How to Advance the Greatness Agenda — A Post-Election Symposium

By | 2016-11-16T15:39:05+00:00 November 16th, 2016|
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In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential contest of 2016, there are far too many postmortems seeking to explain the question, “How did this happen?” Though many of us at American Greatness were pleasantly surprised by the extent of Trump’s victory, we always understood how it would come, if it came. So we believe we are far ahead of the curve and have already exhausted that question in the run-up to the election. A far more interesting question at this time concerns what to do with victory.

To that end, we have gathered some of our most thoughtful friends and contributors to answer the following:

“Given the Trump victory, what is the best way for patriots to promote an agenda of American Greatness—in immigration, economic nationalism, and foreign policy—going forward?”

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Larry P. Arnn

In a marvelous turn, President-elect Trump is busy forming an administration. So far as I can tell, he is doing that intelligently in the early stages. The gravity and size of that effort is a measure of the gravity and size of the problems he and we face. Mr. Trump has been fearless so far, and he is going to need that quality even more going forward. He has got many things right through the campaign and up to now, many of them surprising, even hardly imagined until he came along. There are many more still to be got right and huge battles to be fought. They are beginning already.

I think the key thing he has got right now is that the constituent element of the nation is the citizen. It is not the identity group. If there is to be any consistency or long-term representation of these citizens, they must be organized to produce “constitutional majorities.” It requires a form of government that is stable and well designed in order to amalgamate opinion and produce action. It turns out we have the best form ever invented for this, and Mr. Trump seems to understand that.

The urgent thing is for conservatives to advocate policies that reflect this understanding. The American people show signs of agreeing with it even now, after all this damage has been done for so long.

Larry P. Arnn is president of Hillsdale College and the author of several books including, Churchill’s Trial: Winston Churchill and the Salvation of Free Government (Thomas Nelson).

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Darren Beattie

Trump’s victory has not only exposed important disagreements within the GOP, it has also shown resoundingly on which side of the division the American people stand. The American people, like Trump, want a serious reconsideration of immigration policy, trade policy, and, yes, foreign policy in a manner that corrects some of the devastating errors of previous administrations of both parties.

There are many talented and patriotic Republicans who may not have supported Trump in the primaries and yet have much to offer a Trump Administration. Many people in this category could be especially useful in areas in which Trump found agreement with his primary rivals, such as replacing Obamacare and appointing justices like Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court.

With that said, it is crucial that the president-elect have people on his team with a demonstrated commitment to his agenda, and especially so on those points of immigration, trade, and foreign policy that deviate from previous Republican administrations. Unity and reconciliation must take place upon this understanding.

Trump’s electoral victory is only the beginning of a long and challenging fight to Make America Great Again. The task will require the best in us.

Darren Beattie is visiting assistant professor of political science at Duke University.

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Ben Boychuk
If personnel is policy, then President-elect Trump should make sure he keeps his promise to hire “the best people” for his administration. If we’re focusing on immigration, trade, and foreign affairs—the three pillars of the Greatness Agenda—then he’ll want to avoid retreads from past administrations.

And if he’s serious about renegotiating trade deals that have left U.S. workers in the lurch, Trump could hardly do better than naming Dan DiMicco as U.S. Trade Representative.

DiMicco was one of the president-elect’s top advisors on trade during the campaign. He is the former CEO and chairman of Nucor, the largest steel manufacturer and recycler in the United States. Nucor has never laid off a single employee in its history—not even during the Great Recession, when U.S. manufacturing lost  It’s non-union, yet offers wages well above industry average based on output and performance.

Like Trump, DiMicco recognizes that the United States will not remain competitive globally if we’re out of the business of innovating and making things. Manufacturing is vital. For years, DiMicco has been an outspoken advocate of an America First trade policy and a fierce critic of free trade, which he calls “a myth.”

“There is no such thing in the real world,” he blogged last year. “Free Trade exists only in the minds of those who wish to use it’s ‘name’ to cover their special interests.” DiMicco argues that for 30 years, U.S. leaders in both parties supported an economic model and trade policies that say we could cease being a nation that creates, makes and build things, and become instead a nation that just services things—and not only could we remain prosperous, we could grow richer still. It just isn’t so.

