Edmund Burke Meets Donald Trump
Conservative intellectuals like George Will and Charles Krauthammer are always telling us to read Edmund Burke, the founder of Anglo-American conservatism. Burke (1729-1797) was an Irishman who became a leading member of Parliament in London, forging a political course that condemned the murderous French Revolution and wholeheartedly supported the American Revolution. Burke was a brave and principled man, who had genuine faith in the basic intuitions of everyday people.
The value of moral intuition is the key to Burke, and if Burke is the key to conservatism, as George Will keeps telling us, that makes moral intuitions important to understand.
An intuition is a powerful conviction that most of us feel without even thinking about it, even if we can't justify it in words. We see examples all around. You can't read this sentence if you don't trust your intuitive understanding of it – nobody reads English with a grammar book in his hands. More importantly, if you ask a friend to watch an ISIS murder video and he doesn't come away honestly shocked and upset, he doesn't have the moral intuitions you and I have.
The liberals who actually believe that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" have totally lost their basic moral sense. They are utopians, which makes it possible for them to feel morally superior without having to live with any consequences. If liberals were ever chased by a Muslim mob in Paris, they would instantly change their minds, because in the end, reality beats fantasy. But they never risk their necks, so they keep living in a morally superior fantasyland.
It's pretty clear that Obama and our political class don't share our everyday intuitions on morality and politics. Obama has no real idea about everyday people, having avoided them assiduously every day of his life. Obama is a cult elitist, who hasn't done a day of hard work, nor ever served as a cop or a soldier. He is an arugula liberal. Burke would have placed him along with the French utopians who ran the Terror in Paris.
By comparison, George Washington was a dedicated farmer, a natural leader of men, a physically big man who could fight with his fists, who spent most of his days on horseback inspecting his fields and thinking about growing crops, a British officer in the French and Indian Wars, a land surveyor, and yes, a businessman and real estate tycoon. Washington was no utopian. He liked farming better than being president.
Edmund Burke recognized the bloody nature of the French Revolution very early on, when other Englishmen were still celebrating the new enlightened tyranny. French revolutionaries conducted the first great Terror of modern times, the prototype of all future Marxist, Nazi, and jihadist Terrors. Like all revolutionary terrors, this one was stoked deliberately, with the aim of overturning society forever. Marx's "revolutionary terror" took off from the French example.
The American Revolution was very different. To Edmund Burke and others, Washington and Jefferson were simply claiming their rights as Englishmen against the King's abuse of power. Those rights had been settled in England a century before the American Revolution. The U.S. Declaration of Independence is solidly in the Anglo-American conservative tradition, which relies on the common sense of ordinary people, not on some utopian never-never land.
In his book On the Revolution in France, Burke argued that the French revolutionaries were not ordinary people endowed with strong moral intuitions. They were utopian theorists, like Karl Marx, the Nazis, and the jihadists. They lived in their heads. Normal people don't imagine that overthrowing a political class will create Paradise on Earth. Utopians do.
That's what Obama kept telling us when he got elected – he was going to completely transform America in his own image.
Everyday people don't think that way.
The basic idea of the power of moral intuitions makes Burke very different from ideologues like Marx or Obama. Obama is a mentally fixated utopian.
Now here's the point: Donald Trump is most intuitive person to run run for president since Harry Truman. Trump pretty much says what he thinks, in language that is not exactly elegant, but it's the way normal people talk in New York.
Trump gets his message across to millions of Americans in spite of all the intellectual liars of the New York Times and their pathetic followers. His fans intuitively trust Trump more than Obama, because Trump is just like their Uncle George, the big talker who is really a nice guy at heart. Trump has built his well-paid showbiz career by playing to that image. People actually like him, because he starts off every show with provocative bluster, and then, by the end, he turns out to be a good guy after all. Plus he's funny. He makes people smile.
That's his shtick, and he's run it so many times on television that it's become second nature.
Uncle Donald is a known quantity to his fans. They can tell when he's being provocative to get a rise out of people and when he means something. That is why Trump can get away with violating the puritanical strictures of PC.
The liberal media are now trying to paint Trump as Adolf Hitler, another assault that is bound to fail, because Trump's audience knows he's just Uncle Don doing his act. Most of his audience is not college-educated – which these days should be called "college-indoctrinated." People who live by their wits and common sense can make it in America without going to college. PC indoctrination might ruin their careers.
...which is why George Will and Charles Krauthammer just don't understand Donald Trump. He doesn't talk like an intellectual – which would have ruined his real estate career in New York.
That doesn't mean Trump isn't smart. He's got a degree from Wharton. He's smart enough to make the right decisions (pretty often) in high-stakes real estate deals.
And he hasn't lost the common touch. He makes real contact with people.
Our conservative pundits need to go back and read Edmund Burke's words comparing the "insects of the hour" (the intellectual termites) to the sturdy oak of the common people.
'"Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour."