Victor Davis Hanson joins Brian Anderson to discuss the 2020 election, the future of America’s two main political parties, the Trump administration’s foreign policy record, Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks, and more.
Audio for this episode is excerpted and edited from a Manhattan Institute eventcast. Find out more and register for future events by visiting our website, and subscribe to MI’s YouTube channel to view previous discussions.
Brian Anderson: Good afternoon. I'm Brian Anderson, the editor of City Journal. I'm very happy to join you all today with my friend, Victor Davis Hanson, one of the preeminent thinkers of our time and a long time contributing editor to City Journal. I know many of you have been eager for us to feature Victor at an event, so here it is.
Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute. He's a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, and he's the author of more than two dozen books, including Carnage and Culture, The Savior Generals, and more recently, The Second World Wars and last year was The Case for Trump.
He writes regularly for the National Review and for countless other publications, including City Journal. He's a frequent Fox news contributor, and he's featured on two podcasts, the Victor Davis Hanson podcast with National Review's, Jack Fowler, and Hoover's The Classicist, in which he talks with Troy Senik.
And if all that weren't enough, he continues to operate his family farm outside Selma, California, where I once had the great pleasure of visiting him. Victor's a former Wriston prize recipient, and he's received the nation's highest honor in the humanities, the National Humanities Medal. So thanks for joining us today, Victor.
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you.
Brian Anderson: Great pleasure to have you and to see you, if only virtually. We'll have a 40 minute or so discussion followed by questions from the audience and for the audience please submit your questions as we go along on whatever platform you're using. So, let me start with what's on everybody's mind. I think as this election, like 2016, revealed, America is a very polarized country and it's a polarization that's political, it's cultural, and now increasingly geographical.
You've written a lot for us and in a number of your books about the kind of tension and even conflict between the rural and the urban. How do you see that divide going forward in the United States. It's divided cities, especially coastal cities and their voters against folks on urban areas. What are the full implications?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I'm very worried because I think those trends that you talk about and that I wrote for you at City Journal had been accentuated by the lockdown. By that I mean, we've created false multiplying effects of the Zoom culture of people who are ensconced like I have been in my farm and really haven't suffered a large economic hit versus the people that serve us.
That is the Amazon delivery people that have to take risk with the virus to the degree that they do or people who are out there with small businesses or barber shops or gyms or coffee shops. And then more importantly under our federal system, there are people in red States who feel that once the citizenry is apprised of the dangers that they're adult enough to make their own decisions and the blue States have had different policies.
I'm speaking from California where we cannot celebrate Thanksgiving inside with more than people from three different families. We have to wear a mask inside and we have to have our bathrooms cleansed, we were told every 15 minutes. This is a state, remember, that on the jubilation that Biden's victory had thousands of people take to the streets in our major cities and then of course, all summer long as well after George Floyd's death.
So I think the lockdown the virus has accentuated this idea of two cultures. And as I said earlier, we have ideological differences, but globalization enriched cities like New York or Boston with windows on the EU and Europe. And then where I am with windows on Shanghai or Seoul or Tokyo and outsourcing, offshoring and displacement of windows, you hurt everybody in between.
And anytime you have an ideological or political difference accentuated by geography, we haven't had that except during the Civil War. You and I grew up, Brian, we remember that there was this old coalition on the Republican side between farm states and Pennsylvania, or even New York. And then there were New Englanders voting in concert with Southern Democrats under the Roosevelt to Johnson coalition. But that's over with now. It's the red interior, that's the vast majority of the territory of the United States. And then when you adjusted for population balloons pop up based on population and we're half and half.
Brian Anderson: Yeah. Relatedly, I wonder if you agree with some of these observers who think we're in the midst of a ... and this is perhaps a more positive development and national political realignment. So Democrats they've long hoped that demographic change is going to play solely to their advantage going forward, but Donald Trump in this election surprised many by improving his minority support especially among Hispanics in Texas and in Florida.
So you do have leading politicians, perhaps future presidential candidates like Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, who are now proclaiming the GOP to be the party of the working class. So I wonder how do you see the future of the two parties playing out in the next decade? Is that development going to continue with the GOP representing more of a working class constituency or how do you see that?
Victor Davis Hanson: It's very important because when you talk about recalibration of constituencies, what we're basically talking and who gets the middle-class, because if we vote by race, say white males they are only 35% of the population. The entire black population is only 12%. Entire Hispanic are somewhere from 10% to 15%.
But when you talk about the middle class, we're talking about 60% of the population. So whoever can capture that class constituency that even transcends race, they're going to win. Traditionally the democratic party always started the election both in the electoral college and generally in the voting with advantages because they were the lunch-bucket party.
But what's happened now is, it's really interesting for the Republicans because it's happening simultaneously with the Democrats and the Republicans. It's not just the Republicans, it's the Democrats who do not like the middle class and they don't like the idea that you have to have industry and carbon and fracking.
They don't like school choice or any of these issues, so it's a boutique party of the two coasts and the subsidized very poor. And in that vacuum, the Trump Make America Great agenda has said, "We're now for people who have legitimate worries about the social direction of the progressives." They're not comfortable with unlimited abortion. They're not comfortable with the dismantling of the second amendment. They're not comfortable with the public schools and teachers unions, but they have a nationalist populous agenda and that means we want fair rather than free trade. We want legal immigration only and secure borders because otherwise wages are driven down and identity politics fragments the body politic.
