Friday, January 20, 2017

The Jacksonian Revolt: American Populism and the Liberal Order. By Walter Russell Mead.

A woman smiles after getting an autograph by Donald Trump on her hat at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker.

The Jacksonian Revolt: American Populism and the Liberal Order. By Walter Russell Mead. Foreign Affairs, January 20, 2017.


For the first time in 70 years, the American people have elected a president who disparages the policies, ideas, and institutions at the heart of postwar U.S. foreign policy. No one knows how the foreign policy of the Trump administration will take shape, or how the new president’s priorities and preferences will shift as he encounters the torrent of events and crises ahead. But not since Franklin Roosevelt’s administration has U.S. foreign policy witnessed debates this fundamental.

Since World War II, U.S. grand strategy has been shaped by two major schools of thought, both focused on achieving a stable international system with the United States at the center. Hamiltonians believed that it was in the American interest for the United States to replace the United Kingdom as “the gyroscope of world order,” in the words of President Woodrow Wilson’s adviser Edward House during World War I, putting the financial and security architecture in place for a reviving global economy after World War II—something that would both contain the Soviet Union and advance U.S. interests. When the Soviet Union fell, Hamiltonians responded by doubling down on the creation of a global liberal order, understood primarily in economic terms.

Wilsonians, meanwhile, also believed that the creation of a global liberal order was a vital U.S. interest, but they conceived of it in terms of values rather than economics. Seeing corrupt and authoritarian regimes abroad as a leading cause of conflict and violence, Wilsonians sought peace through the promotion of human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law. In the later stages of the Cold War, one branch of this camp, liberal institutionalists, focused on the promotion of international institutions and ever-closer global integration, while another branch, neoconservatives, believed that a liberal agenda could best be advanced through Washington’s unilateral efforts (or in voluntary conjunction with like-minded partners).

The disputes between and among these factions were intense and consequential, but they took place within a common commitment to a common project of global order. As that project came under increasing strain in recent decades, however, the unquestioned grip of the globalists on U.S. foreign policy thinking began to loosen. More nationalist, less globally minded voices began to be heard, and a public increasingly disenchanted with what it saw as the costly failures the global order-building project began to challenge what the foreign policy establishment was preaching. The Jeffersonian and Jacksonian schools of thought, prominent before World War II but out of favor during the heyday of the liberal order, have come back with a vengeance.

Jeffersonians, including today’s so-called realists, argue that reducing the United States’ global profile would reduce the costs and risks of foreign policy. They seek to define U.S. interests narrowly and advance them in the safest and most economical ways. Libertarians take this proposition to its limits and find allies among many on the left who oppose interventionism, want to cut military spending, and favor redeploying the government’s efforts and resources at home. Both Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas seemed to think that they could surf the rising tide of Jeffersonian thinking during the Republican presidential primary. But Donald Trump sensed something that his political rivals failed to grasp: that the truly surging force in American politics wasn’t Jeffersonian minimalism. It was Jacksonian populist nationalism.


The distinctively American populism Trump espouses is rooted in the thought and culture of the country’s first populist president, Andrew Jackson. For Jacksonians—who formed the core of Trump’s passionately supportive base—the United States is not a political entity created and defined by a set of intellectual propositions rooted in the Enlightenment and oriented toward the fulfillment of a universal mission. Rather, it is the nation-state of the American people, and its chief business lies at home. Jacksonians see American exceptionalism not as a function of the universal appeal of American ideas, or even as a function of a unique American vocation to transform the world, but rather as rooted in the country’s singular commitment to the equality and dignity of individual American citizens. The role of the U.S. government, Jacksonians believe, is to fulfill the country’s destiny by looking after the physical security and economic well-being of the American people in their national home—and to do that while interfering as little as possible with the individual freedom that makes the country unique.

Jacksonian populism is only intermittently concerned with foreign policy, and indeed it is only intermittently engaged with politics more generally. It took a particular combination of forces and trends to mobilize it this election cycle, and most of those were domestically focused. In seeking to explain the Jacksonian surge, commentators have looked to factors such as wage stagnation, the loss of good jobs for unskilled workers, the hollowing out of civic life, a rise in drug use—conditions many associate with life in blighted inner cities that have spread across much of the country. But this is a partial and incomplete view. Identity and culture have historically played a major role in American politics, and 2016 was no exception. Jacksonian America felt itself to be under siege, with its values under attack and its future under threat. Trump—flawed as many Jacksonians themselves believed him to be—seemed the only candidate willing to help fight for its survival.

For Jacksonian America, certain events galvanize intense interest and political engagement, however brief. One of these is war; when an enemy attacks, Jacksonians spring to the country’s defense. The most powerful driver of Jacksonian political engagement in domestic politics, similarly, is the perception that Jacksonians are being attacked by internal enemies, such as an elite cabal or immigrants from different backgrounds. Jacksonians worry about the U.S. government being taken over by malevolent forces bent on transforming the United States’ essential character. They are not obsessed with corruption, seeing it as an ineradicable part of politics. But they care deeply about what they see as perversion—when politicians try to use the government to oppress the people rather than protect them. And that is what many Jacksonians came to feel was happening in recent years, with powerful forces in the American elite, including the political establishments of both major parties, in cahoots against them.

Many Jacksonians came to believe that the American establishment was no longer reliably patriotic, with “patriotism” defined as an instinctive loyalty to the well-being and values of Jacksonian America. And they were not wholly wrong, by their lights. Many Americans with cosmopolitan sympathies see their main ethical imperative as working for the betterment of humanity in general. Jacksonians locate their moral community closer to home, in fellow citizens who share a common national bond. If the cosmopolitans see Jacksonians as backward and chauvinistic, Jacksonians return the favor by seeing the cosmopolitan elite as near treasonous—people who think it is morally questionable to put their own country, and its citizens, first.

