I have been favorably disposed toward “The Donald” ever since he restored the ice skating rink in Central Park back in the 1980s, a quintessential New York spot that I had enjoyed when I was younger. The rink was out of commission for years and the city never seemed able to address it despite spending plenty of money. Trump had it fixed and working in a matter of months, ahead of schedule and well under budget.
Clearly a man of action who says what he’ll do and does what he says, Trump was a mover and shaker in a bureaucratically sluggish city. He is a man who keeps his promises, but even more, and this thought has grown with me through his presidency, he is someone who wants people to be happy, to enjoy life, to savor what they have, and to look forward to more.
But I started seeing him as a potential leader when I read an interview in which he disagreed with the Republican view of Social Security. He explained that people have come to rely on these programs, and it seemed wrong to be always talking about cutting them.
I was impressed. Talking about how to cut them is all Republicans seemed able to offer on this count. It was one of the historic standoffs between the parties, though not always true to the letter—Democrats want them regardless of cost, Republicans want to cut or privatize them. Trump seemed to be thinking differently, looking for ways to deal with the problem that don’t include alarming people and almost blaming them for straining the public purse. He was a very wealthy man who cared about average people and had a granular feel for their lives. This was a glimpse of how he would think out of the box on other matters as well, looking for what was actually workable instead of being pinned to dogma.
Then in May 2015, before the famous escalator ride, I was in a cab in Washington, D.C. when my driver, an immigrant, asked whom I supported for president. I had no ready answer and he jumped in to say that Hillary was a sure bet to win. Looking good and sounding good, she was smart, experienced, and ready on all counts—he assured me it was a done deal. In my thought I had to agree with him. Later on, people would say she was a terrible candidate but that was not evident at the outset of her campaign. Yes, I had to agree with my driver, unless, unless, I thought . . . unless Trump declares!
In a moment, I just knew that all of the estimable Republican candidates who were stepping forward at that time and who were speaking variations of the same libertarian/conservative/Chamber of Commerce narratives Republicans had been offering for years—the glories of globalism, mass immigration, open borders, free trade, democracy project—could not do it, could not defeat her, or even give a reason why she should be defeated, so weak had the showing of Republican candidates been in the recent past. As we rode past the Trump hotel in D.C., I pointed it out, and my driver exuberantly shouted, “We don’t want you here, Mr. Trump!” And I thought to myself, but you’re going to have him if he decides to run! It was such a clarifying moment for me, when I finally realized what had gone wrong with both parties, and I gave the driver a big tip.
The Democrats had given up on their traditional constituency years ago—blue collar workers and the middle class—and we would soon find out from Hillary’s own lips what they really thought of us, not only deplorable but irredeemable. They were balkanizing the country with identity politics. They were demonizing America with racial sins never to be expiated. They were strangling us with political correctness. They even booed God at one of their national conventions. I used to wonder why more Democratic voters didn’t turn Republican. That day I saw the reason why, because I’d admitted it to myself. The Republican Party hadn’t offered them anything either, not for years! Not since Reagan. And Trump was going to change that.
And change it he has. Trump’s is the most dynamic presidency in modern times, as he keeps the promises he made to the American people during his campaign and even expands on them. Immigration began to be addressed with regard to American interests, not as a duty owed to the world. We started getting control of the border. We had sensible trade agreements instead of sacrificing American workers to extend prosperity abroad. We saw job creation and revitalization of the heartland instead of elites telling middle Americans their day had gone and they should be satisfied with cheap goods.
After years of being misled by the disconnected-from-history visions of both the Left and Right, we finally have someone in the lead who loves America and her ideals (“freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law, and reverence for the rights given to us by almighty God”), but also cherishes the underlying culture that sustains them, both Western (we write symphonies!) and American (Mark Twain, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope!).
The Trump Administration has also begun to address the pernicious radicalism in our schools and universities, which has recently erupted onto the larger national stage in defacing and pulling down statues of heroic national figures.
The liberal arts curriculum based on (though not limited to) the great achievements of Western civilization, is being shredded through “diversity” propaganda. Most recently, the White House sponsored a conference on American history in support of creating curricula that would tell our nation’s story fairly and turn back the Howard Zinn-inspired America-hating that has infected all levels of education.
Meanwhile, the “woke” Left has grown more vociferous in their destructive project to change a free people into a population ruled by fear and guilt, cowering before a coercive “cancel culture,” frightened of saying the wrong thing or putting out a wrong foot. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice, despite all the efforts to ameliorate them, have swollen into accusations of “white privilege” and even “white supremacy.” Joe Biden has been in politics for nearly half a century, yet speaks of “systemic racism.” And outright thugs, looters, and murderers are being granted de facto power by the contemporary Democratic Party.
Trump inspires affection and admiration because of how he fights back, how he stands up to vitriolic opposition and the malevolence of the deep state. And he takes fire from his own side as well, from the contingent of conservatives or ex-conservatives who seem unable to see what has happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave, partly because of policies the Right has supported. They trouble over faults and flaws of personality when everything about our country as founded is due to be supplanted by what Stanley Kurtz calls “a revolutionary repudiation of our system.”
Trump stands against it because he sees it as his duty. No one else possesses the unique combination of characteristics, including some of the rough edges that so infuriate his critics, that enable him to endure unprecedented hostility and ill will.
And through it all, he manages to convey a renewed sense of just plain love and joy to be part of a great nation, encouraging us to use the good we already have to make more good for ourselves and others. I’m especially grateful for this exhilarating clarity that we’ve gained about the nature of our country and I look forward to four more years of it.