At the 2008 American Renaissance conference, Michael Walker made a very simple point about democratic politics that has stuck with me. Most people are not interested in ideology and moral principles. Instead, he said, quoting British socialist politician Tony Benn, they are interested in “security, peace, and prosperity.”
The reason for this isn’t hard to understand. In democracy, the majority rules. The majority of people, however, are average or below average in intellect, character, and taste. Therefore, only a minority of people are susceptible to appeals to morality or ideological principle, and only a subset of those would be willing to sacrifice material interests on moral or ideological grounds.
Everybody, however, has material interests, no matter where they fall on the bell curve. And the material interests that the government can most reliably guarantee are personal safety (law and order), economic prosperity (by creating conditions for productive work), and peace (by not starting wars and deterring others from doing so).
Thus I was very excited when Donald Trump said the following near the start of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention:
Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace.
Trump’s speech was free of pious Republican boilerplate about the Founding Fathers, American exceptionalism, all men being created equal, the proposition nation, or conservative principles. Because such things matter less and less to a nation increasingly beleaguered by lawlessness and terrorism, swamped with illegal immigrants, economically drained by deindustrialization, and weary of more than a decade of ruinously expensive and bloody wars, interventions, and nation building.
Instead, Trump sought to unite Americans around a credible program of restoring safety, prosperity, and peace. He promised to restore law and order and put American interests first in immigration, international trade, and foreign policy.
Trump also sought to split people from the Democratic coalition by appealing to the anxieties about safety, prosperity, and peace of union members, recent college graduates, non-whites, recent immigrants, and members of the “LGBTQ” community. (Trump’s delivery of that mouthful was amusing, but there is no question of his sincerity.)
Trump’s only promise to conservative constitutionalists was to replace Antonin Scalia with a justice with similar principles. He also offered a full-throated defense of the Second Amendment, which is in keeping with the theme of personal safety and law and order. Trump’s only promise to evangelical Christians was to dismantle limits on their freedom of speech put in place by Lyndon Johnson. Trump offered the rich no tax cuts, no cheap labor, and no opportunities for offshoring. Instead, he spoke to working people, offering them jobs, rising wages, and an end to competition with Third World coolies.
All of this could not present a stronger contrast with the Democrats, who cannot plausibly deliver safety, prosperity, and peace, because there are much more important things to them, such as indulging in self-righteous moral preening about how tolerant, generous, and open to diversity they are — and pandering to Muslim terrorists and black criminals — and, of course, following the foreign policy dictates of the Israel lobby, which means more wars, terrorism, and refugees.
Are Americans going to sacrifice safety, prosperity, and peace to liberal principles — especially when Hillary Clinton and the other champions of those principles are obviously sacrificing nothing themselves but instead are enriching themselves at the expense of the common good?
Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States because he is the only candidate who can credibly deliver what we really want: safety, prosperity, and peace.