Trump, Harvard, and Godfather Politics

As Lawrence E. Harrison shows, a nation is a state of mind, which means my parents had a transnational marriage. Mom and Dad were both children of Sicilian immigrants, but my dad was American while my mom was Sicilian. Sicilians distrust authorities. From Trump voters to Harvard leaders, my fellow Americans are becoming as Sicilian as my mother. That spells doom for America.

Years back, I had a stark reminder of the differences between Americans and Sicilians while chauffeuring my mom. On the side of the road, we saw two young men beating the heck out of each other in the most violent road rage I’ve ever seen.

Lacking a cellphone, like any good American, I stopped at a convenience store to call the cops. All the while, my mom, like any good Sicilian, screamed at me to drive on and mind my own business because cops and crooks “are all in cahoots—everybody knows that!” My American “stupidity” would end with the criminals tracking me down to exact revenge—That never happened because this is America.

Real Sicilians don’t call cops they don’t know. They trust their families and associates, not distant authorities like governments. Cosa Nostra means our thing, not the American thing. Mario Puzo’s titular Godfather, Vito Corleone, disparaged his war hero son Michael for fighting for his country rather than his family, sneering, “He performs these miracles for strangers.”

Godfather politics is not ideological but reciprocal. People do favors for others and expect favors in return. Beyond reciprocity, Sicilians do not judge the morality of leaders because they assume all leaders are immoral.

That mindset helps Donald Trump.

As political scientists Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields show in Trump’s Democrats, a study of communities that flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, switchers included many Italian Americans motivated by outsider Trump’s promises to help them even while skimming off some for himself and his kin.

Trump seemingly delivered. During his administration inflation was low, our borders seemed secure, foreign wars did not dominate the headlines, and the president opposed endless lockdowns.

To supporters, the former president’s 91 felony indictments just show that the same elites who disparage them as “deplorables” are now selectively prosecuting Trump for crimes other bigshots get away with.

Sicilian cynicism gets even darker.

Expecting mendacity from all leaders negates reasoned judgements about any leaders, as when Trump defended Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “there are a lot of killers—You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump seemingly considered former KGB Colonel Putin no worse than Ronald Reagan. That inability to distinguish presidents from dictators undermines U.S. foreign policy in places like Ukraine.

Intellectuals are right to denounce this moral blindness. Yet our national devolution reflects leftist histories portraying sins like slavery as uniquely American rather than universal. While wildly misleading schoolbooks like the New York Times “1619 Project” brand the U.S. as repressive, schools and colleges fail to teach American innovations like our two-century history of peaceful cross-party transfers of power. That heritage, which President Trump threatened on January 6, 2021, is what separates—albeit imperfect—democracies like the U.S. and Israel from the likes of Russia, China, and Gaza—not that you can say that in academia.

Further, pseudo-intellectual elites now practice their own Omerta, the Cosa Nostra code of silence when outsiders uncover wrongdoing.

When Harvard President Claudine Gay committed serial plagiarism, the aptly named Harvard Corporation hired their version of a hitman, a law firm nicknamed “media assassins,” to threaten to sue the conservative journalists who blew the whistle. As Christine Rosen documented in Commentary, the New York Times and Washington Post enabled the coverup by ignoring the facts of the plagiarism cases and framing Gay’s critics as racists.

They also ignored Gay’s record as a university administrator who tolerated radical calls for killing Jews while repressing far more normal conservative speech. On her watch as an administrator, Harvard plummeted to last (248th) on the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s college free speech ranking. You would never know that reading the New York Times, whose motto is “all the news that’s fit to print,” has devolved into Vito Corleone’s “I’m not interested in things that don’t concern me.”

As I have argued in these pages, there is much educators can and should do to restore objective truths, and in turn, our country. Right now, powerful intellectuals are doing the opposite. That’s tragic because sensible Americans do not want our nation to become Cuba, Venezuela, or Sicily. The stakes are that high.

When leaders of elite educational and media institutions act like Mafia dons, one can scarcely blame voters for choosing the Don with the best deal. That is, after all, what Sicilians do. My mom taught me that.

Photo by vividflowstudio — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 101828814


  • Robert Maranto

    Robert Maranto is the 21st Century Chair in Leadership at the University of Arkansas, and with others has edited or written 15 books including The Politically Correct University. He edits the Journal of School Choice and served on his local school board from 2015-20. These opinions are his alone.

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4 thoughts on “Trump, Harvard, and Godfather Politics

  1. “the former president’s 91 felony indictments just show that the same elites who disparage them as “deplorables” are now selectively prosecuting Trump for crimes other bigshots get away with.”

    They aren’t?

    Justice Thomas said something interesting the other day — he stated that he remembered something called “Operation Mongoose” when he was a teenager. And while Kennedy died in office, both Eisenhower and Johnson could have been criminally prosecuted for things that they did as President.

    And let’s look at how Team Hamas has been permitted to disrupt American Higher Education this semester. At the University of Illinois they are attacking police officers with pieces of lumber!!! The right of police officers to shoot in self defense under such circumstances dates back to John Adams’ defense of the soldiers involved in the so-called Boston Massacre.

    Imagine if the Klu Klux Klan were doing the exact same thing — imagine them swinging 2x4s at cops — how do you think that would end? 5-10 year prison sentences if the perps were lucky…

    And does anyone honestly think the Klan would be permitted to disrupt classes the way Team Hamas has been and continues to be permitted to do?

    What is a “deplorable” supposed to rationally conclude?!?

    1. I agree that there is selective enforcement. The left gets away with many things the right does not. But hey, January 6th was in a class by itself. If the incumbent party gets to count the electoral college votes, then the peaceful transfer of power is over, and we quickly become Venezuela. Mike Pence understands that, but many others (left and right) do not. Many academics think the only thing wrong with 1/6 is that Ibram Kendi was not the one doing it.
      I’ll also grant that some of the 91 are trash indictments done for political purposes, but others go beyond the usual elite corruption. The most cut and dried was for hiding classified documents. Sure, presidents in a hurry to leave DC often take things they shouldn’t. But then when the FBI or other authorities point it out, they apologize and return the documents. Trump tried to hide them. If he does not pay a huge price for that it will make it impossible to indict future officials for doing so. Face it, Trump is the Claudine Gay of U.S. Presidents. We can hardly do worse.

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