Donald Trump: An American Patriot of the Same Stripe as Ronald Reagan

donald trump flag illustration

The policy take-away from President Trump’s remarks last night at the Heritage Foundation centered around tax cuts. The president likes ‘em, and if he has his way (and on this issue, I think he will), we will see a sharp cut to the corporate tax rate (from 35 percent to 20 percent), a simplification and reduction of the individual tax rate, and a big expansion of the individual exemption (to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly).

There is a certain kind of politician who likes high taxes, partly because he likes big government, which is the natural result of high taxes, partly because he wants most people (not his tribe, of course) to have as little money as possible.  The poorer people are, the more dependent they are. Politicians of a certain stripe want people to be dependent on the government, i.e., on them and the instruments they control.

To my mind, that unholy dialectic between political power and an agenda of enforced dependency is one of the most despicable and destructive coefficients of the administrative state. It is despicable because it deploys power for personal aggrandizement under the camouflage of helping (i.e., pretending to help) others (the “Great Society,” etc.). It is destructive because its end is the eclipse of liberty for the sake of expanding and institutionalizing the apparatus of bureaucracy (and the perquisites of the bureaucrats running it).

So I applaud the president’s plan to cut taxes and allow Americans to keep a bit more of what after all is their own money. (We tend to forget this.)

But although taxes formed the official centerpiece of the president’s speech last night, and though I liked what he said about taxes, I thought the most impressive part of the speech was its rhetorical setting.  The occasion was a meeting of Heritage Foundation supporters. Accordingly, President Trump began by talking about the importance of embracing our history, our heritage. “For America to have CONFIDENCE in our future, we must have PRIDE in our HISTORY.”

I think that is right, and I think it is worth pondering each of the three stressed words.

One of the great liabilities of so-called identity politics is that, ironically, it acts as a solvent on shared cultural confidence. The irony flows from the fact that identity politics is supposed to leave its partisans with an enhanced sense of self-worth and solidarity but in fact it tends to isolate them in rancid grievance ghettos.

Along the way last night, the president spoke up for preserving our heritage, our history, an enterprise that encompasses not just the preservation of monuments and other historical markers that commemorate our past, but also extends to the spiritual decorum of civic respect: standing for the national anthem, for example, or (since this multiethnic country was and is, as Samuel Huntington observed, a country of “Anglo-Protestant” values) wishing people “Merry Christmas” in due season.