Donald Trump on Love and Justice

One of the most revealing moments of Donald Trump’s presidency so far went completely unnoted. “We all learned a lot,” he said following his recent discussion with the nation’s governors, which centered on his well-publicized support for arming qualified public teachers and staff. Speaking of the sheriffs who held back from entering Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the February 14 shooting, Trump elaborated: “They don’t love the students, they don’t know the students. The teachers love the students and they want to protect those students . . . .”

Here Trump articulated the principle that governs his view of justice and politics—defend those you know and love. Later on in these exchanges with the governors, the president displayed his judgment in criticizing schemes for “hardening” schools with automatic door locks and even smoke bombs, reminding his audience of his career as a builder. Advocates of these and other measures know nothing of building and those who reject self-defense know even less about human nature.

Yet it is Trump whom our supposed intelligent observers mock for his alleged lack of intellectual heft and sophistication. Thus, my favorite writer at National Review, Richard Brookhiser, could write in a recent column:

Followers of Harry Jaffa, the most important Lincoln scholar of the last 60 years, rally round a Republican who does not know why the Civil War happened. Straussians, after leaving the cave, find themselves in Mar-a-Lago.

Of course, and maybe more to the point, Trump knows who won the Civil War and, unlike some of conservatism’s current and past intellectuals, he approves of President Lincoln. In his courageous memoir of his time at NR, Brookhiser recalls how Jaffa won him and other editors, including founding editor William F. Buckley himself, over to Lincoln.  

In response to Brookhiser’s lament that Trump has somehow shattered Buckley’s influence on conservatism, my favorite psephological political analyst Henry Olsen observes:

Trump has given every element of the conservative movement what they want, save one. He has never given the movement intellectuals . . . a coherent argument for his vision that meets their approval and a demonstration that he is a serious man.

Perhaps these intellectuals should be open to the possibility that they are, again, missing something others—intellectual or not—see a bit more clearly. Trump showed his seriousness, for those open-minded enough to see it, with the governors. Arming qualified weapons-handlers among teachers goes to a general principle of fighting for the common good and defending the rights of those being tyrannized. The principle holds true, too, when it comes to trade, borders, wars, and terrorism: we should not think of ourselves primarily as victims, at our own expense and to the advantage of others. Citizens should not be lambs lining up for a slaughter. Trump’s talk in this instance, and in others, functions as a Franklin Roosevelt-style “Fireside Chat.”

Against Brookhiser’s elegant portrayal of a Buckley-elevated conservative movement subsequently destroyed by Trump and his followers, Olsen argues that “movement conservatism has been dying from sclerosis for years.” As he has elaborated in his American Greatness columns, he wants a revitalized conservatism that combines the talents of the two most successful American politicians of the 20th century: Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt. He would not annihilate Progressivism but roll it back to its bare bones, with government-supplied safety nets. Government would be strong but not oppressive. It would lift burdens, not create new ones.      

Olsen contends that movement conservatism overlooked the views of “the plurality of Republicans,” who “aren’t movement conservatives at all.” And, he goes on, “most movement conservative voters care more about religious liberty and social issues than they do about the size of government, and that Trump has formed a covenant with them that allows them to overlook his many sins.…”

But this is too cynical a view of religious supporters of Trump. If we must speak of overlooking sins, why not also assail the morality of David, Solomon, and even the lowly Jephtha, all of whom delivered Israel at moments of peril? Or that prophet of “unclean lips,” Isaiah?

This distorts, it seems to me, the Christian interest in religion. Christians are religious not in order to become moral but because we hunger to know and love the Father-God who made us. As a consequence of such knowledge and love, we become more moral than they were, but this is a consequence and not a motive for Christians.

As Harry V. Jaffa  criticized Allan Bloom for seeing the world primarily through books, so might Trump or his defenders criticize conservative intellectuals for disregarding the political souls of the voters—those celebrated first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book who may have a better grasp on the meaning of being “one nation” than some intellectuals may have.

Moreover, contemporary intellectuals generally disdain religion (Buckley being a major exception) in the name of an often atrophied notion of reason. As important, conservative intellectuals, entranced by Buckley’s run for mayor, were not serious about their politics, again in the name of the intellect. Not that they didn’t have many good ideas, including the founding of the Conservative Party in New York. But political seriousness was recognized in passing. Too often political discourse spoke to other conservative thinkers; involving the people, in the engine room of democracy, was unconnected.

Conservative intellectuals, as does their genus, overlook the two great poles of the soul and of the cosmos: politics and theology—the near and the far—of political philosophy. Here Trump, judging by his knowledge of human nature, seems closer to the great questions of life than are most intellectuals. And he has a seriousness about politics lacking in our national politicians since Reagan.

Thus, one sells Trump short by taking “Trump and Trump supporters seriously as an authentic expression of the modern American right.” They are, rather, an authentic expression of the American soul.

John Marini warns what a further delayed reconstruction of American politics might involve, from his essay “How the Ruling Class Rules” in the Winter 2018 Claremont Review of Books:

The verdict on America is not yet in, but as long as democracy includes the capacity to choose new leaders and transform political institutions, the rule by bureaucrat kings, however well organized and intended, remains precarious. If, on the other hand, the path of least resistance is to enjoy the benefits of rational rule rather than reestablish political rule, then only “the pitiless crowbar of events,” in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words, can reawaken the desire for freedom and self-government.

