There’s something glorious about election night in America. Whatever you say about the American people, they turn solemn and thoughtful when it comes to choosing their leaders. They make mistakes but they have the opportunity to correct them. A bit before midnight, after the New York Times put Trump’s probability of winning above 95%, I wandered into the Irish bar around the corner from my house and talked to my neighbors. Many had voted for Clinton, reluctantly; some had voted for Trump, also with reservations; but all had something impassioned to say about why they had made their choice.
Lincoln was right: you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Hillary Clinton couldn’t persuade the American people that 2+2 = 5. Americans know that their lives are worse, that their children face poorer prospects than they had, and that opportunity for advancement has disappeared. They wanted someone who would take their concerns seriously and do big things to correct them. In the primaries, they dismissed the small-ball conservatives of the Republican mainstream and chose the candidate who promised national greatness. It was objected that Donald Trump didn’t have a clear program. He doesn’t, but the people are less petty than the Punditeska. They know that the precondition for a successful presidency is the recognition that giant steps are required rather than baby steps. They have given a mandate to the one candidate who promised this, and will give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt to work out the details.
That is why I was convinced of Trump’s victory throughout. I wrote on Sept. 12, “Deplorably, Trump is Going to Win,” and on Oct. 9 added, “Trump Will Win the National Battle for Legitimacy.” The elitist contempt for the aspirations of most Americans reached a peak of arrogance that Americans were not willing to countenance. Donald Trump is not an ideal candidate; his life experience as the proprietor of a family-owned company allowed him to follow wherever his whim led him, and his self-indulgence frequently showed to his disadvantage. For most Americans, voting for Trump required careful consideration, weighing the man’s much-discussed faults against the simple fact that he proposed to take risks and try new things in order to restore American greatness. He is more akin to Franklin Roosevelt, I believe, than any other of his predecessors. FDR got almost everything wrong until World War II hauled America out of the Great Depression, but he held the social fabric together by demonstrating to Americans that he was willing to take dramatic steps to correct an intolerable situation.
The #NeverTrumpers showed elitist contempt for the American people and betrayed the interests of the Republican Party as well as our country. Magnanimity is not the appropriate response to this kind of betrayal. A new Republican intellectual core is forming around Claremont Review, the Journal of American Greatness and—with a word from our sponsors—publications like PJ Media. It is a time to be daring and innovative, to consider what policies will turn around the deterioration of the last dozen years, and to divest ourselves of the dead weight of failed ideologies. Hard work lies ahead of us. Let us devote ourselves to it without distraction.