The question many Republicans are asking these days is “What do we do about Donald Trump?” Every answer, no matter what position one takes, unleashes a flood of judgments, condemnations, warnings, threats, and predictions of apocalyptic doom.
“People will be judged by where they stood at this time,” David Brooks warns in The New York Times, sounding like an Old Testament prophet bellowing “Woe to you!” from the mountaintop. “Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter,” Brooks continued. “The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that.”
The “long view” Brooks suggests looks a lot like a roadmap written by the Democratic Party. Instead of returning to classical liberal principles of individual liberty and free markets and bolstering conservative values of family and faith, Brooks suggests we take a different turn, that the solution lies in discovering a new, more communitarian, feminized, and less competitive path for America because the old one has brought only pain and suffering—pain that has given rise to unconventional presidential candidates like Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman
Brooks says the problem with America is we no longer have those rags-to-riches stories, the American Dream is dead, and capitalism has failed. The answer, he argues, is to write a “new national story,” one that is “less individualistic and more redemptive” (I didn’t know the two were mutually exclusive).
“Maybe it will be a story about communities that heal those who suffer from addiction, broken homes, trauma, prison and loss, a story of those who triumph over the isolation, social instability and dislocation so common today,” Brooks says.
On top of all that, he continues, we need “a new definition of masculinity too. . . . The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore.” Somehow, inexplicably, Brooks ties in “traditional masculinity” with “high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates.” Yet these are largely caused, not by traditional masculinity, but by the welfare state, which marginalizes men.
Still Brooks argues that our current economy has no place for traditional masculinity. “This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness,” he says. In other words, men need to start acting like women for the economy to work.
The problem today is not that men aren’t cooperative and verbal in the workplace. It’s that there has been a decline in manhood as men have been suppressed and even silenced by the feminist movement, which has had a negative impact in the marketplace. Men aren’t free to be men. If they’re competitive or decisive, they’re shut down as women demand more “communication and collaboration.” Even the military has been affected, with standards in jeopardy of being lowered so women can be “equal” with men.
A P.C. Welfare State Blunts and Feminizes Men
It’s not that being communicative or collaborative is wrong or ineffective, or that women shouldn’t have opportunities, but men and the contributions they have typically made to the workplace are being rejected. This has been detrimental to industries that need to be fiercely competitive in a global market. For our nation to be strong, men need to be free to compete as men.
Competition, and masculine competition in particular, is not opposed to cooperation. In fact, as David Boaz writes at The Freeman, “What needs to be made clear is that those who say that human beings ‘are made for cooperation, not competition’ fail to recognize that the market is cooperation. Indeed. . . it is people competing to cooperate.”
This competition, and its corresponding masculinity, is being undermined by a political system that pushes us all to conform to a politically correct code dictated by an increasingly centralized state. This has a negative impact, not only on the individual, but also on the community itself, which progressives often tout as all-important.
Brooks fails to see how big government and the coercive promotion of communitarianism to the detriment of individualism is the problem when he parrots Hillary Clinton by saying “it takes a village.” While it’s certainly true that we need a greater sense of community at the local level, the Democratic progressive agenda has undermined this very notion by attacking local institutions for years.
The problem isn’t that we’ve had too much individualism and not enough of community. The problem is that we’ve had a wrong sense of communitarianism imposed on the individual, isolating him from actual communities that foster healthy and productive individuality.
Big Government Destroys Genuine Community
We’re not in trouble because our traditional values and institutions have failed, as Brooks suggests. We’re suffering because they have been abandoned. The progressive movement and a secularized material culture has been working for decades to move individuals toward state dependence and away from traditional communities that play an integral role in developing healthy people—family, church, community schools, and even friendships.
The family unit has been under attack by the state and a morally bankrupt culture that seek to redefine the family, pit children against parents, subvert parental authority, and purposely excise biological fathers and mothers from a child’s life in the name of the “modern family.” Increasingly, children are being driven to become wards of the state, isolated from their organic communal connections and forced into a Borg-like community hive.
Brooks talks about lack of trust in our society. Given the isolation and imposition of artificial community constructs that we see being erected, is it any wonder we have no trust? Authentic human connection has been eroded as we spend more time with strangers than our own family and interact more through technology than face to face. We used to foster trust within families, local schools where parents were involved, in churches and other civic associations and in our workplaces. But these have become less influential in the life of the individual as we have grown more dependent on “professionals” and trust government experts and technocrats more than people we actually know—and who know us.
We Need to Revive Our National Story, Not Supplant It
The only way to rebuild that trust is to rebuild those institutions, so the individual is free from state control and the corrupting influence of a culture awash in relativism, materialism, and subjectivism. When the individual is free to function within the healthy space of organic communities, he will be free of the “pain” Brooks describes as giving rise to the political chaos we see today.
Many of us have known that this is what we need—rebuilding civil society, respecting the individual (both male and female), and reducing the size and scope of the state. But the drift—no, the deluge—has been away from these values and toward a system and culture where people are less free and the focus is on state-sanctioned communitarianism instead of individual rights.
We don’t need a new national story. We need to revive our traditional national story—individualism anchored in a strong sense of community through family and faith; localism and state sovereignty, which promotes real diversity; healthy competition without the impediments of the state; respect for one another as men and women without trying to turn one into the other; and government that is limited so people can be free.
The anger spreading throughout this country is rooted in the loss of these values and directed at a political class—both Republicans and Democrats—that has perpetuated the corruption and decline. They have done little to stop the ever-expanding state that has screwed up the economy, attacked the individual in the name of communal cooperation, and crushed the family and the church under the guise of anti-discrimination.
Check that Log in Your Eye, Buddy
For Brooks or anyone else to issue prophetic warnings about a presidential candidate without understanding the real problems in our nation is short-sighted, to say the least. How quick he and others are to condemn those who “walk with Trump” while dismissing their own role in the decline of our nation as they have supported countless politicians and policies that have perpetuated our nation’s pain.
In keeping with that Old Testament, prophetic tone, let me issue another decree, one more apropos: “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:1).
For years, we have had shepherds, political leaders enacting progressive policies, who have undermined our nation’s core values, violated individual freedoms, threatened religious liberty, and subverted families, faith, and local communities through federal government overreach. They are the ones responsible for the pain—as are those Americans who have repeatedly put them into power.
If we are going to find healing as a people, we need to change course; revive our national story, not create a new one; and return to those values and principles that promise a hopeful and happy future. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t be just those who “walk with Trump” who will be culpable. It will be everyone who has refused to recognize what it means to live as free individuals.