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Trump's Revolution Nothing Short of Political Reformation

Trump's Revolution Nothing Short of Political Reformation
(Chris Boswell/Dreamstime) 

By Monday, 04 December 2017 03:53 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Martin Luther began the Christian Reformation 500 years ago. He railed against corruption and abuses in the Church hierarchy. We will look back on December, 2017 as the month that made evident that a reformation is now well underway in American politics, a transformation beginning with the election of Donald Trump.

Luther believed that many of the Church leaders had betrayed their faith by accumulating great wealth, and promising forgiveness for inevitable human sins. If sinners purchased such "indulgences," as they were called, they could bribe their way into heaven. This created a culture of ecclesiastical luxury — and abuse.

Reacting against this atmosphere, Luther declared that his flock should be guided not by the dictates of the tarnished central religious authorities, but rather simply by their faith, by divine grace, and by the words of Scripture.

The results of Luther’s revolution of the spirit were shattering, leading eventually, not only to religious, but to political and cultural upheavals culminating (amid other developments) in the framing of the United States Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. These were documents affirming the existence of God-given rights, permitting individuals to develop for themselves their particular conceptions of the good life, or as Jefferson put it in the Declaration, the pursuit of happiness.

Since the latter part of the 20th century, however, this American stirring of human freedom slowly began to be stifled by a different form of corruption, one that President Trump has described as the "swamp." By the swamp, he meant a group of miscreants in Washington, D.C. comprised of legislators in both parties, lobbyists, and assorted special interests of all types who were growing unimaginably wealthy at the expense of the American people.

The denizens of the swamp — the centralized administrative state that is now the federal leviathan — justified what they did through an ideology that we now know as "political correctness."

Pursuant to that set of notions, our former leaders told us that they served a greater good, the righting of old wrongs against formerly discriminated against groups. Their progressive goals justified bureaucratic regulations and redistributions of wealth on a scale previously undreamed of in this country.

Trump, who is a far more astute student of politics and culture than his opponents understand, attained the presidency by exposing the hypocrisy of those in power, particularly, the leaders of the Obama administration and Mrs. Clinton. Trump achieved this by suggesting that individual Americans could liberate themselves from this corruption, and "Make America Great Again."

This was an affirmation as stirring and as simple, really, as that of Martin Luther.

Just as the church hierarchy lashed back at Luther, so have those formerly in power and their allies in the media and academia lashed out at Trump, in a massive display of projection, accusing him of corruption, collusion — even insanity. Of course, this is to be expected from those who may be beginning to understand that they are on the wrong side of history, and who can feel their power and influence waning.

The passage in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate of Tax Reform, reform calculated to free up individual business initiative, is the first clear legislative triumph of the Trump administration, accomplished, sadly, without the help of a single member of the political party opposed to the president. The booming stock market, in response partly to what seems to be legislative success, but also as a result of clearing away much of the bureaucratic detritus of the last few decades, is an indication that investors understand and approve of the political revolution underway.

This is only the beginning, the first stirrings of the clear replacement of centralized corruption in our time by the rule of law and popular sovereignty itself. The comparison will, no doubt, seem fanciful to Mr. Trump’s critics, but our brash president, like the 16th century monk, has a singular talent for recalling us back to the basics of our beliefs. His method is not the nailing of theses to church doors, but is instead, the launching of a few hundred timely characters into cyberspace, but among his flock the effect is the same.

Luther’s followers believed that it was time for a return to traditional morality and piety. So do those who elected, and now work with, the president. They understand that he is engaged in bringing us a back to a place where licentiousness is curbed; the current revulsion against sexual harassment by those in power in Washington and Hollywood is a sign of that.

As did Martin Luther, intriguingly, Donald Trump comprehends that he is only human, and that he must strive to overcome his own foibles. But, as I have been arguing here, we are likely to look back at this political moment of potentially cataclysmic change as our own reformation and restoration of tradition.

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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As did Martin Luther, intriguingly, Donald Trump comprehends that he is only human, and that he must strive to overcome his own foibles. As I have been arguing here, we are likely to look back at this political moment of potentially cataclysmic change as our own reformation and restoration.
declaration, luther, swamp
Monday, 04 December 2017 03:53 PM
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