Sunday, June 25, 2017

David Brooks on Conservatism in the Trump Era.

David Brooks on Conservatism in the Trump Era. CNN Fareed Zakaria GPS. Video. Breaking News Channel, June 25, 2017. YouTube. Also here.

Donald Trump’s Populism Decoded: How a Billionaire Became the Voice of the “Little People.” By Leonard Steinhorn. Moyers and Company, July 3, 2017.

Brooks, GPS Transcript:

ZAKARIA: Ronald Reagan: In the minds of many on the right, he will forever be the king of conservatism, his presidency the high point of that movement.

So what does Donald Trump’s presidency represent? Where does conservatism go from here? Where does the Republican Party go from here?

Early in the week, I had the opportunity to talk to a man who thinks a lot about these issues, the New York Times columnist David Brooks.


ZAKARIA: David Brooks, pleasure to have you on.

BROOKS: Good to be with you.

ZAKARIA: When you look at Trump and the way he’s been governing, the things he’s passed, it’s, kind of, a hodgepodge of some things that seem hardcore Republican economic agenda, the repeal of Obamacare. Some of it is the trade protectionism he’s always promised. Is there a new conservatism developing?

BROOKS: No, I don’t think so, not – not in this administration. I think we saw glimmers of it in the campaign. And what Trump understood but a lot of us didn’t understand, what debate we were having. We grew up in the debate of big government versus small government, whether you wanted to use government to enhance equality, as Democrats did, or reduce government to enhance freedom, as Republicans did. But in the campaign, Trump said “That’s not our debate.” As many people, including you, have said, it’s open-closed. It’s between those who feel the headwinds of globalization blasting in their faces and they want closed borders, closed trade, security, and those who feel it’s pushing at their backs, and they want open trade, open opportunity and open social mores.

And he identified that we’re having a new debate now. And what's central to his administration is he hasn't delivered on that.

And that’s because there are not a lot of Trumpians in the world of policy. And so he hasn’t exactly helped the people who got him into office. He’s staffed his administration, to the extent it is staffed, with people who basically believed in the Reagan bargain of 1984, which is, you know, cut tax rates, reduce government regulation. And so I think he opened the door for a new kind of conservatism but has not fulfilled it. That’s for somebody in the future.

ZAKARIA: So where do Republicans go?

When you look at Republican congressmen, politicians, have they looked at that campaign and said, “We need to become more populist conservatives?” Is that where the party is heading?

BROOKS: Yeah, there was a book that was really useful to read, a short book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. And he said what happens in science – but it’s also true in politics – is you get a paradigm; you get a way of looking at the world, Reaganism. That was a paradigm. It works for a little while and then slowly it detaches from reality and it’s hollow, but nobody knows it. Somebody comes along, punctures it and it collapses.

And that’s what Trump did to Reaganism. But then you get this period of chaos, where people really haven’t released the old paradigm but they haven’t – don’t know what the new one is. And then you get a period of competition of paradigms.

And so, in the Republican Party, you’re going to get a libertarian paradigm; you’re going to get a paleo-conservative Pat Buchanan paradigm. You’re going to get a whole bunch of different ones and they will fight it out.

And if I had to bet, I would like an Alexander Hamilton, open trade, a lot of immigration, a lot of economic dynamism. But frankly, when I look at the polls, there are not a lot of people who want what I want. The Steve Bannons of the world – that’s where a lot of the people are. If you – they’re older; they’re economically disadvantaged, and they want a national conservatism that will protect them.

ZAKARIA: And if that is what they want, the party, you think, will – will fold. Because, to me, what’s been really interesting to watch is conservative intellectuals have, by and large, particularly the more prominent ones like you, have stuck true to their ideas and ideals and, you know, been very critical of Trump. I think somebody like George Will essentially got fired from Fox for that reason.

BROOKS: Yeah, right.

ZAKARIA: But the Republican politicians have not. They have all caved and, in some way or the other, have accommodated themselves to Trump?

BROOKS: Yeah. And either those of us in the intellectual class are hidebound and rigid and we’re stuck with our ideas and we’re not reflecting reality, or the politicians are craven and they just don’t want to lose their jobs, so they’ll go wherever the people are. And that’s basically where they are.

I think one of the things we’ve learned and Trump has demonstrated is that parties are not that ideological. Trump ran against a lot of Republican positions and Republicans signed on.

