The essay which follows is adapted from a presentation given last weekend to the Davenant Trust Toronto Regional Convivium at West Toronto Baptist Church. Thanks to Ian Clary and Justin Galotti for their hospitality.
The Anatomy of Trumpism
In this paper, I want to sketch Richard Hooker’s remarkably prescient diagnosis of Trumpism 423 years in advance. Trumpism, it should be noted, is simply the culmination of a disgruntled radicalism that has been brewing in the Republican Party since at least the election of Obama in 2008; it is the chickens coming home to roost for the Republican leadership, which has actively fomented an anti-intellectual anti-establishment anti-government message for the past seven years. What are some of the basic features of this tendency, and its dark apotheosis in Donald Trump (and to a somewhat lesser extent, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and other leading Republican presidential candidates)?
Most obviously, the Movement is characterized by a profound distrust of authority—first and foremost, perhaps, governmental authorities in the positions of most centralized power (the White House, Supreme Court, Federal Reserve, and various federal bureaucracies above all, then the Senate, then the House of Representatives, and only then state governments), but then, not far behind, and closely connected, various forms of intellectual authorities—media, academic scholars and economists, and especially scientists. In place of these discredited authorities, the Movement embraces the wisdom of the common man and the neophyte. With the center clearly corrupted, one must look to the periphery for purity; experience is a liability, and inexperience an asset. The most trusted figures of all are those who, untainted by prior experience in government or credentialed expertise, can articulate in the most fearless and undiluted terms the common sense of the common man, heightening as much as possible its contrast with the voice of the Establishment. Around such trusted figures, promising to clean house and govern autocratically by their own individual vigor and insight, personality cults rapidly develop, fuelled by the invigorating language of liberty even while quietly evacutating it of much of its traditional meaning. The personal leadership of the demagogue, who speaks after all for the common man, is in many cases to replace the heavy-handed, inefficient, and compromise-ridden rule of law. Read More