American Greatness Itself is at Stake in 2020, and Trump Knows It

For those of us who can remember when our politics was more civil, when Republicans and Democrats actually seemed to respect each other and could trade control over the presidency without wild claims of illegitimacy being hurled at the incumbent, the recent behavior of Democrats is puzzling.

How can one explain the now obviously transparent “Russian Collusion Delusion,” or the more recently spiking “Trump Impeachment Fever,” particularly when this last is over the claim he sought aid from the Ukraine in exposing the corruption of former Vice President Joseph Biden?

In a relatively little noticed Twitter outburst on the evening of October 1, the president gave a compelling analysis:

Put slightly differently, the president was explaining that we are seeing a last battle in the culture war that the Democrats thought they had won for all time with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Trump’s tweets were an eerie reminder of two assessments made by Obama and his would-be successor, Hillary Clinton.

On the campaign trail in April 2008, analyzing what he perceived to be the plight of industrial workers whose jobs were evaporating due to automation and foreign competition, Obama stated “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Hillary Clinton, at a fundraiser on September 9, 2016 made the infamous remarks that, “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables, Right? They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic—Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that.”

Clinton’s remarks probably did more to alienate independents and disillusioned Democrats than anything else in the 2016 campaign, but Trump’s tweets actually set forth a more profound analysis. Obama and Clinton mistook a resurgence of basic and enduring beliefs, beliefs that are different from theirs, for bigotry. What they thought was intolerance, Trump is able to perceive as old-fashioned patriotism and faith.

In speaking of taking away the power of the people to vote for their president, (a counter to Clinton’s claim that Trump was somehow “illegitimate”) Trump was revealing the ironic hatred of the modern Democratic party for the Constitution itself. He understood and articulated what was actually the progressives’ tendency to replace popular sovereignty with rule by an unelected bureaucracy.

This bureaucracy, what some call the “administrative state,” and what the president has labelled “the swamp” was not foreseen by the framers; it runs against the grain of accountability that is the essence of constitutional government, and replaces rule by the voters with rule by an unresponsive elite.

Trump’s reference to the Second Amendment responded not only to Obama’s “cling to their guns” observation, but to the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates who do, in fact, seek to eliminate the constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to bear arms.

Trump’s references to the border wall and the military are pungent reminders that Democrats appear to favor unrestricted immigration and using funding for redistributive social programs rather than building a stronger defences for the United States.

In a much subtler and more sophisticated manner, though, Trump’s final two points, about “Religion,” and “God-given rights,” go to the core values that are in conflict in what he correctly understands as a cultural as well as a political struggle.

Democrats and progressives want a secular public square, but Trump and his supporters reflect an earlier America, when it was believed that there could be no order without law, no law without morality, and no morality without religion. That was the view of the framers like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, and it still resonates in red-state America. Consistent with that view, of course, is that our rights, as Thomas Jefferson noted in the Declaration of Independence, come from our Creator, and not from our government.

Those who would remove Trump, in the final analysis, seek not only to remove a constitutionally selected chief executive, but to eviscerate our traditional national ethos.

The Democrats know that the prosperity this administration has brought, with its attendant reduction in taxes and reduction in regulation, are likely to assure the president’s victory in 2020, absent some catastrophic event for him. They hope, by their manufactured coup—as the president rightly has called it—to tarnish and weaken him, and they hope somehow that a weakened Trump, if he is not removed from office, will be replaced in 2020 by someone who will carry forth the cultural and political legacy of Obama and Clinton.

If, as Lincoln put it, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not to vanish from the earth, this must not be permitted to happen.

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About Stephen B. Presser

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, and the author of “Law Professors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law” (West Academic Publishers, 2017). In the academic year 2018-2019, Professor Presser is a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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