We want to have a reset with China. We don't want to have the continue idea that we give concessions, concessions, concessions, and then they're supposed to democratize as they get wealthier and we get poor, et cetera, et cetera. So that's been very welcomed for the Republicans because they're getting the middle-class that was given to them on the platter by the Democrats.
And the only danger in these coalitions and these transformations is, do you offend somebody by appealing to somebody else? Well, the Democrats offended the middle-class by being a party of Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, professional sports, et cetera, because those are liabilities in political terms.
But the Republicans only have to worry about, are they going to alienate their caricature to aristocratic, golf course, oligarch whatever term the left use of wealthy republicanism. The Romneyism party. And I don't think they are. I know there's a never Trump segment, but a lot of conservative white successful business people are perfectly happy to close the border and to recalibrate with China and to do a lot of stuff. The agenda in other words is not antithetical to what they see themselves as as Republicans.
Brian Anderson: You just alluded to this, but the nexus of what you might call progressive power seems to have expanded, certainly has expanded in the Trump years. So instead of oppressed that was bias toward the left, as conservatives have long complained about, you've now got a media that views itself almost unapologetically as an advocacy for a social justice crusader. And now even more striking, you have these social media platforms, which have started to abandon the idea of really being platforms, neutral platforms and they've openly started in this election cycle to shadowban and sensor opinion and arguments that don't reflect the consensus worldview of people who work for these tech companies, which 99% of political donations from Silicon Valley go to the Democrats on some estimates.
So how do you see that nexus of progressive political power developing further? And what do conservatives people on the right do to fight this development?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, that's a big question. It's very dangerous. I'll give you an example. I was very upset about the Stanford University Daily Newspaper, that attacks Scot Atlas and myself for having conservative views basically. I sent a letter and they said, "You have to have a hyperlink for every story so one this ... for every point you make."
So one of the things I said was affidavits have come in alleging voter fraud, and there had been lawsuits, both true. It doesn't mean that the election was changed necessarily, but I just did the hyperlink. When I went on to Google to find affidavits or lawsuits, I had to go through, I don't know, 80, 90 hits. And they were things like Reuters, AP, New York Times, all of them, the marquee labels that a venue would like. And what do they say? Fake affidavits, fake affidavits, fake affidavits, fake affidavit, fake lawsuits, fake law.
And then you get down to a local TV station in Pennsylvania says that all of these affidavits are pretty accurate because people saw this. So there's a nexus between the bias media and then the way that, that is again, force multiplied by Twitter, Facebook, Google.
And then we're in a 360 degree chamber panopticon, because as I said, you have the Hollywood stars, Robert De Niro, there's all these guys coming out and congratulating your Governor, Cuomo on his great press conferences, which were deceitful to say the least. And then you've got LeBron James and the NBA talking to the Pope the other day about injustice in the United States.
None of them, by the way wearing masks, which they told us we have to do. And then you've got the network news. You've got New York Times print media. And when you add the wealth of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, you can see why Republican congressional and senatorial and Donald Trump were outspan about two and a half to one.
So that's a lot of levers of influence and power to overcome. And what do we have on ... In opposition to that we have things like the Manhattan Institute, supposedly the Hoover Institution, but the Supreme Court maybe Talk Radio, but even there, these pressures are so insidious. I can tell you that even where I'm identified, and I don't mean that in a snotty way, but just as a conservative, even in conservative institutions like National Review or the Hoover Institution, there are enormous pressures on them.
And so conservatives, even when they say they're conservative, these social cultural forces are so... And they're insidious and they're implicit, but they do change people's minds. So it's very hard to find people who are conservative that are proud of it and are willing to take the career hazards that come with it.
Brian Anderson: This is another related question, we've written a lot at City Journal over the years and at the Institute about the growth of the bureaucratic state, the administrative state as a kind of freedom eroding force. And this is not a new problem. I recently read a book from the mid sixties on the history of Congress by James Burnham, one of the founding writers of National Review, and it's a long chapter on the emergence of a permanent bureaucracy. It's just this kind of a threat.
And you've written in your books about how great empire political powers tend to create deep States. We've certainly, I think seen evidence of this in the resistance administratively to the Trump administration. A perfect example of this revelation a couple of weeks ago that Senior Department of Defense officials were hiding the true level of our true engagement in Syria from the president.
And the Washington Post's defense correspondent then takes to Twitter to endorse and laugh about this deception. What's your view about the growth of the administrative state, its role over the last four years, and can anything really be done to diminish its influence?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, it's part of the arsenal that we talked about just a second ago of forces that are progressive in nature, and these are the unelected and they're not accountable. And you mentioned this latest deception about true strength. Remember that's how the administration ended, but it began by another defense operative, I think her name was Evelyn Farkas. And she bragged on CNN that in the last days of the Obama administration they were desperately trying to change security clearances to give more classified information to as many people as they could to get out things about Donald Trump i.e. this will facilitate leaks.