Jacksonian distrust of elite patriotism has been increased by the country’s selective embrace of identity politics in recent decades. The contemporary American scene is filled with civic, political, and academic movements celebrating various ethnic, racial, gender, and religious identities. Elites have gradually welcomed demands for cultural recognition by African Americans, Hispanics, women, the lgbtq community, Native Americans, Muslim Americans. Yet the situation is more complex for most Jacksonians, who don’t see themselves as fitting neatly into any of those categories.

Whites who organize around their specific European ethnic roots can do so with little pushback; Italian Americans and Irish Americans, for example, have long and storied traditions in the parade of American identity groups. But increasingly, those older ethnic identities have faded, and there are taboos against claiming a generic European American or white identity. Many white Americans thus find themselves in a society that talks constantly about the importance of identity, that values ethnic authenticity, that offers economic benefits and social advantages based on identity—for everybody but them. For Americans of mixed European background or for the millions who think of themselves simply as American, there are few acceptable ways to celebrate or even connect with one’s heritage.

There are many reasons for this, rooted in a complex process of intellectual reflection over U.S. history, but the reasons don’t necessarily make intuitive sense to unemployed former factory workers and their families. The growing resistance among many white voters to what they call “political correctness” and a growing willingness to articulate their own sense of group identity can sometimes reflect racism, but they need not always do so. People constantly told that they are racist for thinking in positive terms about what they see as their identity, however, may decide that racist is what they are, and that they might as well make the best of it. The rise of the so-called alt-right is at least partly rooted in this dynamic.

The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the scattered, sometimes violent expressions of anti-police sentiment displayed in recent years compounded the Jacksonians’ sense of cultural alienation, and again, not simply because of race. Jacksonians instinctively support the police, just as they instinctively support the military. Those on the frontlines protecting society sometimes make mistakes, in this view, but mistakes are inevitable in the heat of combat, or in the face of crime. It is unfair and even immoral, many Jacksonians believe, to ask soldiers or police officers to put their lives on the line and face great risks and stress, only to have their choices second-guessed by armchair critics. Protests that many Americans saw as a quest for justice, therefore, often struck Jacksonians as attacks on law enforcement and public order.

Gun control and immigration were two other issues that crystallized the perception among many voters that the political establishments of both parties had grown hostile to core national values. Non-Jacksonians often find it difficult to grasp the depth of the feelings these issues stir up and how proposals for gun control and immigration reform reinforce suspicions about elite control and cosmopolitanism.

The right to bear arms plays a unique and hallowed role in Jacksonian political culture, and many Jacksonians consider the Second Amendment to be the most important in the Constitution. These Americans see the right of revolution, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, as the last resort of a free people to defend themselves against tyranny—and see that right as unenforceable without the possibility of bearing arms. They regard a family’s right to protect itself without reliance on the state, meanwhile, as not just a hypothetical ideal but a potential practical necessity—and something that elites don’t care about or even actively oppose. (Jacksonians have become increasingly concerned that Democrats and centrist Republicans will try to disarm them, which is one reason why mass shootings and subsequent calls for gun control spur spikes in gun sales, even as crime more generally has fallen.)

As for immigration, here, too, most non-Jacksonians misread the source and nature of Jacksonian concern. There has been much discussion about the impact of immigration on the wages of low-skilled workers and some talk about xenophobia and Islamophobia. But Jacksonians in 2016 saw immigration as part of a deliberate and conscious attempt to marginalize them in their own country. Hopeful talk among Democrats about an “emerging Democratic majority” based on a secular decline in the percentage of the voting population that is white was heard in Jacksonian America as support for a deliberate transformation of American demographics. When Jacksonians hear elites’ strong support for high levels of immigration and their seeming lack of concern about illegal immigration, they do not immediately think of their pocketbooks. They see an elite out to banish them from power—politically, culturally, demographically. The recent spate of dramatic random terrorist attacks, finally, fused the immigration and personal security issues into a single toxic whole.

In short, in November, many Americans voted their lack of confidence—not in a particular party but in the governing classes more generally and their associated global cosmopolitan ideology. Many Trump voters were less concerned with pushing a specific program than with stopping what appeared to be the inexorable movement of their country toward catastrophe.


What all of this means for U.S. foreign policy remains to be seen. Many previous presidents have had to revise their ideas substantially after reaching the Oval Office; Trump may be no exception. Nor is it clear just what the results would be of trying to put his unorthodox policies into practice. (Jacksonians can become disappointed with failure and turn away from even former heroes they once embraced; this happened to President George W. Bush, and it could happen to Trump, too.)

At the moment, Jacksonians are skeptical about the United States’ policy of global engagement and liberal order building—but more from a lack of trust in the people shaping foreign policy than from a desire for a specific alternative vision. They oppose recent trade agreements not because they understand the details and consequences of those extremely complex agreements’ terms but because they have come to believe that the negotiators of those agreements did not necessarily have the United States’ interests at heart. Most Jacksonians are not foreign policy experts and do not ever expect to become experts. For them, leadership is necessarily a matter of trust. If they believe in a leader or a political movement, they are prepared to accept policies that seem counter-intuitive and difficult.

They no longer have such trust in the American establishment, and unless and until it can be restored, they will keep Washington on a short leash. To paraphrase what the neoconservative intellectual Irving Kristol wrote about Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1952, there is one thing that Jacksonians know about Trump—that he is unequivocally on their side. About their country’s elites, they feel they know no such thing. And their concerns are not all illegitimate, for the United States’ global order-building project is hardly flourishing.

