Trumpism is the Right Mix of Old and New

The political movement around Donald Trump is the greatest in American history since the American Revolution of 1776. Other major movements: Thomas Jefferson’s “Second American Revolution” of 1800; the abolition of slavery and rise of industrialism around the Civil War; the development of the welfare state under FDR’s New Deal, were all major, but none were as momentous as this movement around Trump.

One reason for this is the way the current movement has become a unique mixture of old and new America.

Donald Trump embodies traditional American notions of freedom, equality, faith, family, and patriotism so brilliantly described in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and going back 400 years to the New England Puritans and the Virginia settlers. Such cultural habits, as the conservative philosopher Edmund Burke showed, do not change over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Although they have been under assault for perhaps 100 years (especially during the past 50 years) they remain a permanent part of American political culture, ready to be revived through the Trump movement.

But what makes this restoration of traditional American political culture unique is its combination today with the new, which does supplant the old but rather supplements it. Trump combines the most advanced, cutting-edge developments in economics, technology, and international relations with America’s longstanding political culture and shows how they can be compatible.

The old liberal Democratic system of centralized government protecting old, outmoded economic monopolies and global control based on corrupt alliances and outmoded technology, is actually less compatible with traditional American values of freedom, invention, creativity, competition and discovery. Trump is exposing that. The newest technology naturally demands to be decentralized, but calcified old interests are keeping it otherwise. 

We see the contrast all around us in communication and business. In the place of four “news” cable networks with one liberal message, we have hundreds of internet news and commentary blogs offering every perspective. Big Tech seeks to consolidate their power and crush this diversity of opinion, but their desperation to do so is the tell that it is not the way the river of technology wants to flow. 

Big med, big pharma, and big ag—preserved by government restrictions and regulations—if replaced by a free market of alternative medicine and treatments as well as high-tech diagnoses and treatment, would lead to real progress in healthcare and nutrition. Ironically, COVID-19 was designed to destroy the American economy, but in many ways Trump actually advanced his movement as online medical treatment, education, military (the Space Force) and commerce have all been advanced during this time. In the place of monolithic state education we will soon have school choice with innovative mixtures of public and private, online and onsite, and practical learning based on free speech, examining all perspectives rather than just leftist identity-politics indoctrination. 

Moreover, many Americans are moving out of the cities with their Democrat-sponsored riots, and back to the country and small towns (another American tradition) where they can work remotely online and enjoy safe, quiet, and pleasant communities, leaving the Democrat cities to rot like ancient Roman ruins.

The effect on international relations is likely that the Old World Order of U.S./EU/China will be replaced with: U.S./Great Britain/India/ Eastern Europe/peaceful Arab Countries/ Israel. Instead of global control by a few will have multiple individual and regional alliances compatible with both traditional American values and advanced technology.

It is this combination of the old and the new that makes the Trump movement truly unique and momentous.

About Garrett Ward Sheldon

Garrett Ward Sheldon is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and an ordained Christian minister. He taught political theory, American political thought, law, and religion. He has published 10 books, including The History of Political Theory: Ancient Greece to Modern America, Religion and Politics: Major Thinkers on the Relation of Church and State, and The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. He was in residence at and commissioned by, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, and a visiting scholar at the University of Vienna, Trinity College (Dublin), Moscow University, the University of Istanbul, and Princeton.

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

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