For many years, both political parties shared the same American Dream but differed on which policies best served that purpose. Since WWII, the Republican Party increasingly became the party of the self-absorbed successful (Country Club Republicans) basking in the glory of a global empire with an unlimited supply of underpaid illegal servants and workers. The only problem was that this empire, unlike previous ones that had collected tribute, now hemorrhaged treasure both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the Democratic Party increasingly became the party of ideological technocrats and a mindless grievance industry constantly multiplying victimized groups. Lost in all this were blue-collar citizens of all colors who found their American dreams turning into a nightmare. Enter Donald J. Trump.
President Trump can be best and easily understood as someone who retrieved a traditional conception of America. That conception embraced “the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth, a ‘city on a hill’.” (Huntington, Who Are We?).
This is what “Make America Great Again” means. It is open to everyone regardless of race, national origin, etc. That is why one always sees signs at Trump rallies saying: “Blacks for Trump,” “Latinos for Trump,” “Women for Trump,” and so forth. It is the celebration of the underdog, a mobile and classless society, and the embodiment of the “Rocky” films. Immigration contributes to this message, but only works when the new citizens understand and embrace the culture to which they are moving, when they understand what makes the new community better than the dysfunctional one they worked so hard to leave.
The traditional conception of America is what makes it great; it’s not magic. A leader needs to provide a positive narrative. Trump’s 2016 narrative (“Make America Great Again”) and his 2020 narrative (“Keep America Great”) are not only positive but also inclusive and intended to bring people together. In severe contrast, “1619,” “Black Lives Matter,” and ‘identity politics’ are negative and divisive.
Many “Republican voters knew that our K-12 schools and immigration laws badly need reforming [especially inner city schools where reform is blocked by the Teachers’ Unions], and liked Trump’s plans for them. They wanted Trump to cut the administrative state and all its wasteful, job-destroying regulations as well as the crony capitalism that hampers small business. Most jobs and creativity emerge from small businesses – not the big corporations with lawyers and lobbyists who have enough money to sway regulations in their direction.
Mostly, they knew that we had become a class society where rich parents raised rich kids and poor parents raised poor kids, and that this was a betrayal of the American Dream, a betrayal of the traditional immigrant’s expectation that whoever you are and wherever you come from, your children will have it better than you did.
They knew that that promise had been broken, that Trump had pledged to fix it, and that is why they elected him president.” (F.H. Buckley). Traditional Republican leadership [Bush, Romney, Koch] had drifted to control by big international corporate Globalists who found it easy to disguise their greed and indifference behind a thin veil of libertarianism. Trump dismantled the New Class and “created a Republican Workers Party” by finding the sweet spot that was socially conservative and economically middle of the road.
Another element in this traditional conception of America is what I call autonomy (often mislabeled by interventionists as ‘isolationism’ or described by its advocates as ‘exceptionalism’). From the time of George Washington’s farewell address warning us about entangling alliances, many Americans saw America as a separate place to better instantiate Anglo-Protestant culture and uniquely positioned to pursue the American Dream.
In institutional terms, Americans embraced what I have elsewhere described as the “Lockean Narrative,” namely: The Technological Project (control of nature for human benefit), best carried out in a market economy, serviced by a limited government, kept under control by the rule of law, and sustained by an Anglo-Protestant culture of personal autonomy). That narrative and its institutions were progressively undermined by Woodrow Wilson’s promotion of U.S. involvement in the First World War [you remember ‘the war to end all wars’], FDR’s New Deal response to the Great Depression [which he managed to make even ‘greater’], the U.S.’s filling of the post- World War II power vacuum to counter the growth of the USSR, Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ [affirmative action, activist judges], the expansion of higher education [without the ‘higher’] which promoted the idea of an elite who somehow ‘knew’ better than the rest of us. T
he clearest expression of this elite was the rise of neo-conservatism [who ultimately paved the way for universities to fall into the hands of undereducated Frankfort Marxists]. Neo-con intellectuals presumed that the Lockean Narrative could be exported [U.N, World Bank] from the top down. This led to the creation of a military caste who never saw a foreign intervention they did not like and the extremely costly and ultimate failure of the Iraq War.