Over the past quarter century, Western policymakers became infatuated with some dangerously oversimplified ideas. They believed capitalism had been tamed and would no longer generate economic, social, or political upheavals. They felt that illiberal ideologies and political emotions had been left in the historical dustbin and were believed only by “bitter” losers—people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them . . . as a way to explain their frustrations,” as Barack Obama famously put it in 2008. Time and the normal processes of history would solve the problem; constructing a liberal world order was simply a matter of working out the details.

Given such views, many recent developments—from the 9/11 attacks and the war on terrorism to the financial crisis to the recent surge of angry nationalist populism on both sides of the Atlantic—came as a rude surprise. It is increasingly clear that globalization and automation have helped break up the socioeconomic model that undergirded postwar prosperity and domestic social peace, and that the next stage of capitalist development will challenge the very foundations of both the global liberal order and many of its national pillars.

In this new world disorder, the power of identity politics can no longer be denied. Western elites believed that in the twenty-first century, cosmopolitanism and globalism would triumph over atavism and tribal loyalties. They failed to understand the deep roots of identity politics in the human psyche and the necessity for those roots to find political expression in both foreign and domestic policy arenas. And they failed to understand that the very forces of economic and social development that cosmopolitanism and globalization fostered would generate turbulence and eventually resistance, as Gemeinschaft (community) fought back against the onrushing Gesellschaft (market society), in the classic terms sociologists favored a century ago.

The challenge for international politics in the days ahead is therefore less to complete the task of liberal world order building along conventional lines than to find a way to stop the liberal order’s erosion and reground the global system on a more sustainable basis. International order needs to rest not just on elite consensus and balances of power and policy but also on the free choices of national communities—communities that need to feel protected from the outside world as much as they want to benefit from engaging with it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Thomas Friedman: “I Am For A High Wall With A Big Gate.”

Thomas Friedman: “I Am For a High Wall With a Big Gate.” Interviewed by Tucker Carlson. Video. Real Clear Politics, January 9, 2017. YouTube.

RCP Transcript:

TUCKER CARLSON: Technology leads to isolation... It’s easy for us, who are thriving, relatively speaking, in this economy. But the idea that people who are displaced by technology are going to seamlessly or at all find a place in this new order is really hard to believe. You can teach a farmer to run a drill pass, you can’t teach one to write code. Or a cable news host to write code. You just can’t. So what about those people?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Because my point is I don’t think that we’re going to be the cutting edge of the jobs. I think the best jobs are going to be these people-to-people jobs.

Yes, some people write code. Unfortunately, computers will soon be writing a lot of our code.

CARLSON: Exactly.

FRIEDMAN: I think we’re going to see a whole new set of jobs and industries really around the heart, connecting people to people, it may be through restaurants, through entertainment. Think of our generation, how many people are going to need elder care as the baby boomers retire. So I’m much more optimistic about these new jobs.

CARLSON: And I’m glad you’re optimistic. I am not. But I am glad that somebody is. I don’t understand at a moment of change this profound why you would want to add demographic and cultural and economic change on top of economic change. And I know it benefits a small number of employers who want cheaper labor. But why would you want to let in low-skilled labor, no promise for participating in this new economy, how does that help anybody?

FRIEDMAN: My view on openness in general, I say in the book and have always said I am for a high wall with a big gate. I believe our country has to control its borders. I’m a big believer in that. But I also believe that what has made America great is we’ve accrued more high IQ risk takers than any country in the world. And high-energy risk takers – the lower skilled, the higher the energy. That’s what made us great.

CARLSON: Shouldn’t we screen for them? Because our current immigration system says that if you have a relative you get to come. Shouldn’t we say, wait a second, are you impressive or not?

FRIEDMAN: That may be, I’m really agnostic on how we best bring in these people. But what I would hate to see us do, Tucker, is to close off America as this giant magnet. We are who we are as a country because we've attracted more of these risk takers. My great grandparents and somewhere your great grandparents, they left somewhere bad and came to somewhere they thought were better.

What Is Trumpism? By Victor Davis Hanson.

What Is Trumpism? By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, January 10, 2017.

Trumpism is the latest incarnation of Jacksonianism.


First sketches of a list, starting with tradition, populism, and American greatness.

Donald Trump is hated by liberal Democrats because, among other things, he is likely to reverse the entire Obama project. And, far worse, he probably will seek fundamental ways of obstructing its future resurgence — even perhaps by peeling off traditional Democratic constituencies.

The proverbial mainstream media despise Trump. Culturally, he has become a totem of their fears: coarseness, ostentatiousness, flamboyance, and the equation of big money with taste and success. His new approach to the media may make them irrelevant, and they fear their downfall could be well earned.

The Republican Washington–to–New York establishment is alienated by Trump. It finds his behavior reckless and his ideology unpredictable — especially given his cruel destruction of in-house Republican candidates in the primaries and his past flirtations with liberal ideas and politicians. That he has now brought them more opportunity for conservative political change than any Republican candidate in a century only adds insult to their sense of injury.

Note the common denominator to the all these hostile groups: It is Trump the man, not Trump the avatar of some political movement that they detest. After all, there are no Trump political philosophers. There is no slate of down-ballot Trump ideologues. If Trump were to start a third party, what would be its chief tenets? There is as yet neither a Trump “Contract for America” nor a Trump “First Principles” manifesto. 

Nonetheless, from the 2016 campaign and from President-elect Trump’s slated appointments, past interviews, and tweets, we can see a coherent worldview emerging, something different from both orthodox conservativism and liberalism, though certainly Trumpism is far closer to the former than to the latter. Here may be a few outlines of Trumpist thought.


