Could Donald Trump help lead the nation back to constitutional government? Or is he the uneducated, boorish, ego-maniacal boob that his critics say he is?
I start with Trump’s courage, unquestionably a virtue of the statesman. In his 1978 Harvard speech, Alexander Solzhenitsyn accused the leaders of the Western world of a lack of civic courage. They were unwilling, he said, to stand up to their enemies. Trump has shown civic courage again and again. He alone among prominent politicians is willing to name the actual source of terrorist violence against Americans (Muslim immigrants) and propose sensible policies to stop that source (restrictions on immigration from countries associated with Muslim terrorism). Trump alone is willing to tell the truth about the collapse of the rule of law in cities with large black populations—namely, lack of adequate enforcement of laws punishing crimes against person and property.
Trump shows personal courage as well. I don’t know of a single American statesman in the past century, unless it’s Reagan, who could have stood up to the nonstop stream of vitriol, hatred, ostracism, accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it, that Trump has been showered with over the past 15 months. What a man!
Prudence is another virtue of statesmanship. Who has been more prudent than Trump in pursuing the presidency? With the entire Republican establishment united against him, he made statements that were criticized again and again as imprudent. Yet Trump kept getting stronger. He is within a few points of Hillary Clinton, and sometimes ahead, in the polls. He has been criticized endlessly for his supposed gaffes, every one of which was expected to finally end his quest for the presidency. But what were most of these “gaffes” but telling the truth again and again about the important questions facing America—about the obvious bias of Judge Gonzalo Curiel; about the crime many illegal immigrants import; about the danger of Islamic immigration; about the shameful failure to provide law enforcement in black areas; and about the massive bipartisan failures in foreign policy over the past 25 years.
Prudence is about winning, but above all it is about winning on behalf of the right goals. What is the purpose of government in the American Founding? Answer: government is instituted “for the security and protection of the community as such, and to enable the individuals who compose it to enjoy their natural rights” (Pennsylvania Constitution, 1776). Government’s job is to protect citizens—all citizens, not just women and minorities—against harm from fellow citizens and from abroad. It is about the common good of all Americans. What candidate since Reagan has understood this better than Trump?
Trump says we need to restrict Muslim immigration because it is dangerous to the life and property of Americans. He says we need to enforce criminal law because blacks aren’t getting the protection they deserve. He says we need a right to bear arms for self-protection. He says we need Supreme Court justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia, a constitutional originalist. He says “a nation without borders is not a nation at all. We must have a wall. The rule of law matters.” He wants an immigration policy that protects Americans from terrorist acts and benefits American workers. All of this is exactly in line with the founders’ approach.
And yet it is widely believed that Trump is ignorant of the purpose of the Constitution and the idea of justice in the founding! He doesn’t need lectures on natural rights from absurd parodies of statesmanship like Paul Ryan and Ben Sasse. He gets it without knowing anything about these increasingly empty natural rights slogans, which, as any thoughtful observer must admit, are no longer understood in their original sense. Obama and Hillary Clinton love to praise natural rights. Yet they have no idea of what they are and how government secures them.
Is Trump’s trade policy prudent? He believes that the purpose of trade policy is to protect and benefit Americans. The first substantive law ever passed by Congress says taxes on imports are “necessary for … the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” In other words, trade rules must serve the good of national prosperity and national defense. How can a country defend itself in a future war if its trade policy leads to outsourcing of steel production and widespread unemployment of both skilled and unskilled American workers?
After the War of 1812 had demonstrated the need for America to be economically independent of Europe, Jefferson abandoned his earlier utopian dream of America as a nation of farmers. He now became a strong advocate of manufacturing: “He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufacture, must be for reducing us either to dependence on . . . foreign nations, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of these; experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort.”
Why is Trump the only prominent politician since Reagan to understand that obvious political truth? The Founders got it, but Trump is routinely denounced for his failure to embrace “free” trade.
What is the purpose of foreign policy? Is it to save the world and the environment, to promote gay rights and feminism, as Obama and Hillary Clinton believe? No. In the Constitution, foreign policy is supposed to “secure the blessings of liberty for OURSELVES and our posterity.” Nothing else! What politician since Reagan understands that besides Trump? Why should our troops be stationed in 150 countries around the world? The Cold War is over. Trump proposes to restore the kind of foreign policy recommended by John Quincy Adams, who warned against roaming around the world “in search of monsters to destroy.”
If Trump could return America to a sane foreign policy operating within the natural rights parameters of the founders, it would be a victory of moderation and justice over the destructive arrogance of American power that has unleashed so much misery on the world since 1989. Those, too, are virtues of statesmanship.
The Clintons, together with the Bushes and Obama, have had a death grip on the presidency since 1989. On October 9, for the first time ever, the full depths of the evil, corrupt, greedy, and criminal Clinton “marriage” were exposed to the public. In front of the whole nation, with Bill Clinton’s rape victims in the audience, the Clintons were subjected to the public humiliation they have so long richly deserved but which no other Republican has ever had the courage to visit on them.
And yet scores of Republican and “conservative” leaders become frantic over 11-year-old private conversation.. Did Plutarch agonize about whether his heroes cheated on their wives or made boastful remarks about the women they had bedded or wished to bed? Was Hamilton’s reputation forever destroyed when his tawdry adulterous affair with another man’s wife was discovered? No. His picture continues to grace the $10 bill and his legacy is celebrated on Broadway.
Liberals have flooded our culture with porn, obscenity, trashiness everywhere you look, and millions of female readers of Fifty Shades of Grey have fantasized about being treated cruelly by a powerful male lover. During Clinton’s presidency in the 90s, we were lectured about the need to follow the example of France and get over our Puritanical preoccupation with sex. But when Trump says a few crude and boastful words, establishment adults everywhere are faux-fainting in dismay.
There really is a bipartisan ruling class. Angelo Codevilla and John Marini are right. Trump is the only man since Reagan to challenge it. Conservatism Inc., which is part of that ruling class (they get the scraps from the table after their betters finish dining), therefore turns its back on him, gleefully pointing and sputtering “I told you so” over every Trump comment or action that hints of racism, sexism, or homophobia. These “conservatives” are in effect working night and day for a Hillary victory. Good job, conservatives!
Trump has shown throughout his career that he knows how to get things done. He does it by working with competent subordinates who have the appropriate expert knowledge in their respective fields. He is good at hiring, and he is good at firing. Has a single presidential candidate since 1987 had that kind of success in their pre-presidential past? And yet many say Trump is unprepared for the presidency, and Hillary is ready to go—a woman who has failed at everything she has put her hand to, except to get promoted to ever higher offices and get rich by corruption and crime. What delusion!
I don’t know why conservatives are unable to grasp these simple truths. It can’t be only self-interest. I’ll fall back on Nietzsche’s explanation, because I have nothing better: in all modern politics, one hears “a hoarse, groaning, genuine note of self-contempt. It is part of that darkening and uglification of [the West] which has now been going on for a hundred years…. The man of ‘modern ideas,’ that proud ape, is immoderately dissatisfied with himself: that is certain.”
Thus the instinctive revulsion of every “respectable” person in America at the specter of Trump as president. One wonders whether it is animated by a hatred of life itself. As Nietzsche also says, “man would rather will nothingness than not will at all,” and man cannot bring himself to will if he thinks there is nothing higher, purer, and nobler to aspire to. Trump wants America to live, not die.