It is nearly impossible for those who must rely on the mainstream media to understand what is happening with the Trump presidency. If one looked only at the content of cable news programs or newspapers, one would assume that this administration was in chaos, and led by a man who picks fights with his own cabinet members, and who was bent on imposing new forms of discrimination against the least powerful. The truth is different.
President Trump is no tyrant, and no fool. Rather, he appears to understand America much better than his critics, and he is embarked on nothing less than a crusade to bring back traditional beliefs and attitudes that were all but destroyed in the last eight years. The best way to see what the president is like, and what he wants, is to examine the speeches that he has taken to giving when he travels outside Washington. A splendid example is his talk at a campaign-style rally in Youngstown Ohio, on July 25.
The president, as usual, decried the Washington "swamp," but he eloquently suggested that he was engaged in "defending our values, our culture, our borders, our civilization, and our great American way of life." This brought cheers from the crowd, as did several other statements of the president’s beliefs. These included his support for the Constitution as written and not as rewritten by judges, his belief that "family and faith not government and bureaucracy are the foundation of our society" and his affirmation that, "In America we don’t worship government. We worship God."
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Mr. Trump is not just the president, he is the cultural warrior-in-chief, and this helps explain the extraordinary vituperation and resistance he encounters from those he regards as the purveyors of "fake news." What is at stake here, clearly, is a struggle for the soul of the American nation.
Those who oppose Mr. Trump do so, in part, because they believe that the cultural war he is fighting was won by them during the presidency of Barack Obama. That presidency was characterized by Mr. Obama’s implementation of his notion that it was the job of the federal government to solve all the nation’s problems, and that, indeed, one could and should be dependent on the federal government from cradle to grave. This was a version of the ideal welfare state now characteristic of some parts of Western Europe, or perhaps the remaining socialist nations, but one fundamentally inconsistent with Mr. Trump’s vision, and that of the framers.
The preamble to the United States Constitution makes clear what the country is supposed to be about: "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." It emphasizes liberty, not equality, and while it refers to "general Welfare," this does not mean an entitlement state.
The cultural left rejected all of this, all our traditions, and this explains the brouhaha that followed Mr. Trump’s announcement that transgender people would no longer be allowed in the United States Military. This reversal of an Obama administration policy, a reversal urged by Mr. Trump’s military advisors, was done not out of hostility to anyone, but rather out of a realization that the military ought not be used as a tool of social reconstruction, but rather as a more efficient means of national defense.
If equality, inclusion, and social change are your only values this might be upsetting, but not if you, like Mr. Trump, see a more limited purpose and role for government. In his Youngstown speech, the president reveled in the successes achieved in the first six months of his administration, including reducing unemployment (especially for African-Americans and teenagers), killing job-killing regulations, increasing defense spending, improving the care of veterans, leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Accord, creating more jobs, increasing manufacturing, reducing unlawful immigration and restoring the sovereignty of the people themselves.
If Mr. Trump is right about what’s been done — and he is — one can understand his anger at the "fake news" reports of Russian collusion that conceal his accomplishments, and one can even understand his ire at his attorney general who, in effect, permitted the Russian collusion fantasy to justify the appointment of a special counsel. As Bret Hume of Fox news explained, "It may be that [President Trump] is innocent, he knows he’s innocent and he just wishes these people would come out and say he’s innocent the way he wanted Comey to."
Mr. Trump would like to get on with the business of restoring an almost-lost America. Given what he’s up against, it will be difficult. If he succeeds, he will make America great again. If he fails, all Americans lose, and the swamp wins.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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