Trumpism promotes traditionalism. Trump showcases “Merry Christmas!” because his parents did. He believes in dressing formally and being addressed as Mr. Trump. And he insists that his children be well-behaved and polite.

You might object that Trump is thrice-married, Petronian in his tastes, and ethically sloppy or worse in his own business dealings. No matter: Trump seeks a return to normalcy all the more. His personal excesses apparently spur his impulses for traditional norms.

Perhaps Trump is like many Baby Boomers as they enter their final decades: They look back at their parents and grandparents, and wonder how they put up with their offspring — and see how far this generation has fallen short of their forebears’ ideals, which in turn sparks a desire for a return to normalcy in the wayward. Deists were believers in the abstract who otherwise shunned a living Christianity yet thought that active religion had social value for others. Similarly, Trump is a non-practicing moralist who believes traditional morality can restore structure and guidance to society.

So Trump is foul-mouthed but wants a return of decorum; he has been conniving but thinks his own recklessness is not necessarily a model for the nation.

Populism vs. Elitism

The billionaire Trump won by going after elites of both parties —attacking the protected classes of the Left as politically correct snobs, and those of the Right as crony capitalists (Trump confessed that it took one to spot one) or as uppity no-fun scolds and professional Washington hacks and political handlers.

By “elites,” Trump certainly did not mean plutocrats like himself or the various grandees he has appointed to his cabinet.

How does he square that circle? For Trump, there are apparently good elites like himself and then the rest, the bad elites. The dividing line is not income, status, or lifestyle per se, but whether one advocates one thing for others and quite another for oneself. Trump is rich and unabashedly likes what riches can bring, and he claims that he wants average Americans to have their own version of a Trump Tower existence.

He is not Al Gore urging Middle Americans to drive less while he flies on his Gulfstream private jets, or Barack Obama who loves exclusive, expensive Sidwell Friends prep school for his own children but opposes charter-school choices for the less fortunate, or a Senator Barbara Boxer who lives in an irrigated desert oasis but seeks to stop contracted water transfers for those who grow food rather than lawn turf.

In the next four years, expect a continual war on intellectuals and academics (who, not surprisingly, are almost absent from the Trump cabinet), the media, the political establishment, and the progressive class in general, whose lavish lifestyle and preachy rhetoric are irreconcilable.

So it is not privilege that Trumpism targets, but rather the hypocrisies of privilege, of those who seek to avoid the natural consequences of their own ideology. He is no friend to the exalted who virtue-signal, at the expense of others, in order to assuage the guilt for the own rarified existence. When Trump put on his red cap and too-long tie — with his orange skin, yellow comb-over, and Queens accent — and bragged about his tremendous wealth, awesome companies, and huge successes, he came across to millions as authentic and unapologetic about his own success. Trump can be outrageous, but his tweets and invective seem less outrageous than Obama’s combo of Ivy League smugness and too-cool-for-school interviews with GloZell, and Obama’s infatuation with rapper Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

National Greatness

Nationalism is another Trump axiom — the deliberate antithesis to the progressive and Socratic idea of being “a citizen of the world.” In Trump’s mind, the U.S. is a paradise thanks to its exceptional values and the hard work of past generations; the mess elsewhere (to the degree Trump worries about it) is due to human failing that is not America’s fault. Trump laments self-inflicted misery abroad but feels that he and his country are not culpable for it, and, other than Good Samarian disaster or famine relief, we cannot do too much about it in the long term.

If Mexico wants good jobs or Europe seeks to re-arm, then they can first make their own necessary adjustments to give them what they need without necessarily involving the U.S., whose first obligation is to make sure that its own citizens are well, secure, and employed. It seems that in Trump’s view, America’s poor and forgotten have claims on this country’s attention that far outweigh those of the illegal immigrant or the globe-trotting internationalist; the lathe worker in Des Moines and the real estate broker in Manhattan, by virtue of being American, deserve more of Washington’s attention than international bureaucrats or foreign royals. The least American is preferable to the greatest foreigner.

To the Left, this is xenophobic, nativist, and Peronist; in the Trump mind, it is a long-overdue pushback against 21st-centurty globalism. Good borders make good neighbors; illegal immigrants who arrive by breaking the law will certainly keep breaking the law to stay. Americans cannot pick and choose which American laws to follow; why would they allow foreigners to do what they themselves cannot and should not do?

Making Stuff

Trump is a pragmatist in another way: his unapologetic deference to 19th-century muscular labor and those who employ and organize it. Though we are well into the 21st-century informational age, Trump apparently believes that the age-old industries — steel, drilling, construction, farming, mining, logging — are still noble and necessary pursuits. Using one’s hands or one’s mind to create something concrete and real is valuable in and of itself, and a much-needed antidote to the Pajama Boy–Ivy League culture of abstraction.

Silicon Valley, the marquee universities, and progressive ideologues might dismiss these producers as polluting dinosaurs, but all of them also rely on forgotten others to fuel their Priuses, bring them their kitchen counters, their hardwood floors, and their evening cabernet and arugula and, 12 hours later, their morning yogurt and granola. The producers acknowledge the equal importance of Apple and Google in a way that is never quite reciprocated by Silicon Valley.

In other words, expect Trumpism to champion fracking, logging, Keystone, “clean” coal, highway construction, the return of contracted irrigation water to its farmers, the retention of federal grazing lands for cattlemen — not just because in Trump’s view these industries are valuable sources of material wealth for the nation but also because they empower the sort of people who are the antidote to what America is becoming.


On matters of foreign policy, Trump is not a realist, isolationist, or neoconservative, although at times he can sound like all that and more. Instead, he is a Jacksonian who wants a huge club at the Department of Defense largely to ensure that he’ll never have to use it. And if he is pushed to swing it, he wants to flatten any who would hurt the U.S.

