On Nov. 6 Americans will participate in the second most important election of the 21st century. The most important, of course, was that which put Donald J. Trump in the White House rejecting the candidacy and agenda of Hillary Clinton. The choice between the Republican and the Democrat was not simply a matter of personalities, but was between two different conceptions of what the nation was supposed to be all about.
Mrs. Clinton offered a continuation of the Obama administration; more of the eight years in which the federal leviathan and the centralized administrative state continued to take over most governmental functions. More increasingly explosive regulation, and the growing of a central government seeing its role as that of dictating to the citizenry how to live daily.
The Obama administration saw itself as continuing the work of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and also as turning the U.S. into something closer to the redistributionist welfare states of Western Europe.
Donald Trump, like the good conservative he is, stood astride this history yelling "Stop!"
Conversely, he offered Americans a return to the past, to a time when the federal government followed the strictures of the constitution; to a time when state and local governing bodies were more important in our national life, and to a time when the freedom of individual Americans to determine the course of their own lives — free from governmental interference and pursuant to their own moral and religious conceptions — was the goal of our polity.
The Obama administration and its goals were strongly supported by Democrats, inclusive of: our educational establishment at all levels, the mainstream media, and by the majority of those working in Hollywood and in entertainment generally.
Indeed, by most of the American politically correct cultural industry.
Trump’s victory was a rebellion against this cultural hegemony, against the politically correct ethos it sought to implement, and a resurgence of a set of older, traditional American values.
Such values include the primacy of the nuclear family, an acknowledgement of the unique character of our nation, and an acceptance of the importance of private property in securing individual freedom, national prosperity, and, indeed the pursuit of happiness itself.
Still another way of explaining Trump’s unlikely triumph and the media’s inability to grasp it, is to suggest that the great cultural war fought in our college campuses in the 1960s and 1970s, which the American left thought it had won decisively for all time, was still ongoing.
This struggle for the soul of the nation, which involved an assertion of tradition by middle America and a rejection of many of the values of the coastal elites was the meaning of Trump’s promise that he would "Make America Great Again."
The realization by the Democrats and their supporters in the media that the nation might reject the very bases on which they had staked their professional careers and their very lives explains the vitriol they poured on Trump and his supporters. It specifcally explains Mrs. Clinton’s disastrous labelling of normal and traditional Americans as a "basket of deplorables."
Instead of actually addressing what was happening with the nation's politics and culture, the media joined in the name-calling and the attempts at personal destruction. Thus, we had the focus on the president’s personal foibles and the despicable smear campaign against his latest U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
The irresponsibility of a national media establishment, building for two generations, has culminated in a situation where what is actually important — a cultural conflict over the appropriate values and appropriate direction of the nation and its people — is obscured by manufactured hysteria over supposed sexism, xenophobia, or — racism.
Instead of promoting a national discussion of how we might continue the economic expansion begun by the current administration, and how we might bring jobs and increased development to our devastated inner cities, our media too often insists on discovering pockets of prejudice and the personal failings of particular Republicans or their families.
Instead of seeking fairly to evaluate whether the Trump administration is engaged in an effort to end crony-capitalism and further the decentralized pursuit of prosperity, the media instead seeks to promote the narrative of the Democrats that the administration is composed of misogynists, anti-Semites, homophobes — or fools.
If the Democrats retake the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate in this election the laudable work begun by the Trump administration will likely be stymied by spurious investigations of fanciful Russian collusion, the tax records of the president, or some other manufactured means of frustrating a return to sensible reform.
Remarkably this does seem to be understood by the president and his supporters, in spite of the media’s efforts to mislead and distract. If the Republicans once again surprise with an election victory, perhaps this second shock will lead to making the American press great again.
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). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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