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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Trump v. The Founding

In  Defying the Odds, we explain that Trump has renounced the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
He usually dismissed high ideals by reducing them to crude material terms. Consider for instance, America’s foundational proposition that all men are created equal. “The world is not fair,” Trump said in a 2006 video.  [see below] “You know they come with this statement `all men are created equal.’ Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created [equal] … you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.” Similarly, Trump did not think of “American exceptionalism” as a way of thinking about the nation’s role as a beacon for equality and liberty. As he said in 2015 [see video below] , it was all about the Benjamins.
I want to take everything back from the world that we’ve given them. We’ve given them so much. On top of taking it back, I don’t want to say, “We’re exceptional, we’re more exceptional.” Because essentially we’re saying, “We’re more outstanding than you. By the way, you’ve been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we’re more exceptional than you.” I don’t like the term. I never liked it.
Trump’s disdain for these ideas put him at odds with a major strain of conservative thought that revered the Declaration. It surely set him apart from conservatives who loved to quote Reagan’s rhetoric of a “shining city on a hill” and who faulted President Obama for seeming to belittle American exceptionalism. Trump just did not care very much for conservative ideology. In May of 2016, he said: “This is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.” Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio told a post-election conference: “One of the problems is many people tried to look at the Donald Trump phenomenon through the ideological lenses which had defined previous Republican presidential nominating contests. Donald Trump is post ideological. His movement transcends ideology.”
An important Weekly Standard article by Daniel Krauthammer:
The only way to discern what President Trump's nationalism truly represents is to examine his words and actions—something the New Nationalists generally avoid. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the president's brand of nationalism is the lack of anything uniquely American about it. Unlike every president (and presidential candidate) in living memory, Donald Trumpalmost never employs the ideas and language of the Founders. Try to think of a time you have heard him extol liberty, freedom, democracy, rights, equality, justice—or even utter the words. His speechwriters from time to time insert a few token phrases into his prepared speeches. But in Trump's unprepared remarks at rallies, in debate performances, TV interviews, press conferences, tweets, they barely appear. Clearly, they do not preoccupy him. Our ideals and their fulfillment are not, in his view, what made America great.