And then when you add in the anonymous person that we were told was a high administration official, I think that was September 5th, 2018, that op-ed, the New York Times and everybody from Erik Clinesmith that allegedly altered a document for the FISA court to the so-called whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
We were never allowed to show his relationship with other people within that apparate. So it's everywhere, it's insidious and they're much more dangerous than were the Versailles apparate checks under Louis the 14th or the Spanish bureaucracy at the LS Coral under the 18th century heyday of the Spanish empire. Or even the clerks under Justinian at Byzantine. He got rid of them. I won't tell you how, because I'm not suggesting that remedy. But the point I'm making is, that there's always an administrative state but this administrative state had not been as powerful.
Partly it was after world war II, partly it was the Johnson Great Society. But we have millions of state federal local workers and they're emboldened to bigger government and higher taxes for limited self-interest. But there's a cultural ethos that permeates these offices that says America's past is questionable and we have to have a quality of result, whether an opportunity, and anybody who's a Republican and the suspect in their edict should not be taken seriously.
And how do we get through it? I think we have to really look at some of the 19th century civil service laws. It suggests that people can act with impunity or federal prosecutors can try to destroy somebody by threatening and threatening or filing multiple lawsuits of the sort of things that we know happened to Scooter Libby or Conrad Black or Michael Flynn.
So is a multi-facet idea and we can see it everywhere. And the administrative state here in California was very diverse groups. It can be the La Raza ethnic pressure groups or it can be the Sierra club on force policy, but they don't consult conservative or independent bodies nearly as frequently, if at all.
Brian Anderson: Here's a question from one of the viewers, Carmen Flaps, he refers to an article you wrote back over in the summer, How Cultural Revolutions Die or Not for National Review. And he says he finds the point illustrated in the article of cultural revolution and transformations that they need a kind of figurehead or cruel political leader in order to survive. He found that insightful.
He asks, how do you see the Make America Great movement existing beyond Trump, who was its figurehead? Is there a Trumpism possible without Donald Trump himself leading political drive?
Victor Davis Hanson: I think there is. I mean, we don't talk anymore about the parole voter because parole is gone or the Reagan Democrat because Reagan's gone, but we emerged under different auspices there. They came back under, I suppose, the Tea Party and then the Tea Party didn't have a charismatic single leader, but that movement came back onto the MAGA Movement.
And so what we're really talking about is there a conservative, social, cultural movement that can be grafted on almost I should say, within the Republican party and change it on the key issues. We're not talking about refashioning an entire Republican Party. One of the ironies of the Never Trump people were that they could not stand Trump's supposedly smelly fingerprints or dirty fingerprints on all of their issues.
So they disagreed with him on the key MAGA issues, i.e optional interventions in the middle East or China policy or tariffs and suspicion of free rather than fair trade, re-industrialization. They surely were mostly on record for fracking and first amendment and second amendment, at least they weren't when Trump came. So, it's a refashioning, it's not a break completely with the Republican Party. And the question is, we'll see very quickly, Brian, because this January 5th election, everything is up for grabs, not just control of the Senate, but whether we're going to change policies or change the way we make policies by packing the court or getting rid of the electoral college or the filibuster or whatever, and that ... It's going to be a seminal election.
Then I don't think the Republicans can win those two seats unless they're completely united and Donald Trump goes down there in mid or early December. Has a lot of rallies does not whine about the unfairness dealt to him in the election, but says in the Jacksonian fashion, "This isn't over. We're not going to get mad. We're going to get even. We're going to take these two seats, and then we're going to take the House. We're going to expand the Senate, and then we're going to have the MAGA agenda take over in the way Jackson came back." And we'll see whether that means he's a King maker or that he's going to run again himself.
I will say that when you look at what people in the Republican party who have been identified as possible running candidates that might run in 2024, whether it's Nikki Haley or Tom Cotton, or Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz, or little bit newer fate Governor Noem in South Dakota or any of these others. Mike Pompeo.
I can't see any daylight at all between the Trump agenda and their own. And in case of the former candidates, they've had to make a lot of contortions in the majority of sense or in the positive sense adjustments. So anybody that goes down to Georgia and wants to barnstorm the state as a preview of their own viability in 2024, and starts to say things like, "Let's get rid of the wall," or, "Let's have open borders," or, "We need a new detente with China."
Or, "You know what? I think we just better drop the NATO issue on contributions," or "Let the free market creative destruction adjudicate what happens in Flint, Michigan, or Youngstown, Ohio." or "I think we really need to go and intervene right now in Syria" or something like that. I just don't think that's going to be a viable political trajectory for them.
Brian Anderson: Well, this leads to the next question the Trump administration's foreign policy you've called it, Jackson was certainly disruptive from a much tougher stance toward China to renegotiate a trade deal, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital. This failed pulling out of the Paris climate Accords for a lot of pretty disruptive things that were done. Assuming as it seems highly likely the president's legal efforts to change the election outcome fail, and Joe Biden is inaugurated, I wonder if you could speak to how you think America's global role is likely to shift, what that new foreign policy is going to look like. Is there going to be any continuity with some of the things that happened under Donald Trump?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I try to read every day, a lot of left-wing things to see what the mindset is. It's very subtle what's happened since the election. But I think what we're seeing now, if you read the New York Times or some of these foreign policy, it runs something like this. After blasting Trump is disruptive and destructive and neolistic, and he's ruined our reputation, we have no allies, it runs something like this. It's very important to reach out now and true, and then what follows is kind of trimming around the edges. By that I mean, nobody is saying, we need to go back to where we were under Obama and George W. Bush with China.
