David Brooks, one of the New York Times’ in-house “conservatives,” recently attempted to mount an intellectual attack on President Trump. Brooks, you may remember, is the deep thinker who was awestruck by the crease in Barack Obama’s trousers.
The article is a tangle of intellectual confusion. To address them all would probably require an entire semester. I’ll focus on only one.
Brooks attacks Trump with the claim that Trump is an “anti-Enlightenment Man.” To lay the groundwork for his attack, Brooks writes:
America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment project.
In truth, America is the test case only of the American Enlightenment. America could not become the test case, for example, for the French Enlightenment for the simple reason that the French philosophes disagreed fundamentally with the American Founders.
France is the test case for the French Enlightenment, and we all know how that test turned out. The nightmare of the Terror in which France’s political leaders took turns executing each other while simultaneously slaughtering French citizens by the thousands gave way to Napoleon who took the bloodletting beyond France’s borders. Napoleon overran Europe, threatened England, and brought military catastrophe on his own forces by attacking Russia, exactly as Hitler would later do.
The philosophes of the French Enlightenment and the American Founders were contemporaries, as were Washington and Napoleon, but the important point is that the philosophes and the Founders differed about as much as did Washington and Napoleon. The French Enlightenment and the American Enlightenment were related but not similar.
And other countries generated their own versions of the Enlightenment project, each with their own distinct characteristics. Of these, the English and the Scottish Enlightenments are perhaps best known. Consequently, be on the alert whenever anyone makes claims about “the Enlightenment.” It is always appropriate to ask “Which Enlightenment?”
Brooks, you will not be surprised to learn, gets around to identifying globalism and the institutions which are stepping stones to world government with “the Enlightenment” in order to label President Trump as an “anti-Enlightenment man.”
Trump certainly does seek to prevent America from being submerged in a globalist world order that extinguishes everything which has made America the exceptional country it is. By advocating a globalist order on America and the world, one that requires America to un-make the Founders’ design, Brooks is actually the one who is being “anti-Enlightenment.” Brooks seems to be against the American Enlightenment. Trump, on the other hand, is merely the foe of the globalist establishment. Brooks forgets that being “anti-Establishment” does not make one “anti-Enlightenment.” Quite the opposite, in fact.
President Trump declared he is a “common sense conservative.” We can do a much better job than Brooks of relating Trump to the Enlightenment era by remembering that the American Enlightenment was rooted in common sense. The great American historian Arthur Herman has written that “common sense realism was virtually the official creed of the American Republic.” The Founders, you see, were common sense revolutionaries. The best way to understand common sense conservatism, I believe, is that it is an attempt to conserve the Founders gift to us, the common sense nation they founded.
The most interesting aspect of the Trump phenomenon is that ordinary people of sound common sense were able to recognize Trump for what he is—our chance, perhaps our last chance, to save America from the progressive globalism that holds the Democrats and David Brooks so firmly in its grip and which, sadly, is coming to dominate the Republicans too.