Note: This was published a few months ago at a different blog. I’m re-posting it here because I’m trying to consolidate my writing into one place. Plus, with all the people jumping off the Trump Train because of his failings, this seems like a good time revisit what got him into office. That is, policy.
I clicked on the following article because The Federalist seems to produce pretty good content overall. That, and I’m still not always sure what Postmodernism actually is.
At the risk of mischaracterizing Mr. Ernst’s article, the entire thing boils down to, “Modern culture has ended up in a place where our ‘heroes’ are really anti-heroes, embracing rather than eschewing the denouncements heaped on them by the establishment, thereby revealing their enemies’ hypocrisy and becoming beloved by the common folk.”
Has Donald Trump done this? Eh, probably.
But to what extent does this fully explain Trump’s rise and the “movement,” as he has termed it? Over the last year, there has been a shift in the manner in which the pro-Trump people have discussed him. That is, they are using the enthusiasm behind his victories to stand on a platform and condemn everything about modern discourse they hate: political correctness, anti-democratic protests, radical feminism, a biased media, an intolerant left-wing pop culture, etc.
Are they wrong to do this? No, not really. In fact, it can hardly be surprising, considering that these are the cultural issues which these media types come in contact with most often in their personal lives. This is why they hated Obama so much–because of his degradation of our culture.
We should also remember that the Trump campaign itself used the anti-establishment-bad-boy image as a defining characteristic for most of the election. This was out of necessity, both to distinguish Trump from a crowded Republican field and to distance him from Hillary Clinton. The campaign played the elites’ attacks against them, doing things such as embracing the “deplorables” label and making “drain the swamp!” a rallying cry in the final days of the election.
Let not the excitement we have for Trump’s rejection of political norms and political correctness distract us from the fact that Americans want meaningful policy change more than anything.
Americans are not so cavalier and nihilistic in their political affiliations as many have supposed. They did not turn to Donald Trump out of an “I hate all these politicians so I’m going to embrace the guy they hate” mentality. They came and they stayed because of Trump’s positions on policies that Americans want but have been ignored for decades, most notably, immigration, job outsourcing, and wasteful spending. Watch any interview with Trump supporters at his rallies. The theme of the interviews was the changes he could make. Trump could have rode these policies to the White House but when he was attacked from all angles, unlike our previously failed “traditional” conservatives, he was willing to punch back. Americans loved him for that, but would have voted for him for his policies and straightforward talk alone. This is why I find comments that Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden could have beaten Trump laughable.
So Mr. Ernst’s article is good, but still doesn’t quite get the Trump phenomenon. In fact, losing the Postmoderism tie-in with pop culture, the article really isn’t anything different than what we’ve gotten before. Previous articles such as this one and this one are actually more to the point.
The pro-Trump media must continue to beat the war drums regarding policy. Policy is what made Trump into the villain and policy is where his greatest potential lies. Shifts in cultural norms can easily be forgotten, just as everyone does not remember that Obama ran on an anti-gay marriage position. Trump can enact policies that, rather than Obama’s childish Executive Orders, will be around long after his time in office.
There’s a popular saying that goes, “Politics is downstream of culture,” but I’m not sure how true that actually is. Some would say the policy shift in 1965 regarding immigration is what caused the current we-are-a-nation-of-immigrants-diversity-is-our-strength cultural dogma, not the other way around.
We can get into chicken-and-the-egg debates later about culture and politics later. For now, know that Americans want a dramatic policy shift and have wanted it for many years. Remind our new president and his aides of this every chance you get.