In other words, after COVID, and after the anguish of our allies like Japan or South Korea, or the Philippines or Taiwan or Australia, I think the Democrats are going to say, "Well, we're going to work with our allies now," but they're going to have basically the same policies for a while, at least with China. Same thing in the middle East, they're going to say, "We got to get back on that Iran deal. And you know what, you can't have peace without the Palestinians." And then they're going to go over there and talk to a lot of moderate leaders in the Arab world. They're going to hear two things. The Palestinians are not the key to the Middle East peace. We're going pour a lot of money in development into the West bank. And they will become eventually within their own areas rich as Israelis. But we're not going to let them reach out to Iran. We're not going to let them ally with Hezbollah, we're not going to let them cause trouble for us.
And Israel is a key strategic ally, and that's a radical shift. And as we look at Iran right now, I mean, it's suffering inordinately from COVID. It's patrons, China hasn't treated it very well. Crashed oil prices have wound its economy. The sanctions are way, way different than they were before. They're really crushing. They can't give money to Hezbollah and they are in a very vulnerable position.
So I just think that Jake Sullivan, Ben Rhodes idea that we're going to go back here and pick up this corpse of the state and pump it up with arrogant and make it a player for so-called Shia Crescent. It's not going to be viable. Not that there won't be people that try that. But I think for a while, as we see with COVID, this administration did a lot of good things that were not ... believe it or not, not partisan. I think the Democrats for all of their invective quietly think, "Well, this is pretty good policy we got with China. This isn't bad than what we got with the situation we're in the Middle East."
Victor Davis Hanson: You know what I kind of liked the Trump bogey man, he put pressure on Europe to face up to the responsibility. Here at home during the COVID prop, wow, we've never had an election vaccination within 10 months. And there are some questions about what constitutes a COVID case and what doesn't, and maybe these numbers weren't as bad as we accused. And maybe we'll hear that the United States is doing as well as European countries. And maybe by March, because Trump helped bring in the vaccinations at a rapid rate and their therapies that this isn't such a bad, we'll just emulate it because I don't see any difference in Joe Biden's policy and Donald Trump's on COVID whatsoever, other than the usual border plate mask. And I'm going get a group of experts here and I'm going to call in the top scientist. And other than that, empty rhetoric, I think it's about the same as what Trump did. I think that's, what's tragic about Trump. Because due to his skills and the methodologies he used as an outsider to force change on a complacent kind of flabby bureaucracy and state. It brought not just change, but change that was welcomed enough that made progress enough to allow people who were the beneficiaries enough to start saying, "Oh my gosh, he tweeted the other day." Or "He was so foul mouth."
And so he's never going to get proper ... Now I've used that image of Shane or the Magnificent Seven or Ethan Edwards out of The Searchers or Ajax out of Sophoclean plays that tragic hero does what we can't do, but he does it in such a fashion that once it starts to work, we have a luxury of dismissing him.
I think that's where he is right now. And the Democrats are going to be prime examples of the people who dismiss them, but find what Trump did useful for their own agendas.
Brian Anderson: I wonder if you've got any thoughts about some of the cabinet selections that are being announced by Biden or at least rumored. Is the Biden ministration going to be more concerned about diversity and appeasing its left-wing base, or do you think he is going to try to be more of a tent trust or, or maybe Obama lite and how he approaches governance?
Victor Davis Hanson: Yeah, I think what we're going to see is that Blinken and others that are being mentioned, or pretty much Obama- Clintonites. And I think even the ones that are a little bit more radical are going to be having ... I think Biden has been pretty careful because he doesn't know who's going to control the Senate. And they've treated the Republican so bad in the Senate. I think Mitch McConnell's probably told them, "You're going to have to be very careful because we're going to do to you what you've been doing to us." And that means he's not going to be able to get it. I don't think Susan Rice could get confirmed for anything to tell you the truth, a guy like Eric Holder or any domestic or foreign policy.
So I imagine that Jake Sullivan or Blinken, these are people that we all know from the Obama and Clinton associations and their sort of, I don't know, a younger versions of John Kerry. And they have certain ideological ideas that don't work overseas. But again, I think when they start to look around and hear what the Arab States tell them off the record, or what Japan tells them about China off the record, or what Australia tells them off the record or Eastern Europeans or Southern Europeans off the record, or the UK off the record. They're going to say, "We're all on board now. We all agree on climate change. We all agree that you have to treat illegal immigration, very humane," all this stuff.
Brian Anderson: Here's another question. This is from one of the viewers Abby, and it goes back to kind of forward-looking the quasi popular politics in the United States. He wants to know what your thoughts are on how to make sure that some of the conservative leaders going forward don't get tempted into embracing the kind of old-fashioned welfare politics or welfare policies in their pursuit of a populous constituency.
Victor Davis Hanson: That's a very good, excellent question. And I have the same concerns. Social security really is near bankruptcy at the present rate it will be non non-viable. And I think the answer is that Donald ... and then when we gave a lot of subsidies during the COVID to a lot of people, and we did it in a way that was not fiscally responsible, even though we needed a stimulus to keep the economy going. But I think when that all this ends there has to be an element of the MAGA agenda that has been missing. And I think populist have to say, we middle-class people balance our checkbooks, and we cannot go off with these vast subsidies. But as we say that it has to be coupled with appeals to the black and Latino and poor white, lower, or middle or upper middle classes in a way that's not offensive. They have to thread that needle.
