There’s something ironically reminiscent of the Obama years, in the expressions of outrage and betrayal by formerly loyal supporters.
We should not be too hard on them — or on yourself, if you happen to be in their number. The ability to criticize our representatives is a precious one. The disappointment and sadness expressed by his supporters prove how cheap and false the Left’s allegations were about the mindless loyalty of the right to their golden-haired God Emperor.
With the simultaneous attack on Julian Assange and the apparent softening on immigration on the heels of his bombing of Syria, how can anyone right of center (let alone a member of the Alternative Right) be optimistic about the remainder of the Trump presidency?
When I voted for Donald J. Trump in November, I was unconvinced by the actual policies he was promising… or at least not persuaded by them. It’s not that I thought he was a liar (by the standards of his office of aspiration), though any honest person listening to the man is forced to admit that he is less than honest. He’s from New York, for one thing. Even the “truthful hyperbole” strategy he employs — while essentially honest in nature — is dishonest in its mechanics. But there are more important things than a president’s truthiness.
A nation is not so much “led” by its leader as it is reflected by him. There are over 330 million of us and only one president: which one really holds more sway? Certainly the president is a powerful cultural figure, but no one could possibly be more powerful than the collective actions of an entire country. How else could we get a reality TV star as our leader?
Let’s be serious: Donald Trump was never going to make America great again. You can point 330 million people to water, but you cannot even move them, let alone make them drink.
I don’t say this to condemn Trump, of course. I voted for him, and stand by my vote, because I only voted for him for one reason: protecting freedom of speech.
The press, and even supporters, tend to softball the issue by couching all assaults against free speech as mere “political correctness.” Since the First Amendment only protects free speech from abridgment by Congress, it is easy to conflate the right with the law that ostensibly protects it. In doing so, we completely miss the constrictions on expression at the hands of corporations, schools, Hollywood, and the culture at large. They are every bit as dangerous to the civic health of a Republic as constrictions that come from the government itself.
To provide just one example, any criticism of Islam can be caricatured as “Islamophobia,” which takes any intellectual justifications out of a criticism and pathologizes a sincere, and perhaps even true, concern. This is not done at the Federal level, nor even the state level, but by television news programs, by parent-teacher associations, by church congregations, and by dinner party guests.
This means that government isn’t the problem. Government reflects the problem. The problem is with us. Perhaps, like Solzhenitsyn, we do not love freedom enough. Perhaps we love reality TV too much. But I repeat myself.
In my book, In Defense of Hatred, I wrote that the inability to defend what you love can lead us to an inability, or an unwillingness, to love in the first place:
If we cannot hate, then we will retroactively convince ourselves that we didn’t really love it. And the danger of unrequited loss by establishing a meaningful preference, might not be worth it. It might be better to never love. To wish that what you loved had never existed, so you could be spared your pain.
If we cannot say what we think without fear of reprisal, then what’s the point in getting involved and learning enough to have an opinion at all? And if no one has, or is willing to articulate, a civic opinion, how can a Republic survive? It does not matter whether these restrictions come from the government or from other people. If we cannot use words to resolve our differences, than we will eventually have to use violence.
In 2015, Trump stepped onto the stage and said all the wrong things. It was exactly what we needed. Suddenly, everyone who was afraid to say what they really thought about immigration, about Islam, even about race and gender, saw a Golden example of a man breaking all the rules and winning.
No amount of backsliding on promises can undo this psychic victory. Now everyone knows that everyone else knows the problems with immigration, and we can talk about it. When everyone laughs out loud at the emperor’s nakedness, it is impossible to pretend that the robes are beautiful again. Trump happens to play both the part of the boy and the God Emperor simultaneously, a feat few others could so masterfully perform.
Let’s not pretend that the task of making America great was a burden for the president’s shoulders alone. Frankly, I’m glad he finally let the true believers down. There is something weak in the hope that a single leader will make all your problems go away. It’s a weakness of spirit that Jack Donovan touched on in his piece on Trump:
Men in America can’t keep waiting for someone to come and stand up to feminists and race-baiters and social justice warriors for them, and then stand behind them, saying, “yeah, what he said.” They can’t keep waiting for some elected leader to put big businesses and banks and all of the scheming, swindling, greedy sellouts that run this country in their place. These people hate you, and they don’t care what you think or what you want. No matter what happens to you, they believe you have it coming, and if you don’t do anything about it and take control of your own life and destiny — you will deserve it.
Whatever happens to white American men — and all of the men who are unable or unwilling to benefit from rent-seeking identity politics — will be up to us.
Enjoy the liberal and progressive butthurt, but don’t get too angry with Trump for letting you down. He had one job, and he did it. Make use of the cultural space restored by the God-Emperor, and exercise those rights which he has shielded from the culture at large.
That’s the heart of civic life in a Republic: the speech of the citizen, not of the dear leader.