The wailing and keening over the choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA appears to be a lead indicator of a coming revolution far beyond Reagan’s.
“Trump Taps Climate Skeptic For Top Environmental Post,” said the Wall Street Journal. “Climate Change Denial,” bawled a disbelieving New York Times, which urged the Senate to put Pruitt in a “dust bin.”
Clearly, though his victory was narrow, Donald Trump remains contemptuous of political correctness and defiant of liberal ideology.
For environmentalism, as conservative scholar Robert Nisbet wrote in 1982, is more than the “most important social movement” of the 20th century. It is a militant and dogmatic faith that burns heretics.
“Environmentalism is well on its way to becoming the third great wave of redemptive struggle in Western history,” wrote Nisbet, “the first being Christianity, the second modern socialism.” In picking a “climate denier” to head EPA, Trump is rejecting revealed truth.
Yet, as with his choices of Steve Bannon as White House strategist and Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, he has shown himself to be an unapologetic apostate to liberal orthodoxy.
Indeed, with his presidency, we may be entering a post-liberal era.
In 1950, literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote, “In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation.”
The rise of the conservative movement of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan revealed liberalism’s hour to be but a passing moment. Yet, today, something far beyond conservatism seems to be afoot.
As Hegel taught, in the dialectic of history the thesis calls into existence the antithesis. What we seem to be seeing is a rejection, and a counterreformation against the views and values that came out of the social and political revolutions of the 1960s.
Consider the settled doctrine Trump disrespected with Pruitt.
We have long been instructed that climate change is real, that its cause is man-made, that it imperils the planet with rising seas, hurricanes, and storms, that all nations have a duty to curb the release of carbon dioxide to save the world for future generations.
This is said to be “scientific truth,” and “climate deniers” are like people who believe the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. Some hold the matter to be so grave that climate deniers should be censored for promoting socially destructive falsehoods.
Yet, the people remain skeptical.
Their worry is not that the rising waters of the Med will swamp the Riviera, but that tens of millions of Arabs, Muslims, and Africans may be coming across to swamp Europe, and that millions of Mexicans may cross the Rio Grande to swamp the USA.
Call them climate deniers or climate skeptics, but they see the establishment as running the Big Con to effect a transfer of wealth and power away from the people—and to themselves.
Across the West, establishments have lost credibility.
The proliferation of minority parties, tearing off pieces of the traditional ruling parties, points to a growing distrust in ruling regimes and a return to identifying with the nation and tribe whence one came.
A concomitant of this is a growing disbelief in egalitarianism and in the equality of all races, creeds, nations, cultures, and peoples.
The Supreme Court may say all religions are equal and all must be treated equally. But do Americans believe Christianity and Islam are equal? How could they, when Christians claim their faith has as its founder the Son of God and God himself?
After calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, Trump was elected president. After inviting a million refugees from Syria’s civil war into Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel admits having made a mistake and is now in favor of letting German cities and towns decide if women should be allowed to wear burqas.
A sea change in thought is taking place in the West.
Liberalism appears to be a dying faith. America’s elites may still preach their trinity of values: diversity, democracy, equality. But the majorities in America and Europe are demanding that the borders be secured and Third World immigrants kept out.
The next president disbelieves in free trade. He wants a border wall. He questions the wisdom of our Mideast wars and the need for NATO. He is contemptuous of democratist dogma that how other nations rule themselves is our business. He rejects transnationalism and globalism.
“There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship,” said Trump in Cincinnati, “We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that flag is the American flag. From now on, it’s going to be America first. … We’re going to put ourselves first.”
That’s not Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama.
Nothing seems settled or certain. All is in flux. But change is coming. “Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind.”
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.