What parties are these days are cultural signifiers, social identity markers and just teams. And people think, “What team has people like me on it? What fits my social identity?”

A lot of people looked around; a lot of suburban women in Missouri looked around and said “Sarah Palin, she’s, kind of, like me.” And whether Sarah Palin believed in high tax rates or low tax rates or health insurance markets or some other health care policy, that’s not what they were thinking about. They were thinking about, “Who’s like me?”

And for a lot of people in the Republican Party, which is older, whiter and less educated at the core, Trump was like that.

ZAKARIA: Does that tell you that they will be loyal to him to the end, if there – if these investigations go – go badly for the president?

BROOKS: Yeah, pretty much. One of the things I think we’ve learned in spades over the last 20 years is that we in the political class get super-excited about scandal, and we think, “Oh, it’s about to tear that person down.” But, time and time again, when you actually go out to districts where people are voting, it’s, sort of, just a noise in the background, and they’re voting the things that they care about, their economics, their health care, their education, or they like the person.

And so, in my conversations with Trump voters, the scandals just don’t come up. They think – always, he’s kind of a buffoon or whatever, but at least he’s still basically trying to say the right things. And so I don’t think it will have any difference.

ZAKARIA: And is part of Trump's support that that – you know, that core 35 percent or so of the country strengthened every time the media criticizes him?

BROOKS: Yeah...

ZAKARIA: Because the last thing they want to do is to give you the satisfaction...


BROOKS: Correct.

ZAKARIA: ... of having been right about Donald Trump?

BROOKS: Correct. Yeah, one of the things we learned about the class structure in this country is that people in the lower middle class or people in the working class or people who voted for Trump don’t mind billionaires; they do not mind rich people. What they mind are bossy professionals, teachers, lawyers, journalists who seem to want to tell them what to do or seem to want to tell them how to act.

And if you had to pick the classic epitome of that person who most offends them, that would be Hillary Clinton. And so she was exactly the wrong person.

And so I find them remarkably stable in their support. There’s been some seepage around the edge for Donald Trump, but so far it’s just seepage.

ZAKARIA: David Brooks, pleasure to have you on.

BROOKS: Thank you.

Steinhorn (excerpt):

But populism has always been about more than a loss of jobs, status and prestige. It’s also about who they blame for that loss. And typically they train their fire on those they view as elites.

Notwithstanding the threads of nativism and xenophobia woven into the early populist rhetoric, their targets were clear: monopolies, banks, industrialists and those who controlled the levers of capital in America. To them, they traced their loss of livelihood and status directly to the economic barons who constituted the elites of their time.

But today’s populists — with the notable exception of the Bernie Sanders wing — don’t rage against the capitalist elites and corporate boards and CEOs and financiers for outsourcing their jobs, closing their plants, squeezing their incomes and soaking up much of the nation’s wealth.

Rather, they aim their anger at those who they believe have deprived them of their cultural capital. To them, it’s the liberal, intellectual and media elites that have redefined who and what America values. On the cultural pedestal is now a rainbow flag, not the American flag. The masculinity of old is now declassĂ©. We elevate diversity and multiculturalism, not the hard hat, cop and white picket fence.

In the white working-class worldview, these elites have hijacked what Sarah Palin once called the “real America” — through globalization that stole their jobs, dispensations and benefits for those that haven’t earned it, and a politically correct hierarchy that privileges gays, minorities, immigrants and now the transgendered, but not the white working class even though, to them, they’re the ones who built the country and deserve respect.

From their perspective, all these elites seem to hand them is disdain and condescension. So they see themselves, in the words of President Trump, as the “forgotten Americans.”

Trump understood all of that from the very beginning of his campaign. Sporting his trademark “Make America Great Again” red baseball cap signaling white working-class solidarity, he vowed to stomp on the elites that his supporters believed were putting them down.

A Tale of Two Political Systems. By Eric X. Li.

A Tale of Two Political Systems. By Eric X. Li. Video. TED, June 2013. YouTube. Transcript.

The Life of the Party: The Post-Democratic Future Begins in China. By Eric X. Li. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 92, No. 1 (January/February 2013).

Watching American Democracy in China: Liberals and Conservatives After Trump. By Eric X. Li. Foreign Affairs, April 19, 2016.

The End of Globalism: Where the United States and China Go From Here. By Eric X. Li. Foreign Affairs, December 9, 2016.

Why democracy still wins: A critique of Eric X. Li’s “A tale of two political systems.” By Yasheng Huang. TED Blog, July 1, 2013.