Many of us are skeptical of such Whac-A-Mole punishments, or the idea that bombing the “sh**” out of an enemy while getting nowhere near him will solve the problem. But we are thinking conventionally and historically. Trump, in contrast, does not believe that foreign enemies and terrorists need be persuaded, through long-term nation-building projects of what is in their own interests. He instead assumes that you beat down (only existential) threats the way you regularly mow your lawn (and you always will have to mow your lawn). If you don’t mow, the lawn grows rank, ugly, and unmanageable. We should no more complain that the grass always grows back than we should whine that Iran lies or promotes terrorism

Trump assumes that the world is Hobbesian. When the Iranians get close to getting their bomb (and they will), or the Chinese keep stealing U.S. drones (and they will), you push back hard, on the assumption that Iranian theocrats and Chinese Communist do such things the same way that a pit bull cannot stop biting. In time, by vigilance and deterrence, you can discourage such chronic chomping, but you are not going to spend blood and treasure in an effort to make a pit bull into a poodle.

In short, whatever is the cheapest and quickest way to make an aggressor stop is preferable to long-term nation-building or multilateral initiatives to address “root causes” and seek permanent solutions. For Trump, enemies are always numerous and to be opposed, friends few and to be appreciated. Foreign policy then is Sophoclean, not Socratic: Hurt enemies, help friends.

Reagan’s bombing of Qaddafi is Trumpian. Rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan is not. Likewise un-Trumpian are Obama’s destroying Libya to destroy Qaddafi, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood because the otherwise preferable alternative was not quite liberal enough for Western sensibilities.


Trump admires people who make money. He doesn’t buy that those, to take one example, with Ph.D.s and academic titles could have made money if only they had wished—but for lots of reasons (most of them supposedly noble) chose not to. For Trump, credentialed academic expertise in anything is in no way comparable to achievement in the jungle of business.

Instead, in Trump’s dog-eat-dog world, only a few bruisers make it to the top and the real, big money — the ultimate barometer of competence. He sees the “winners” as knights to be enlisted in behalf of the weaker others. He might not quite say that a Greek professor is inherently useless, and he might not worry much about preserving the ancient strands of Western civilization. But he might remind us that such pursuits are esoteric and depend on stronger, more cunning and instinctual sorts, whose success alone can pay for such indulgences. Without Greek professors, the world can still find shelter and fuel; without builders and drillers, there can be no Greek professors. Brain surgery and guided missiles both require lots of money without which decline is inevitable.

Policies are good or bad based on how much they cost and how much value is returned on the sale. Success is profitability; failure is red ink and negative net worth. If Solyndra had worked, and if it had paid back its $500 million taxpayer-funded loan as its expanded plants and work forces, then a pragmatic Trump would have been for it and ignored classical free-market axioms. The solution to the inner city is an economy in overdrive — not government handouts, but so many good jobs that employers are forced to hire at good wages every employee they can find.

So what is Trumpism thus far, based on campaign rhetoric and campaigning?

In sum, it’s an America that emulates (even if hypocritically so) the lost culture of the 1950s; exploits fossil fuels; is run by deal makers who make money ostensibly to achieve a GDP that can fund the niceties of American civilization; opposes unfettered free trade and is united by race and class through shared material success; assesses winning as what’s workable rather than what’s politically correct or doctrinaire; makes “tremendous” cars, air-conditioners, and planes; has the largest and most powerful and least-used military; and is loyal to our allies and considerably scary to our enemies. All that seems to be Trumpism (at least for now).

When Trump has a record as president, one can add to or subtract from the list.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Return of “Street Corner”—Jacksonian—“Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti.

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Tucson, AZ, on Saturday, March 19, 2016. AP/Ross D. Franklin.

The Return of “Street Corner Conservatism.” By Matthew Continetti. Washington Free Beacon, December 23, 2016. Also at National Review Online.


Donald Trump and the Jacksonian political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Richard Nixon was plotting his 1968 presidential campaign when he received a letter from a high-school English teacher in Pennsylvania. The correspondent, a young man named William F. Gavin, wasn’t certain Nixon would run. But he sure wanted him to. “You can win,” Gavin wrote. “Nothing can happen to you, politically speaking, that is worse than what has happened to you.”

Gavin cited Ortega y Gasset to explain why Nixon was uniquely suited to lead during the violence and uncertainty of the late 1960s. “You are,” he went on, “the only political figure with the vision to see things the way they are and not as Leftist and Rightist kooks would have them.”

The forceful and eloquent style of Gavin’s prose impressed top Nixon aide Patrick J. Buchanan. Gavin soon joined the nascent campaign, beginning a career writing speeches for the 37th president, for Senator Jim Buckley of New York, for Ronald Reagan, and for congressman Bob Michel, as well as composing novels, nonfiction books, and journalism. Gavin understood well the political realignment that brought city- and suburban-dwelling white working-class ethnics — Irish, Italians, Greeks, Pols, and Slavs — rather tentatively into the Republican camp. “The Nixon aide who understood the Catholic opportunity best,” Buchanan wrote later, “was Bill Gavin, who had grown up Catholic and conservative, his views and values shaped by family, faith, and friends.”

I have been thinking about Gavin lately because his life and thought so perfectly capture the conservatism of Donald Trump. When you read Gavin, you begin to understand that the idea of Trump as a conservative is not oxymoronic. Trump is a conservative — of a particular type that is rare in intellectual circles. His conservatism is ignored or dismissed or opposed because, while it often reaches the same conclusions as more prevalent versions of conservatism, its impulses, emphases, and forms are different from those of traditionalism, anti-Communism, classical liberalism, Leo Strauss conservatism in its East and West Coast varieties, the neoconservatism of Irving Kristol as well as the neoconservatism of William Kristol, religious conservatism, paleo-conservatism, compassionate conservatism, constitutional conservatism, and all the other shaggy inhabitants of the conservative zoo.

