Trump and the Low, Dishonest Decades

I have to admit, I get most of my news and opinion from within the #MAGA bubble. From where I sit, given the healthy economy, the marvelously successful foreign policy, and the obvious derangement and hatred spewed by President Trump’s opponents, the smart money is not on a Blue Wave in the 2018 midterms but on a pro-administration surge such as the one America experienced in 2002 and 1932.

But this week I emerged from my bubble and entered another one at  an establishment conservative D.C. think tank for a mini-conference on “A Liberal Republic, If You Can Keep it.”  The presentations were live cast and the recordings will probably be up on YouTube soon. I commend to your attention the first panel on “American Liberalism in Theory” and Harvey Mansfield’s keynote dry martini introduction to the political science of The Federalist.

But sitting in the second panel on “American Liberalism in Practice” and listening to Ronald Brownstein recycle his punditry of the past 20 months, I realized perhaps the greatest promise and threat of a Trump presidency: Trump’s election marks the expiration of the “clever hopes” of two low, dishonest decades.

Brownstein at Hoover, perhaps without intending it, brought two of these “hopes” of the best and the brightest to our attention: the hope that “low-carbon industries” could serve as the basis of American prosperity, and the hope that the United States could import unchecked low-skilled immigration without importing the crime and disorder that made those immigrants flee in the first place.

Brownstein claimed in December 2016 and again this week that Trump’s coalition rested in great part on states and industries that are high carbon emitters. And it is surely true that, say, Apple’s design and marketing headquarters in Cupertino has a carbon footprint much lower than a coal mine or an automobile plant. But Apple is “low carbon” in California because it outsources the manufacturing of its devices to China and the power generation to keep them running not just to the O’Shaughnessy Dam that wrecked the picturesque Hetch Hetchy Valley but to coal- and gas-fired plants throughout the world.

Since 1970, and with much greater force since 1991, the United States and progressive states like California have chosen the reverse protectionist policy of taxing and regulating polluting industries, thus driving them to countries that offer lower-cost manufacturing not just because they offer cheap labor but because their elites still think dirty jobs for burly men (and stressed-out young women working 12-hour days in polypropylene coveralls) are better than no jobs at all. The progressive classes get their iPhones, their high-paying jobs for today’s Stanford graduates (precious few great mining engineers in the Class of 2018, it is safe to wager), and their clean air, as well as the clean conscience that comes from unlimited indulgence in virtue-signalling. The emissions, and the deplorable working classes, are elsewhere.

Brownstein gave, skillfully warmed-over, the conventional wisdom that Trump’s coalition represents the victory of the nostalgic white rural and exurban America over the “diverse” and immigrant-friendly metropolises, as if a city like San Francisco where one cannot wear a certain hat offers more valuable diversity than a red state that includes deep blue capitols and college towns like Madison or Austin.

On immigration, Trump’s election means that Americans are finally having the debate that will legitimate or check the scofflaw enforcement and chain-migration policies that have brought not only a Quinceañera Expo to Chicago but also MS-13 to the D.C. suburbs. As Victor Davis Hanson has argued, special interests have won policies that have made them richer and flattered their humanitarian impulses. Those table grapes are cheap at the store, Hanson shows, because Whole Foods’ sticker does not include what taxpayers pay for them in disability and welfare for 50-year-old former grape-pickers who can’t find work because they have neither education nor legal status.

Perhaps the self-flattering lies that our elites have told us and are telling themselves will work on enough Millennials and single women to swing the House and the Senate to the Democrats. But until the results are in, this Deplorable will continue to have faith that enough people have the love of country and honesty to look clearly at how America got where it was in 2016. Better to have faith that enough people will give their votes in 2018 to those candidates who are not afraid to deal with our economic, environmental, and immigration problems—even if Brownstein and his readers will call them the names they usually save for us.

About Gaius Mucius Scaevola

Gaius Mucius Scaevola is the nom de plume of a well-regarded academic expert in American political thought and political philosophy.

Photo: Cassette tape with US flag label

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