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Why Trump's Western Civilization Isn't a 'White Supremacist Dogwhistle'

On Thursday, President Donald Trump gave a powerful speech in Warsaw, Poland, in which he unabashedly defended Western civilization. Liberals heard the speech as a "white supremacist dogwhistle," an "alt-right manifesto," or a defense of "white, Christian hegemony." These attacks could not be more wrong.

"The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive," Trump declared. "Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to respect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"

Trump mentioned many threats to the West, inside and out. But to hear liberals tell it, the whole thing was a dogwhistle for white supremacy. Vox's Sarah Wildman said the speech "sounded like an alt-right manifesto." Slate's Jamelle Bouie said the speech contained "clear white nationalist dogwhistles."

Then there was The Atlantic's Peter Beinart, who attacked the very idea of the West as a "racial and religious term." Beinart wrote that "Trump's sentence only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia. The 'south' and 'east' only threaten the West's 'survival' if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders."

Here's the kicker: "They only threaten the West's 'survival' if by 'West' you mean white, Christian hegemony."

But Trump never — not once — mentioned race in the speech. He defined the threats to the West very clearly, and he championed debating "everything." The president did mention God many times, but he emphasized the Jews and he never mentioned Jesus or Christianity specifically.

The Left's response, and Beinart's attack specifically, revealed a tragic trend among Democrats and liberals. As National Review's Jonah Goldberg pointed out, Beinart "pretty clearly wants to suggest that, because the West, historically, has described a mostly white, mostly Protestant or Catholic civilization, defending it must be an example of bigotry."

But as Goldberg argued, this is an exceedingly dangerous position to take. "We've reached a pathetic and dangerous point in our culture where anyone who celebrates our traditional culture, our country, and, now, our civilization must be doing so for base and evil reasons," he wrote. "All other cultures must be celebrated while every ill is blamed on us."

The cry that every defense of Western civilization is racist not only alienates liberals from patriotic Americans, but it literally removes the ground under their feet. Unlike other parts of the world, the West has traditionally protected dissent. It had slavery — like every other civilization in history — but abolished it, twice. For all its warts — and there are indeed many — the West is the only place these liberals would actually like to live.