Why China May Never Democratize. By Tyler Cowen. Bloomberg, July 11, 2017.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

“Nationalist” Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word. By Walter Russell Mead.

President Trump discusses an executive order on trade, March 31, in front of a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, who served 1829-37. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

“Nationalist” Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word. By Walter Russell Mead. Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2017. See also The American Interest.

Why the Donald Trump-Andrew Jackson bromance is bad for America: Our current President’s ignorance about the past is painful. By J.M. Opal. New York Daily News, May 1, 2017.

What Trump Gets Right—and Progressives Get Wrong—About Andrew Jackson. By Andrew Exum. The Atlantic, May 2, 2017.

Republicans Should Be the Party of Lincoln--and Jackson. By Jarrett Stepman. The National Interest, May 13, 2017.


Trump will be successful if he puts U.S. interests first—while still helping to maintain global order.

If Donald Trump were a liberal Democrat, some of the media’s descriptions of “chaos” and “disarray” in the White House probably would be replaced with stories about “creative tension” among a “team of rivals.” As it is, the struggle between “nationalists” like Steve Bannon and “globalists” like Gary Cohn is characterized in near-apocalyptic terms. Yet as Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal last week, “I’m a nationalist and a globalist.” That is good news: Mr. Trump and the Republican Party should be weaving nationalist and globalist themes together rather than picking them apart.

Nationalism—the sense that Americans are bound together into a single people with a common destiny—is a noble and necessary force without which American democracy would fail. A nationalist and patriotic elite produces leaders like George Washington, who aim to promote the well-being of the country they love. An unpatriotic and antinationalist elite produces people who feather their nests without regard to the common good.

Mr. Trump is president in large part because millions of Americans, rightly or wrongly, believed that large sections of their country’s elite were no longer nationalist. Flawed he may be, but the president bears an important message, and Trump-hating elites have only themselves to blame for his ascendancy. A cosmopolitan and technocratic political class that neither speaks the language nor feels the pull of nationalist solidarity cannot successfully lead a democratic society.

The president symbolized his nationalist commitment by hanging a portrait of Andrew Jackson in a place of honor in the Oval Office. Now Mr. Trump must stay true to that commitment or he will lose his political base and American politics will spin even further off balance. But life is rarely simple. Jacksonian means will not always achieve Jacksonian goals. Sometimes, they even get in the way.

Jackson learned this when his populist fight against the Second Bank of the United States ultimately led to a depression that turned the country over to his hated Whig rivals. As Mr. Trump comes to grips with the tough international economic reality, he is realizing that not everything the Jacksonians think they want will actually help them. The president has already discovered that ripping up the North American Free Trade Agreement won’t help the middle-class voters who put him in office.

Jacksonian voters don’t want North Korea to have the ability to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons. They also don’t want a second Korean War. Reaching the best outcome on Korea could mean giving China a better deal on trade than many Trump voters would desire. Populists like to rail against globalization and world order. Yet the security and prosperity of the American people depend on an intricate web of military, diplomatic, political and economic arrangements that an American president must manage and conserve.

Mr. Trump is learning that some of the core goals of his Jacksonian program can be realized only by judiciously employing the global military, diplomatic and economic statesmanship associated with Alexander Hamilton. Bringing those two visions into alignment isn’t easy. Up until the Civil War, the American party system revolved around the rivalry of the Jacksonian Democrats with the Hamiltonian Whigs. Abraham Lincoln fused Jacksonian unionism with Henry Clay’s Hamiltonian vision when he created the modern Republican Party. Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan revitalized the party of their times by returning to the Jacksonian-Hamiltonian coalition that made the old party grand.

The future of the Trump administration and the Republican Party largely depend on whether the president and his allies can return to these roots. The elements of fusion are there. While Jacksonians are skeptical of corporate power and international institutions, they like economic growth that benefits the middle class, and they strongly believe in an America that stands up for itself and its allies. They are less worried about budget deficits than they are about a strong economy. If the tide is lifting the rowboats, they do not care all that much that the yachts are rising too.

For the coalition to work, Hamiltonians need to realize that the health and cohesion of American society is fundamental to the world order that allows corporations and financial firms to operate so profitably in the global market. In other words, Peoria matters much more than Davos. It was American power and will that built the present world order and ultimately must sustain it. A divided society with an eviscerated middle class cannot provide the stable, coherent leadership that is required.

