President Trump is taking a sledgehammer to the establishment consensus, and that consensus deserves it. New affronts to the people’s common sense emerge daily to vindicate his project.
Just take the recent example of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Upon the publication of the Washington Post’s exposé alleging Roy Moore’s sexual impropriety with minors, Graham—without hesitation or further inquiry—said that Moore should “step aside” and that he should “be dealt with very severely.”
But just a few weeks ago, Graham served as a character witness for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who prior to a judge this week declaring a mistrial, was facing 18 federal counts involving bribery and corruption and is alleged to have had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. In his testimony, Graham called Menendez, the first sitting senator to be on trial in more than a decade,“very honest and trustworthy.”
A Blind, Deaf, and . . . Stupid Establishment
The contrast should be astounding to anyone not captive tothe ruling class mindset. Pardon the skeptical public for their inability to take lectures on morality seriously from the likes of Senator Graham and other members of our ruling class. From skyrocketing divorce rates (especially among our older population) to the explosion of crime in our inner cities, there is overwhelming evidence of the establishment’s failure to take the lead on questions of moral importance.
But try telling that to the members of the establishment. They cannot even see the failures their weakness combined with permissive ideology and policy have produced. In fact, they think that the only prescription needed is more of the same poison that brought us where we are.
To paraphrase the political philosopher Leo Strauss, the members of the establishment know neither that they fiddle nor that Rome is burning.
Consider, for example, a recent speech by George W. Bush. Bush told an audience that what the world needs most right now is a stronger belief in the pieties of universal freedom, globalism, and unlimited immigration.
More “global engagement,” which has resulted in chaos and violence throughout the Middle East. More fake “free trade,” which has helped to hollow out the middle class and has made us increasingly subservient to foreign adversaries such as China.
And more “immigration,” which Bush claims has “always” brought “dynamism” to our nation. So much for questions regarding assimilation, wage stagnation, increased crime in American cities close to the southern border, and concern with questions such as national identity and the meaning of citizenship.
As R.R. Reno has remarked, “When faced with a world of their own making that is careening toward economic, cultural, and political disasters,” Bush and the establishment instead of owning their mistakes “compliment their own leadership.”
New Freedom from Old Bromides
But the establishment’s failures were Trump’s gains. For a man who disdains theory and abstraction, his blasting away at the encrusted barnacles of establishment convention has opened up the possibility ofgenuine political thought for the first time in decades.
It has caused a sizable number of Americans to break free from the old bromides and pieties which were really just intellectual enslavement to an ideology they once took as authoritative. And it has given people more confidence to trust that they can see the cracks and make efforts to repair them.
In the latest installment of his monthly email newsletter, “The Masculinist,” cultural commentator Aaron Renn writes there is “no reason to allow” the establishment “to set your agenda, or to crave their approval or legitimation.” For far too long, Republicans have been playing by the Democrat’s rules.
Time and again Republicans cave while Democrats smirk, almost in disbelief, as Republicans once again get suckered by their cynical deployment of “morality.” Ever hopeful that this time the Democrats are really going to uphold virtue as a principle above power, they dutifully and breathlessly report the grunting noises of leftists who seem to indicate some notion of the common cause here and take aim at one of their own. Conveniently, they launch their salvos after the prey has vacated the forest or when it is time to retire him, anyway. Silly rabbits. This trick is for kids, but Republicans fall for it every time. The “principle” of virtue is only ever deployed as a weapon to keep Republicans out of power. Pay attention.
With the hosanna chorus of “that’s not who we are” echoing through the halls of Congress, voters can be excused for wondering whose side these elites are on, anyway. And Republicans setting up their own defenestrations increasingly will be seen as the hapless hucksters that they are, as when Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) stood by silently and watched Senate Democrats attack Charles Murray, a distinguished social scientist whom Lee had invited to speak on a Senate panel on social capital in America.
Well-Rounded, Contrarian Citizens
Upending the establishment consensus can only be successful if Americans are no longer captive to bread and circuses. We must educate ourselves and read widely, even among those with whom we disagree. We must adopt a contrarian mindset and always be ready to question whatever narrative the media and elected officials sell—and this includes even Right-leaning media and political figures such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and—most especially—the Republican Congress.
Moreover, we must be well-rounded citizens, so that should our project of busting the establishment monopoly succeed, we have something worthy with which to replace it. Tearing down is not enough. We must know what it takes to build a strong civil society that can last for generations to come. We must stop asking what is good for conservatives (who cares?) and start asking what it means to stand for the common good.
While President Trump is doing his part, it is likely that his role is only going to be smashing through the wall. The people must pour through the hole and take back what is rightfully theirs. And when they get it, they had better show themselves worthy of the effort.
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