The Great Experiment

The Great Experiment, by Victor Davis Hanson.

Whatever Donald J. Trump’s political past and vociferous present, his first year of governance is most certainly as hard conservative as Barack Obama’s eight years were hard progressive. We are watching a rare experiment in political governance play out, as we go, in back-to-back fashion, from one pole to its opposite. …

Obama:

Obama was a genuine man of the Left, determined to move his party with him and “fundamentally transform” the country. His own skepticism about America’s past, its current values, and its future trajectories resonated on the world stage. Third-way Clintonism all but disappeared. The Democratic party was reborn in Obama’s leftist image. Even candidate Hillary Clinton all but renounced her husband’s now caricatured centrism. …

Over eight years, Obama had institutionalized, to the degree any president can, his left-wing agendas. By January 2017, American culture and the economy at home and foreign policy abroad reflected Obama’s values: pathways to abortion on demand, radical gun control, tribalism, and democratic socialism. What Obama started in 2009 would be completed and institutionalized by 2024 with the completion of Hillary Clinton’s second term. Whether one liked such a scenario hinged on whether one liked what America was from 1776 to 2009 — or whether one preferred what America could really become after 2009. …

Trump:

Trump was an unlikely conservative revolutionary, given his billionaire Manhattan lifestyle, what he once had said and campaigned on, and his mercurial temperament and comportment.

Nonetheless, his first eleven months (tax reform and reduction, conservative judges and cabinet heads, stepped-up energy production, deregulation, a new realist and deterrent foreign policy, immigration recalibration) will either grow the economy in ways that the prior administration could not, make American stronger and the world safer in a way the prior administration could not, and redirect American culture and values back in a more traditional direction — or it will not. …

Free-market economics, deterrent foreign policies, and conservative cultural reform that are championed in the abstract in think tanks, on radio and television by conservative pundits, and in magazines and journals by conservative intellectuals are currently being put to work concretely in the real world, a rare occurrence. …

Any solution to a corrupt elite:

The nation did not suddenly become liberal in 2008 or conservative in 2016. Rather, in both years it rejected blasé centrism — first trying out a left-wing deviation from establishmentarianism, then in frustration turning to a right-wing antidote to both the failed medicine and the original diseased status quo.

Antidote One, of unapologetic progressivism under Obama, did not lead to an economically robust and growing America, one safer abroad in a more secure world, and more cohesive, united, and stable at home — at least if that truly was the leftist agenda rather than the more hushed opposite goal of more equal but poorer Americans, America as just another nation among many, and a cultural revolution aimed at accentuating rather than assimilating race, class, and gender identities.

We shall see if the subsequent Antidote Two, of unregretful conservatism under Trump, will provide what conservatism has always promised: greater prosperity, security, and unity.