On the morning of November 9th, 2016, a shocked world, fed daily by polls and surveys with data pointing to the imminent defeat of Donald Trump, woke up and wondered how the establishment could have been so wrong. Meanwhile, those of us blessed by the grace of God with the privilege of starting our mornings reading from the Catholic liturgy woke up in wonder at the words of John 2:13 and their meaning for our times:
“Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, ‘Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.'”
The last time these words were juxtaposed so forcefully with an American Presidential election was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt used them in one of his most famous speeches. The Democratic Party has since then abandoned such talk in favor of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender discourse—a discourse as meaningless to the American people as it is captivating to the mainstream American elites.
Those elites have daily told us that the political philosophies that made America great—from limited constitutional republicanism in the tradition of Washington, Madison and Jefferson, to liberal progressivism in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson and FDR—were synonymous with racism. The label of “racist,” meanwhile, has devolved into a meaningless word, which simply means “someone I don’t like.” To presume otherwise is to believe the absurdity that large swaths of American voters passionately hate peoples of different races. The persistence of the word “racist” and the ignorance of the “deplorable” mainstream elites who use this word against their opponents is a sign of the crisis of American republican democracy, no less than the tendency amongst Democrats to jettison Andrew Jackson or shun the language of FDR in favor of post-modern radicalism.
The great American debate between two great traditions, exemplified by the nation’s two major parties, was to be jettisoned in favor of a post-modern politics of identity, resentment and sexuality. The elites sought to replace the American political tradition—best expressed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates as a contest between popular sovereignty and natural right—with a new, un-American discourse rooted in a denial of American political history, aimed at purging America of its national character and paving a way for corporate globalism at the cost of authentic internationalism. And ergo at the expense of the nations that constitute a harmonious international order.
Just as the moniker “racism” is absurd when applied to Mr. Trump and his supporters, so too is the moniker of “xenophobe” or “nationalist” in any pejorative sense. How can a man who has traveled the entire world, who has done business in the far reaches of the globe, who was born in the most cosmopolitan American city and whose own wife will be America’s first authentic immigrant-First Lady (not counting Mrs. Louisa Adams who, despite being English, was likely no less English than the Americans of her generation)—how can a man with such international experience ever be accused of being a xenophobe? The accusation is as patently false as the accusation of racism. Yet if the deplorable mainstream elite had limited its accusation to Mr. Trump, he may not have won. But their accusation was aimed at an entire people—at We, the People of the United States.
This endeavor, known since at least the early 1990s as political correctness, aimed not so much to elevate one element of the American idea over all others, as to stifle the free and open exchange of ideas that is the lifeblood of American Greatness. It metastasized yearly until finally reaching its zenith in 2016, when politically-correct elites actually tried to win an election by suggesting that half the country are “deplorable” racists. The Democratic Party, faced with a choice between a man who embodied the virtues of the American progressive tradition and a woman who embodied the vices of the elite, was unable to weather its internal storm. Had Senator Bernie Sanders been the nominee of the Democratic Party, he would now be President of the United States. The party of Lincoln nearly shared a similar fate, but the common Republican managed to wrest control of his party from the Republican elites—and thus the Republican Party became, in 2016, the vehicle of the Common Man.
We The People, though imperfect in our daily lives, are not racists, nor do we hate gays, nor do we despise Mexicans. We The People see citizens, customers, neighbors, not racial and gender categories. We The People will not accept the insulting verdicts of the elite media who denounce us as racists and presume the right to force us to prove that we are not. We The People desire a government that focuses on real problems, domestic and foreign, not on fringe lunacy.
In an America and a world where unemployment and its hardships are so rampant, the only deplorables are the mainstream elites who transformed our entire election process into a plebiscite on racism and xenophobia. In an America where the rule of law is imperiled by mass illegal immigration that makes a mockery of every fundamental principle of sound government, the only deplorables are the mainstream elites who do not simply argue for more legal immigration and its benefits but rest content to champion illegal immigration—to champion, in effect, crime and the profits from illegal human traffic, which is the only means by which illegal immigration takes place. In an America entangled in foreign wars which have nothing to do with American interests and which destroy ancient civilizations, the only deplorables are the mainstream elites who believe that American blood is cheap and can be spilled for fringe academic ideologies or profits rather than solely for national defense. In an America faced with the threats of global terrorism, the only deplorables are the mainstream elites who believe that distant lands populated by ancient Christian cultures are a mortal threat to America, but Muslim extremism in Western neighborhoods is not.
The American people are likewise sick and tired of being insulted daily by the mainstream elite’s insinuations that they are uneducated and lack culture. An American republic that tends its own does not require a citizenry cognizant of the names of foreign capitals, merely the names of their closest neighbors. An American Empire requires grand geopolitical thinkers at every turn, governing a mass of dedicated slave-warriors. America was not made for Empire and her people will not be the slave-warriors of deplorable mainstream elites. American intelligence and American education are visible in the endurance of American civic institutions, in American local self-government, American enterprise, and American ingenuity. The repeated suggestion, made by the mainstream elite that has bungled America into one tragic war after another and one economic catastrophe after another—that We The People are uneducated and ignorant of the world while they, the elites, are wise and worldly—is an affront to the dignity of the American voter, and it was met with the appropriate response at the ballot box this time around.
What has happened is a peaceful revolution no less grand than the election of 1932 which swept another great American President into power. Donald Trump represents the triumph of a muscular, democratic-populist republicanism combined with sober realism. The election of the man who wrote The Art of the Deal will usher in a New Deal for the American people no less imaginative and innovative than FDR’s in 1932. However, unlike FDR, who constructed the modern liberal state, and unlike even Ronald Reagan who modified it to harness market forces, Mr. Trump’s Presidency will build something completely new and suited to the times in which we live.
Mr. Trump will build an America that participates in the great interplay of economic and social forces that is the modern global economy, but that does not do so at the cost of its democratic character, its constitutional laws, its national interest and its sense of justice. By doing so, by building this kind of America, Mr. Trump will do more to popularize the American idea overseas than all of the nation-builders and interventionists of the past; for never have the people of the world admired America more than when she was Great, and never have they deplored America more than when she ceased to be a Great Republic in favor of being a petty Empire. If Mr. Trump can indeed restore American Greatness , this will be a service to all of the nations of the world that look to the United States for inspiration as they struggle to build their own political futures.
Mr. Rieth is a registered Democrat who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.