The U.S. must be simultaneously a nationalist power, focused on the prosperity and security of its own people, and a globalist power working to secure the foundations of international order that Americans need. Mr. Trump appears to understand this truth better than many of his most vituperative critics. The task now confronting the president and his team is to develop and execute a national strategy based on these insights. Nothing in today’s world is harder than this, and nothing is more essential.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Yuval Noah Harari on the Future of Humanity

The Future of Humanity with Yuval Noah Harari. Video. The Royal Institution, September 28, 2016. YouTube. Q&A.

Yuval Noah Harari: Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets.

Yuval Noah Harari: Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets | Talks at Google. Video. Talks at Google, February 8, 2015. YouTube.

Yuval Noah Harari on the Myths We Need to Survive.

Yuval Noah Harari on the Myths We Need to Survive. Video. Intelligence Squared, October 23, 2015. YouTube.

Tom Friedman on Thriving in the Age of Acceleration.

Thomas Friedman on Thriving in the Age of Acceleration. Video. Intelligence Squared, January 24, 2017. YouTube.

Thomas L. Friedman: Thank You for Being Late | Talks at Google. Video. Talks at Google, February 22, 2017. YouTube.

Thomas Friedman, Thank You for Being Late. Video. Politics and Prose, December 16, 2016. YouTube.

Thomas Friedman: A Field Guide to the 21st Century. Video. Commonwealth Club, December 8, 2016. YouTube.

Thomas L. Friedman: Thank You for Being Late. Video. Oxford Martin School, February 2, 2017. YouTube.

Thomas L. Friedman: Learning to Live in an Age of Acceleration. Video. TownHallSeattle, December 5, 2016. YouTube.

Donald Trump Pays Tribute to Andrew Jackson on His 250th Birthday.

Remarks by President Trump on the 250th Anniversary of the Birth of President Andrew Jackson. Video. The White House, March 15, 2017. YouTube. Transcript.

Historian Daniel Feller Recaps Trump’s Speech at the Hermitage. The University of Tennessee Knoxville, March 17, 2017.

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is an intensely American president. By Newt Gingrich., March 23, 2017.


The Hermitage
Nashville, Tennessee

4:44 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Wow, what a nice visit this was.  Inspirational visit, I have to tell you. I’m a fan.  I’m a big fan.

I want to thank Howard Kettell, Francis Spradley of the Andrew Jackson Foundation, and all of the foundation’s incredible employees and supporters for preserving this great landmark, which is what it is -- it’s a landmark of our national heritage.

And a special thank you to Governor Bill Haslam and his incredible wife, who -- we just rode over together -- and Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, two great friends of mine, been a big, big help.  Both incredible guys.

In my address to Congress, I looked forward nine years, to the 250th anniversary of American Independence.  Today, I call attention to another anniversary: the 250th birthday of the very great Andrew Jackson.  (Applause.)  And he loved Tennessee, and so do I -- to tell you that.  (Applause.)

On this day in 1767, Andrew Jackson was born on the backwoods soil of the Carolinas.  From poverty and obscurity, Jackson rose to glory and greatness -- first as a military leader, and then as the seventh President of the United States.
He did it with courage, with grit, and with patriotic heart.  And by the way, he was one of our great Presidents.  (Applause.)

Jackson was the son of the frontier.  His father died before he was born.  His brother died fighting the British in the American Revolution.  And his mother caught a fatal illness while tending to the wounded troops.  At the age of 14, Andrew Jackson was an orphan, and look what he was able to do.  Look what he was able to build.

It was during the Revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite.  Does that sound familiar to you?  (Laughter.)  I wonder why they keep talking about Trump and Jackson, Jackson and Trump.  Oh, I know the feeling, Andrew.  (Laughter.)

Captured by the Redcoats and ordered to shine the boots of a British officer, Jackson simply refused.  The officer took his saber and slashed at Jackson, leaving gashes in his head and hand that remained permanent scars for the rest of his life.  These were the first and far from the last blows that Andrew Jackson took for his country that he loved so much.

From that day on, Andrew Jackson rejected authority that looked down on the common people.  First as a boy, when he bravely served the Revolutionary cause.  Next, as the heroic victor at New Orleans where his ragtag -- and it was ragtag -- militia, but they were tough.  And they drove the British imperial forces from America in a triumphant end to the War of 1812.  He was a real general, that one.

