- - Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Everyone’s wondering just what kind of president Donald Trump will make. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Tories and Whigs (there must be a few of them still tucked away somewhere) who are still talking to each other, have embraced timid and tentative expectations. This did not include the haters, the Never Trumpers, or the soreheads for Hillary, who would see the nation fail just to prove themselves right about Donald Trump.

Most of us who appreciate the democratic values and the republic’s constitutional framework haven’t had a clue to the attitudes and qualities that will rest comfortably with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. He was full of contradictions and contrariness during the campaign, part of his rough-hewn charm, but now it’s time to govern. He has given a few hints, such as his effective rebuke of the Republicans in Congress for wanting to dismantle congressional ethics, that surprise some of his critics. This might even give pause to the sorehead losers who seem determined to put every obstacle in his way.

“Making America great” is not about returning to segregated schools and a restoration of Jim Crow, nor restraints on women and minorities in the land of opportunity, though some of the embittered Trump haters insist that’s exactly what the Donald means by “again.” That’s become abundantly clear to anyone with an open mind. During the campaign, whether from the stump in a rural white working-class town or a speech in an inner-city black church, the Trump message was the same, a focus on the economic renewal he promised. “Making America great again” is about a restoration of the optimism generated after World War II, after America defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and who will listen to what Abraham Lincoln described as our “better angels.” Necessary changes will follow.

Donald Trump said harsh and sometimes vulgar things during the campaign, but he fought hard and won with promises to the voters that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats ignored. In a candid moment of reflection, Vice President Joe Biden spoke of the moment he first realized that “we may lose this election.” He was impressed by the high-energy enthusiasm in the Trump crowds in working-class cities and towns like Scranton, Pa., where he grew up.

“They’re all the people I grew up with,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “They [and] their kids. And they’re not racist. They’re not sexist. But we didn’t talk to them.” He said his party, once the undisputed champion of the working class, has allowed “a bit or elitism” to creep in. Yes, a bit.

But Mr. Trump targeted elites in Republican ranks as well. The New Yorker magazine describes his Republican supporters who oppose these elites as “Trump intellectuals.” Many high-minded Republicans criticize “Trump intellectuals” as an oxymoron because the president-elect is prone to spontaneous, quixotic, unrelated and unpredictable tweets without philosophical cohesion. But these intellectuals look behind the pugilism where they find “a relatively coherent theory of governance, rooted in conservative thought, which could provide an antidote to a Republican Party grown rigid and ineffective.”

These conservatives tuck Trump issues into a conservative bed of Procrustean proportions, chopping off what does not fit, but they’re coalescing around familiar Trump goals like secure borders, economic nationalism, and interest-based foreign policy. Jeffrey Lord is one who defends the Donald as a “serious thinker.” He reminds audiences that Ronald Reagan was once dismissed as merely an actor. Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University, calls the Trump promise to reassert America’s control of its borders an appeal to the patriotism that unapologetically proclaims, “This is our home.”

Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, urges skeptics not to be put off by Mr. Trump’s lack of the “lingo of conservatism,” because there’s lots to appreciate, including his obstinate refusal to bow to political correctness or identity politics. He says the president-elect clearly wants to represent all “citizens,” his term that emphasizes status under the law. In Imprimis, the Hillsdale newsletter, Mr. Arnn singles out Betsy DeVos, the nominee for secretary of Education, as a fighter for school choice and local control that would bring authority for those schools closer to the students.

Henry Kissinger observes that Donald Trump follows a president who “basically withdrew America from international politics.” This gives him an extraordinary opportunity to restore strong moral leadership in the affairs of nations, offering a different form of analysis than President Obama’s anemic one. This enables him to raise issues of great import, “and if they’re addressed properly, could lead to good or great results.” We’ll soon see.

Charles Kesler, a professor of political science at Claremont McKenna College and the editor of the Claremont Review of Books, calls the intellectual argument in favor of Donald Trump “a liberating moment for conservatism.” We’ll soon learn what that means.

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.

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