Reading the columns of Victor Davis Hanson has been a guilty pleasure of mine over the years, sort of like listening to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage. Seeing how the other half thinks is both entertaining and illuminating though the time would have been better spent on something worthwhile or informative.
For the unfamiliar, Hanson is the angry conservative, angry mostly at his fellow elites, particularly those along the California coast, but also at the underclass, particularly the undocumented, who are ruining his vision of the California interior.
He maintains a foot in both worlds. He was raised on a farm outside Fresno (son of a farmer and an appellate court justice) but got a good education, going on to teach at Stanford and to hold court at that fine school’s Hoover Institute. He is expert on ancient warfare and he fancies himself expert on the human condition, though he routinely displays his limitations in that arena through his periodic columnizing.
This has been introduction to his latest column, which I link to here and which I hope will spark some vigorous discussion by readers of the Partisan. He is, after all, writing about you, Partisan readers and others like you, people who live in glass houses along the shore and who are, says Hanson, responsible for the sorry state of the rest of California.
The headline on the piece, which surfaced this week in the National Review, was intended to provoke: “California has become a giant cesspool of problems created by liberals and ignored by the media.” I will read it again but I don’t think he actually mentions the media in the column, but one way to guarantee media attention is to criticize the media.
There is a secondary headline as well, just as provocative. “Coastal elites set rules for others, exempt themselves, and tolerate rampant lawlessness from illegal aliens.”
You may not know what you have been doing but apparently you have making a mess of it, at least in Hanson’s view. Hanson would be wise to accept some of the blame himself since he has maintained a second home near Santa Cruz for years, but he piles a full helping of criticism on his coastal neighbors without saving even a tiny slice for himself.
After blaming the elites in general for the emergence of Donald Trump, he zeroes in on the coastal variety.
“Pebble Beach or La Jolla is as far from Madera or Mendota as Mars is from Earth. The elite coastal strip appreciates California’s bifurcated two-class reality, at least in the way that the lords of the Middle Ages treasured their era’s fossilized divisions. Manoralism ensured that peasants remained obedient, dependent, and useful serfs; meanwhile, the masters praised their supposedly enlightened feudal system even as they sought exemptions for their sins from the medieval Church. And without a middle class, the masters had no fear that uncouth others would want their own scaled-down versions of castles and moats.”
There is some truth in his words, of course. A large segment of the coastal population supports land-use regulations that slow the production of new housing that might include some stock affordable to the poor and middle class. A large segment of the coastal population is served by the relatively cheap labor by those who must drive or bus into the better neighborhoods.
But Hanson takes it much farther than that, arguing without evidence that the attitudes of the coastal elites prevent regulators in Fresno County from enforcing rules on littering or even the dumping of toxic wastes.
“California knows it dare not enforce laws against trash-throwing in rural California; that’s too politically incorrect and would be impossible to enforce anyway. Instead, it charges shoppers for their bags.”
Those lines caused me to scratch my head, and so did the next: “In California, the neglect of the felony requires the rigid prosecution of the misdemeanor.”
Hanson’s principal target is the Democrats and other misguided souls who live within a bike ride of the coast, but he uses a shotgun approach and manages to ricochet some of his disdain onto the underclass as well. It’s like this. The elites have caused unbridled immigration and an unregulated free-for-all of a state, allowing litter, drugs, prostitution, vagrancy, truancy and other troubles to invade his once bucolic neighborhood. It wasn’t like this when he was growing up, he reminds us repeatedly.
Hanson complains that his truck and his wife’s bike were stolen in recent years, which he blames on California’s rising crime rate, which he blames on, you guessed it, coastal elites. See, those elites push government to go soft on crime because the elites live in safe communities far from the criminals and are, as a result, soft hearted and soft headed.
“Most of the most strident Californians who decry Trump’s various proposed walls insist on them for their own residences.”
“Most” is a big word but Hanson’s not afraid to use it.
“The state’s economy and housing are moribund in places like Stockton and Tulare, the stagnation being the logical result of the policies of the governing class that would never live there,” he goes on. “Meanwhile, the coastal creed is that Facebook, Apple, Hollywood, and Stanford will virtually feed us, 3-D print our gas, or discover apps to provide wood and stone for our homes.”
OK, you get the idea. Read it for yourself and tell us what you think. Here’s the link again.