Trump saw a way to retrieve national autonomy. First, enforce immigration laws (“Build the Wall”) and close down failed programs and endless wars. Second, make America independent both militarily (no entangling alliances or substitute alliances on our terms) and economically (Fracking). Fracking had the added advantage of bringing the Middle East under control without the presence of U.S. troops, and indirectly let to his being nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize as Arabic nations finally recognized Israel’s right to exist. Trump’s solution meant that neither the National Review crowd nor Bill Kristol nor George Will were relevant to this revitalized movement that recognized and celebrated traditional American values.
What was Trump able to accomplish in his first term?
- Initiated an economic tsunami by lowering taxes leading to record levels in the stock market and positively impacting the retirements of millions of citizens.
- Lowered unemployment among the Black and Latino population more than any other president, and he did so without patronizing and condescending virtue signaling.
- First President to reverse successfully our relationship with China bringing businesses and manufacturing jobs back to the US.
- The defense of fossil fuels and the promotion of fracking made America economically, militarily, and diplomatically independent of the rest of the world – while lowering dangerous emissions to record levels without signing the ineffective and hypocritical Paris Accord.
- Rebuilt a military crippled by Obama.
- He is the first president not to engage the U.S. in a foreign war since Eisenhower.
- Forced NATO members to pay their dues. If the EU hand to defend itself it would require the dismantling of its bloated welfare states – advocates of the Europeanization of the U.S. are clueless about the extent to which this requires the US. to be the host for a parasitical Europe. Europeans are not our ‘friends’ but our allies and competitors. The present generation of Europeans have no living or meaningful memory of the Second World War, and the massive American military cemeteries there are as meaningful to them as the Battle of Waterloo or a crumbling Roman Arch – except that they are not as lucrative a tourist attraction.
- Neutralized the North Korean capacity to develop the nuclear capability of threatening Japan and the U.S. West Coast.
- Brokered Middle East Peace that some 71 years of political intervention and endless war had failed to produce.
- Appointed three ‘originalist’ Supreme Court Justices and 300 non-activist Federal Judges
- Fast-tracked the development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in contrast to previous administrations which failed to develop vaccines for SARS, Bird Flu, Ebola, and a host of other diseases. COVID — a serious foreign invasion in many senses of the term — will only disappear in the presence of a viable vaccine. Operation ‘Warp Speed’ is intended to do that, and there is every reason to believe that a safe and effective vaccine will be generally available (except in New York) in the next few months.
In times of crisis, a leader must be positive, exude confidence and inspire people to be optimistic – think Roosevelt’s fireside chats even as the great depression deepened. Trump has done his very best to fill that role. In time, people will come to admit his entrepreneurial genius that marshalled the pharmaceutical world to this achievement; it will be akin to the belated recognition of Reagan’s role in bringing down communism. What should not be overlooked is the need in the meantime to make courageous cost-benefit analyses of alternative temporary policies as in recognizing that lockdowns are ultimately counter-productive.
- MOST IMPORTANT of all, Trump exposed the depth and breadth of corruption in all the major institutions of American society, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, both major political parties, the media, higher education, big tech, etc., etc., etc.
Who could possibly argue with these achievements? First, all of the major institutions mentioned in (12) above, of course.
In addition to those major institutions who regard Trump as their enemy, he has earned the enmity of a host of others for his celebration of and support for traditional American values. They include:
- All of the enemies of the traditional conception of America and the American dream: Marxists, socialists, identity politics advocates, doctrinaire libertarians -classical liberals – and modern liberals; and advocates of the therapeutic state.
- (With the exception of the U.K. and the Eastern Europeans), all of the other member states of NATO, most especially German hegemons.
- Globalists (the Davos crowd).
- China. the Chinese are not grateful because they were admitted into the club. Rather, they mask their lust for domination under the guise of a “century of humiliation.”
- George Soros.
- Wall Street crony capitalists.
- Mexico, Canada, and other parasitic states.
- Radical Islamists.
The pseudo-intellectual snobs in our society despise Trump. He is a standing refutation of all that they believe. He does what they cannot do and achieves it in a manner incomprehensible to them.
A very serious set of problems arises when universities become regarded as commanding heights housing intellectual elites and experts on all subjects.
First, all other institutions (e.g. family, churches, etc.) are stripped of any authority because all professionals including researchers even in the hard sciences, doctors, lawyers, teachers at all levels, therapists, clergy and journalists are now credentialed exclusively by the university.
