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trump_rally_iowa_ap_imgOn 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.

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12 replies to this post
  1. While I would agree that the Progressive Left is absurd in the way they throw around labels like Racist, Xenophobe and Sexist, this doesn’t mean that the Right wing is therefore correct, and/or virtuous. To say one side is wrong, doesn’t mean the other is right….

    I don’t think it is possible for any serious person examining the campaign run by Mr. Trump to avoid the fact that his campaign was not run on principles of reason or clear, competent, plans of action. Mr. Trump may indeed have good and well reasoned plans, but it is undeniable that his campaign was not run on this basis.

    On the contrary his campaign from beginning to end was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It was a campaign meant to capitalize on anger and resentment of the way that the Progressive Left has oppressed and vilified all dissenting opinions.

    While it is entirely possible that Mr. Trump may turn out to be a good president, I don’t think there is any question that his candidacy and campaign mark a defeat for principled conservatism, and possibly a turning point in American politics. I think Charles Krauthammer was absolutely right when he said that this has proven that there is no longer a classically conservative political party in the US. Mr. Trump’s candidacy didn’t destroy anything. It simply revealed that the idea of their being a Classically Conservative party was an illusion.

    When it comes to education, whether Mr. Trump’s voters are educated or not is largely irrelevant because education in the US is a disgrace. To say that someone is “educated” in modern America means very little. I should clarify that I don’t mean to imply that education in other parts of the world is much better. I simply speak about the US because that is what I know. The American education system long ago gave up trying to teach people to think in favor of teaching people to be civic drones. As a result we are entering into a time when we no longer have either many classical conservatives or many classical liberals. We simply have the angry mob on the left and the angry mob on the right.

    • The neoconservatism spouted by Krauthammer and his NeverTrump ilk is not “principled conservatism;” it is a hybrid ideology created by a group of metropolitan “intellectuals” who emerged from the left. (The reason why they called themselves neocons was that they had contempt for traditional “principled conservatives” of the Russell Kirk sort.)

      There is no question that this election marked a defeat for neoconservatism, which over the past two decades extended its control over the GOP and the vast bulk of “Conservatism, Inc.,” marginalizing traditional conservatism.

      As far as “principled conservatism” is concerned, it is possible that this election might mark the beginning of a modest “spring” of sorts.

    • I believe you are correct about education. We are not better educated than any of the past, simply just better “trained”. We are trained to be better, and more productive workers. I would argue that today, we are amongst the least sophisticated humans mankind has seen for some time, which probably why we would end up with two candidates like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the first place.

  2. I totally agree with the comment above! Very wise way of thinking and deep approach of a political phenomenon. ”As a result we are entering into a time when we no longer have either many classical conservatives or many classical liberals. We simply have the angry mob on the left and the angry mob on the right”. The same here in Greece and all over the western world.

  3. Two thoughts Mr. Rieth to an excellent big picture essay: [1] those spiritual forces turned loose in our beloved country must be protected, the best way being the fruition of the building of Church unhampered by government intrusion, [ read small government ], and [2] a foreign policy based on the idea of ‘one among equals’. Just as in the Catholic faith, our Lord understood the necessity of leadership, so too the world demands leadership. The world also has this nasty habit of trying to take down #1. That will not happen. The Good Guy won the war in Heaven, though war it was, and good guys will win on earth, war being inevitable, as long as we stand on the rock and the Cornerstone which is one.

  4. A few thoughts:

    First, the data did not clearly point to a Trump defeat at all. While there were problems with the data, even taken at face value it pointed to an Electoral College tossup and leaned toward, but far from guaranteed, a Clinton popular vote win. It was members of the media who insisted on a imminent Clinton win, not the data.

    Second, I would definitely not assume that Bernie Sanders would have won the general election. That’s certainly not the assumption of most political scientists. Polling suggested that relatively few Americans were prepared to elect a socialist President; his age (and the fact that he looked/seemed even older than he was) was also a significant handicap. Of course, it is possible that personal aversion to Trump might have driven voters to Sanders, since he lacked Clinton’s baggage, but this is highly speculative.

    Third, I think Mr. Rieth’s expectations regarding Trump’s Presidency are too high. He does not appear to be an FDR with a new vision for America and clear plans to realize it. He appears to be a pragmatic politician who has little knowledge of, and takes relatively little interest in, matters of policy, much less political philosophy. The whole idea that a President can make America “great” — whatever that precisely means — is questionable. I expect his contributions to occur primarily in the form of Court appointments and various needed, but hardly sweeping, policy changes, which, one can hope, may create opportunities for improvement in some areas and help stave off decline in others.

  5. “We simply have the angry mob on the left and the angry mob on the right.”

    That seems aboutt right. Mindlessness and infantilism rule.

  6. Citizens United must be not only preserved but enshrined in this land. It is natural law that the more wealth you create, the more freedom you earn. Societies who seek a safety net for the individual with less must fail through a logic that may be explained in 100 different ways, but ultimately is not man’s to understand; it is best taken as a fundamental reality, never to be questioned.

  7. The fundamental problem with the argument put here is that “the American people” in fact did not vote for Donald Trump or any of the things you believe he stands for (what he really stands for is only now starting to emerge). Three in four of eligible voters did not vote for him. They either voted for his opponent or were so apathetic about his campaign that they did not vote at all. More “Great Americans” voted for Mitt Romney, but we did not see articles such as this after the 2012 election. Trump was voted for by one in four Americans. Whether that entitles you to launch a triumphalist panegyric on behalf of “we the people” is questionable.

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