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The Trump Years: What We May Hope For

Good things that might happen under the new administration

Welcome to Inauguration Day, everybody. As it happens, I will be on the road with my family for most of today, so I won’t be able to blog according to my logorrheic custom. I’ll be following Inauguration events on the car radio, though, and pulling over to post updates when I can. Please be patient with my approving comments.

The other day, I blogged on conservative writer Michael Brendan Dougherty’s fears going into the Trump presidency. Today I want to blog on the column he’s written setting out his hopes. Here’s one of them:

The post-Cold War commitment to increasing free movement of people and capital has coincided with incredible gains for those who are already successful, and stagnating wages or disappearing jobs for everyone else. It has coincided with the hollowing out of the middle class, and it goes together with the economic and cultural secession of America’s elite into a global clerical class. The left has responded with a renewed interest in socialism. The right has latched onto the nationalist populism of Trump.

It is in this nationalist populism where the Janus-faced nature of the Trump administration’s potential is apparent. Many critics want to see Trumpian populists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller sidelined. And I have no doubt that in these men you find some of the worst of Trumpism, like a willingness to enflame racial antagonism for a political kick, and an authoritarian attitude about law and order. But these men also push most aggressively for putting “the forgotten man” at the heart of our political imagination — the men and families and entire regions that have gotten kicked in the teeth by globalization.

These populists recognize that so much of the claimed devotion to markets, private property, and entrepreneurship among Republican policymakers is a thin ideological veil covering the naked self-interest of the rich. Right-wing populists know that a government isn’t just here to protect the operating of the market, but also that it guards the social fabric. If Trumpism turns into an authoritarian nightmare domestically, it is Steve Bannon and Co. who will be to blame. But if Trumpism really will contain a substantive economic and social nationalism that reaches to all citizens, these will be the men responsible for that too.

MBD says he also has hope that Trump will institute a more sane immigration policy, and hope too (though thin) that Trump will be more dovish in foreign policy. To sum:

But in the end, after reviewing my fears (rather grave) and hopes (somewhat tentative) for the Trump administration, I have to conclude that I am pessimistic about Trump’s presidency. I lean toward my fears because I believe Trump has low character. No one who grew up in the tri-state area could think otherwise. I believe his party is undisciplined and fat. And I am pessimistic about a nation that would elect a man like this. I am pessimistic about a nation that would make Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and then Hillary Clinton his only serious obstacles to power.

That’s my view too. Read the whole thing. I would add a couple more things.

For one, I have some hope that Trump’s court appointments will protect religious liberty; they cannot be worse than those judges who would have been appointed by Hillary Clinton. I have full confidence that his Justice Department, under Jeff Sessions, will cease and desist harassing the faithful. But the best I believe that social and religious conservatives can hope for is to be left alone. I don’t believe that the currents of late modernity that have carried our civilization to this place can be turned back. At best, we can ride them until they play themselves out, and keep ourselves from being dragged under by them. The best Trump can possibly do — and I believe this is true even if he were a saint of God — is protect our institutions for a while longer, and give us time to prepare for what’s coming.

For another, I hope that Trump will break the power of political correctness over public discourse. He’s a crude man who has violated speech norms in contemporary American life. As a conservative, I find that troubling, mostly, but he has also torn down taboos built around topics that really ought to be more discussed, if not for liberals setting the bounds of discourse. The problem with this is that Trump doesn’t understand the difference between straight talk and rudeness — and neither, increasingly, do the American people. I’m all for standing up to PC and not being intimidated by its shrill dogmatism, but if that means a cruder, nastier society, that’s a steep price to pay. This vicious little liberal brat who burned a Trump poster at a DC protest last night is the face of America today, I fear.

Still, these are my hopes. Though I’m pessimistic about nearly all of it, I may be surprised. Tell us what your hopes are. Even if you hate Trump and voted against him, is there any promise in him that you can see? What might change for the better?

UPDATE: Folks, only post if you have genuine hope that something, anything, might change for the better. I know a lot of you believe it’s going to be nothing but misery for the next four years. I respect that view, but I don’t want it on this thread.