Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka may have brought down the house, but the most intriguing, original, and ultimately most optimistic speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday was given by Peter Thiel.
Like Trump, Thiel is no politician. He’s a brilliant, controversial yet wildly successful high-tech entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley (co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook), a libertarian, a best-selling author, a Cleveland native and, for some time, a fully out gay.
That last alone would seem to be a game changer in Republican politics, especially since Trump gave Thiel a coveted spot only two away from him and Ivanka on the final night of the convention, a clearly not accidental gesture on Donald’s part.
The audience responded. Thiel got a standing ovation and the conventional liberal “narrative” about the GOP took a serious body blow in front of a good portion of the country. Dan Rather, who has been seen wandering around the convention, may have been bewildered.
But, in truth, it wasn’t all that surprising. For some time now there has been a small but growing stream in the Republican Party that is considerably more modern than anything on the Democratic side, where the likes of Bernie Sanders dominate with a worldview out of 1932.
The fact is that liberals and progressives are the true fuddy-duddies of our time, more conservative than conservatives. These days they offer not one original thought, unless you count nostalgia for 1968 or yet one more iteration of LBJ’s moribund War on Poverty.
Liberals these days distract from their failures on crucial issues like the economy and foreign policy by resorting to what Thiel wryly called the “Fake Culture Wars”
When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.
This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?
The entrepreneur’s concerns were more tangible. While acknowledging the success of his Silicon Valley colleagues, he saw the rest of the country as in serious decline, when it shouldn’t be.
It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the Internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon—and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio.
The future felt limitless.
But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.
That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan Project. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.
It’s not just the government. It’s everywhere. And libertarian entrepreneurs like Thiel are a great part of the solution. They are the torch-bearers of a new American exceptionalism, the ones who are pushing our country into the future. You can only make America great again by making it new again… and again… again.
That both Trump and Thiel want to reclaim America’s greatness is undoubtedly why Thiel is attracted to Trump, who remains a controversial figure in the Silicon Valley because of differences over immigration. (I suspect, as with the Brexit, there are more hidden Trump supporters there than meet the eye.) Thiel concluded his speech:
I don’t pretend to agree with every plank in our party’s platform. But fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.
And nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.
While it is fitting to talk about who we are, today it’s even more important to remember where we came from. For me that is Cleveland, and the bright future it promised.
When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past. He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.
So is it Peter Thiel’s Republican Party now? Of course, not. Right now, indubitably, it’s Donald Trump’s. But I think Donald would agree, there’s more than enough room for a mind like Thiel’s.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His book—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already—is just published by Encounter. You can read an excerpt here. You can see a brief interview about the book with the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal here. You can hear an interview about the book with Mark Levin here. You can order the book here.
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