Victor Davis Hanson:
Why do the angry white poor and working class support the unlikely populist Donald Trump — a spoiled bully who made and lost fortunes in part by gaming the system, who seems to take gratuitous rudeness and cruelty as a birthright, whose lifestyle is symptomatic of American excess, and who for the last half-century has embraced no ideology other than Trump, Inc.?
Perhaps it’s because Trump is a phantasm. He is not a flesh-and-blood candidate judged as crude or acceptable on the basis of the usual criteria. His attraction rests on about 100 sound bites over the last year that shattered taboos and attacked elite sacred cows, in a manner that no candidate has done in the past — or is likely to do in the future. Trumpism is nihilism. A reckless Trump had no political career or social capital to lose, unless one thinks that The Apprentice discriminates against the outrageous and crass, or that the New York real-estate industry blackballs prevaricators.
His supporters would prefer to lose with Trump than win with a sober and judicious politician such as Jeb Bush or Paul Ryan. If Trump or Hillary is elected as a result of white-middle-class furor or abdication, the Republican establishment pays either way. Trump’s constituents see him as their first and last chance at getting back at their enemies and, more importantly, the enablers of their enemies. Trump is a gladiator, and his supporters are shrieking, thumbs-down spectators. Sheathing his blood-stained blade would empty the stadium and put him back on The Apprentice. Does a Kim Kardashian suddenly stop flashing her boobs on YouTube in worry over what others might think?
Trump is not so much appealing to the ethnic prejudices of the white poor and working class, or playing on their perceived resentments of the Other. It’s more that he, a crass member of the elite (“It takes one to know one”), is resonating with their deep dislike of the hypocrisies of the white elite, both Republican and Democratic. Middle-class whites should be outraged at the cruel and gross manner in which Trump insulted John McCain and Megyn Kelly, but they are not. Perhaps, if asked, they would prefer to have the latter pair’s money and power if the price was an occasional little slapdown from Donald Trump. What they see as outrageous is not Trump’s crude “Get out of here” to Spanish-language newscaster Jorge Ramos, but rather the multimillionaire dual-citizen Ramos predicating his con on a perpetual pool of non–English speakers, many of whom have broken federal immigration law in a way a citizen would not dare break the law on his tax return or DMV application. For an angry Arizonan, ridiculing “low energy” Jeb is not as crude as Jeb’s own crude “act of love” description of illegal immigration. An act of love for exactly whom?
What is the perceived white elite? Perhaps a Hillary Clinton raking in $300,000 per half hour at UCLA or shaking down Wall Street for $600,000, even as she pontificates on privilege and the dangers of racism (obviously embraced, in her view, by whites other than those of her class). Or a Chelsea Clinton deprecating the attraction of riches, as her Wall Street internships and marriage perpetuate the Clinton model of pay-for-play enrichment — all to be camouflaged by professions of progressive empathy. Or an elite media that snores when an ex-president of the United States jumps on the private plane of convicted child-assaulter Jeffrey Epstein for a trip to his fantasy island. Or a former anti-government “conservative” congressman who hangs around Washington and mysteriously becomes a multimillionaire leveraging his past government service. Our popular culture is one of Pajama Boy, Mattress Girl, and the whiny, nasal-toned young metrosexual with high-water pants above his ankles and horn-rimmed glasses who “analyzes” on cable news. Is it any wonder that millions sympathized with the heroism of Benghazi’s middle-class defenders rather than with the contortions of the far better-educated, smoother, more sensitive, and wealthier Rhodes scholar Susan Rice, novelist Ben Rhodes, or former First Lady Hillary Clinton?
Whom do these sometimes incoherent Trump supporters likely despise? I would wager anyone who has never been sideswiped in a hit-and-run by an illegal-alien driver but lectures others on why “illegal alien” is a racist term; anyone who has lucrative government employment and whose job description does not exist in the poorer-paying private sector; any politician or his appendage who somehow became quite wealthy on a GS salary in Washington; anyone who makes more than $50 an hour and lectures others on why the country is going broke and must tighten its belt; anyone who sermonizes on free trade and knows few people who ever lost jobs through outsourcing; anyone who freely uses the word “white” in a way and context that he would never use “black” or “Latino”; or anyone who hires someone else to clean his house, watch his kids, and take care of his yard, and then lectures others on their illiberality.
