Until 2017, there were certain political assumptions that most people no longer really believed but also preferred not to question — given the likely animus from the so-called bipartisan establishment, a naked entity which, by convention, we all agreed was splendidly clothed.
China could freely cheat on trade, and the U.S. could take the commercial hit, because one day its misbegotten riches would force liberalization and thereby make China a member in good standing of the family of democratic nations. After 40 years, we are still waiting on the promised democratic transformation — at great cost to the industrial and manufacturing heartland of the United States.
NATO member nations always would promise, indeed swear, that they would meet their military spending commitments, even as they had no intention at all of doing so. Fine, we shrugged, since World War II it has been the duty of the United States to lead and protect the West. What other nation had America’s inexhaustible wealth and power to subsidize rich socialist democracies, and commensurate unconcern with its own insidiously hollowed-out industrial interior? Accordingly, American presidents would lecture NATO nations about their promised obligations and meanwhile expect public nods and private snickers. In the New York and Washington corridor, the gospel was never to question the changing role or funding of NATO but always to utter “NATO is the linchpin of the West.” End of discussion.
The Palestinians will always remain “refugees” in a way that similar contemporaneously displaced people who were also forced out of their homeland — Prussians, Jews of the Middle East, or Volga Germans — no longer have refugee status, after more than 70 years. A chaotic Trump recently accepted reality and quit funding the United Nations relief organization that supposedly attends to “refugees” who in reality are a political construct deemed useful for demonizing Israel around the world.
Jerusalem has long been privately accepted as both the historic and natural capital of Israel, and it’s now far more open and freer than it was prior to 1967. But we were not supposed to say that given fears of Palestinian pique, or terrorist attacks, or inflaming the Middle East. Trump in his supposedly reckless fashion simply moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and other nations strangely are beginning to follow.
No one really believed that the Iran deal would stop Iranian nuclear proliferation, or even prune back Iran-backed terrorism. The deal’s asymmetrical nocturnal ransom-for-hostages payments, its myriad exceptions to spot inspections, and its inability to check ballistic-missile construction were all ignored. The fallback excuse for the deal was that it would take a little longer for Iran to gain nuclear weapons, and would make Iran a little nicer to the United States. Yet few even believed those yarns. And no one had been willing to invoke a crisis with Iran by saying so. So we shrugged that the Iran deal was bad, but it was at least our bad deal — and then Trump dashed our illusions.
Serious people assumed that the Paris climate accord was even more ridiculous than the Kyoto protocol — grandstanding without any real collective enforcement effort to address “climate change.” All agreed that the vast production and utilization of natural gas de facto made America the most effective major nation in reducing carbon emissions, far more effective than supposedly greener Europe. The elite assumed as well that the Paris deal was a blueprint for expropriating Western wealth and redistributing it to the non-West. All publicly praised it; none privately liked it. And now it’s gone with a whimper, not a bang.
Blocking the construction of the Keystone pipeline and the opening of the ANWAR oil fields to energy development had become iconic #Resistance causes. We knew the pipeline would streamline energy transference and likely take the burden off more dangerous rail and truck transportation, and that ANWAR would help to achieve U.S. energy independence or at least increase national wealth. So now both are under construction and development. The nation yawns its assent.
Even the proponents of open borders — Democratic strategists, Latino activists, corporate employers, the Mexican government — privately concede that without a border there is no nation, that walls work (as fences and walls do around their own yards), and that they would not wish to conduct their own lives on the principles of picking and choosing which laws to follow.
We also assumed that liberal grandees do not put their children in schools with large numbers of non-English speakers. Employers know that identity theft and fake social-security numbers are a national epidemic. Realists accept that without massive and illegal influxes of new foreign nationals, assimilation and integration of legal immigrants would eventually put the vested illegal-immigration interests out of business, in the sense that there are no longer German, Scandinavian, or Japanese ethnic czars.
Mexico knew that under the guise of “caring,” it exported human capital and exploited its own, on the theory that Mexican expatriates’ standard of living, often subsidized by American local and state welfare programs, would take a hit by collectively sending $30 million back home in remittances. Then the bull Trump supposedly tore apart the carefully arranged immigration China shop.
The list of status quo absurdities is nearly limitless, from the politically biased monopolies of Silicon Valley high-tech public utilities that are mysteriously exempt from all oversight (including product-liability laws and anti-trust legislation) to the idea that it is apparently either normal or inexplicable that nearly 8,000 African-American youth are murdered each year, but no one knows how to stop, or even dare try to stop, the carnage.
Again, the stance toward all these paradoxes was that it was more of a problem to tell the truth, address reality, and make the necessary difficult adjustments than to shrug, continue on, and maintain the façade of normality. Then a president came along with no prior investment in the economic and foreign-policy establishment, and apparently no desire to create any, or to worry much about his own ignorance of past conventional wisdom. And so in breakneck speed he began cancelling deals, renegotiating asymmetrical agreements, and questioning protocols of decades past — and he did so without adopting the comportment of past presidents and the advice of either the administrative state or the Washington political-media establishment.
The ensuing reaction was that the Trump medicine was said to be worse than the preexisting disease, although no one could really explain why that was so.
So we are left only with “Trump did it,” and therefore he should be impeached, declared insane, sued, forced to resign, or face an intervention from “loyal” patriot aides because of his impulsiveness and lack of “first principles” that had given us the above status quo. Even the recent anonymous New York Times op-ed author offered no real explanations of what exactly Trump has done wrong that would warrant anti-democratic removal other than to concede that Trump has done things that most felt were long overdue. And he made changes in a rude and uncouth manner that the establishment did not like — just as a nude emperor in invisible clothes does not like it when an outsider observes that he is naked.