“Too many people who should have known better convinced themselves they could make something from nothing,” DiMicco wrote in his 2015 book, American Made. “In the process, they managed to decimate the American middle class and kneecap our manufacturing base.”

He’s right. One of the great challenges, of course, will be to anticipate and mitigate the effects of the coming onslaught of automation. Many manufacturing jobs—including jobs at Nucor —have been supplanted by robots in addition to being lost through trade. But If DiMicco is on board, that would be a good sign that Trump’s trade agenda is on track, and the president is serious about making policies that spur job growth and generate honest-to-goodness, tangible wealth.

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness.


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F.H. Buckley

Of all the issues that propelled Donald Trump to victory, immigration reform is at the top or very near the top of the list. At rallies, supporters chanted “Build the Wall,” and Trump said he’d make Mexico pay for it. Securing the border is something you’d expect any government to do, and Obama’s failure to do so helps explain why Americans no longer trust their government. But if illegal immigration is a serious problem, our broken legal immigration system is even more a disaster. We systematically import immobility and inequality by admitting low-skilled people who earn less than native-born Americans and who take jobs from them, and this effect persists for at least three generations.

And the solution is right before our eyes, if we look northward to Canada’s points system. In absolute numbers, a country one-tenth our size actually imports more immigrants on the basis of economic and skills criteria. That’s why immigration isn’t a controversial issue there, even though Canada has a much higher proportion of foreign-born residents than we do. It also gives Canada an immigration cohort more ready to assimilate to Canadian values.

If that’s so bad, why did Lena Dunham want to emigrate to Canada? Not that she could have gotten in. The points system might well have excluded her.

F.H. Buckley is a law professor at George Mason University. His most recent book, The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America (Encounter) explains the urgent need for legal immigration reform

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Chris Buskirk

While most of the media elite completely missed the Trump wave as it was building and continued to deny its existence even as it was crashing victoriously ashore on election night, many of his core supporters got an early start celebrating, confident of his ultimate victory. They saw Donald Trump’s victory coming because they recognized the urgent need for Trump’s core message and the resonance it had—and has—with a large swath of the American people who have been alternately ignored or belittled by the elites of both parties.

Where the Left is devoted to dehumanizing identity politics, much of the Right subscribes to a hidebound policy catechism with little time for—or knowledge of—principle or prudence. Donald Trump’s simple refrain, make America great again, rejects the race and sex based politics of the Left as much as it rejects the utopian dreams of the Right that too often reduce man to homo economicus.

Whether it is Donald Trump’s promise to reform immigration and secure the border, implement pro-worker trade and economic policies, or revive an interests based American foreign policy that relies more on Washington than on Wolfowitz, the importance of citizenship is the electric cord, as Lincoln called it, that binds them all together. Trump’s agenda and his rhetoric—so unfamiliar to post-modern ears—is a call to unite as one American people. We should answer that call.

Chris Buskirk is publisher of American Greatness.

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David P. Goldman

Productivity and economic growth are the top priority. The president-elect has already identified the key levers.

1) Rebuild infrastructure. One-sixth of America’s adult male population is idle, comparable to the Great Depression. We need the repairs and we need to get people working.

2) Cut corporate taxes and roll back regulation. There is an enormous capital investment deficit left over from the Obama years, and incentives for brick-and-mortar investment should have a big impact.

3) Rebuild America’s military, and revive federal R&D, which has fallen to postwar lows. Our military is hamstrung by misallocation of resources to old technologies like the F-35 and failure to take on new technological challenges. Military and aerospace spending have been key to productivity growth since the Space Race.

4) Offer tax incentives to keep jobs in the United States. America created all the major tech industries but kept few of the jobs.

5) Expand domestic-content rules for military procurement, both for national security, and to require military suppliers to build plants in the US rather than source high-tech components from overseas.

6) Adopt an Australian-style points system for immigration to cherry-pick immigrants who contribute to our economy.