I think when Mitt Romney said in a ... he was very unfair what happened to him. Because they leak what he said, but when he said, 47% of the people are not going to vote for me, because they're on some sort of ... it may have been true, but it's not the kind of thing that a person should say or should feel even. And I'm looking out the window here in this ... I think the average per capita income in my hometown is $13,000. And so when I go to the market, I don't see anybody that doesn't use food stamps, not one at the local Walmart.
And in the summer when I go in there, everybody is in there because they can't afford, even though they have subsidized electric rates, they can't afford to turn on their air conditioning. So they're using Walmart as an air conditioner and their kids go and play with the toys. So I see that everywhere. And I have two views of it, I think, wow, we've got a whole dependent class, many of them here illegally, but the other side is how are we ever going to get these people to feel what's in their interest is to be autonomous and viable and middle-class, and they're trying, but it's very hard when the Democrats come and say, "We were the ones that let you come in, we're going to bring all your family in, and we're going to give you all this stuff. And we have to say, we're going to give you better stuff, you have to think it through a little bit more, because we're going to create the conditions under which you can get better stuff yourself."
It's right for demagoguery on both sides. And so I think Trump did very well, that's a long windy answer. Boy, somebody's going to have to do a lot better explanation I just gave to how you address the social welfare state has to have limits on it. Even if it hurts this lower middle-class, it's emerging to be mega. They have to be helped in a way that's greater than their hurt.
Brian Anderson: The pandemic has enabled a remarkably extensive assertion of government power. And I think nowhere more than in California it's well known, or I mentioned at the top that in addition to all of your academic work your social commentary, you kept up your family farm in Northern California. Now, what is your experience been like from that perspective under lockdown in California and how long have you, do you think the pandemic may have changed California more broadly?
Victor Davis Hanson: I'll answer the second part of your question first, very quickly is that something's weird going on California. I know that Trump lost, I think 32% here in the state. And it was a little better than last time. We, I think it was 36% or something along those lines. So I'm not talking about Trump himself, but whether it was a left-wing bill to basically unionize and bring in the Uber or Lyft drivers and not let them be independent part-time contractors. Or whether it was to change some elements of Prop 13 as the first step to eliminate that, or most importantly, Prop 16, where we wanted to bring back the de jure affirmative action, even though we've basically they ignore the law. Anyway, it says you cannot discriminate on the basis of race. But that was all, those were soundly defeated in California, even though they were outspent.
And the reason was that there were a lot of ... the majority of these contract workers were minorities. And the majority of people who are most worried about racial preferences were Asian and Spanish because they're the majority. The white population in California is about 38%, it's about 40%, 41% Latinos, about 16 Asians, only 6% African-American, but they view that as the 6% getting advantages over them.
And as a lot of people pointed out, so-called whites are underrepresented according to their population, most of the CSU campuses, UC Berkeley, et cetera. And so what I'm getting at again is that there is emerging conservatism because there's a feeling that we are run by about 50 square miles, whether it's six or $7 trillion of capital, and that's Silicon Valley, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, corporate headquarters. And there've been so much money poured in there that those people are completely exempt and oblivious to the consequences of their ideology on other people, whether it's high electric rates or solar and wind projects are this crazy Stonehenge that we call high speed rail near my house. It just sits there like a skeleton, $5 billion blown for nothing.
All of these crazy ... these forest fires that were completely due, not to global warming, but to terrible forest management. I'm speaking to someone, the fire came 300 yards from our cabin up in Huntington Lake. So they're getting angry at all this. And they don't like high gas prices. They don't like the highest income tax. They don't like the highest sales taxes and then the worst schools, the worst infrastructure in the country. But they don't know how that's going to be expressed. So that's hopeful that you could have a conservative resurgence. If you had a very charismatic, conservative Hispanic leader, or Asian leader or poor white leader from the poor white class, you would see something that would be quite astounding. I think it's going to happen because where we got here was massive illegal immigration, massive wealth on the coast, and then eight to 10 million middle-Class Reagan voters, Pete Wilson voters, George Mason voters that went to Idaho or Nevada or Arizona, Florida, et cetera.
As far as I'm concerned, it's been kind of strange for me because I have to commute to Stanford once a week. And then sometimes I go, but I haven't gone ... staff is completely knocked down to the point where if you walk on the campus, they will track your cell phone ping and you will get an email saying you didn't register. So nobody goes there. I don't go there. And I've been in this house where I grew up and it's been actually quite nice because all of the people I grew up with, that I saw occasionally, but I was always going in and out, they're here all the time.
So it's given me an appreciation again for working people. So if today, a Hispanic guy I've known a long time, he's in the highway patrol, he stopped by. The other night 20 farmers asked us to go to dinner. And they were just railing about Fox news and wanted to know what they could do. And it really is a good reminder that for me, that all of the stuff that we value today, our ABC's after our name, our zip codes, they don't matter at all. And I think that's what Trump, the most unlikely of all people given his ... let's see raconteur reputation, billionaire, all of that stuff, his suits, his snobbishness. But somehow he tapped into that. I don't know if it was because of the building trades or his affinity for workers in Manhattan, but whatever it was when he went around the country and said our workers, our farmers, that was very strange for Republican. And just being here. I can see that there's a lot of people who are angry at the left.
