Victor Davis Hanson: ‘California is very hard to screw up’

Dec. 6, 2012

By John Seiler

“California is very hard to screw up,” noted author Victor Davis Hanson told about 130 California business and community leaders Wednesday. He spoke at the Freedom Forum held at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach. The event was co-sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute,’s parent think tank, and the Lincoln Club of Orange County.

A classics scholar now at the Hoover Institution, Hanson comes from generations of farmers in Selma. He said the city now is at least 96 percent Hispanic. His observations there formed the basis of his controversial 2003 book, “Mexifornia: A State of Becoming.”

“California farm exports are $19 billion a year,” he said. “Farming is at an all-time high.”

As to immigration, he said, “Illegal immigration will stop, the natural melting-pot engine will assert itself” by absorbing the immigrants into the general American community and culture, “and things will get better.”

He pointed out that “the California budget last year” of $86 billion “is the same as the budget in 2006. Unlike the federal government, the state government can’t print money.” It has to balance its budget, more or less.

However, he lamented, “People are leaving who shouldn’t be leaving,” meaning working people who pay taxes.

National issues

On national issues, he dissected the Republican defeat a month earlier. He noted that Latinos gave only about a third of their vote to Mitt Romney. But they gave about the same amount to Ronald Reagan in 1984, even though he spearheaded immigration reform during that era that resulted in the 1986 amnesty program that normalized the status of millions of illegal immigrants.

“The GOP needs to engage the Latino vote,” he urged. Republicans, he warned, appear “not so much anti-Latino as anti-working class.”

He said he admired Romney and both presidents from the Bush family. But he noted that, along with Meg Whitman, the billionaire who lost the race for California governor in 2010, the Bushes and Romney are elevated too far above working-class voters to identify with them.

He said things were different for Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who won two elections for governor. Arnold reportedly is worth $700 million (at least before his divorce). But Arnold’s persona “as a movie star and immigrant” garnered 45 percent of the Latino vote.

Ignoring California

He criticized GOP presidential candidates for looking at California only as a place to get campaign donations. Even if California is unlikely to vote Republican in a presidential election any time soon, he still urged candidates to come here and meet our people. “They need to go to Bakersfield and engage people.” They should point out how “too many regulations” are killing jobs for the middle class.

He’s optimistic about the crop of potential candidates looking toward the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. He specifically mentioned candidates he thinks would have connections with working Americans: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“I was a fan of Chris Christie,” the New Jersey governor, he quipped, “But I’m not anymore. Because I’m petty and I hold grudges.” Christie famously embraced President Obama during Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, which some conservative critics say helped the president gain votes nationally.

On the immigration question itself, he said Republicans should offer a two-part plan: First, a Dream Act variation that would grant amnesty to those already here. Second, totally sealing off the border so immigration is limited to legal immigration.

He also urged Republicans to play hardball with Democrats. If Democrats want taxes, then their wish should be granted — as taxes on liberal bastions. He said that, during World War II, a 50 cent surtax was placed on movie tickets.

He didn’t extrapolate. But that would be the equivalent to about a $5 surtax today.

Obama’s second term

Hanson said that, like all recent presidents, Obama faces a tough second term. Drawing on his classical background, he said that the president has what the ancient Greeks called “hubris” (extreme pride or arrogance) which inevitably brings about “nemesis” (the spirit or retribution).

Hanson said that Obama has cultivate class warfare to a degree not seen since the 1930s, in which achievers who earn more are envied by those getting government benefits. However, the “technocratic elite,” such as Obama and his cabinet, are exempt from this envy, even though they are exceedingly well off themselves.

He said hubristic actions by Obama include the blanket amnesty to illegal aliens granted without the approval of Congress; and trying to shut down a Boeing plant in South Carolina because it’s a right-to-work state that unions don’t like.

Nemesis will give Republicans opportunities to make gains before the 2014 mid-term election and the 2016 presidential election.



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