Donald Trump, American hero

Donald Trump, American hero, by David Goldman. He stands as a lone wolf ready to avenge the injustices of globalization:

The protagonists of American popular culture are outsiders with scant patience for authority.

The Western heroes invented by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour and portrayed by William S. Hart or John Wayne, and their urban cousins — the private detectives of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler — play loose with the law and play dirty with the opposition, but they have an inviolable inner code. They don’t betray their friends and they don’t exploit the weak. They don’t aspire to entry into the elites, and they don’t apologize for their vulgarity. They come in comic form, for example Huckleberry Finn, or nastily serious, like William Munny in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, or a bit of both in Hammett’s wise-cracking angel of vengeance, the Continental Op.

There is nothing un-Christian in the fact that American pilgrims are rogues — rough men at best, killers and conmen at worst — for the English Puritans who imagined the United States as a “Hebrew Republic” believed that humanity was hopelessly depraved, and that only an act of special grace from God could save them from damnation. Trump is a Christian, to be sure, of a characteristically American variety: as the political scientist Joshua Mitchell observed, he was for decades a follower of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, whose bestselling version of the prosperity gospel in The Power of Positive Thinking made him rich. Whether and in what way Trump is a Christian, though, is far less important than the fact that he is instantly recognizable as the protagonist in a Christian drama: the lone avenger who stands up to the depraved powers of the world and calls them out for combat.

Ted Cruz, an engaged and enthusiastic evangelical Christian, failed to understand the religious impulse of the American electorate. They did not want a politician-pastor to preach to them what they already knew. They wanted a hero, sinner though he be, to give battle to the forces of evil — a Jephtha or a Saul. …

His problem with governing:

Having thrown out the failed elite, Trump has the problem of governing with newcomers and outright amateurs. Trump’s administration thus far is a bit of a mess, but critics should cut him a bit of slack. There is no foreign policy elite, and not much of a national security elite. Most of the grand names in the intelligence community bet on Trump’s defeat — which shows how deficient they are at intelligence. …

Trade:

China used every lever of industrial policy, including state subsidies, loans from state-owned entities, and so forth, to create employment in tech industries. That is the Asian industrial model, and in many cases it works. It is hardly fair to expect America to play by free market rules while its competitors indulge in aggressive mercantilism.

On elites in America:

We never have succeeded in training an elite. Whenever an American elite finds itself in power it chokes on its own arrogance. I cheered Mr. Trump to victory in the last election out of disgust for the do-gooders and world-fixers of both the Republican and Democratic mainstreams. Now I wish him good luck. He’ll need all the luck he can get.

hat-tip Stephen Neil