Trump is a dangerously effective classic demagogue not because the working white poor are empty-vessel racists, but rather because he has split white America along class lines and has, among the Republicans, who are already the minority party, opened a self-destructive Pandora’s box of white resentments toward wealthy whites who use their education, family ties, networks, income, and money to leverage privilege while caricaturing or deprecating poor and middle-class whites. Poorer whites can live with the perceived injury of the well-connected and well-educated white elite capitalizing on the age of globalization, of huge and bankrupt government, and of politically correct multiculturalism, but not with the perceived insults that are central to the elite career and psyche. In an age of La Raza (“The Race”) and (only) Black Lives Matter, how exactly did the Republican establishment think the white working classes would eventually react to the new hyphenated America? With a week’s escape to Provincetown or commiseration at a B-list D.C. party? Tribalism for thee, but not for me?
“White privilege” is now a catchword for advantages supposedly enjoyed by roughly 70 percent of the population. Forget for a moment the inexactness of the term “white” in an increasingly interracial and intermarried society in which millions are of mixed ancestry and cannot be pegged by superficial appearance as fitting into any one racial category. Forget as well the careerism of the diversity industry, emblemized by the embarrassing but profitable ruses of an Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal, or Ward Churchill (none of whom faked a pedigree of a sympathetic poor Hungarian or Bosnian refugee). And forget the lies — such as “Hands up, don’t shoot” or George Zimmerman as the “white Hispanic” — necessary to paper over the contradictions of racial tribalism. Concentrate instead on the growing industry of caricaturing whites in popular culture.
There are two characteristics common to popular uses of the term “white”: It is almost always used pejoratively, and it is mostly voiced by elites of all backgrounds — and usually as a slur against the white working and “clinger” classes. So “the Latino vote” reflects shared aspirations; “the white vote” merely crude resentment. Those who benefit from affirmative action are not privileged, but those who do not certainly are. Whites cling in Neanderthal fashion to their legal rifles; inner-city youth hardly at all to their illegal handguns. Buying a jet-ski on credit is typical redneck stupidity; borrowing $200,000 to send a kid to a tony private university from which he will graduate more ignorant and arrogant than when he enrolled is wise. White “evangelicals” are puzzling for their crude hypocrisies; not so the refined paradoxes of Congregationalists and Episcopalians. Smoking is self-destruction, while injecting a strain of botulism toxin into your face is not self-mutilation.
Oh jeeze this is what the elites have to work with, this from an hour long interview with Donald about his Policies.
Could Hannity (while looking deeply into Dons eyes and just short of holding hands)get 1 answer from him in an hour…you be the judge.
Curt, if you don’t stop with the incessant, constant, establishment propaganda against Trump, I will stop coming to this site. I’m been a daily visitor for ages (10 years or so, I think), and for the first time I feel that the editors here have become Democrats – or establishment GOP Republicans (there is no difference anymore).
I’m sick of this shit. The country is going straight into the toilet, and the GOP’s main worry seems more about abortion and ensuring that the status quo remains unchanged. The power base in DC must remain in Washington…
We so desperately need a constitutional convention called by the states. It’s the only thing that might possibly save us. Otherwise, I am pretty sure that in 20 years the US will be a 3rd-rate economy – a 21th century version of what happened to Argentina a century ago.
For those who don’t remember, Argentina was one of the world’s most powerful economies 100 years ago. What happened? The central government grew dramatically, the economy become over-regulated, Huge social programs were put in place. Everything started going south from there.
@Dreadnought: The convention of States is the only way to reestablish the republic, Senator Lee is having a difficult time with the old boys in the Senate they don’t want to give up committee seats that have term limits. The conservatives we elected that would press the issues we put them in office to do, are being held back by the old boys that continue to fold like wet napkins to the Obama agenda. We should be paying close attention to our State elections and finding fighters there to send to Washington and keep our majorities.
I thought Hanson had a lot of good things to say.
The more I see HRC–Bernie–Cruz–Trump—the better I like Kasich-He’s certainly best qualified and presents his sensible and researched positions in a statesman like manner. He’s moving up in N.Y could get 30% Predict he’ll win or be close 2nd to Cruz in California and stop Trump right here..