Trump has always been careful to distinguish himself from what he calls “normal conservative.” He has defined a conservative as a person who “doesn’t want to take risks,” who wants to balance budgets, who “feels strongly about the military.” It is for these reasons, he said during the campaign, that he opposed the Iraq war: The 2003 invasion was certainly risky, it was costly, and it put the troops in a dangerous position, defending a suspicious and resentful population amid IEDs and sniper attacks. The Iraq war, in this view, is an example of conservative writers and thinkers and politicians following trains of logic or desire to un-conservative conclusions.

Nor is it the only example. Fealty to econometric models, Trump says, has led many conservatives as well as liberals to embrace a “dumb market” that gives mercantilist powers in Asia advantages over U.S. industry and labor. The rush to pass comprehensive immigration reform as a result of the elite consensus that immigration is an unmitigated good set the Republican-party leadership against its own voters. The desire to restrain entitlement spending through cuts rather than prolonging the lifespan of these programs through economic growth demoralizes Republican voters who count on their checks to arrive each month.

Indeed, Trump was so at variance with the mainstream of the intellectual conservative movement on these issues that he modified his political identity. “I really am a conservative,” he said last February. “But I’m also a commonsense person. I’m a commonsense conservative. We have to be commonsense conservatives. We have to be smart.” Common sense in this understanding is opposed to the theoretical and academic analysis that has led conservatives to nonsensical and unpopular positions because they are beholden to speculative conclusions or to creedal dogma.

Trump’s politics are grounded not in metaphysics but in what he understands to be the linguistic root of the term conservative. “I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word conserve,” he has said. “We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country.”

The conservatism of Donald Trump is not the conservatism of ideas but of things. His politics do not derive from the works of Burke or Disraeli or Newman, nor is he a follower of Mill or Berlin or Moynihan. There is no theory of natural rights or small government or international relations that claims his loyalty. When he says he wants to “conserve our country,” he does not mean conserve the idea of countries, or a league of countries, or the slogans of democracy or equality or freedom, but this country, right now, as it exists in the real world of space and time. Trump’s relation to the intellectual community of both parties is fraught because his visceral, dispositional conservatism leads him to judgments based on specific details, depending on changing circumstances, relative to who is gaining and who is losing in a given moment.

His is a blunt and instinctive and demotic approach arrived at after decades in the zero-sum world of real-estate and entertainment-contract negotiations. His are sentiments honed by immediate, knee-jerk, and sometimes inelegant reactions to events and personalities observed on Twitter or on “the shows.” And the goal of his particular conservatism is not adherence to an ideological program so much as it is to prevent the loss of specific goods: money, soldiers, guns, jobs, borders, national cohesion.

This is the conservatism of Bill Gavin who, in his 1975 book Street Corner Conservative, gave voice to the instinctual conservatism of the men and women who populated the Jersey City neighborhoods in which he was raised. “They do not want to overthrow the system,” Gavin wrote. “But they are not quite satisfied with the system either. They supported the United States efforts in Vietnam, but at the same time deplored the strategy of piecemeal escalation that led to such a disastrous state of affairs. They are sick unto death with the follies and the arrogance of liberal Democrats, but they have not quite snuggled up to the Republican Party.”

The Queens-born Trump, like other street-corner conservatives, has never quite felt at home in either political party. And while he went to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, he, like other street-corner conservatives, lacks the graduate degrees and credentials that establish oneself in society as a professional or as an originator and exponent of ideas. “We were all, I am convinced, conservatives,” Gavin wrote of his family and friends. “We never intellectually knew that we were, but instinctively, it seems, we knew that certain people and institutions and places have claims upon our loyalties.”

It is this specificity of attachment rather than adherence to a program that explains the divide between street-corner conservatives and their political brethren. Many of the conservatives in Washington, D.C., myself included, arrived at their politics through study or experience at university, by encountering a great text, the coherence of natural law, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, or the economics of Smith, Ricardo, Friedman, and Tullock. That is not the case for the street-corner conservatives. Their stance, Gavin says, “isn’t dependent on arguments from free enterprise, although most street corner conservatives embrace free enterprise. . . . Neither is it dependent on aristocratic tradition . . . nor a particular intellectual viewpoint.” Nor is it “based on nostalgia for some long-gone golden age nor on some reactionary aesthetic idea.”

It is the gut conservatism of someone who does not want to be cheated, who wants to live according to traditional notions of family, community, vocation, and faith, and who reacts negatively when these notions are toyed with from above. It is the politics of a construction worker, a contractor, a technician, a waiter or waitress, a taxi or Uber driver, of someone who is patriotic but skeptical of non-retaliatory and mismanaged foreign interventions, who gives precedence to the practical over the theoretical, the tangible over the conceptual, the concrete over the abstract. Street-corner or commonsense conservatism is more than the set of attitudes, inclinations, reactions, and habits of Bill Gavin or Donald Trump. It is nothing less than the political philosophy of the Deplorables.

Street-corner conservatism is most distinctive when set against the conservatism of the Beltway. Economists, for example, can explain in minute detail the efficiencies gained when the supply of labor is global and therefore limitless. They can point to highly sophisticated quantitative models that describe how consumers benefit from the global supply chain and from the off-shoring of low-wage employment. It all works so well in theory. What the economists are too quick to dismiss, however, is the first word in the old subject of political economy. They prefer not to recognize — or, in some cases, they celebrate outright — the erosion of nationhood by lax enforcement of border controls and immigration policy.