David P. Goldman is the columnist “Spengler” for Asia Times Online; his latest book is How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too). He is the Wax Family Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Deal W. Hudson

There was a moment when Donald Trump spoke on June 21 to 1,000 religious leaders in New York City when I saw for myself his vision for America. I paraphrase: “I want an America where a coach can say a prayer with his team.”

Call it a small, perhaps banal, moment, but to me it encapsulated what our nation must put behind to become great again—the attack on the American character disguised by name of “diversity” and enforced by the new commandment handed down by the elites, “Thou shalt not offend anyone by expressing, or acting upon, your beliefs.”

The viral “isms” of the past 40 years that now control the academy, the media, and much of the culture and politics were never what they claimed to be—expressions of inclusion, justice, and epistemological daring. They were vehicles of destruction, intended to destroy one ethos and create another through education, entertainment, economic reward, and social pressure. That they have met success can be seen in the angry, tearful, hateful, and violent faces calling for an end to the Electoral College, etc. Thus, the recovery of our nation’s ethos will require more than the leadership of the president-elect. It will require our courage in the public square.

Deal W. Hudson is publisher and editor of The Christian Review.

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Seth Leibsohn

The question poses the most important part of the answer—what is the best way for “patriots” to promote the agenda. By this, I take it to mean citizens and supporters or Trump voters. If the push against progressivism is to put power back into the hands of “We” who hold certain truths and “We” the people, this was an election to claim just that. And, as Ronald Reagan liked put it, his favorite word was “citizen.” So, as citizens, as voters, as patriots, “What can we do?”

1) Let us not be “sunshine patriots.” Let us give our new president a chance. During the campaign, the fun thing to do was give unsolicited advice to candidate Trump. “What should he do in the debates?” “How should he reach out to X community or Y group.” As radio host Mike Gallagher liked to remind us, though: How about giving this guy who seems to cut through expectations and opponents like a hot knife through butter a little credit for actually knowing what he’s doing?

2) I was going through some late 1980 and early 1981 stories on the Reagan transition. It is incredible how much speculation there was, how much anger there was, and how much doubt there was from conservatives over Reagan’s staffing choices. Much of it seems ridiculous now. One story was carping over the potential appointment of George Shultz (who’s appointment indeed had to wait) because he would not be sufficiently pro-Israel. Bill Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick were criticized for being Democrats. All pretty absurd in retrospect. Maybe Reagan, too, knew what he was doing.

3) Aside from patience with Trump, let no absurd charge from the left and the Democrats go unchallenged. Bannon is a problem? Goodness, is anyone looking into the background of the potential new head of the DNC, Keith Ellison? Stay on offense. The campaign is really never over and given the regnant NeverTrump conservatives, the MSM, and the Left, we all need to remain vigilant—blogging, calling radio shows, and writing letters to the editor. The campaign is never over for the other side, and evidently it is not for the NeverTrump movement. It shouldn’t be over for us, either.

Seth Leibsohn is a contributing editor at American Greatness, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, and the co-host with Chris Buskirk of “The Seth and Chris Show” on KKNT in Phoenix. He is the co-author with William J. Bennett of The Fight of Our Lives.


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Ken Masugi

2016 is 1860—Eight Score Minus Four.

To the President-elect:

The secessionist Democrats and some in your own party deny your presidency legitimacy. They cannot physically secede (or even leave for Canada), so this civil war—the term is not mere metaphor—will be played out within the hearts and minds of citizens. In these struggles, your lawless enemies, especially those in the media and academia, will try to portray you, our Lincoln, as John Wilkes Booth.

Most of those who call now for unity are your enemies. Unity for its own sake can reinforce the very injustice you effectively campaigned against.

You must therefore define your enemies, for a man without enemies has no true friends. Then criticize, isolate, and mock them—for political reasons but nonpartisan ones. To cite a corrupt example, Franklin Roosevelt was happy to compare his conservative Republican opponents to “Tories” and “fascists.” That is the language of watershed elections such as Jefferson’s in 1800, Lincoln’s in 1860, FDR’s in 1932, and yours in 2016.

