Our House Divided: Multiculturalism vs. America


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.


Categories: General, Political

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5 replies

  1. “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.”
    This says most of it, how differently we see things from our leftist brothers. We must all realize what we are saving. Our way of life.


  2. I got a post from CW that requires Moderation, but Garnet never set me up to do that task.

    Yes, I did edit the long essay for brevity’s, which I have always done, with Garnet’s blessing so long as properly attributed. It’s quite difficult to get a long form essay down to 1000 words, preferably 800, without having to cut and rephrase things somewhat. SIGH!!

    I thought it was well worth posting, even if I had to carve it up a bit!


  3. Mr. Klingenstein’s essay, in it’s entirety, is brilliant for the most part, so I do appreciate your sharing it, Curtis, but once again I would strongly suggest you not take editorial license with other people’s work as the author might not approve of your “encapsulations.” This particular article, albeit lengthy, makes much more sense when read in its original form.

    Klingenstein does a masterful job of boiling down the appeal of Trump and the importance of his election at this time in our history, namely the battle between Left and Right for the soul of America and the Left’s strategic use of multiculturalism as its weapon of choice. This was a great quote: “Trump’s entire campaign was a defense of America.”

    And this: “Trump was affirming the goodness of our culture.” And this:

    “In light of this history, the history of the world (one “tribal” war after another), and the multicultural car wreck that is Europe today, to manufacture cultural diversity is nothing less than self-immolating idiocy. Trump might not put it in these words, but he gets it. The average American gets it too, because it is not very difficult to get: it is common sense.”

    Liz Peek at Fox News today also had a piece in which she summarizes Trump’s appeal as a call to common sense. Both she and Klingenstein recognize that Trump appealed to Americans’ gut senses about the bad direction the Left was taking us. I applaud this Klingenstein quote as well:

    “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 a “racist” or “fascist” or one of the other slurs that incite the virtue-signaling lynch mob.” And….

    “Trump was not a conventional conservative, yet his entire campaign was about saving America. This is where conservatism begins.”

    All of those sentiments are true and critical to understanding Trump’s appeal and the extraordinary zeal of his most die-hard supporters. Where I would disagree with Mr. Klingenstein is with respect to his criticisms of “conservatives” as not understanding the threat of multiculturalism. To whatever extent there’s any truth in that I think it has more to do with a blurring of the definition of “conservative” than anything else. Trump haters like Jeff Flake and the late John McCain, for instance, never seemed to appropriately grasp the threat of multiculturalism but IMO they aren’t truly conservatives. They were merely Republicans. Other conservatives have been trying for years to warn us about the threat of multiculturalism, mostly to deaf ears, as evidenced by these writings that go back all the way to 2001, long before Trump emerged on the political scene:




    And this from a 2001 National Review Online:

    So I would disagree with Klingenstein’s assertion that “[Trump], and [Trump] alone, categorically and brazenly rejects the morality of multiculturalism.” Trump, in fact, never actually calls out “multiculturalism” by name (unless I’ve missed it), but apparently he’s speaking a language that his supporters better understand. That said, Klingenstein is spot-on when he offers the following criticism of Republicans running the Kavanaugh hearings:

    “….conservatives are doing the work of the multiculturalists for them: insinuating multiculturalism further into the public mind. Conservatives have, without quite realizing it, agreed to play by the multiculturalist’s rules and in so doing they have disarmed themselves; they have laid down on the ground their most powerful weapon: arguments that defend America.” And….

    “Republicans reflexively accepted their assigned role as misogynists (and would have been accepting the role of racists had the accuser been black). True, Republicans had no choice; still when one is being played one needs to notice.”

    That’s all true enough, sadly.

    Lastly, I think it’s unfortunate that Klingenstein felt the need to try to over-justify his and others’ early support for Trump by suggesting, for instance, that the entire election of 2016 was a fight between Trump and Hillary Clinton. I keep having to remind people that before that fight there was a fight fore the Republican nomination that came down to Trump vs. Ted Cruz (at least that’s how I saw it). Here is what the NY Post said about Cruz in 2015:

    “Ted Cruz’s official campaign isn’t even two weeks old, and already it’s done the nation a favor — by highlighting the duplicity of the “multicultural” left and what it is really after. Ever since Cruz announced his candidacy for president, “Latino leaders” have been stepping all over themselves to declare that not only does he not speak for Hispanics (something only they presumably do) but he’s not even a “legitimate” Hispanic. All of which serves to pull the curtain back on multiculturalism: Defined by liberals, it’s a concept that exists solely to advance liberal objectives.”


    I don’t want to re-litigate that contest, just push back on this notion that Trump is the ONLY one who understood the threat of multiculturalism or who understands and fights for American values. Those of us who distrusted Trump’s conservatism had good reason to do so based upon his own history, and with the national debt still rising and the battle over healthcare as a gov’t provided “right” still unresolved, the verdict is still out. That said I will, yet again, give Trump his due. He might be the only one who could sell the message of making America great again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Actually, a lot of conservatives voted for Trump because he isn’t Hillary. The same with McCain, because he wasn’t Obama. Since Trump took office, he’s done many good things for the people and the country, but it was surprising to most, not expected. His successes outrage the Dems, who care more about winning than they do the good of the country.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It’s a good piece and explains the issue very well.

    I’ve been saying for a couple of decades that we’re in the midst of a cultural civil war in this country every bit as profound and fundamental as the one that took place in the 1860s. Just not as bloody… yet.

    Back in 2008 I had a LOT of arguments with fellow conservatives over this problem, because they were supporting McCain while I was pointing out that he was a continuation of the problem, and not part of a solution at all. It led to many rifts that haven’t been closed to this very day.

    In many ways Trump’s presidency reminds me of Andrew Jackson, who was also very very controversial in his day, and was also very much a populist. He baffled and enraged not only the opposing political party, but much of his own party, too, the “Never Trumpers” of their day.

    History repeats itself.

    Liked by 1 person

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