Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a military historian, and a visiting professor at Hillsdale College. His latest book is “The Case for Trump.” He gave a lecture at Hillsdale College on Wednesday titled “Plague, Panic, and Protests — The Weird Election Year of 2020.”
The past few months have been wild: We’ve been shut in our houses, our cities are burning, plus there’s a big election. What’s going on?
I’m not sure if it would’ve happened like this if we hadn’t had the lockdown and the recession. The average age of these Antifa types is 27 and they’re angry at the system. They’re scared by the recession, frustrated by their student-loan debt, angry that their majors in environmental studies doesn’t translate into jobs, and they see people who are better off than they are and they resent it.
How could that translate into voting patterns come November?
I think it explains why we see these mysterious polls moving black support for Trump from 8% to 28% and Latinos from 22% to 36%. To a lot of minority people, these white kids with their whiny, shrill voices seem like privileged, spoiled brats. And when they see their enablers on cable television, even if they’re black or brown, they tend to be elites too. They may not like Trump but they think he’s gritty and effective and tells you what he thinks and they appreciate it.
I think he’s going to do very well in a way that’s counterintuitive. Mitt Romney and the late John McCain knew how to appeal in the moderate sense, but they actually came off as white elitists. Trump should come off that way because he’s a billionaire white person, except he’s an outsider. Nobody liked him in Manhattan, he has a Queens accent, he dresses funny, he looks weird, and he tells you what he thinks. That seems to appeal to working-class people.
In any other year, defunding the police, burning cities, and looting businesses would be a sure way to lose an election. Yet until just a few days ago, the Biden campaign has ignored the situation, denied it, or encouraged it. Why?
If somebody came from a different planet, they’d say you can easily beat Trump, you just need a working-class conservative black guy or white guy – it doesn’t matter – to talk about class and economic issues and deplore the violence and you win.
But the Democrats can’t do that because they are captive to Bernie Sanders and the young people who make up about 20% of their party who are so hard left. They’re scared of them.
If you look at what they’re being told by their intellectual champions, it’s “looting’s okay, stealing’s okay, every white person is a racist,” and they kind of believe that. They think they’re the cutting edge but they’re not. They don’t understand that most Americans don’t want looting or to stigmatize a whole race and say they’re all racists any more than they want to say blacks have a higher crime rate and therefore they’re all criminal. These people come out of the universities, which are all left-wing, and listen to the left-wing media, and they get bad advice.
What about their strategy to blame Trump for everything?
They think voters are dumb. You can see that in the vocabulary of disparagement they used in 2016: the irredeemables, the basket of deplorables, Obama in 2008 talking about the “clingers” who cling to their religion, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page laughing about the smelly people at Walmart. So they have a contempt for them and they don’t realize that these people are very astute and they listen to things and they remember.
What impact, if any, do you think the party conventions will have on the election?
If you looked at the polls before the conventions, there was an insidious but incremental gain for Trump. Part of that is because the news cycle is changing a little bit. The virus seems to be on the downswing of its second spike, quarantine has been redefined as putting kids back in school, the rioting is losing its appeal, Kamala Harris didn’t do much as Biden’s vice-presidential pick. The natural cycle that was so anti-Trump is starting to change. And so the two conventions each had a task: the DNC to stop that momentum and the RNC’s to accelerate it.
After the two conventions were over, there wasn’t a wide margin, but the trends have continued. The polls that had a better record last time around but weren’t as prestigious — the Emerson poll, the Trafalgar poll, the Daily Express poll — they’re showing the race is dead even.
There are two reasons why this matters. One is that Democrats are terrified of 2016, when the polls they count on now betrayed them and the polls they ridiculed and couldn’t be true were accurate. In their way of thinking, lightning cannot strike twice. The second thing that really bothers them is that Joe Biden should have never been their candidate. He’s not cognitively able to do it and they know it. They were given a great gift with the quarantine and lockdown. He was a half-candidate, a Zoom candidate. The only way you could force him to get out and run is to get the polls where Trump at least appears to be nearly even, and that’s what the RNC achieved in their convention.
Every year people say this is “the most important election of our lives.” Do you think it’s true in 2020?
I think it’s one of the top four or five most important elections. If Biden is elected we’re going to have a socialist agenda and we’ve never had that. Every socialist, whether it was Eugene Debs or Samuel Gompers, never got close. This time, they’re coming in the back door because of Biden and they can actually take power without having a majority support them. Kamala Harris basically ran as a socialist and nobody wanted her.
So what would that look like? If the Democrats win the Senate and get rid of the filibuster, which they say they will, and they keep the House, I think the first thing they’d do is pack the Supreme Court with six liberal justices. They’d abolish the Electoral College without amending the Constitution. They’d change the First and Second Amendment through court orders and executive orders — I can just imagine what it’d be like to try to buy a gun or what it’ll be like on campus to speak freely. They’re going to try to do something structural, not just political.
So yes, I’m really worried that these are revolutionaries and in a normal year they’d have no chance, but because of COVID, the lockdown, the rioting, and Biden’s lack of mental capabilities, you could see our first socialist in history.