And, finally, as President -- when he reclaimed the people’s government from an emerging aristocracy.  Jackson’s victory shook the establishment like an earthquake.  Henry Clay, Secretary of State for the defeated President John Quincy Adams, called Jackson’s victory “mortifying and sickening”.  Oh, boy, does this sound familiar.  (Laughter.)  Have we heard this?  (Laughter.)  This is terrible.  He said there had been “no greater calamity” in the nation’s history.

The political class in Washington had good reason to fear Jackson’s great triumph.  “The rich and powerful,” Jackson said, “too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.”  Jackson warned they had turned government into an “engine for the support of the few at the expense of the many.”

Andrew Jackson was the People’s President, and his election came at a time when the vote was finally being extended to those who did not own property.  To clean out the bureaucracy, Jackson removed 10 percent of the federal workforce.  He launched a campaign to sweep out government corruption.  Totally.  He didn’t want government corruption.  He expanded benefits for veterans.  He battled the centralized financial power that brought influence at our citizens’ expense.  He imposed tariffs on foreign countries to protect American workers.  That sounds very familiar.  Wait till you see what’s going to be happening pretty soon, folks.  (Laughter.)  It’s time.  It’s time. 

Andrew Jackson was called many names, accused of many things, and by fighting for change, earned many, many enemies.  Today the portrait of this orphan son who rose to the presidency hangs proudly in the Oval Office, opposite the portrait of another great American, Thomas Jefferson.  I brought the Andrew Jackson portrait there.  (Applause.)  Right behind me, right -- boom, over my left shoulder. 

Now I’m honored to sit between those two portraits and to use this high office to serve, defend, and protect the citizens of the United States.  It is my great honor.  I will tell you that.

From that desk I can see out the wonderful, beautiful, large great window to an even greater magnolia tree, standing strong and tall across the White House lawn.  That tree was planted there many years ago, when it was just a sprout carried from these very grounds.  Came right from here.  (Applause.)  Beautiful tree.

That spout was nourished, it took root, and on this, his 250th birthday, Andrew Jackson’s magnolia is a sight to behold.  I looked at it actually this morning.  Really beautiful.  (Applause.)  

But the growth of that beautiful tree is nothing compared to growth of our beautiful nation.  That growth has been made possible because more and more of our people have been given their dignity as equals under law and equals in the eyes of God.

Andrew Jackson as a military hero and genius and a beloved President.  But he was also a flawed and imperfect man, a product of his time.  It is the duty of each generation to carry on the fight for justice.  My administration will work night and day to ensure that the sacred rights which God has bestowed on His children are protected for each and every one of you, for each and every American.  (Applause.)

We must all remember Jackson’s words:  that in “the planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer,” we will find muscle and bone of our country.  So true.  So true. 

Now, we must work in our time to expand -- and we have to do that because we have no choice.  Were going to make America great again, folks.  We’re going to make America great again -- (applause) -- to expand the blessings of America to every citizen in our land.  And when we do, watch us grow.  Watch what’s happening.  You see it happening already.  You see it with our great military.  You see it with our great markets.  You see it with our incredible business people.  You see it with the level of enthusiasm that they haven’t seen in many years.  People are proud again of our country.  And you're going to get prouder and prouder and prouder, I can promise you that.  (Applause.)

And watch us grow.  We will truly be one nation, with deep roots, a strong core, and a very new springtime of American greatness yet to come.

Andrew Jackson, we thank you for your service.  We honor you for your memory.  We build on your legacy.  And we thank God for the United States of America.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.) 


4:54 P.M. CDT

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Death Is Optional. By Yuval Noah Harari and Daniel Kahneman.

Death Is Optional. By Yuval Noah Harari and Daniel Kahneman. Edge, March 4, 2015. Video at YouTube.

The Case for Old Ideas. By Ross Douthat. New York Times, March 7, 2015. Commenting on Harari and Kahneman.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Yuval Noah Harari on Nationalism vs Globalism.

Nationalism vs. Globalism: The New Political Divide | Yuval Noah Harari. Video. TED, February 21, 2017. YouTube. Also at Real Clear Politics.

Transcript excerpt from RCP:

Israeli professor at the Department of History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Yuval Noah Harari speaks with TED about the new political divide around the world: nationalism vs. globalism.

