Mike Gemmell is the founder and president of Restore Our American Republic (ROAR). Prior to founding ROAR, he was a geologist specializing in groundwater resource development, a technical writer, and a freelance writer addressing environmental and other cultural issues. For more information on his professional background please see: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmgemmell.
With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump a few days away, it seems appropriate to take another look at the phenomenon of his successful campaign while issuing a few cautionary comments concerning his upcoming administration. – Mike Gemmell January 17, 2017
2016: The Year That Was and Its Implications for 2017
The election of Donald Trump in November 2016 has brought a tectonic shift to American culture. In the process, the biases of the traditional media have been laid bare as well as the agenda of the cultural/political elite that orbits Washington D.C. The responses of these parties to Trump’s election clearly indicate that they have every intention of fighting back ferociously to maintain the status quo. Reform-minded individuals inside the new administration as well as organizations seeking to influence this administration need to understand how to fight philosophically if they wish to overcome such resistance and avoid earlier failed reform efforts such as Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America.
Trump was very effective exposing egregious media biases through Twitter and social media outlets while campaigning as an outsider to the Washington establishment. Also helping his cause was the work of organizations such as Judicial Watch and Project Veritas, both exposing fraud in the election process. Lastly, the unhappiness toward President Obama by large segments of the public helped to defeat Hillary Clinton who many believed would continue his unpopular agenda. All of these factors helped turn swing voters toward Trump. However, exposing the corruption of the status quo and campaigning as an outsider has limitations as an approach to making public policy.
Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” may be enough to counter at least some criticism as he tries to reform Obama’s failed policies in the areas of defense and foreign policy. Millions of Americans have seen with their own eyes the Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando massacres and drawn their own conclusions that directly contradict Obama’s claims that these were the actions of mentally disturbed individuals rather than planned acts of terrorism. Europe simultaneously being engulfed in a wave of rape, murder, and violent crime from Muslim immigrants added credibility to Trump’s claims that a new direction was needed for the U.S. As a result, many Americans have flatly rejected Obama’s claim that Islam is a religion of peace based on ample evidence to the contrary.
When it comes to reforming domestic welfare policy, he will be up against opponents and arguments that will require more than the “Make America Great” slogan. With his first attempts to revise or repeal any major elements of the previous administration’s entitlement programs such as Obamacare, he will face the following type of philosophical perspective offered by Julia Mead (“Why Millennials Aren’t Afraid of Socialism,” The Nation, January 10, 2017):
“Poverty isn’t a natural phenomenon; it exists because a few people own far more than their fair share. He [Bernie Sanders]also offered a solution: The government could act on behalf of those of us just barely treading water. The government’s role, Sanders argued, is to correct the rampant inequality in this country by taxing the rich and using that money to offer real social services.”
The Founding Fathers’ concept of “equality” meant equal justice before the law not the egalitarian sentiment of Mead and other progressive liberals. Given the fact that progressive liberals have spent over 100 years promoting a radically different definition of equality, campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again” will probably not be enough to counter the Progressive Liberal viewpoint. The Trump administration will need to articulate the fact that Mead’s perspective constitutes an attack on success and that one person’s need for medical care or anything else does not constitute a moral or legal claim on another person’s life or pocketbook. If Trump fails to do this, he may suffer a fate similar to Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America program.
In 1994, after two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Americans voiced their unhappiness with his policies by bringing Newt Gingrich and a predominantly Republican congress into power. Gingrich intended to overhaul the growing federal bureaucracy and radically reduce expenditures on welfare. But when Gingrich began proposing cuts to existing programs, he was immediately labeled “selfish” by liberal Democrats and others interested in maintaining the status quo of these programs. Gingrich had no philosophical response to the charge and immediately began backpedaling in his call for welfare reform. His inability to counter the charge of “selfishness” caused him to quickly lose the momentum for reform that had swept him into office. Without a philosophical foundation, Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” of Washington D.C. may suffer a similar fate.
The conservative leadership in the U.S. has failed to provide an adequate individual rights moral foundation for their public policy proposals from the time of progressive leader Herbert Croly at the beginning of the 20th century up to the present. Fortunately, today, there are moral defenses of individualism that can be used in these public policy situations such as the arguments presented in Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, 2016.
In Equal is Unfair, Don Watkins and Yaron Brook reveal that much of what we’ve been taught about inequality is wrong:
“The critics of inequality are right about one thing: the American Dream is under attack. But instead of fighting to make America a place where anyone can achieve success, they are fighting to tear down those who already have. The real key to making America a freer, fairer, more prosperous nation is to protect and celebrate the pursuit of success―not pull down the high fliers in the name of equality.”
This is the sort of philosophical position needed to provide the intellectual foundation so that Trump can initiate and sustain reform of the failed policies of the Obama administration when the entrenched ideology of progressivism and its outlook of victimization is thrown across his path.