Candidate Donald Trump’s “America First” mantra – with its strong suggestions of a planned reversal of the decades-long lurch toward globalism and international integration – sent opponents on the Democrat left, who tend to be uncomfortable with the concepts of nationalism, sovereignty, citizenship, and borders, into a frenzy.
And that frenzy spawned something that now, six months into the Trump presidency, is aptly referred to as the Resistance, a movement dedicated to confronting the Trump administration at every turn and ultimately forcing the president from office.
It seems the Resistance is rooted in the notion that Mr. Trump is hopelessly out of sync with American values and American voters.
Thus his views on international commitments, trade policy, the environment, and immigration were never acknowledged as respectable alternatives to existing policy, deemed by those on the left as something akin to revealed word. The president’s agenda is considered unfit for debate and compromise but, rather, as the irrational ravings of a know-nothing businessman who happened to find a way into the White House.
Indeed, since his victory at the polls last November, challenges to that electoral result proliferated and have now morphed into a sustained effort to uncover alleged deep dark secrets of illegal campaign collusion with the Russians in order to defeat Hillary Clinton.
It is not that we think Mr. Trump should be immune from inquiry. It is just that the usual standards for determining the reasonableness of going forward with an investigation have clearly been cast aside. And it bears noting that after many months of rumor, innuendo, and investigation, nothing substantive has turned up.
Yet it is the reaction of the left to the speech the president delivered last week in Poland that perhaps best makes the case that he should not be dismissed as a historical oddity. He discussed such things as the importance of a strong NATO as a counter to Russia and other familiar issues – which should have attracted the interest of those who feared he was intent on having America withdraw from the world and go it alone.
But his main theme was nothing less than the need for the West to collectively defend Western civilization, which he said was imperiled by terrorism and extremism. Surely the depredations of Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq – and even more so the major difficulties England, France, Germany, and other European nations are experiencing as the result of massive Muslim immigration – point to the importance of his theme. Consider, though, how the left received his remarks, which were plainly directed at several European countries in addition to Poland.
Thus, Mr. Trump said,
The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it? …
We must work together to confront forces, whether they come inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these value and to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition that make us who we are….
While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism. We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.
In response The Washington Post featured an article by columnist Jonathan Capehart, titled “Trump’s White-Nationalist Dog Whistles in Warsaw,” which suggested that by emphasizing the positives of Western traditions, values, and accomplishments the president’s remarks were really all about subliminally sending a fundamentally racist message to the Western world.
Two prominent writers at The Atlantic, Peter Beinart and James Fallows, railed at the president for championing the defense of the West rather than urging the promotion of American values throughout the world as a way of increasing security. Maybe they had in mind President George W. Bush’s wildly successful experiment in spreading democracy to Iraq.
Mr. Beinart also charged that the president’s questioning “whether the West has the will to survive” was the paradigmatic “statement of racial and religious paranoia.”
Donald Trump was elected in large part because a significant portion of the American electorate was disenchanted with those who advocated a gauzy, feel-good internationalism. They rejected those who refuse to accept that we are under serious assault by broad-based, murderous, ideologically driven terrorists and that the threat has to be addressed as seriously and as ruthlessly as Nazism and Communism were.
The 2016 election marked a timely and critical departure from the policies of the previous administration, which downplayed or ignored the essence of this overarching problem.