I was telling my wife, why is it we can't take a dogs on our walk around our farm? It's because of gunfire. Everywhere, every night, there's automatic gunfire. And it's from all of these rental houses out in the country. So I asked Jose, my friend in the highway patrol, I said, "Are you investigating that?" He said, "No, we don't care. It's most of this gunfire is from people scared, stiff of Antifa and protests coming down here. So they're practicing, they're putting up little targets in their backyard. They come home from work, they take their automatic pistol or AR15." And we're not talking about white militia now, we're talking about minorities who really liked guns and do not want any of that stuff coming where we live, and they wouldn't allow it.
And so I think there's a lot of opportunity for somebody young and empathetic and a lot of it's ... Let's not discount symbolism. If you have a sincere ability to connect with people of the middle class and you enjoy them and you don't just write them off as cleaner, the deplorables are irredeemable or Biden, I think called them, ugly folk and dregs. You'll be surprised how favorable the conservative agenda is for them. They like America, they like its traditions. They don't like what they see on TV with Antifa. They don't want another lecture from LeBron James, they're sick of Robert de Niro. They don't like any of that stuff, but we haven't really tapped into it yet.
I think Trump sort of took a hammer and kept hammering and hammering, and then a little fisher broke in the dam and some water's coming out and somebody is going to come along with a bull bowser. When that happens, I think we're going to see some really strange things.
Brian Anderson: Here's a question from a viewer, Adrian Peters' over the weekend, he writes James Lindsay suggested that the American political scene has returned to a Federalist versus anti-federalists debate where the feds on the left are the party of tyranny for the greater good. And the anti-feds on the right are the populist nationalist groups for Liberty. So if you've seen that piece and what you would think about that argument.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, that's a traditional argument, but I think it's even a little bit more bizarre than that because here in California, the anti-federalist are all leftist. Because they're the ones telling us we're going to have sanctuary cities, states, counties, and we don't care what federal immigration law says. This is the way it's going to be. And we're going to let the illegal immigrants vote in a Berkeley school board election. We don't care what the federal government says that citizens only can vote in an election. And as far as gun rights go, we're going to violate the second amendment and make them so hard. And remember, that's sort of what we heard in the primary from Elizabeth Warren about the Second Amendment, Kamala Harris. They sounded to me like Bull Connor. They were saying what, California is just better, here in our state or Massachusetts, is just better than this federal.
A lot of it had to do with Trump. I understand that because they identified the federal government with Trump and therefore the federal government and Trump were both bad. And I understand they were hypocritical and somebody in Utah and Virginia say done registration doesn't apply in our jurisdiction. And they have, and you know that in Virginia, and I think there's some places in Idaho and Wyoming and as far as working center, there is no federal endangered species Act. But it's the left now who want to nullify federal law and it really started with immigration. They don't want to follow immigration law. They don't feel they have to, they want to destroy the bureaucracy of enforcement. And I think I've written seven or eight. I have to quit writing same old thing. They're sort of like South Carolina nullificationist in the 1820s and early 30s that Jackson had to put down.
Brian Anderson: Well, that leads to a good question from a viewer George Kabul. Can you frame the current political environment in the context of history. How does it compare to the late 60s or roots about period in the 1930s? Do you think that the Republicans are better off now? And you've partly answered this with the strength of the Trump coalition or are we really in a crisis moment?
Victor Davis Hanson: What's different today as I said earlier is, what's different in the 60s was, we didn't have the levers of society all in the 60s hands. And if you look at the fortune 400 in the 1960, 70s, the great fortunes were still in mining, timber, oil, cars, production, maybe finance, but not Silicon Valley or Warren buffet or Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg communicate. These are global fortunes that were created. And when you look at how we reacted to the news, the New York Times and Washington Post were very liberal, but that liberality didn't always infect the actual news coverage. And the three networks it was eye roll whenever they talked about conservatives, but they made the effort to act like they were partisan. Now all of that's gone and it's replaced by big, big left-wing money and instant communications that have the ability to deny us conservatives access to knowledge, whether it's massaging, a Yahoo or Google search or deep platforming, you're canceling you out on Twitter or Facebook.
And then when you add that regional component, it's pretty scary because people are now, self-selecting in a federalized system. They think I'm an American. I have all the benefits of being an American, but if I don't want to pay 13% tax in California, I can just hop over the border and stay by Nevada. And so we're having people force multiply these ideologies by state. The red states are getting redder and the blue states are getting bluer and there's some purple states that have to be adjudicated. So I think that's one thing.
As far as the future of Republican party, we're all happy. We keep saying, wow, we did all these record things, but let's be honest. We won 15% of the African-American vote. We were happy. We're delighted. We won 33%. 34% of Latino vote were just astounded with ... Trump, got 73 million votes, but lost by three million votes. We're tickled pink that the Senate is maybe 50, 50, and the hope of 48 52, whatever it is now. And we hope that it'll be 52, 48, 51, 49. We're delighted that we picked up all these seats in the house, but they still won the house. And we're within a hair's breadth of losing two seats. And then that whole process of the AOC pressures, well that filibuster is lifted then we're going to see some things that we've never seen in our lifetime. Whether it's efforts to get new states as Obama advocated, get rid of the filibusters Obama advocated, get rid of the electoral college that Elizabeth Warren said, or we will see things with packing the court, et cetera.
