Since World War II, the U.S. has overseen a liberal world order, promoted and protected free trade, including at home, and viewed democratic development abroad as essential to its own prosperity and security. The strength of the Trump and Sanders presidential candidacies has revealed the hollowness of this liberal consensus in the 21st century.The hollowing out began long ago. Perhaps it's the victory dividend resource curse in another form. The social destruction that erupted in the 1960s began with the premise that the machinery of prosperity would always be working, no matter how outrageous the mockery of the avant-garde or the hippies or the race hustlers was. Woodstock could always coexist with moon shots.
Thus the unintended consequences of free trade and globalization are only a part of the story. Here's M. Ahmari's hypothesis.
Planet Trump is what happens when liberalism’s capacity to absorb and dilute enmity falters, and when liberals neglect to give politics, ideology, and enmity their due—when they take a little too seriously their own claim to stand outside and above ideology. To see Planet Trump as merely a reaction to social, economic, and legal developments is to reproduce this common error, and some of Trumpism’s sharpest critics and most sympathetic observers are equally guilty of it.The simpler explanation, dear reader, is that what M. Ahmari calls "liberalism" has already brought in its own illiberalism, in the form of a self-despising multiculturalism under which others are allowed to behave badly. And in the three organizing points the author offers to make sense of what he calls illiberalism, we see the possibility of a corrective.
Both camps are caught in liberalism’s blind spot, in other words, because they fail to discern the simpler if more discomfiting explanation. What if Planet Trump represents the emergence of a serious ideological alternative to liberalism—one that echoes the illiberal and authoritarian movements of the previous century but, crucially, isn’t an exact replica?
1. Restoration of a prouder, more wholesome, more coherent past.Put another way, there are people who remember when the institutions worked and people got along. Perhaps there were difficulties, but the conceit that there is only one direction for change has to encounter a reality check. Restoration of good health, or a state of good repair on a railroad, is not turning the clock back.
2. Collective grievance and a desire for national recognition.The self-despising multiculturalists recognise some grievances, whilst dismissing others, and marginalising some people to celebrate others. The logic of push-back is relatively simple. How long can the gentry stick their fingers in some people's eyes and get away with telling them they're racist, or unenlightened, or (pick your epithet) and expect those people to take it?
3. Politics reflect the dark realities of the present.Otherwise known as the tragic vision. And the gentry establishment has to learn that some of its constructions are not evolutionary stable.
There's much more in the essay. It will reward careful study.