With most modern presidents, it’s easy to discern what their legacy is. John F. Kennedy knew full well the true intent of the communists in Moscow, as well as those of their tropical stooge, Fidel Castro. He was able to avert what would have been a nuclear catastrophe. The name Ronald Reagan will always be synonymous with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The two were what is usually called—either in the form of epithet or compliment— “Cold Warriors.” Meaning, they were happy participants in the struggle with the Soviets and thought it was a moral imperative. All very true, and the world profited from their prudence. But what is to be said of Donald Trump? What will the lapidary carve into the stone? The Donald is certainly something of a phenomenon. (He would agree.) I predict talks of his legacy will be replete with comments on how feverish—or irritating—he was as a “Culture Warrior.” The man is the quintessential one, and perhaps the first president to so proudly attest to his immense dedication to being one. After all, he can be credited with unveiling much of the socio-cultural maladies that were erstwhile hidden from mainstream view due to the crafty work of the politically correct.
The culture wars have been waged since at least the Sixties, with students infiltrating university offices and voicing admiration for Ho Chi Minh. Events of the present can easily be analogized to the radicalism of yesteryear, and the debate regarding who threw the opening salvo in the ongoing culture war continues. For some, history did not commence until January 2017—or for the more narcissistic types, their day of birth—and Donald Trump was an unexpected cannon shot right through the heart of America. “What could have possibly brought this upon us?” many still ponder aimlessly. For others, the Donald is a response to the cultural norms that have long been entrenched—the daily degradation of the white man, the application of crank “woke” theories to just about everything, protecting one special religion from criticism, and so on, and so forth.
I hate to break bad news to the group who’d like to live in blissful ignorance and absolve themselves of fault, but the second is correct. The failure to reconcile with this reality just continues to become more self-debasing each day. Enabled by his Twitter hands, the Donald capitalizes on this.
Much has already been written of Trump’s skirmish with the “woke” squad of the Democratic Party—Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayaana Pressley. Indeed, telling a group of minorities (one immigrant, and the rest born in America) to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came” reeks of the demagogy that targets indignant white voters. Trump has, unfortunately, trafficked such rhetoric before, and it does lend validity to his opponent’s claims that he’s been a divisive force. Unanimously it should and has been said—by liberals and conservatives alike—that Trump’s remarks are “flatly inappropriate” and contemptible. He has carried on, though, justifying his denouncements of the “four horsewomen of the apocalypse” by saying they’re left-wing cranks who hate America and all it stands for. Battling through a press conference deluged with reproaches, he announced that what he meant to say wasn’t racist; it was that if they “hate it here, they can leave.”
I can sympathize with some of the sentiments (the blatant anti-American extremism of those in question is maddening, and to say this has positively nothing to do with their ethnicity), but the barrage was abhorrent, Mr. President. And unnecessary since this was an intervention in a battle between Nancy Pelosi and her intractable woke freshmen. But one can always rely on the old chap for a nice solecism from out of nowhere to get the heat boiling.
A fluent student of the news cycle, some have described the ongoing scuffle as the workings of Trump’s “trollish” stratagem. ”Once you stop jumping up and down and shouting racism it becomes obvious,” writes Freddy Gray of the Spectator. “Trump isn’t playing 3D chess,” he continues, “he just wants to keep ‘the Squad’” at the centre of the news agenda. He does indeed. A mercurial figure, Trump has shown an astonishing ability to withstand every cannonade of scrutiny that comes his way. And he evidently knows how to use it to his advantage as he thrives on being bête noire. This aspect of his personality, however, is his gift and his curse. Especially when one considers that this is his first big commotion in some time. You were doing so well, Donald, with higher approval ratings to show for it.
Trump’s brio when it comes to the cultural frontlines is an alienating feature. According to Pew Research, many believe that he has “changed the nature of political debate” in America for the worse; and many also believe that his comments are embarrassing and exhausting. Others say they can sometimes “feel entertained.” Having a vaudevillian character as president makes watching cable news worth it, I suppose. Then again, the recent vile chants about Omar at a rally give people reason to believe Trump is a racist, which I personally don’t believe. But the appeals to identity politics aren’t favourable to his contention that he doesn’t possess a “racist bone in his body.” Onlookers could glean from this that he at least tolerates the racial toxicity. Forswearing any remaining remnants of 2016 Bannonism would be an intelligent move. Especially when it’s an elementary task to defeat vacuous zealots like Omar in debate; don’t try and up the ante to match identity-based demagogy with more identity-based demagogy.
Eric Trump may dismiss polls as “Fake News,” and perhaps some are, but there’s no question that his father’s appetency for attention distracts from his accomplishments. The economy is in relatively good shape, with unemployment levels continuing to decline and economic growth continuing at a healthy pace. He has begun a restoration of constitutional integrity with his Supreme Court appointments. His foreign policy, although flawed, is fitting for the shifts in world order. He has done much to mend the relationship with Israel. We can debate this or that aspect, but he has tackled the problem of illegal immigration, something for which most law-abiding citizens have yearned. The social and cultural arena is where his record has the highest concentration of blunders.
This is why he should heed Lindsay Graham’s advice going forward and put emphasis on policy battles—the ones that are worth fighting. And be judicious when it comes to the cultural squabbles; that is, if he’s able to shake his urges.
I realize this is a tall order for the rambunctious Donald, but here is a proposition. As he, his fans, and his enemies treat the cultural schisms as perpetual war, perhaps he should appropriate the foreign policy doctrines of Presidents to cope with it.
He could adopt the maxims that guided the Nixon doctrine. Richard Nixon emphasized restraint through self-restraint, meaning he should allow adversaries to determine the terms of engagement; thereby avoiding “catastrophic confrontations” by showing restraint, but acting when it is otherwise necessary.
Trump could afford to be completely impervious to the monotony, and only participate when he or someone else are on the receiving end of something like the “Kavanaugh” treatment. Of course, a self-imposed moratorium on Twitter usage would be conducive to the success of this effort.
This would be nothing but advantageous for the man. It would provide less ground on which the Democrats could stand; Trump causes them to recoil in agony just by lifting a finger, anyway.
With the woke squadron unabashedly addicted to the spotlight, the Democrats only become more prone to self-abnegation. Trump should just quietly enjoy the scene, and continue a meritorious run on the policy-front. It is a salient fact that the modern Democrats allow their ideology to supersede the need for any introspection. So the awkward spectacles such as squad members failing to condemn left-wing terrorism, the anti-Semitic diatribes, and banishments of the insufficiently woke will continue regardless of what Trump does.
He has been an instigator, but Trump is a product of a cultural illness that has only enjoyed a rapid metastasis since his presidency began. As Charles Cooke of National Review writes, “The greatest service Donald Trump has rendered these United States is to have exposed the many ailments of which he is a symptom but not a cause.” Precisely. And now Pelosi and the old guard have lost the keys to the giggle house, and there is scant reason to think they will locate them anytime soon. Its occupants are already out running amok and running the show. The Donald can just sit back and watch, now.