Which is the path of least resistance ahead of us now? Trump the builder is not this crowbar wielder, as much as some conservatives would like to portray him.

About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, and a special assistant for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of 10 books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.

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27 responses to “Donald Trump on Love and Justice”

  1. As I have been writing since before the November election that brought him to power: The next Trump is out there watching and learning. Of that, you can be certain. Enjoy this Trump. This is the nice Trump.

    • I hope and pray that he, or she, is indeed watching, and learning. It will be a miracle if this Trump can just stem the flooding of the swamp, so the next can begin the draining!! We may be witnessing the start of an age of renewal that will profoundly alter history.

  2. Huge eye roll. ” Trump articulated the principle that governs his view of justice and politics” Still laughing. Can’t stop laughing. What a profound and ludicrous mischaracterization. Trump has absolutely no principles. My hamster is a more principled and ethical creature than out barbarian President. Trump has screwed every business partner he ever had; none of them will do business with him a second time. He has shafted tradesmen, bankers, employees. EVERYONE. He has the personal morals of an alley cat. And he managed to avoid military service due to “bone spurs”, and still insult his betters. He is uncouth, impulsive, inarticulate in the extreme, and entirely amoral. This is laughable article.

    • Yours is a laughable analysis. Are you a Never-Trumper or more likely a never was, sure he’s screwed over EVERY business partner, you’re a complete idiot, if he had done that he wouldn’t BE in business you mentally defective moron. He’s just pissed in your lemonade by daring to win an election you never thought he would win. You’re a loser, he’s a winner end of story.

      By the way, your hamster ‘Browneye’ shudders in fear at your gaping asshole.

      • Here is a typical Trumpster: a vulgar, semi-literate, gullible, under-educated, bigoted, misogynist, potty-mouthed, angry, left-behind, under-employed, white, male slob. The classic profile, but based on his stevedore language, among the group known as “pigs”. A member of the bottom 25% of American society. Oink away, pond scum man.

  3. PRESIDENT TRUMP illustrates that the Founding Fathers were prescient, and understood politics well beyond what was obvious to the common man.
    They never intended for a Congressman or Representative to be a life long career. These professional government parasites America has had in the past, and dominate D.C. now, are sucking the life out of one of the greatest nations and governments ever created.
    PRESIDENT TRUMP’s popularity and success is attributed directly to the fact that he is NOT a politician, and takes care of the nations business, rather than be servile to any political factions.

      • No, no he won’t you blithering idiot. Let your hamster do your posting, he would make more coherent posts. Get ready for 7 more years, numbnuts.

      • So we can revert to what? Rule by, at best, another Bush, another Obama? Lawyers-turned-politicians or scions of blueblood dynasties bent on global governance with living constitutions written by them in their superior wisdom? Or maybe an international EU-style consortium, or the ultimate nightmare specter of a China-North Korea-Iran totalitarian triumvirate?

      • Any Democrat will do. And it is inevitable; Trump is doomed. Mueller is going to slice him up like a radish. It will be epic.

      • Bernie Sanders? Kamala Harris? You and your cohort are on the menu BCML, and you’re too dense to realize it.

      • Why should anyone take seriously the words of someone with such a dismal comment-to-upvote ratio?

  4. There are many parallels between Trump and the founding fathers. They were also rich gentleman developers, they were not politicians, but idealists, and they were definitely not saints. Oh, and they told the rest of the world to piss off.

  5. Buckley et. al. did not elevate conservatism so much as hijack it to serve the interests of an effete elite. Modern “Conservatism” is but a sophist fueled perversion of the historical ideas that made the United States the light of the world. These ideas were best articulated by Russell Kirk who wrote in his essay “Ten Conservative Principles”:

    “Perhaps it would be well, most of the time, to use this word “conservative” as an adjective chiefly. For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.”

    “The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.”

    He concludes with:

    “The great line of demarcation in modern politics, Eric Voegelin used to point out, is not a division between liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order, and that material needs are their only needs, and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.”

    You would do yourself well to read the whole thing.

  6. Tump on love and justice. Kinda like Nixon on Truth and Transparency. Impossible. Trump does not have those things in his being. If you titles the article :Trump on Greed, Lust, and Bull$hit” you might have had credibility.

    • And yet he has a family who obviously love him mightily and who do him proud. So much for your observations on love.

      And he was elected as the law and order candidate and has governed as such. So much for your observation on justice.

      So now we know you lie. Any more observations? Coming from an established liar? Who cares?

      • His “family” is a train wreck. Kids from at least 3 partners. The eldest a bunch of defective grease balls. The Trumps are trailer park trash.

  7. Ken,
    Conservative intellectuals like Bill Kristol are in what Strauss described as the deep pit beneath the floor of the cave in which they were born; while Trump, because he knows the American cave ” in his bones,” has a deeper and clearer grasp of what is fitting and proper for our way of life.
    Ric Williams

  8. Thanks for bringing to mind again Solzhenitsyn’s Address to Harvard. I had forgotten his phrase, ““the pitiless crowbar of events”. Went back and reread his entire Address. It was encouraging to recontact his depth and honesty. Timely today, too. Jordan Peterson expansively asserts in one of his talks that the Gulag Archipelago brought down the Soviet Union.