Trump Defends Americans’ Real Interests Against ‘Reckless’ Elites
President Trump’s first speech to a joint session of Congress was many things. It was presidential, measured and scripted — as such addresses should be. The reaction of many conservatives who had opposed him was tinged with surprise, as if they’d thought he didn’t have it in him. He offered to work with Democrats, spoke to goals that all citizens share, denounced ethnic bigotry, honored veterans, cops and sheriffs. There was much that will appeal to millions of Americans who didn’t even vote for Trump.
But there was one discordant element, which flashed in the midst of the speech like a red emergency siren. It ought to have deeply alarmed a significant swath of Americans: our clueless, self-congratulatory, and profoundly reckless elites. That’s a critical word which President Trump used advisedly: “reckless.” We’ll get back to it.
Elites Wield Power by Manipulating Our Ideals
By “elites” we mean the members of that comfortable minority who can’t understand for the life of them what motivated Trump’s voters. In a harrowing and carefully documented article, Nicholas Eberstadt starkly laid out the widening divide in America between those who benefit from our system of heavily-managed, crony capitalism and aggressively secular government — and those who feel left out and cheated.
It is the first group of people who treated the rise of Trump as a farce and lark, then an existential threat, and who now pretend his is an illegitimate government. Some are still muttering darkly about the need for a military coup, while others hope that the “Deep State” will stymie all of Trump’s initiatives, or that “massive resistance” will somehow force him to resign.
Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 14, 2017
Some people on both sides of the aisle make a cozy living spinning words and commanding people, using rhetoric unhinged from ethics and state power unhooked from the actual text of the Constitution, or even the law. Think of those Democrats who backed Barack Obama, when he hijacked the Civil Rights Act to cover gay couples, and Title IX to cover “transgender” teens. Or immigration-addicted Republicans, who yawn as our nation’s democratically passed, just laws are flouted and mocked, then pretend that enforcing the laws that are on the books, which they don’t have the votes to up and repeal, is somehow “intolerant.”
Few of the people in either group will suffer from the concrete effects of the policies they endorse. Their kids are in private or safe, suburban schools; they live far from any immigrant gangs, and won’t have to scrape to afford the higher taxes needed to cover all the social programs used by low-skill immigrants who provide the cheap labor for Republican donors, and cheap votes for Democrat candidates.
Here is a man who for all his wealth sympathizes with small businessmen struggling to make payroll. He took the time to meet and befriend ordinary Americans whose experience of mass immigration was not quaint ethnic restaurants, but the violent deaths of their loved ones.
The Privileged Can Afford to be Reckless
Those whose command of legal, verbal, marketing or financial skills keeps them insulated from most of the “real-world” downsides of their policies can talk an uplifting game. They can afford to trade in superlatives, to demand that America be “open to all,” that our foreign policy skip lightly over our actual national interest and instead act for “universal values.” They can will to ignore the deep, concrete connection between Islamism and Islam, and instead denounce “extremism,” as if extreme libertarians or extremely Mennonite Pennsylvanians were equally dangerous to America. They can posture and preen as the 24 U.S. Catholic bishops did in Modesto, as The Stream reported this week, denouncing “every form of hierarchy” before returning to their cozy episcopal palaces.
Since roughly 2000, dominant groups in both political parties have increasingly tailored their rhetoric and policies to suit their elite constituencies, confident that downscale voters and activists would have no real alternatives — so they’d just have to get with the program.
The election of Donald Trump was a glass of cold water thrown in our rulers’ faces. Here is a man who for all his wealth sympathizes with small businessmen struggling to make payroll. He took the time to meet and befriend ordinary Americans whose experience of mass immigration was not quaint ethnic restaurants, but the violent deaths of their loved ones, at the hands of gang members whom Obama caught and released, who lived with impunity in “sanctuary cities” that claim immunity from the sovereignty of our government.
Elites who are thickly insulated by layers of wealth, power and privilege can afford to play at high-mindedness without borders. Like trust-fund babies, they can get away with being reckless. That’s the term that Aristotle used to describe the opposite vice to cowardice. The reckless man is the person who will not account for consequences, who blithely invites grave damage on himself or innocent others. The snowflake in a four-star Ivy League dorm who denounces urban cops or the Border Patrol, the grad student in Georgetown who equates the agents of ISIS with Christian bakers and florists, the GOP K Street lobbyist who scorns his party’s voters as “nativists”… these are examples of recklessness, clad in the vestments of noble and universal ideals.
Trump Finds the Golden Mean of Prudence
In his immigration and foreign policy, Donald Trump seems to be aiming straight at the actual center, at the solid and prudent Golden Mean between such empty rhetoric and the other extreme of ruthless Machiavellian self-interest. It was genuinely refreshing to hear him tell the nation, “I don’t represent the world. I represent the United States of America.”
Never trust anyone who claims to represent the world. That really is a job for the Antichrist.