THE CASE FOR TRUMP
By Victor Davis Hanson
Basic Books, $30, 400 pages
The title of Victor Davis Hanson’s new book “The Case for Trump,” might give some readers the impression that it is a whitewash or a dogged defense of the subject. Instead it is a well-researched explanation of how Mr. Trump beat all odds to win the presidency, and also an account of his first two years in office.
Mr. Hanson makes no excuses for President Trump’s many flaws as a human being, but he also details how many of these human shortcomings have actually been weaponized against his numerous enemies. The author peers through the chaos of controversies, investigations and allegations — many of them self-inflicted — to rationally examine what Mr. Trump has actually accomplished in his first two years in office. The results at the halfway point are impressive, far exceeding those of his last four predecessors.
Mr. Hanson has done what his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, her apologists and Democratic Party strategists have not done; he has dissected Mr. Trump’s campaign and shows that — rather than a run of improbable good luck — Mr. Trump shrewdly analyzed the possibilities of America’s red-blue divide and exploited them in a way that none of his opponents in either party grasped. Donald Trump also realized that in the key battleground states — particularly Ohio, Michigan and Florida — there was more red than blue outside of the major urban areas.
Accordingly, Mr. Trump devised a formula for exploiting those huge red blobs in the purple mix and turning them into an Electoral College victory.
Elites of the bi-coastal blue voting bloc of solidly liberal urban centers believed that that the rubes and “deplorables” who made up much of rural America and the smokestack communities left behind by globalization didn’t count while Mr. Trump realized that they represented an untapped source of votes. Democrats largely ignored the demographic or despised it; establishment Republican candidates had fundamentally misread it for the last five election cycles.
Mr. Trump’s experience in the competitive world of reality TV made him much more attuned to the market. Establishment Republicans either assumed that many would not vote or that those who did would follow the tired conservative-Republican mantra of lower taxes, smaller government and support for the military. Candidate Trump would support these traditional conservative positions, but he had discovered the red meat that would really fire up what would become his base. People who had variously felt ignored, despised or taken for granted wanted revenge.
Mr. Trump based his campaign on two things. First, he was not Hillary Clinton. Second, he would relentlessly attack those people and things that the voters he was courting resented. Globalization, deadbeat allies and elites within the revolving door of the Washington establishment all became targets; this message resonated. Mr. Trump took no prisoners among his opponents, Democrat or Republican; when attacked, he hit back hard and never apologized. Establishment opponents were overwhelmed in the same manner as indigenous natives facing machine guns in the wars of colonization in the 19th century.
Mr. Hanson is a renowned historian and author of historical fiction; consequently, some of the analogies that he draws on may be somewhat foreign to readers not familiar with classical Greek or Roman literature. But the analogy that Mr. Hanson makes that will resonate with all is his comparison of Mr. Trump to toxic chemotherapy designed to kill the cancerous effects of the political correctness, progressive executive activism and the “blame America” attitudes of the Obama administration.
The author argues that Mr. Trump’s diagnosis and treatment strategy is correct, and this reviewer agrees. Mr. Hanson correctly notes that Mr. Trump’s first two years in office — though disruptive — have been remarkably effective in reversing many of the largely unlegislated initiatives of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The president’s enemies are an impressive mix of the elites of the deep state, legacy media, Hollywood luminaries and “never Trump” Republican operatives. His most dangerous foes are the members of the deep state in government. The revelation that Mr. Trump’s own deputy attorney general was seriously discussing a non-military coup with the acting FBI director came after the book went to press, but it only serves to reinforce Mr. Hanson’s observation that the deep state will not go quietly into the night.
Mr. Hanson points out that Donald Trump is often his own worst enemy, but that his real enemies pose the true threat to American democracy as we think we know it. It remains to be seen whether Trump fatigue or anti-Trump fatigue will prevail over the next few years. In the words of the president, “we’ll see.”
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.