Trump, Tocqueville, and greatness in America

Trump wants to democratize America’s already democratic nation because it has succumbed to the success of its democratic government and economy and rewarded the makers of its success. The trouble with success in a democratic nation is that it leaves its failures behind, still holding votes with which to impede or overturn those to whom it owes its success. So, as Tocqueville also shows, democracy becomes its own unsparing critic. Trump’s educated opponents do not quite realize what has hit them, and they try to identify it as some force hostile to democracy—fascism or authoritarianism or just plain conservatism. In fact, their enemy comes from within their own egalitarianism, of which the vulgar Trump is a truer expression than they are, who constantly promote it but don’t practice it.

Trump is a truer democrat because he opposes globalization, the policy of economic rationality that best suits those who can calculate better, who have greater insight into opportunities—and who hold less inhibiting loyalty to their own country. America’s own Declaration of Independence declares the independence of one people from another, and America’s founders shared a general suspicion of Europe as hostile, unrepublican, and deceitful. They did not want to become citizens of the world like President Obama, except for the restless Tom Paine, who, with his globalized politics, failed to accomplish the transformation that Montesquieu saw could be done better and less conspicuously through commerce.