America’s confused and fearful opinion elite is hyperventilating because Donald Trump represents a unique threat — to America’s opinion elite.
Obscured behind the rise to power of a man with a brash and enormous personal brand is the counterintuitive fact that President Trump is out to end the Imperial Presidency and to restore the Constitutional vision: "[W]e are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people." With that declaration Trump set the world record for deflating hot air, and the bloated infrastructure of professional experts whose main contribution has been to produce it.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger popularized the "Imperial Presidency" to describe the growth of the Executive Branch since the New Deal. Modern presidents are supposed to be detail-oriented universal experts, quick reads, versed in the finest theories, and repositories of collected wisdom. Their elite courtiers and advisers — the educated, accomplished leaders of the bar, academia, the media, Wall Street, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley — enjoy honor, prestige, and enviable lifestyles, generally unrelated to the quality and impact of their work. They cling tightly to these perks of their station.
Barack Obama, with his professorly mien, was an exquisite Imperial President. Not only did he see his skills as a speechwriter, policy analyst, and political director as superior to those of the professionals he hired, but he devised detailed plans to restructure America’s health care and energy sectors while rebuilding its infrastructure. It surprised no one when he told "The Atlantic’s" Jeffrey Goldberg that he took personal pride in overriding his top national security advisors. "Tablet’s" Lee Smith has even shown how Obama used his top foreign policy "advisors" as diversions while he conducted policy out of the Oval Office. The elite adored Obama, awarding him a Nobel Prize for being rather than for accomplishing, and he responded in kind. He disdained commoners as "bitter" folks who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment."
Trump now shuns the elite to speak for those forgotten workers: "For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost…The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country…" The masses cheered. The elite collapsed into gibbering self-parody. Trump interviewed an impressive array of reformers, Generals, and CEOs for his cabinet; the intelligentsia mocked their wealth, success, accomplishments, and faith. Trump stood with the American workers whom the global economy had left behind; the establishment decried microaggressions and donned fuzzy pink hats. In Washington, Trump vowed to Make America Great Again; in Davos, the panicked elite sought to make globalism great again.
The establishment’s fear is palpable. Trump’s great unifying message, "when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice," spoke to Americans and citizens of every nation who love their country. Globalists shuddered, ironically insisting that a man committed to reducing the size of government and the tentacles of regulation is a budding populist authoritarian. Common sense has become the sole province of the common man. Elites, who have checked at the door whatever wit they may once have had, fail to see that the man who gave Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement a prime convention slot, and who to all appearances gave serious consideration to Mitt Romney as Secretary of State, who expresses pride when his VP and his cabinet nominees voice their own opinions rather than parroting approved lines, is on track to become the least authoritarian president in recent memory. Trump’s embrace of common sense confuses them.
This common sense reflects a self-awareness we haven’t seen for eight troubling years. Despite being manifestly more accomplished than any "community organizer" in history, Trump seems acutely conscious of an important truth that escaped his imperial predecessor: even extreme success in real estate, branding, and entertainment does not bestow universal expertise. Trump thus approaches the enormous demands of the presidency far more realistically than did Obama. He arrives eager to deploy his considerable skills — notably including a keen eye for talent — and apparently happy to defer to others who have amassed the expertise necessary to address specifics.
How will Trump rebuild the military? An imperial president would hunker down, read up, and sit through briefings. Our anti-imperial president hired Jim Mattis, and will now push Ryan and McConnell to get Mattis the resources he needs. How will Trump revitalize economic growth? He’ll simplify taxes and cut regulations, let the states run intrastate commerce, let Congress run interstate commerce, and negotiate trade deals that benefit American commerce. His Goldman Sachs brain trust can handle finance.
Trump’s elevation of common sense above the approval of our nation’s authorized thinkers and opinionators has already let him rewrite the rules for engaging with the media. As a patriotic but non-ideological dealmaker, he will try many things without emotional attachment, build upon those that work and jettison those that don’t. And perhaps most confounding to the establishment, he is returning to conventional American humility. America will "not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow."
Welcome to the Anti-Imperial Presidency.
Bruce Abramson is the President of Informationism, Inc., Vice President and Director of Policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic, Chairman of the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union's Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy. To read more of their reports — Click Here Now.
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