William Voegeli writes at National Review that a clue to understanding the support for Trump can be found in recalling that, “Sometimes worthy causes have unworthy champions,” and then citing the anti-communism of Joseph McCarthy as a parallel example to Trump’s position on terror.
“The Trump movement is propelled by the fear that the idiots aren’t just screwing up the usual things, such as the public fisc,” Voegeli says, “but also the nation’s security and sovereignty.” If truth is a defense and, of course–it is–people in McCarthy’s day were correct to fear that many of their elected officials and the bureaucrats appointed to guide policy were not taking the threat of Communism seriously. And it’s true today that Americans who are suspicious about the seriousness of people who fret more about a long-awaited but never materializing mass retaliation on Muslim Americans every time there is a terrorist attack are in the right. Trump’s refusal to cater to the assumption that Americans are ever tipping on the point of violent outbreaks of racial and religious animosity is refreshing to a people grown tired of the insult both to their intelligence and to their character.
Though Voegeli mentions sovereignty as another legitimate concern of Trump voters, he seems to mean a more general national sovereignty as opposed to a deeply felt sense that their own sovereignty as self-governing citizens and voters is in any way violated by the miserable way laws and policy now seem to come at the people as accomplished facts drawn up by people who, it is alleged, know better than they do about what is best for us.
When Trump supporters talk about making America great again, it is surely the case that they are irritated and angry about the seeming incompetence of our government to put a stop to an assortment of rag-tag, third world, backward thinking thugs called ISIS. But this is just an example of the larger problem, not the problem itself. The larger problem is that Trump supporters do not consider that the understanding of America promoted by experts and elites (people who are supposed to know better) is sound. It’s as if these elites do not know the people of whom they speak. And if they so unfairly misjudge their own people as to prioritize tamping down on prejudice every time an attack occurs, then how can they be expected fairly to assess the challenge of defeating terrorists or accomplishing anything else? Worse, with all of these accumulated insults to the American people, there is no real appeal to the greatness that has generally kept Americans behaving with decency and goodness to one another–at least as compared to most of the rest of the world–for almost two and a half centuries. We are all aware of America’s historical failings and of the dangers that can come from pretending that they didn’t happen. But too many of the so-called well-educated seem dangerously unaware of the evils that can come from talking and thinking and guiding national policy by nothing but a determination to wear an American History hair shirt.