As we leave the Labor Day weekend behind, the all-time roughest, nastiest, most dishonest attempt in American history to dislodge an incumbent president is well underway.
Since Donald Trump ran in 2016 against all factions of both parties, and effectively against the Bushes as much as against the Clintons and Obamas, and promised radical changes to the personnel and techniques of the entire Washington political class, and was especially critical of the national political media, it was inevitable that he would be fiercely resisted and that his election victory would be regarded as a freakish and probably illegal usurpation.
All of this has happened, and while Trump has gradually asserted his complete domination of the Republican Party, whose congressional delegation included very few supporters of his four years ago, the Democrats, the anti-Trump Republicans, and the Washington establishment generally have conducted a retreat of extraordinary and vicious tenacity.
In 1953, incoming President Dwight Eisenhower left practically the entire Roosevelt and Truman social programs in place, and, prompted by his time as military governor in Germany when he became envious of the autobahn, Eisenhower promoted the Interstate Highway System, a public works and infrastructure project in the most ambitious traditions of Roosevelt's TVA and WPA.
The ruling class that had arisen under Roosevelt, led by public-spirited members of elite law firms and executives of great corporations, continued to fill the Eisenhower and succeeding administrations. Dean Acheson, Averill Harriman, John McCloy, Douglas Dillon, and their distinguished like were capable and diligent.
But a vast, homogenous, and ultimately complacent underlayer of entrenched elitist sameness gradually rigidified the government process. They were widely believed to be as stultifying as their progenitors were energizing and imaginative when brought into government by Roosevelt to defeat the Depression and win the war, and were retained by Truman to put in place the institutions that won the Cold War.
President Eisenhower made no effort to displace the political class, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were brought up with and into it, and the first challenge to its incumbency of 35 years came from Richard Nixon.
But Nixon didn't control either house of Congress and the overzealous antics of his subordinates and his own mismanagement of the resulting (Watergate) investigation enabled the political class to dispose of him while their media allies showered themselves in Pulitzer Prizes, and a mystique of permanence, invincibility, and a hereditary right to rule settled within the Beltway.
There was a flutter of concern at the arrival of Ronald Reagan, but his program essentially consisted of reducing taxes, escalating the arms race, and challenging the Soviet Union’s status as a coequal superpower by beginning the development of a laser-based, high-altitude antimissile defense system.
The Washington insiders and media mocked this initiative, and it's never been entirely installed. But it shattered the Kremlin’s self-confidence, the Soviet Union disintegrated peacefully, and the Cold War ended. The greatest and most bloodless strategic victory in world history was finally obtained by Reagan's defense policies from which the Washington establishment dissented.
‘Something Completely Different’Donald Trump, in Monty Pythonese, is “something completely different.” He had never sought or held any public position, civilian or military; instead, he was a flamboyant New York developer, reality television star, impresario, and junk-bond debt-financed speculator in casinos.
In these capacities, he was more accomplished than all but a few of his 43 predecessors in their previous careers, and gained the Republican nomination and won the election by running squarely against the governing bipartisan political class.
He challenged campaign financing and lobbying practices, trading arrangements, the porous southern border, the slackened Western alliance, and the unenterprising partisanship of the national political media.
Resistance was bound to be fierce, and it must be said that Trump’s resilience has far exceeded anything his enemies had imagined.
Policies Versus PersonalityTrump seeks a judgment of his accomplishments and of his proposed program for the next four years, a choice between him and his opponent. His enemies are trying to promote a referendum on Trump: the heavy rioting by Marxist, anti-white urban guerrillas and large numbers of more spontaneous hooligans, are held to be the inevitable consequences of the divisiveness of President Chaos, and which will miraculously subside with his defeat.
In fact, this administration reacted quickly to the coronavirus, was criticized by the Democrats for overreacting, imposed a heavy economic shutdown that has reduced daily fatalities by about 75 percent, and has reopened the economy swiftly, bringing back to work more than half those that had been disemployed by the shutdown, without reviving the fatality totals.
In medical terms, the United States' performance has been better than about two-thirds of the advanced countries that publish believable statistics, and in economic terms, the United States has done better than almost all other advanced countries that were seriously afflicted by the coronavirus.
Trump’s tax and deregulation policies, trade renegotiations, revival of nuclear non-proliferation with respect to North Korea and Iran have all been largely or partially successful. The drastic measures that he was forced to take to build the wall he promised on the southern border have been entirely effective, where previous presidents had just waffled.
His environment policy has spared the country the destruction of the oil and gas industry and great cost and unemployment in pursuit of unproved climate objectives.
His Middle Eastern policy is normalizing Israel's relations with the Arab world and has made a two-state solution with Palestinians a possibility for the first time.
He has identified and faced up to the challenge from China and is being supported by America's allies in the Far East and South Asia. And he is returning NATO to be a serious alliance instead of a gang of laggards happy to have a U.S. guarantee of their security but unwilling to pay for it.
Leaving aside for these purposes the glaring shortcomings of the Democratic candidates, the national interest requires that this election be determined as a matter of policy choices, and not as a comment on the president’s personality, which is an acquired taste (or not) but isn't very relevant to his ability to conduct his office.
The American people must determine which course they wish to follow. Those who wish to change course shouldn't be allowed to achieve that through the greatest and most self-interested smear campaign in American history.
If America really wants open borders, general violence, higher taxes, increased unemployment, a green emasculation of the oil and gas and other industries, and acceptance of a position in the world inferior to China's, it should vote for that explicitly and not as a consequence of reaction to the vagaries of Donald Trump's personality.