The Historical Meaning of Donald Trump 

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It is already five-and-a-half years since that November day and night that shocked the liberal world. I know what it did to my faculty and media colleagues, but the bigger impact on the United States isn’t so clear.

One is tempted by the response of the Chinese communist when asked about the impact of the French Revolution: “It’s too early to tell.” That’s the long view of the Marxist, who looks for deep structural changes in society whose effects take longer to materialize, not small reforms or changes in policy that start immediately. To him, a rise in the tax rate on high incomes, a new welfare program, a tougher environmental regulation, and other customary progressive proposals are just that—adjustments of custom, not radical transformation. That’s why liberals accept them, our Marxist would say: because they leave the liberal order intact. To break that order, or any other longstanding hegemony, takes time and, often, drastic measures.

The hysterical reaction to Donald Trump on the part of liberals, though, suggests that Trump may, indeed, have signified a radical action that cuts to the heart of things political in our country. It’s hard not to believe that after witnessing otherwise intelligent and informed individuals slip into Trump Derangement Syndrome and not relax for four full years. I don’t mean specific planks that offended them such as the Wall, controversial though they were. He had to have posed a more fundamental threat. That Establishment conservatives felt the same way as conventional liberals did reinforces that suspicion. Trump certainly upset the mainstream elite a lot more than did the progressive Bernie Sanders.

At this point, perhaps we should recognize that their absurd protests, Russian fantasies, and wild notions of getting rid of him (for instance, by declaring him mentally unfit) weren’t hysterical at all. The Jan. 6 hearings are a dismal political circus, but however grotesque they appear, they have a wholly rational goal: to keep Trump out in 2024. He must be stopped. Let’s assume that mainstream elite figures understand quite well the dangers he poses, and they know that he endangers them. That’s how it looks to me. The old feminist slogan “The personal is political” applies here in reverse: “The political is personal.”

Think about how Trump himself told Americans that the party politics of Democrats versus Republicans was no such thing. As he declared right off in his inauguration speech, the leadership of both parties formed a faction of their own, and the American people were their piggy bank. They’d produced carnage across America and lined their own pockets. Don’t buy their political shows and fake news, he urged. D.C. is the home of uniparty swamp dwellers, and they’re playing the American people as suckers.

All the people sitting behind him on Day One, Democrats and Republicans both, realized instantly, “He’s not one of us, and he’ll never be one of us.” Trump made it very personal. They couldn’t avoid the calculation: “If he succeeds, we lose.” He told the Great Unwashed what they should never be told, that their leaders had a terrible track record, that their Ivy League degrees didn’t translate into competent statesmanship, and that they didn’t care about their own country and fellow citizens—and the people cheered.

By Mark Bauerlein

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