This is going to be relatively brief, as I have little time and am still processing last night’s events. So I will just say this.
I completely understand Daniel McCarthy and Scott McConnell and others who are delighted to see someone promising to upend the bipartisan consensus for an aggressive foreign policy, a liberal trade regime, and amnesty for undocumented immigrants. I share many of their views of the first, have come to a greater appreciation over time of the second, and while I am not personally much concerned about immigration I understand why some people are, and I agree with the bedrock principle — which has come increasingly under question — that countries have every right to establish immigration policies that suit their national interests, provided they pursue them in a humane and just fashion.
But I admit, I could not feel hopeful about Donald Trump as the standard-bearer for such a movement, and feel only dread about the prospect of his presidency. First of all, I question whether Trump actually believes what they think, particularly on what matters most to me. Consider who he surrounds himself with. Foreign policy is going to be in the hands of the likes of John Bolton, Rudolph Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. These are the men who will restrain America’s interventionist habit, and put more emphasis on diplomacy? On economic matters as well, there’s a radical disconnect between some of Trump’s rhetoric and the likely policies he’ll actually pursue. For example, Steve Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs is going to run the Treasury. This is the man who is going to reverse the financialization of the American economy?
And then of course there’s the man himself, whom we’ve gotten to know much better than I ever would have wanted to in the course of the past year and a half, and will now get to know even better for the next four years, whether I want to or not. From what he’s eagerly shown, I do not.
I want to be hopeful. But I greatly fear they are projecting onto the leader they have a figure of the man they wish he were.
Myself, I stand more in the general vicinity of Ross Douthat:
I retract none of the warnings that I issued about the likelihood of catastrophe and crisis on his watch. I fear the risks of a Trump presidency as I have feared nothing in our politics before. But he will be the president, thanks to a crude genius that identified all the weak spots in our parties and our political system and that spoke to a host of voters for whom that system promised at best a sustainable stagnation under the tutelage of a distant and self-satisfied elite. So we must hope that he has the wit to be more than a wrecker, more than a demagogue, and that his crude genius can actually be turned, somehow, to the common good.
And if that hope is dashed, we must find ways to resist him — all of us, right and left, in the new chapter of American history that has opened very unexpectedly tonight.
To which I will only add — as I know Douthat would agree — that if that “crude genius” can be turned, it won’t turn on its own, but will require real assistance from people who know more about the world and the functioning of our government than the coterie he has surrounded himself with. Even though they thereby risk association with his likely catastrophes, I dearly hope that assistance is forthcoming — from members of both parties — so that the need for resistance doesn’t become a foregone conclusion.