Second, accreditation is centrally controlled, and it is under government control (the Department of Education).
Third, as I have argued elsewhere, the university is itself the victim of a misguided and self-serving intellectual fashion. The success of modern physical science and technology suggested the notion to eighteenth-century French philosophes (confirming my suspicion that all bad ideas come from France) of there being both a social science and a social technology. Thus was born the idea of a social utopia, the abiding faith of libertarians, classical liberals, modern liberals, socialists and Marxists.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a social science that can explain, predict, and control the social world or overcome the human predicament. The Ivory Tower is now the Tower of Babel. Worse yet, you cannot claim expertise if academics disagree, hence the necessity for the imposition of censorship, uniformity, and the loss of academic freedom.
This practice of censorship extends to journalists (who seek to create or engineer a social consensus) and social media (who somehow know the secret definition of ‘hate speech’ and have never read J.S. Mill’s essay On Liberty and its discussion of why censorship is bad – Mill must be wrong because he is, after all, a dead white male).
The younger journalists have all the depth and breadth of understanding that comes with an undergraduate degree in communications. Social media people don’t even need a degree because they understand coding. The latter being superior in one respect believe they are superior in all respects.
Besides starting with a fallacious utopian mentality, the intellectual elite suffer from another misunderstanding. If there were a social science/technology then all discussion would begin with the ‘correct’ theory and then seek to impose it on practice. If the resulting practice is not a success (widespread social dysfunction) then instead of jettisoning the theory or even the idea of expertise, the ‘experts’ refine the theory or add an epicycle (like defending Ptolemaic astronomy instead of moving to Copernicus). An example is the invention of the ridiculous concept of “systemic racism.” The mindset at issue is the fallacious assumption that theory should precede practice. This mindset presumes that theoretical understanding can explain everything including practical understanding or the relation between practice and theory. On the contrary, practical knowledge cannot be encapsulated by theoretical knowledge.
It is not that whoever can does and whoever cannot teaches. It is rather that whoever embraces the aforementioned intellectual errors ought not to be teaching! Please note that in identifying these intellectual errors I am not claiming a greater or superior expertise. Most of the time I know my limits. I am merely pointing out the dangers inherent in many of my colleagues’ B.S. Worse yet is the presumption that only people who speak or write like academics and are adept at giving lectures are the really smart people. It’s not what you do or have done that’s important for them. Style obliterates substance (e.g., Obama).
Trump’s style of communication is authentic (hence the importance of calling out other people on occasion) and makes the average American feel included in the conversation. It may be fashionable to belittle Trump rallies, but those rallies are the clearest manifestation of a leader who connects with those whom he leads. Instead of a lecture designed for Sunday talk shows, Trump offers a sermon on American Greatness. He does so for those who seek to be part of a choir. It echoes what goes on in another moral community, namely houses of worship. No doubt, it offends the sensibility of those who aspire to be our social technologists. A successful sermon does not end with polite applause; it ends with “Amen!”
History will show that Trump’s most lasting contribution is remaining steadfast in the face of a treasonous coup by the leaders of the Democratic Party, a seditious inherited bureaucracy, an intelligence community that spies on its own citizens and tries to rig the outcome of elections, a sham impeachment, the most corrupt election (2020) in American history, a media that denies the distinction between fact and editorializing and believes that its job is to manufacture public opinion, an educational system that has abandoned the search for truth and excellence in favor of indoctrination, a military establishment that has succumbed to political correctness, a powerful business community that thinks its corporate social obligation is control of thinking, a Wall Street which does not know how to tell the difference between social democrats and democratic socialists, religious leaders who have chosen social work over serving God, a legal culture that cannot tell the difference between legislating and adjudicating, celebrities who think that excellence in one respect is excellence in everything.
In short, a totally politicized society whose depth and breadth of corruption is staggering. None of these issues will be fully resolved even when Trump finally steps down, hopefully after four more years!
Nicholas Capaldi, a Legendre-Soule Distinguished professor at Loyola University, New Orleans, USA, is the author of two books on David Hume, The Enlightenment Project in Analytic Conversation, biography of John Stuart Mill, Liberty and Equality in Political Economy: From Locke versus Rosseau to the Present, and, most recently, The Anglo-American Conception of the Rule of Law.
The image shows, “American Progress,” by John Gast, painted in 1872.