Thomas D. Klingenstein
The American Mind at the Claremont Institute
Many conservatives did not see that Trump had framed the 2016 election as a choice between two mutually exclusive regimes: multiculturalism and America.
What I call “multiculturalism” includes “identity politics” and “political correctness.” It conceives of society as a collection of cultural identity groups, each with its own worldview, all oppressed by white males, “global citizens” existing within permeable national boundaries. Multiculturalism makes American history a collection of stories of white oppression, thereby dismantling a unifying, self-affirming narrative.
Trump exposed multiculturalism as the revolutionary movement it is. He showed us that, like slavery, it is an existential threat. Trump exposed this threat by standing up to it and its enforcement arm, political correctness.
Trump believes there are such things as truth and history. He is virtually the only one on our national political stage defending America’s understanding of right and wrong.
But most conservatives did not see Trump as a man defending America. They did not see that America needed defending.
Americans voted for Trump for the very reason he said they should, to put America first. “America” was not, as many conservatives imagine, code for “white people.” The impulse for electing Trump was patriotic, the defense of one’s own culture, not racist.
Multiculturalism is the revolution.
Trump’s campaign, and its defense by his intellectual supporters, was a call to stop a revolution. Trump’s intellectual supporters said without a sharp change in course there was a good chance we shall never get back home again.
Trump’s entire campaign was a defense of America; immigration, trade deals, and foreign policy were about protecting our own. The core ideas insist on having one language, one set of laws, and common values: loyalty, practical experience, self-reliance, and hard work. Trump was affirming the goodness of our culture.
Trump understands that America’s greatest strength is having transcended race, and the one major exception, slavery, was very nearly our undoing. Considering this history, to manufacture cultural diversity is nothing less than self-immolating idiocy. Trump gets it. The average American gets it too, because it is common sense.
Trump’s strengths are his courage, his common sense, and his rhetoric. He gets to the essential thing, the thing that no one else will say for fear of being called slurs that incite the virtue-signaling lynch mob.
But like Trump, the average American does not care whether Islam is or is not a religion of peace; he can see that it is being used as an instrument of war. When Muslim terrorists say they are doing the will of Allah, Americans take them at their word.
We make ethnicity an essential consideration and then claim ethnicity should not matter. That is not common sense.
Getting to the heart of the matter is the most important element of Trump’s rhetoric. Even his cringeworthy choice of words often advances the conservative cause. When Trump mocked Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, he was taking on multiculturalism, and its “believe all women” narrative, head on. We should continue to cringe but appreciate when it has value.
When conservatives join liberals in excoriating Trump, they are beating up our most important truth teller. They should be explaining America and what is required for its perpetuation. Explain the importance of having one set of laws, full assimilation, and color blindness; the incompatibility of theocracy with the American way of life; that we might rightly exclude some immigrants, not because of their skin color but because they come from countries antithetical with republican government.
In exposing the dangers of multiculturalism, Trump exposed its source: radical liberal intellectuals, and their ideas and rules are fed into the liberal, opinion-forming elite who then push for open borders, diversity requirements, racism, and other aspects of multiculturalism.
In the Kavanaugh hearings, armed with “male oppression of women,” Democrats attacked Kavanaugh with accusations conjured out of nothing. Yet multicultural rules required Republicans to allow a case with no basis to go forward, could not attack the accuser, and had to use a woman to question her. Multicultural rules are not based on the equality of individuals. The multiculturalists saw a contest between all women who are all oppressed and all white men who are all oppressors.
Americans claimed the multiculturalists violated due process and conventional rules of evidence, seeing a revolution in action.
We now find ourselves in a situation not unlike that which existed before the Civil War, where one side understood justice that rested on the principle of human equality, while the other side rested on the principle that all men are equal except black men. To use Lincoln’s Biblical metaphor, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
In the Civil War and now, when there are two understandings of justice, law-abidingness breaks down. Today, this results in sanctuary cities and the “resistance.”
Lincoln made slavery the non-negotiable center of the Republican party, and on all else he was prepared to compromise. Conservatives must understand all these dangers are part of one overarching thing, multiculturalism. It should guide our rhetorical strategy, provide a conceptual frame for interpreting events, and tie together the domestic dangers we face.
Even those conservatives who now acknowledge that Trump has accomplished some good things are not certain what is to be learned.
Many of today’s conservatives don’t think the public’s understanding of justice is important at all. It isn’t surprising then why they missed the political dangers of multiculturalism with its assault on the American understanding of justice. They couldn’t see that those disqualifying attributes of Trump were in these times just the ones needed to take on multiculturalism. Trump was not a conventional conservative, yet his entire campaign was about saving America. This is where conservatism begins.
Conservatives must relearn what Lincoln knew, and what, until the mid-twentieth century, our universities and colleges also knew: the purpose of higher education is to train future citizens on behalf of the common good.
If the elite universities are promoting multiculturalism, which is undermining America, then the universities are violating their obligation to the common good, no less than by giving comfort to the enemy in time of war. That must change!
Reorienting the conservative movement is a formidable undertaking, but most of the country appear to object to multiculturalism and its accompanying speech codes.
Conservatives, who are in the business of conserving things, come to life when there is something important to conserve because this allows them to stake out a distinctive and morally powerful position with enough room to accommodate a broad coalition. In this case, that really important something is our country.
This is encapsulated from a much longer essay, one which I commend that everyone read and contemplate in its entirety. Especially in this election season, it places our cultural battle in a more global perspective. I consider the author’s overview to be spot on, placing Trump in a proper historical perspective perhaps rivalling a great like Lincoln if his prospect is successful.