Feature 01.26.2019 5 minutes

Trump Should Confront the Culture War

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Trump should delegitimize the left—and attack the dens of intolerance in higher education.

The most dangerous enemy is the one you don’t see coming. From the Founding Fathers to Ronald Reagan, many have warned that the gravest threat to America would come from within, enabled by a gradual loss of will to defend our liberty.

That threat is now realized. In his upcoming State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump has an opportunity to illuminate it and inspire 50 million opinion leaders to action in the culture war the left is waging on our nation’s values, history, institutions, and people.

Like millions of gallons of crude oil once confined to a supertanker, radical academia’s darkest designs have washed over the rocks of America’s media, political, and corporate institutions, and are now oozing, sticking, and burning their way across our cultural ocean.

President Trump should explain to the American people how Democrats and Republicans used to disagree merely about the size of government or the nuances of foreign policy; that there used to be a unifying consensus on American history and patriotism, legal tradition, meritocracy, and equality of opportunity and not of outcomes.

But now we are thrust into an existential struggle that relitigates the legitimacy of the very building blocks of Western Civilization.

Trump should explain that for the New Left, American history is little more than a chronicle of racism and oppression.  The Constitution is illegitimate because it was written by wealthy white men.  The veracity of ideas matters less than their source.

The concept of “intersectionality” creates a hierarchy of “privilege” that upends American meritocracy and determines who may speak, who is to be believed, and who gets the job—all based on race, sex, and other shades of victimhood. Equality of outcome is rigidly enforced by intersectionality-inspired quotas. When legal justice reaches a different outcome than “social justice,” riots ensue.

Speech becomes synonymous with violence.

Reason itself is a bourgeois construct.

Christianity is the only intolerable religion.

In this parallel universe, absolute power is the end goal and identity politics is the means.  None of the above is compatible with constitutional republicanism, capitalism, or the Anglo-American legal tradition.

But the left’s incremental approach has conditioned the Republican establishment to conform to the new rules of debate.  Trump should remind viewers that he was elected in part to realign those rules.

Romney Republicans play the short game, more concerned with avoiding the scarlet letter of racism or maintaining a cheap flow of labor into the United States for their corporate benefactors than the long-term ramifications of importing tens of millions of third-world aliens. They drone on about entitlement reforms that never happen and pet projects that nobody cares about while communist thugs beat up College Republicans and thousands of illegal aliens pour across our border every day, waving not only foreign flags but middle fingers.

Corporate America has fallen victim, as well, with brands like Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Google virtue-signaling their liberal wokeness on everything from immigration to gun rights.  On the day Gillette released its ad bemoaning “toxic masculinity,” parent company Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer even took to Youtube to wax poetic about the virtues of “intersectional equality.”

Trump should call attention to the effects of identity politics on ordinary Americans caught up in its wrath. He should invite Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student who was filmed in a standoff with liberal agitators in Washington, D.C., to his speech. The president should tell viewers how the media viciously defamed this kid, sacrificing the very ethos of their profession, just to support the liberal narrative that white males with MAGA hats are racist.

Exposing and delegitimizing the left’s culture war, Trump could argue that if they truly cared about racism, the media would have called out the blatantly racist black nationalists who called the Covington kids “crackers” and told them to “go back to Europe”—rhetoric that reporters themselves see on a regular basis on street corners in D.C. but ignore because it doesn’t fit the liberal narrative. Trump should explain that the professional left doesn’t actually care about racism; they care about convincing identity groups that they are oppressed and that the left is on their side, and it’s all for purely electoral reasons.

Trump should welcome Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the venue. He should remind viewers of the left’s attempt to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation with baseless accusations of sexual assault. He could brand the left’s call to automatically believe alleged victims as an abandonment of our maxim of “innocent until proven guilty.” He should caution viewers that their husbands, brothers, and sons are already guilty in the court of social justice.

Trump should take credit for standing by Kavanaugh when lesser presidents would have caved to the liberal mob and its media. He should urge business leaders to hold strong as well when the mob comes for their employees.

President Trump could end on a hopeful note by prescribing patriotism as a cure for the disease of division that threatens the America we know and love.

He discusses it in deeper, more meaningful terms than any president in recent memory, exploring “the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.” Trump casts love of country as a refreshing alternative to identity politics. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” he said in his inaugural address.

And he has gone to unprecedented lengths to defend the symbols of mankind’s greatest achievement—the flag and the anthem of the United States—from celebrity athlete protests that rise to the level of sacrilege in the hearts of patriotic Americans.

Trump should now call on parents to hold their children’s schools and universities accountable for teaching the next generation to hate America, and to teach them at home, if necessary, what makes our nation exceptional.  He should call on Congress, and direct the Department of Education, to ensure that as long as American taxpayers are funding higher education, our universities will be fountains of knowledge and not dens of political resentment and intolerance.

The president has some spectacularly talented speechwriters who understand, unlike many in the administration, why the American people elected him. Hopefully, in this year’s State of the Union or in another setting, they will help President Trump speak directly about the cold civil war that has only gotten warmer as the leftist establishment realizes the threat he poses to their dark vision for America.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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