Via TED: “How do we make sense of today's political divisions? In a wide-ranging conversation full of insight, historian Yuval Harari places our current turmoil in a broader context, against the ongoing disruption of our technology, climate, media – even our notion of what humanity is for. This is the first of a series of TED Dialogues, seeking a thoughtful response to escalating political divisiveness. Make time (just over an hour) for this fascinating discussion between Harari and TED curator Chris Anderson.”

“I think the basic thing that happened is we have lost our story. Humans think in stories and we try to make sense of the world by telling stories,” the historian said. “And for the last few decades we had a very simple and very attractive story about what was happening in the world. And the story said that the economy is being globalized, politics is being liberalized, and the combination of the two will create paradise on earth. And we just need to keep globalizing the economy and liberalizing the political system, and everything will be wonderful.”

“2016 is when a very large segment of the Western world stopped believing in this story,” he said. “For good or bad reason it doesn’t matter, people stopped believing the story, and when you don'’ have a story it is hard to understand what is happening.”

“The old 20th century political model of left vs. right is now basically irrelevant and the real divide today is between global and national, global or local. All over the world this is not the main struggle.”

Yuval Noah Harari on Homo Deus.

Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus. Video. iqsquared, September 15, 2016. YouTube.

Yuval Noah Harari: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Video. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, February 28, 2017. YouTube. Transcript.

Yuval Noah Harari with Dan Ariely: Future Think--From Sapiens to Homo Deus. Video. 92nd Street Y, February 22, 2017. YouTube.

A Brief History of Tomorrow | Yuval Noah Harari | RSA Replay. Video. The RSA, September 8, 2016. YouTube.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Exhaustion of American Liberalism. By Shelby Steele.

The Exhaustion of American Liberalism. By Shelby Steele. Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2017.


White guilt gave us a mock politics based on the pretense of moral authority.

The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trump presidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos. Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.

All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. What is ending?

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’ĂȘtre; moral authority is.

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, good liberals both, pursued power by offering their candidacies as opportunities for Americans to document their innocence of the nation’s past. “I had to vote for Obama,” a rock-ribbed Republican said to me. “I couldn’t tell my grandson that I didn’t vote for the first black president.”

For this man liberalism was a moral vaccine that immunized him against stigmatization. For Mr. Obama it was raw political power in the real world, enough to lift him—unknown and untested—into the presidency. But for Mrs. Clinton, liberalism was not enough. The white guilt that lifted Mr. Obama did not carry her into office—even though her opponent was soundly stigmatized as an iconic racist and sexist.

Perhaps the Obama presidency was the culmination of the age of white guilt, so that this guiltiness has entered its denouement. There are so many public moments now in which liberalism’s old weapon of stigmatization shoots blanks—Elizabeth Warren in the Senate reading a 30-year-old letter by Coretta Scott King, hoping to stop Jeff Sessions’s appointment as attorney general. There it was with deadly predictability: a white liberal stealing moral authority from a black heroine in order to stigmatize a white male as racist. When Ms. Warren was finally told to sit, there was real mortification behind her glaring eyes.

This liberalism evolved within a society shamed by its past. But that shame has weakened now. Our new conservative president rolls his eyes when he is called a racist, and we all—liberal and conservative alike—know that he isn’t one. The jig is up. Bigotry exists, but it is far down on the list of problems that minorities now face. I grew up black in segregated America, where it was hard to find an open door. It’s harder now for young blacks to find a closed one.

This is the reality that made Ms. Warren’s attack on Mr. Sessions so tiresome. And it is what caused so many Democrats at President Trump’s address to Congress to look a little mortified, defiantly proud but dark with doubt. The sight of them was a profound moment in American political history.

Today’s liberalism is an anachronism. It has no understanding, really, of what poverty is and how it has to be overcome. It has no grip whatever on what American exceptionalism is and what it means at home and especially abroad. Instead it remains defined by an America of 1965—an America newly opening itself to its sins, an America of genuine goodwill, yet lacking in self-knowledge.

This liberalism came into being not as an ideology but as an identity. It offered Americans moral esteem against the specter of American shame. This made for a liberalism devoted to the idea of American shamefulness. Without an ugly America to loathe, there is no automatic esteem to receive. Thus liberalism’s unrelenting current of anti-Americanism.

Let’s stipulate that, given our history, this liberalism is understandable. But American liberalism never acknowledged that it was about white esteem rather than minority accomplishment. Four thousand shootings in Chicago last year, and the mayor announces that his will be a sanctuary city. This is moral esteem over reality; the self-congratulation of idealism. Liberalism is exhausted because it has become a corruption.