law while promoting sanctuary cities that openly defied the federal government in the antebellum nullification style of 19th-century South Carolina.
Again, what is radical is the Democrat mantra that Americans owe allegiance to their particular tribe first, and second, if at all, to the shared commonwealth.
The typical Democrat gambit of painting Republicans as out-of-touch rich people has not worked because Trump has marketed himself as a populist intent on restoring small-town, rural, inner-city, and forgotten America.
No Democrat politician has used “our miners, our farmers, our vets”, or ever talked of fair trade in terms of the individual in need of a job and respect rather than big-time unions and donors to the Democrat Party.
Trump may be a Manhattan billionaire, but he connects with the lower middle-classes in a far more natural fashion than did either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Trump can be vicious to elites, but it is difficult to imagine him writing off millions of Americans as hopelessly irredeemable and deplorable or pathetic clingers to their guns and religion.
Some criticize Trump’s renegotiation of trade deals as protectionist, or his efforts not to get in another ground war in the Middle East as isolationist, or his promise to close the border and make immigration strictly a legal and meritocratic enterprise as restrictionist or nativist.
But the critics cannot argue that such proposals do not have majority public support.
It will be harder to demonize Trump largely because his entire message is aimed at the old base of the Democrat Party, the working classes of the red states in between the affluent coastal blue corridors.
Trump can be blunt, but then so was Barack Obama when he called for supporters to get in the faces of opponents, to punish “enemies” at the polls, and to take guns to knife fights—while lecturing Americans about their laziness and high-horse Christianity or blinkered efforts to cling to their guns and religion.
It Isn’t Trump Who Is Doomed to Fail – It’s His Haters. Almost every Trump initiative—more energy development, tax reform, deregulation, an end to illegal immigration, luring capital and jobs back into the United States, renegotiating trade deals, realist deterrence abroad, and mockery of political correctness—earns wide public approval.
Trump isn’t running in a vacuum. He is competing against two quite unpopular entities. The media and the new progressive Democrat Party are the not the Democrat pathway to rebuilding the blue wall.
Trump has so positioned himself that most attacks on his agenda reflect the parochial concerns of privileged progressives rather than those of hoi polloi.
Every time a MSNBC talking head, a NeverTrump New York pundit, an identity politics functionary, a Hollywood celebrity, a campus Pajama Boy, a Silicon Valley master of the universe, or a Democrat functionary attacks Trump, he ends up sounding either snobbish, hypocritical, or parochial—and thereby energizes the Trump populist message.
For now, Democrats are running against Trump the messenger who supposedly has lowered the bar on presidential behavior; they cannot run against his message, largely because they have none of their own.
Meanwhile, the Trump agenda is both popular and seen as a return to what used to be the normal way Americans governed themselves.
Separate Trump the president from Trump the media ogre, and then most of his policies seem traditionally conservative, logical, popular, a return to normality, and a much needed corrective to the past eight years, which is the true lost era.
What is weird is that just possibly Trump might succeed because of, not despite, who he is.
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.