So we're doing good. We're doing okay, but it's an uphill fight. And we tend to magnify our victories. When we, if we look at the general picture right now, there is a Democratic president and there is a Democratic house and there may or may not be a Democratic senate. And we're in danger of changing the court to make it permanently Democratic. And I use the word Democratic as a euphemism. This is not the Democratic party my parents were in. This is a hard left Henry Wall- ... The only thing I can think of in the past is something like the Henry Wallace movement, maybe Adlai Stevenson, mostly Henry Wallace. And so I'm cautiously optimistic, but I'm in a period of depression until 2022.
Brian Anderson: A lot of questions are coming in just about how you see the tension or conflict between the progressive wing of the Democratic party and whatever remaining moderates there are within the party. Do you think that there's going to be a reckoning between those factions and can the GOP used that to their advantage going forward? This is a question from Evans .
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, the conventional wisdom, and I've kind of voiced it on foreign policy is that no party does things that are not in their own interests. So given their losses in the house and the fact that the Republicans will end up only four or five seats away from taking the majority, when they were told they were going to get soundly beaten, ditto the Senate, ditto Donald Trump's, supposedly 12 point national vote loss. You would think that people, when they looked at the returns in their totality would say, "Hey, wait a minute." We got this Congressman, I think from New York, she was, or maybe it was Virginia and say, "Hey, you guys reparations and new green deal and Medicare for everybody, these are unending fracking and all of this left wing polarization and defund the police, especially these are losing issues. You're going to wipe us out."
So you would think that Pelosi and Schumer would say, okay, let's back off a little bit. And let's be a little bit more careful about our rhetoric. We took the house in 2018 by basically lying to the American people. Remember those candidates? We were told Democrats were running vets, conservative women, Chamber of Commerce people. They got them in and they almost voted them in unison to impeach Donald, the president of United States for really nothing.
And so, yeah, I think that's the logic, but do people always do logical things? They surely didn't when they nominated George McGovern for one of the biggest landslides in history, 1972. Anybody with any brains guts said, don't nominate that guy and his agenda and yet they did. And so what they should do and what they know they should do does not mean necessarily that they will do that because they have a lot of IOUs out. Black Lives Matter and Antifa are telling the democratic party, "We basically rioted. We caused dissension, we looted, we caused a general sense that Donald Trump was not in control of the major cities. And we did that. And then we stopped. We pretty much stopped right during the election and behaved, and we want something for that."
And then the Democrats are trying to say, yeah, but you also did us some damage. And they're saying, "No, we didn't. We were the ones that caused the chaos that made Trump look like he was out of control." And so I think the left hand is making the argument, even though it's a false one that they had more to do with Donald Trump not to be president than anybody and they want to be paid and they're more ... The hard left always knows more about the media and popular culture. So they're the ones that are on YouTube and TikTok and sped, professional sports and Hollywood. And they don't have a lot of numbers, but they have a lot of cultural levers that they can use.
So I'd say it's a 50, 50 chance whether they're going to be smart in 2022 or in the first two years of Biden, or they're going just hand over government to the Republicans due to their radicalism.
Brian Anderson: Here's the question of policy relevant. It's from Southern California, Jane Johnson. She talks about Milton Friedman statement that a country can't have both open borders and a generous welfare state. And she wonders whether the immigration issue is going to clarify in the months and years ahead. She says for her, it seems to be a major stumbling block and straightening out our priorities nationally and in California.
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, it's a very important issue and there's zero evidence anywhere in the world that open borders have done anything, but cause mayhem, as we see. I go to Greece almost every other summer. It's a complete mess. If you go to Europe, you talk to somebody in Eastern Europe and the German anger, Germany is profound. What's happened in Europe. I mean, we saw what Macron and the French are saying now about radical Islamic terrorism inside France. They're saying things that we would never say. That if you were a French citizen and you were born on French soil to two French parents, and you're a second generation Algerian and you endorse radical Islam, you're going to be deported if we want. We would consider that unconstitutional and just imaginable.
That's, what it's done to Europe. And here that wall, some parts were mostly rebuilt, but that 400 mile wall that will be done 400 miles is changed thing. And I mean that literally, I don't see a sofa out in front of my mailbox every Saturday morning, because ... and then I talk to people who were picking peaches right now, some late season, table grapes. And they say things that are astounding, I'll see them and I'll say, "What are you guys making?" "$17 an hour?" I said, "17, so that's to us, not the benefits." So what I'm getting at is all the old fights in California about minimum wage law they're don't exist anymore. People are hammering shingles on rows, not too far here. And they get hired off the roof. We're in a building boom, because of the COVID everybody's building. They want to live in the country all of a sudden. Labor is scarce. And that's part of that, a lot of that is because the borders have been shut down for six months.
And a lot of the people who are saying they like this, and that's why 50% of Hispanic people pull, they want secure borders is because wages increase. That was a brilliant argument that Donald Trump did. And when he said for closed borders and border security, because I want my middle-class working constituents to have competitive wages and to have some say over the employer, rather than the employer say, take it, or I'm going to go hire this guy from Oaxaca. So it's been really amazing to see physically and just right around you, the difference and to talk to people. And when you say some things like I need some cement, like, "Hey Victor, I'm sorry. We're not going to get any cement guys for six months. They're all busy. And they're all being legalized." And so they're not illegal anymore, but that was ... and if he were to take that wall down or open the border, it would be a disaster. It really would.
