One message to take away from Donald Trump’s presidential victory: Americans don’t want to be ruled. They prefer self-government. The election was not about liberals versus conservatives. Rather it was a contest between Progressivism and the anti-Progressivism of which Trump is the democratic—even the crudely demotic—embodiment.
After Barack Obama took Progressivism’s belief in government by hyper-educated experts purportedly guided only by the public interest to its ugly extreme with his supercilious, know-it-all demeanor, as if the views of those who saw the world differently were beneath contempt, the electorate grew fed up with the politics first molded by Woodrow Wilson and perfected in the New Deal. They didn’t want to be bossed around by the Environmental Protection Agency about what they could do on their own private property, as if filling in a hole on land 50 miles from the nearest navigable waterway fell under the EPA’s purview. They lost faith in both the expertise and the disinterestedness of such administrative-state agencies when the EPA set out to shut down America’s coal industry and put miners out of work based on a climate hypothesis that Trump voters did not believe was “settled science,” despite Obama’s haughty claim that their denial could only spring from the knuckle-dragging ignorance of people who, frightened by a changing world they couldn’t understand, clung to their religion and their guns, among other atavisms.
Trump voters didn’t like regulatory agencies that can make rules like legislators, can demand documents without a judge’s subpoena, can enter and search a business’s premises without a warrant to look for infractions of its rules, can charge an individual or company of wrongdoing without a grand jury indictment and adjudicate the guilt and exact the punishment without a jury of one’s peers or the supervision of a real judge but only an “administrative judge,” answerable to the agency whose case he is hearing— hardly impartially. Citizens vaguely sensed that such legislation without legislators and judging without judges rode roughshod over due process, the separation of powers, and indeed the Constitution and Bill of Rights that provides those precious barriers against tyranny. They saw the proliferation of such unaccountable agencies under the satirically named Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Law, and they not only didn’t like them but also didn’t like the costly increase in government employees to boss them around at such high salaries that the bedroom communities surrounding Washington became the nation’s richest neighborhoods, while the average citizen’s wages stagnated. It was hard not to think of Thomas Jefferson’s complaint in the Declaration of Independence that George III had “erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance”—so that the nation’s 22 million government employees now outnumber Americans who work in manufacturing.
Citizens grew apprehensive when elected officials around the country proposed outlawing climate denial, as if the First Amendment were not absolute and foundational to American liberty. They found the idea of “hate crimes” troubling, as if the specific belief in a malefactor’s mind, rather than the mere malice of his intent, made a difference in the degree of his culpability. And with colleges outlawing “hate speech,” and the increasing willingness of elite culture to silence politically incorrect utterance, they saw an ever-growing threat to the First Amendment’s freedom of belief and speech.
When the Internal Revenue Service undertook to exercise a pocket veto on the free speech of conservative nonprofits, citizens understood that the administrative agencies’ pretense of disinterested nonpartisanship was a lie, a mere mask for the exercise of tyrannical power in the one government function that James Madison wrote in The Federalist especially required the utmost impartiality. When Congress passed Obamacare without even reading it, when the Supreme Court blessed it by saying that the law said what it explicitly did not say, Americans saw that they had gone far into the realm of lawless power. And when President Obama used his pen and his phone to govern as arbitrarily as the Stuart kings, flooding the country with illegal aliens and bogus asylum-seekers whose schooling, health care, and housing were to be paid for by citizens who no longer had a say in what they were willing to support with their tax dollars, the sense of being subjects rather than self-governing citizens became hard to deny. But of course Obama, who had famously said that if you had a business, “you didn’t build that”—it was the creation of society under government’s direction—believed to his very marrow the Progressive-era idea that government had to be vastly more powerful than any mere individual citizen, who without its protection and direction had no defense against the vast might of the corporations that created American wealth.
Government as nothing but the exercise of raw, lawless power: that’s what many Trump voters saw as the program of scandal-scarred Hillary Clinton, who they judged had disregarded the laws about protecting government documents with a let-them-eat-cake sense of entitlement; who, as if in fulfillment of Lenin’s prophecy that the capitalists would gladly sell the Communists the rope to hang them with, allowed 20 percent of the world’s uranium reserves to fall into Russian hands (and doubtless some of it then into Iranian centrifuges), seemingly prompted by speaking fees to her husband and contributions to her family’s “charitable” foundation; who seemed to run her foundation as a favor- and access-vending operation, more like a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization than a charity—such a candidate seemed as different from George Washington, John Adams, or Thomas Jefferson as chalk from cheese.
So Trump voters had a pretty good idea of what they didn’t want when they voted for someone promising to make America great again. Let’s hope that he delivers even a part of the self-reliant constitutional liberty they crave.
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