Donald Trump's Americanism
If you listen to the mainstream media, they would have you believe that Donald Trump is an abnormal, abhorrent aberration from the American political tradition. But he is far from that. In fact, Trump's basic political agenda — by all historical accounts and facts — puts him squarely within a storied tradition of American democratic and economic nationalism, a tradition that produced venerated heroes like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson on one hand and Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, and Theodore Roosevelt on the other.
A Strong Economy Is a Strong Nation
The historian George Dangerfield wrote the eminent study of American nationalisms in The Awakening of American Nationalism. He noted that American nationalism divides along two lines, one economic and one political (or what he called "democratic nationalism"). The first form of economic nationalism was first sketched by the great Alexander Hamilton, of recent Hamilton fame. It is ironic to see liberals fawn over a musical version of a man who advocated for tariffs, protectionism, rule, and a strong military to be able to achieve America's "Manifest Destiny," while having been criticized as a warmonger, imperialist, and autocrat during his lifetime.
This tradition of economic nationalism, though defeated by the democratic nationalism of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, was soon revived by Henry Clay and the Whig Party and became the basis of the Republican Party. Although they stood in opposition to the partisans of Andrew Jackson, who soon formed the Democratic Party, the party stood for a strong economy: productive, assertive, industrialized, and protectionist. Clay, like Hamilton, understood that a strong economy would lead to a strong America. The better way to achieve America's "place under the sun" was through a strong, robust, and productive economy. From this everything else would flow and flourish.
Whatever faults one can find in Trump, he has the basic economic program of a longstanding Americanism: the Americanism of Hamilton, Clay, Adams, and even Abraham Lincoln. Trump's persona may be a target of ridicule but his policies and program fit squarely with many of America's presidential and political icons. Trump pursues a political agenda that nearly all prominent American politicians, from Founding Fathers to presidents and to senators, have advocated and pursued.
Democratic Nationalism: From Jefferson and Jackson to Trump
The second strand of American nationalism is explicitly civic and political. It is rooted not in American "ideals" or abstraction, but the concrete commitment to democracy, self-rule, and the public weal. The democratic nationalism of Jefferson, Jackson, and Theodore Roosevelt was truly rooted in being the "city upon a hill" concerned with its own affairs and citizens and not preoccupied with socially engineering a global order. American democratic nationalism extolled the promise and hope of that "new American moment."
As the city upon a hill, the tradition of American democratic nationalism saw itself as an inspiring model to other nations and peoples — to inspire them in their cultures and lands to build democratic government and democratic civil societies from the works of their own hands rather than having America nation-build a democracy and civil society for them. But to inspire others meant that we must "take care of our own" first. After all, what nation would be inspired to model itself after a nation that doesn't even concern itself with the well-being of its own citizens?
The goal of democratic nationalism was to enfranchise all Americans into the great American experiment rather than let it be an experiment tailored for a few. It was about reaching out to those "forgotten Americans" and bringing them into the fold — not to mention that their industriousness could be harnessed for the greater good if given the opportunity.
The great democratic expansion of Jefferson, Jackson, and the now derided "populists" was the true enfranchisement of diverse swaths of Americans into the democratic process. This is precisely the hope that so many Americans have with Donald Trump. Trump's critics, meanwhile, are the true restrainers of democratic aspirations and enfranchisement — instead wishing that tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, of Americans submissively enchain themselves to their technocratic control and managerialism. They are apoplectic that their power is receding back into the hands of the American people, whom they hold in absolute contempt.
Trump's Quintessential Americanism
Despite the efforts of those who suffer from the amnesia of the cult of ignorance, Donald Trump is no abnormal product of American politics. He is, in many ways, firmly situated in the American political tradition. His uniqueness is to be found in his ability to have finally synthesized — to his electoral success, irrespective of the ramifications of Republicans who refuse to follow him — the two great strands of American nationalism that American politics have long oscillated between.
Americans, contrary to what others say, have the blood of democracy and self-rule running through their veins — something so beautifully observed by Alexis de Tocqueville. "Democracy," as Tocqueville used it, meant local self-governance and self-reliance. Americans also know, instinctively, that a strong economy is good for them and the nation as a whole, precisely because a strong economy encourages greater self-rule and self-reliance and therefore fuels democratization. Democracy dies when a people are subjugated to the tyranny of the warfare-welfare state. That democracy, in the Tocquevillian sense, has been rejuvenated is what the fear-mongers, tyrants, and war queens despise. Their hollowness and historical ignorance are multiplied by their claims that Trump threatens democracy while they are the ones who have killed the democracy that once inspired the world.
Democracy and managerial liberalism are not synonymous, though we have been conditioned to think of democracy as being compatible only with the post-1945 liberal model. Trump sits right in the mainstream of American political thought and tradition. Those who oppose him, from the radical Left to the faux "conservatives" known as the NeverTrumps, are the ones far removed from any identifiable strand of American politics.
What is good for America is good for Americans. This is a simple saying, though the Left is undeniably devoid of logic, so leftists cannot comprehend this simple saying. The purpose of national governance and politics is the organization of the national body politic first and foremost. It is, is other words, to "put America first."
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