The election can unify Americans on the proper, political basis, if it is understood not as a class or race-based election but one that reaffirms American sovereignty, the sovereignty of “we the people”—we citizens against groups, interests, elites, and, above all, experts.

Ken Masugi has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members and for Clarence Thomas, when he was Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, James Madison College of Michigan State University, the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University, and Princeton University.

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Jesse Merriam

Patriots of many stripes can promote an American Greatness agenda through the Trump Administration in a variety of ways, but I will speak to one particular way pertinent to my area of scholarship: the judiciary.

The legal conservative movement has failed at an astounding rate at the hands of the past three Republican presidents. Of the seven Supreme Court justices appointed by these presidents, three—and perhaps soon to be four in Chief Justice Roberts—have ended up veering dramatically to the Left. Meanwhile, not a single justice appointed by any Democratic president over the last 50 years has moved to the Right.

This is the product of many factors, including the nature of judicial appointments and the substantial Left-ward drift of American culture.

While progressives have not worried about the niceties of constitutional theory, conservatives have become increasingly obsessive over originalism, insisting on the dogma that the only legitimate mode of constitutional interpretation is one that comports with the original meaning of the Constitution. The Left keeps winning constitutional law while the Right keeps whining about constitutional law.

The truth is, though originalism provides a solid foundation and framework for constitutional interpretation, the text and history are simply too vague to decide many concrete cases, particularly those that create the most political and social controversy. To fill in those gaps, a judge ultimately needs a normative theory about the purpose of American law.

I expect President-elect Trump to deviate from the general trajectory of the legal conservative movement by advancing a form of originalism that is more concrete and firmly rooted, resting on the normative foundation that American law is about putting Americans first. This America First Originalism may provide the constitutional vehicle for a movement that reshapes the meaning of conservatism in the coming years.

Jesse Merriam, Ph.D., J.D., is assistant professor and pre-law Advisor at Loyola University, Maryland.

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Julie Ponzi

Donald Trump’s unconventional approach to persuasion will now be the stuff of American political legend. Nearly all of the “experts” dismissed Trump when he announced his intention to run and they continued to underestimate him as he proceeded—again and again—to prove their assumptions about American politics wrong. As the postmortems are compiled, they are still getting it wrong.

In our political climate, it is not the “unconventional” nature of Trump’s approach to political persuasion that is noteworthy. It is his unwavering conviction that persuasion is the still the highest object of politics that should command our attention. This, above all things, is what distinguished him from the rest of the Republican field and, eventually, from his general election opponent, Hillary Clinton. In this we find Trump’s solemn regard for the sovereignty of the American people and his understanding that their consent is what confers legitimacy on the laws and institutions that govern their lives. Without that consent, there is no real legitimacy.

Now that the election is over, it is my hope that Trump will continue to see his role as one of seeking and securing consent in the form of shaping public sentiment. And he should recall, as Lincoln did, that “[w]ith Public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.”

Julie Ponzi is senior editor of American Greatness.

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Stephen B. Presser

With Donald Trump achieving the presidency, Americans have an opportunity to return the country to some core principles of the American Founding. These principles, applied to our local, state, and national politics, can reverse the country’s recent trajectory, which most Americans felt was along the wrong track.

Most important is to understand that true American greatness flows from our Founding era’s understanding that government exists not to redistribute resources, but to protect us in our enjoyment of civil, religious, and property rights, and our freedom to advance knowledge and productivity. This can be done if the new administration succeeds in removing crippling federal and state bureaucracy and regulation and easing the tax burden on both ordinary Americans and American business.

Finally, if we can return to a system where we adhere to the rule of law rather than the rule of executive fiat, where we understand that the governments that govern best are those closest to the people, and where we reaffirm the importance of free thought, tradition, morality and religion we should be in a better position to tap the common sense of the American people and to solve our problems of immigration, economics, and foreign affairs.

Stephen B. Presser is Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History, Emeritus at Northwestern University School of Law and professor of strategy at the Kellogg School of Management.