Unilateral disarmament in the face of trading partners that manipulate their currencies and maintain tariffs against U.S. products not only diminishes objective measures of national community and sovereignty, but also carries a human cost in workers displaced, factories moved, communities warped, livelihoods and vocations disappeared. A street-corner conservative responds to these dislocations with a sense of outrage, with a desire to rectify injustices that benefit an affluent and aloof elite, and with frustration when his sentiments and wishes and bonds are not recognized by either Republicans or Democrats.

When Donald Trump and Mike Pence arranged for Carrier to retain some of the jobs it had previously announced would move to Mexico, adherents to free-market ideology roundly criticized the move as cronyism. But, as has so often been the case this year, these thinkers lacked a constituency. They found themselves defending the economic basis of Walmart rather than the livelihoods of the people who shop there. The Carrier deal was popular not only with Carrier employees but also with voters. It was a textbook example of street-corner conservatism: deviation from principle in the pursuit of tangible goods. Arguments from theory or economic calculation had no purchase because the street-corner conservative thinks not in terms of producers and consumers but in terms of citizens and foreigners.

There is a similar practicality in Trump’s stated opposition to reform of Social Security and Medicare. The street-corner conservative sees these programs not as entitlements but as deserved benefits. He paid premiums in the form of payroll taxes and expects a return. He believes Social Security and Medicare aren’t undeserved welfare transfers that feed dependency and anomie but universal programs that benefit citizens equally. And the street-corner conservative knows that, since the Republican party has become the party of the poor and lower middle class, cutting Social Security and Medicare today to make actuarial tables work years from now is an attack on the GOP grassroots.

Street-corner conservatism informs Trump’s foreign-policy instincts as well. “In our nation’s relations with other countries we want: enough military strength to prevent war; a rational ‘America First’ attitude avoiding the extremes of expansionist jingoism on one hand and isolation on the other; and a cool but correct attitude toward totalitarian dictatorships that have the potential to destroy our nation,” wrote Gavin. The street-corner conservative is intensely patriotic — to use Trump’s word, “militaristic” — and recoils at the humiliation of his nation at foreign hands. For the street-corner conservative, the words America First summon thoughts not of Charles Lindbergh but of the pursuit of concrete and visible American interests rather than the expansive defense of the amorphous concept of “liberal world order.” He supports overseas interventions in response to attack or, as it initially seemed in Iraq, in the face of grave threat. But when the rationale for intervention changes to the maintenance of the “liberal international system” or the promotion of airy concepts such as “human rights” and “democracy promotion” and the “responsibility to protect,” he is far more skeptical. So is Trump.

If street-corner conservatism is a recurrent temper in our public life, it is also a volatile and easily frustrated one. It found expression in the majoritarian theories of William F. Buckley Jr.’s mentor Wilmoore Kendall; the populist and anti-establishment rhetoric of Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan; the social conservatism of the suburban warriors who fought liberal social policies such as the Equal Rights Amendment, busing, abortion, and the therapeutic approach to crime, and who played such an important role in the Reagan Revolution. Street-corner conservatism has waxed and waned, risen and fallen, a periodic response to social disorder, economic stagnation, and elites who forget that America is not to be ruled from above but driven from below. Street-corner conservatism can bring you to office, but it also can turn on you easily when it is depressed or disillusioned or, conversely, enriched and pleased with the state of society.

Politicians who listen to them flourish. “What is it we want?” asked Gavin.

We want a strong country, the strongest in the world because we aren’t going to rely on mutual manifestations of good will to keep this country free. It is a tough world. The liberals think anyone who says that is practicing a false, twisted masculinity. So be it. We have been called everything else by liberals; we might as well be called sexual psychopaths. But at the same time, let’s demand that our nation be so strong that no nation or group of nations will ever dare attack us — or even think of attacking us. . . .

We believe this is a good country. We believe that our way of life, our values, our adherence to formal religion, to the family, to what Chesterton called the “decencies and charities of Christendom” have for too long been abused or ignored or threatened by left-liberalism. Left-liberalism is intellectually, morally, and spiritually bankrupt. We don’t want it to be replaced by radicalism of the left or right. We want our kids to grow up knowing not only their prayers but their philosophy, our philosophy.

What is it that we want?

I’ll tell you.

We want America.

Bill Gavin died of cancer last year at the age of 80.

One week later, Donald Trump announced that a street-corner conservative was running for president.

Walter Russell Mead Discusses Jacksonianism and American Elites with Ben Domenech at The Federalist.

Walter Russell Mead on Jacksonianism, Foreign Policy, and American Elites. Audio. Interviewed by Ben Domenech. The Federalist, December 22, 2016. Soundcloud.

Summary at The Federalist:

Walter Russell Mead, editor of The American Interest and fellow at the Hudson Institute, joins Ben Domenech in studio to discuss foreign policy schools of thought, Jacksonianism, and the future of education and religion in America.

Mead labels the type of people who voted for Donald Trump in key Democratic states as Jacksonians, Mead said. “Jacksonians are often, in foreign policy and domestic policy, they are often more motivated by threat than by opportunity,” he said. “They’re often surprisingly unmotivated by stories of political corruption, but perversion of government is a different thing and that reaches them on a different level.”

Mead discusses how Trump’s cabinet and national security advisors view America’s role in the world, and how their views will overlap or collide. “Tillerson and Trump will both face the problem that government isn’t the same as corporate governance,” he said. “When you bring Jacksonians into government, they generally have less experience with government, less understanding of the people around them.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.”

