In the past few weeks and months, I’ve had countless conversations with friends and neighbors who support Donald Trump. I live in the heart of Trump Country, in a small southern town with a median income well below the national average. And while the dominant Evangelical vote is split between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, Trump gets more than his share of support, even from people who are staunchly pro-life and supported the Iraq War until the end.
When Trump first announced his candidacy, many of my Evangelical friends and neighbors were thrilled by his stance on border control. They were tired of the notion that “compassion” somehow required immigration policies that made America more vulnerable to terrorism, drove down wages for working-class voters, and overwhelmed social services. And they were sick to death of political correctness. So while they didn’t necessarily admire Trump’s character, they admired his strength.
Indeed, that strength is the secret to Trump’s success. It’s the quality that allows him to paint such an effective contrast to the Republican political class, so widely perceived as weak and feckless. Trump voters find themselves caught between a Democratic political class that will bend every engine of the government to its will and a Republican opposition that can’t seem to hold a single public official accountable, conduct a single hearing with real competence, or do one meaningful thing to stop the president’s overreach. As one neighbor put it, “Can you honestly tell me that Republicans and Democrats are equally dedicated to their principles? Republicans say they’ll fight, and they never do.”
Yes, there are unrealistic expectations. Generations of bipartisan congressional action helped create the runaway regulatory state, and the Democrats control the bureaucracy so effortlessly because they are the bureaucracy. What Obama wants, the bureaucrats will give him — and more. What Republicans want, the bureaucrats will resist to the point of lawlessness. But the bottom-line criticism rings true. The Democrats are very good to their base. Republicans are very good at using their base to win elections, and abandoning their promises at the first opportunity thereafter.
But the argument for Trump as a cure-all for this sorry state of affairs kept collapsing every time he opened his mouth. As the race has dragged on, he’s proven that he would be a “strong” leader. But for what purpose would that strength be employed? To keep funding Planned Parenthood? To establish a bizarre form of touchback amnesty disguised as “toughness” on the border? To ruin relationships with the Kurds, our most stalwart fighting force against ISIS? To cozy up to Vladimir Putin? To replace Obamacare with something even worse?
#share#As the evidence mounts that Trump isn’t exactly channeling justifiable conservative (or even populist) anger for constructive ends, Trump’s fans have found themselves reduced to a single argument in his defense: Even if he’s wrong on substance and they reject his personal values, at least he’ll “burn it all down.” He’ll wreck the broken system and destroy a failed party. Every other Republican will maintain some form of the status quo, but not Trump. He’s the destroyer. And given the failure of the Republican party, destruction is the answer Trump voters seek.
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Yet it’s hard to think of an answer more antithetical to the spirit of the American Revolution and our Constitution than “burn it all down.” The American colonists, faced with a crisis far graver than the crises we face today, decided not to “burn it all down” but to build something. Even before the “shot heard round the world,” they built a Continental Congress, a representative body that could express their grievances to the crown.
You say you want a revolution? Well, ‘burn, baby, burn’ is the language of the Left.
Immediately after the fateful shots on Lexington Green, they built a standing army led by a distinguished general, and fashioned a coherent argument about liberty and democracy that has endured for more than two centuries. The constitution that is that argument’s foundational document has endured for two centuries, underpinning a participatory democracy and the individual liberty it represents.
The torch and pitchfork, meanwhile, are instruments of the French revolutionary, of the nihilist who lives only to take revenge on his enemies, with a will to power but no interest in justice. Replace men who surrender to Planned Parenthood with a man who embraces Planned Parenthood? Replace men who supported a path to legalization with a man who supports amnesty? Replace men who failed to stop Obamacare with a man who embraces single-payer health care? Nominate a man who believes in Iraq War conspiracy theories to confront the party that spawned those theories? Meet the new boss. He’ll be the same as the old.
#related#You say you want a revolution? Well, “burn, baby, burn” is the language of the Left. The true American revolutionary builds, and that means supporting people with high character and true conservative convictions. It means doing the difficult work of repairing our constitutional democracy, which includes repairing our own families and communities. It means supporting a convention of states to undo decades of damage inflicted on our constitution by feckless ideologues in the judiciary and in public office.
An American revolution isn’t a temper tantrum. It’s hard work. It’s anger channeled into virtue. Trump represents anger stripped of virtue. He will burn the GOP, but what will he build in its place?
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.