And so, again, with Trump, we never give him credit for the humane thing. So it was inhumane thing to tell people in Mexico, your own government has agreed to enforce part of the border. Please don't come up from Southern Mexico, you'll dislocate your family, your country needs you down there. If you're going to ever going to have social change, rather than having us as your safety valve, and we have to worry about people here. The majority of them in California, not so-called white people, but Mexican American, central American, Asian, Southeast Asian. These are our people and we're going to make sure they get good wages. That was a very powerful, recalibration of that message. Very effective.
Brian Anderson: Here's a question from Randy Zhou. Who's curious what a scholar of classics and history has to say about the hard sciences and Americans, relative, lack of interest in the hard sciences these days. What do you think more broadly too, about where the Academy is?
Victor Davis Hanson: Well, I'm a little worried about that because when you talk to people who know China pretty well, David Goldman, or Miles Hughes, they caution us and say, yes, we have to decouple from China. We can't have our pharmaceuticals in their hands. We've got to start making antibiotics again. Yes, we need chips, but then almost immediately, they warn you and they say, but of course your STEM programs are now predominantly staffed or enrolled by people who are not Americans, whether they're from India or Europe or Asia or China. And so we don't have enough people in K through 12 that have a competitive math and science education, because we basically have destroyed the curriculum. And we destroyed the K through 12 curriculum because the universities were willing to take students that did not have math or science or basic analytical and compositions or reading skills. And were we're going to put them in the liberal arts.
So what's happened in our education system is we took what once was a rigorous program to create an educated citizen in foreign languages, philosophy, English, history, social sciences, anthropology, whatever we call it. And we put that as an area that we told people who didn't qualify to go to college, "You go into that area." And we kind of added the word studies to it. So instead of just history, it was women's studies, or instead of just literature, it was ethnic studies, instead of sociology, it was peace studies. And we've got a lot of people in the university that are not being trained very well. And they're running up about $1.6 trillion in aggregate debt. And history tells us to answer the question more specifically, the most dangerous person in a society is the half educated person who feels they're very educated and they're certified and they can't get a job.
These are the thousands of mediocre engineering degrees that are handed out in the Middle East. If you look at suicide bombers, how many of them were studying engineering, including the 9/11 people. These are the Bolsheviks of 1917. These are the reign of terror. Mid-Level shock troops of 1792 and 1793. These are the people who these cities talked about in Gursarai. It's the middle-class. These are, the guys are out in the street with Antifa. I like to read the arrest record sometime, they publish what they're doing. They're all former students, who are currently enrolled or poorly paid baristas. This is AOC. AOC before she became a Congresswoman would brag that she was an honor student and she was my middle-class and her name was Sandy, she had this degree. And then all of a sudden, when she went to work, I don't think somebody told her ... I don't think I Boston University International studies is very impressive. To tell you the truth, I'll give you a job making drinks or selling coffee. And then you pay off your student loans and see if you can do it at minimum wage.
So that's what we got to be careful and how to address it very quickly. I would get the government completely out of the moral of guaranteeing student loans. I say, your universities, man, them up, you have moral hazard. If they default, then you're going to pay it from now on. And I take the money to cut it way back and put it all in vocational training, highly paid electric ... We need electricians, plumbers, et cetera. And it's a very noble pursuit and people can do what you and I are doing. You can go out and wire a house and make 50 bucks an hour and come back. And if you want to learn something, get online. You don't need somebody with a PhD to pontificate white privilege, when supposed to be teaching you Shakespeare.
So yeah, I think recalibrate student loans, tax the endowments, get rid of tenure, replace it by five-year contracts, where you have to meet certain standards. The teaching credential say, if you want to get a teaching credential fine, but if you want to get an MA in an academic subject for a year, that's a better way of preparing yourself to teach fifth grade history. We can do a lot at very little cost to break up this monopoly on the university. The universities, I hate to say to someone who's spent a lot of, most of my life in them is not a moral institution anymore. It does a lot of damage to a lot of innocent people and it's self-righteous, but it surely does not.
If I had to take out a loan and be warned about all of the problems of paying that loan back and what it's really going to cost me, I would be much safer doing it at the local Selma car lot than I would at a major university. Because they're never going to tell you this is the amount of money you're going to make. With this major ... this an 18 year old. If you major in this, this is what you can expect to make. And this is the interest, it's compound. And this is how long it's going to take you to pay it back. And by the way, here's an itemized bill of what you paid this week and your tuition room onboard. Did you know you paid for this associate diversity Dean of inclusion and equity. And I don't think they ever do that.
So more transparency and more justice from people who should have known that themselves without coercion.
Brian Anderson: Well, Victor, I think that's all the time we've got. Thank you very, very much for this-
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you.
Brian Anderson: ... tour of our current situation. It's been a pleasure and thanks to everyone for joining us and watching. I encourage you to sign up for our daily City Journal emails, and if you're not a Young Leaders Circle member and are interested in becoming one, please use the link on the screen the end of the event cast. So thanks again, Victor.
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you.
Brian Anderson: And thank you all for watching today. See, you all soon. Appreciate it.
Victor Davis Hanson: Thank you.
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