Peloton TV Commercial: “This Is Peloton.” Video., May 18, 2016. YouTube. Starring Jill de Jong. Website.

Description on iSpot:

A woman wakes up and begins an exercise routine with her instructor Robin on the Peloton indoor cycle. She attacks the hill, crushes the flats and fights her way through the pack. And she does it all from the comfort of her home before breakfast time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend.

Ralph Peters: Russia Will Never Be America’s Friend. Video. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016. YouTube.

Ralph Peters: Rex Tillerson would be a “terrible” choice for Secretary of State. By AllahPundit. Hot Air, December 12, 2016.

Ralph Peters Slams Rex Tillerson as Possible Secretary of State Because of Ties to Putin. By Cameron Cawthorne. Washington Free Beacon, December 12, 2016.

Vladimir Putin will always be America’s enemy. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, December 11, 2016.


Vladimir Putin is our enemy. Not because we want him to be, but because resentment and hatred of the United States is central to his being. Russia’s president yearns to do us harm.

He blames us for the Soviet Union’s self-wrought collapse. He blames us for Russian stagnation. He blames us for the derelict lot of his drunken, diseased country. And he wants revenge.

Putin has five strategic goals: He wants international sanctions lifted, Europe divided and NATO destroyed. He seeks to restore the empire of the czars. And he wants to humiliate the United States.

Americans and Europeans are targets of a ruthless, audacious and skillful disinformation campaign portraying Russia as a victim, not an aggressor. Not since the heyday of the Soviet-sponsored Ban-the-Bomb movement in the 1950s has Kremlin propaganda thrived so broadly.

We naively insist the truth will prevail. That’s nonsense. Putin knows that big lies work, if repeated until absorbed. And he’s aided by Western stooges who, for money or malice or moral malfeasance, abet Putin in deluding our populations.

The current pro-Putin narrative holds that Russia’s a martyr to Western aggression, that we’ve abused Russia since the USSR dissolved and that NATO’s eastward expansion equals aggression. Then there are the preposterous claims that Russia’s battling Islamist terrorists on behalf of civilization, even as Russian bombs butcher civilians by the thousands.

We can’t polygraph all the pro-Putin voices (although I’d love to, publicly), so let’s look at the facts of what Putin has done.

He interfered with our presidential election via computer hacking, the use of front organizations and fake news (Kremlin-gate may prove our worst political scandal). His military challenges us in the skies and at sea. In Afghanistan, his agents assist the Taliban. In Syria, his jets target Syrian hospitals, clinics and civilians in a literal “Slaughter of the Innocents” at Christmastide.

He invaded Georgia and Ukraine (the latter twice). He threatens the NATO-member Baltic states and subsidizes Europe’s extremist political parties to radicalize electorates, undercut democracy and realign ­nations with Russia.

At home, he suffocated Russia’s nascent democracy, crushed the free press, jailed and murdered his opposition, cheated foreign investors and turned Russia into a gangster state where the czar is the only law.

What of his claim of a vast Western conspiracy to harm Russia?

I served in Washington (traveling often to Moscow) as the Soviet Union died of organ failure. Far from attempting to punish the “new” Russia, we and our European allies fell all over ourselves to indulge Moscow’s whims and encourage investment. Our State Department’s infatuation with the “new” Russia was embarrassingly extreme.

Nor did our goodwill end with the Clinton administration’s witless indulgence. President George W. Bush insisted he’d seen into ­Putin’s soul and that we could be partners. Putin then embarrassed Bush with glee. Next, President Obama fooled himself into believing he could deal constructively with Putin behind the backs of American voters. He wound up shocked and humiliated.

Putin would be delighted to chump another US president.

Russia’s problems are made in Russia. We’ve tried to help, not harm. But Russians refuse to help themselves, preferring brutality, squalor and hostility to the rule of law and civilization.

As for the upside-down charge that NATO’s eastward expansion signaled aggression against Russia, look at how ­Putin has treated non-NATO-member Ukraine and you’ll understand why the newly free states of eastern Europe cling to history’s greatest peacetime alliance.

Putin suggests a Russian right to the Baltics and Ukraine, as well as to hegemony in Eastern Europe. Russia has no such rights. Ukraine has not “always” been part of Russia. It was conquered in the 18th century and, ever since, Moscow has tried to crush Ukrainian identity, from czarist-era bans on the Ukrainian language to Stalin’s horrific man-made famine that killed at least 10 million.

Is it any wonder Ukraine doesn’t want the bear back? Or that Ukrainian (and Baltic) partisans continued to fight the Red Army and its commissars after World War II?

As for the Baltic states, when they gained independence after World War I, they went through an incredible cultural flowering — only to be invaded by the Red Army, the Nazis and the Red Army again. Now they want to live in peace and freedom, as part of the West to which their cultures belong. How is that aggressive? Is little Latvia going to march on Moscow?

The east-European states — above all, Poland — know too well how savage Russian mastery can be. The key event in modern Polish-Russian relations remains the mass murder in the Katyn Forest of 15,000 Polish-officer POWs by Stalin’s secret police. The nightmare of Soviet domination followed. Is Poland wrong to fear Russia?

Should those who suffered under Moscow’s tyranny forget the slaughter of workers in Berlin in 1953? The bloodbath in Hungary in ’56? Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in ’68? Or the millions who disappeared into the Gulag?

Russia’s victims scream warnings from the grave.

In today’s age of cyber-assaults, Russian subversion and Putin’s ­naked aggression, fear is back. We must decide what we value, either freedom and decency, or foolhardy efforts to make friends of monsters.

To align ourselves with Putin in 2017 would be the equivalent of ­allying with Hitler in 1937.