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Ronald D. Rotunda

Economists speak of the wisdom of crowds. Economic experiments routinely demonstrate that the crowd is, on the whole, smarter than the experts, which is why the most prosperous and leading countries of the world are democracies. For America to be great again, we must return to democracy and rule by the people. We must reject what has been the norm for the last eight years—government by presidential decree, government by unelected bureaucrats making law through letters and edicts, government by IRS bureaucrats punishing the president’s enemies, government by the president exempting his supporters (he calls them “waivers”) from the laws that the rest of us much follow. We live in a world so regulated that federal government experts tell us who can use which restrooms.

The people do not want crony capitalism. America will be great again when the government substantially shrinks the federal regulations that sap the energy of our citizens. Unleash the America spirit and we will be great again.

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Chapman University’s Dale E. Fowler School of Law.

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Michael Walsh

The fight against Leftism must be taken up again in the intellectual precincts where the cultural Marxists won their first important victory: in academe. For it is only through a restoration of Western classical learning—beginning with the Greeks and Romans, moving through Boethius and Aquinas, and so forward into the Renaissance, the classicism of the Enlightenment (the U.S. Constitution and Mozart’s last great operas are exact contemporaries), Romanticism and the modern era. Absent the study of philosophy, religion, art, music, literature, languages, so-called “higher education” is merely political propaganda posing as bogus “disciplines,” designed to produce cogs in the leftist machine, rather than independent thinkers capable of carrying forward the cultural inheritance we all share.

This requires university administrations willing to wrest back control of their institutions from their overwhelmingly leftist liberal-arts faculties, including all hiring decisions, promotions and grants of tenure. Further, any class or course bearing the word “studies” needs to be immediately purged, and teachers should be recruited on the basis of their professional expertise and stature in their chosen fields. In admissions, the only kind of “diversity” that should be entertained is intellectual diversity.

In short, a restoration of the foundational principles of the West, uncolored by Marxist cant and illusion.

Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic of Time Magazine. His works include the novels, As Time Goes By, And All the Saints (winner, 2004 American Book Award for fiction) and the “Devlin” series of thrillers; and the recent nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace (Encounter).

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Bradley C.S. Watson

President-elect Trump can fix our very broken immigration system by leading a charge to privilege immigration from developed Western countries. We would then stop pretending that political and moral culture is irrelevant when it comes to immigration. As our system now stands, legal immigration depends mostly on having an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen, or having an employer willing to spend thousands of dollars and many years sponsoring an immigrant through a Byzantine labor certification process. Neither of these things well serves American interests, as opposed to individual or corporate ones.

By contrast, privileging immigrants from Western countries would serve us in five overlapping ways. First, other Western countries almost invariably have more generous social welfare and safety nets—and higher personal tax rates—relative to the U.S. Immigrants from these countries would therefore self-select; the most entrepreneurial and least dependent among them would be drawn to the land of opportunity.

Second, such immigrants would tend to possess relatively high levels of education.

Third, such immigrants would know what it is to live under the rule of law; high levels of law-abidingness could therefore be expected of them.

Fourth, such immigrants would be relatively easy to vet on national security grounds.

Fifth, such immigrants would be conversant with what might broadly be described as the Judeo-Christian tradition, and therefore capable of relatively quick and painless assimilation to the American way. People from just anywhere—even rich people—are less likely to assimilate and reinforce American mores to the same extent.

It’s impossible to predict with certainty who will be a “good” or “bad” immigrant. But a system such as this would—automatically, as it were—increase our odds of attracting the former. Initially, it would make sense to concentrate on English-speaking countries. Immigrant visas could be doled out by lottery, up to a set number per year, pending security checks. (We already dole out visas by lottery, but it’s a lottery that’s not based on the rational discriminations I’m suggesting. Visas are instead set aside on diversity grounds, for applicants “from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.” Who, acting for American interests, could think such a criterion sensible?)

Some family reunification and employer-sponsored immigration would necessarily remain, so immigration would continue to be global, but in different proportions compared to the present system. The United States could skim the cream of the world’s crop with a simplified, American interest-based system.

Bradley C. S. Watson, a naturalized U.S. citizen, is professor of politics and Philip M. McKenna Chair in American and Western Political Thought at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he is also co-director of the Center for Political and Economic Thought.

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