A Reaction to R.R. Reno’s Defense of Donald Trump in The New York Times
It is better to frankly acknowledge that Donald Trump has fundamentally re-written the rules about what it means to be a Republican than to pretend that he still, somehow, represents “conservative” thought.
So argues R.R. Reno, in a Sunday Review piece in The New York Times. Republicans are now the “America First” party: Get over it and embrace it, he says.
Reno begins by enshrining his Reaganite conservative credentials. (Reno is the editor of the thoughtful social conservative magazine First Things):
Of all the people still trying to process Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, perhaps none are more confused than my generation of conservatives, who came of age under Mr. Reagan and drank deeply of that old orthodoxy. We are, by now, the establishment — the senators, governors, think-tank presidents and columnists who, until Mr. Trump came along, got to define what “Republican” and “conservative” meant. My cohort simply cannot accept that Mr. Trump has taken away that coveted role and revolutionized not just our party, but also the very terms of the American political divide.
But accept it they must. Unlike Republican candidates like Cruz, Trump won the nomination because he did “not adopt Ted Cruz’s strategy of trying to revive the rotting flesh of Reaganism.”
The problem, according to Reno, is that a blithe culture of globalism had spread to both parties, Democrats as well as Republicans. He reminds readers about Obama’s promise, in his 2013 inaugural address, that innovation and mobility that would allow our nation to thrive in “this world without boundaries.”
Obama, of course, thought of that as a good thing. Didn’t everyone?
Here’s the core of what Reno says he now accepts:Rather, we need to become much more skeptical of post-national ways of thinking. For too long a globalist utopianism — Mr. Obama’s happy, peaceful and inclusive world without boundaries — has tempted us to neglect one of the fundamental tasks of political leadership, which is to promote the kind of national solidarity that binds a country’s leaders to its people.
Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite. It’s a telling paradox that the most ardent supporters of a “borderless world” live in gated communities and channel their children toward a narrow set of elite educational institutions with stiff admissions standards that do the work of “border control.” The airport executive lounges are not open and inclusive.
John Q. Public is not stupid. He senses that he no longer counts. And he resents the condescension of globalist elites, which is why Mr. Trump’s regular transgressions against elite-enforced political correctness evoke glee from his supporters.
There is much to say about, and criticize about, in Reno’s view. Globalism should never be an excuse for elitism, or a sneering about traditional values that is too often exhibited by the cultural cognoscenti.
But this is the point at which the political project of our day gets exciting: Finding ways to show how “The Wealth of Nations” does indeed benefit the citizens of each nation. Liberal humanism may desperately be in need a new, catchy label for the hashtag era. We now need political leaders who draw the linkage between the philosophies of peace, trade, and the worth every of individual. That, indeed, is the very embodiment of the American national ideal.