How Trump Saved This Union
“As the Obama mask slipped, however, the clarity drove us closer together politically and made us reassess the foundations of the Republican Party that, it seemed, had abandoned us both.”
By Erik Root
Like many couples, Suzanne and I had political differences when we married. While I never thought of Obama as an agent for positive political change, Suzanne determined to vote for him in the hope that our country might soon turn a corner on the matter of race by electing a man with black heritage. Once he was elected, however, I chose to cling alongside her to that one minor hope—only to see it dashed by the divisiveness of the Obama Administration.
As the Obama mask slipped, however, the clarity drove us closer together politically and made us reassess the foundations of the Republican Party that, it seemed, had abandoned us both.
We discovered that we did not have much disagreement over McCain and Romney. Both were statists in many ways and slavish to the Davos status quo. Even if they had been elected, one could expect from them many of the same policies Bush advocated and advanced, and these policies have led to our diminished patriotic spiritedness, and a weakened military.
So while we may have diverged on the importance of Obama—at least initially—we agreed that what we both wanted was a United States still rooted in the American Founding and in the natural equality of all human beings. Further, we wanted a firm acknowledgment that the equal status of all Americans as citizens was the source of their sovereignty.
So as we awakened on Inauguration Day 2017, we were both quite happy—even giddy—to turn the corner on the fecklessness of the last eight years. It was a stark reminder too, that we have much to dig out from underneath after so many years of poor management, poor political choices, oligarchic trends, and the soft despotism of an ever growing administrative state.
Moreover the Trumps looked like adults returning us to a certain kind of manner and style. They seemed to have ushered in a sense of class in demeanor and dress that we have not seen in decades. During the inaugural, Trump looked like he meant business. As he spoke, it became clear he would not say things just to please unnamed elites in government or in the press who would like him to conform to their understanding of how things ought to be. In the battle between them and ordinary Americans, he throws in with the latter, even though there seems to be nothing ordinary (apart, perhaps, from a crude sense of humor) about him.
In that, Trump has more in common with Ulysses S. Grant than any president since the 19th century.
Like Grant, Trump is not an ideologue. He seems to have an innate sense that ideas matter, and that America’s idea is worthy of defense. But he is a doer. He acts. He defends himself, but he is much less self-referential in his speeches than was Obama; a man who seemed to thrive on surpassing all reasonable expectations about the number of “I”s a president could use in any given speech. Grant, like Trump, is a man who is little understood. Most scholars find it difficult to reconcile the various disparities in Grant’s thought and career.
Like Trump, Grant was also at one time a Democrat. But the changes in the country and in the Democratic Party’s failure to offer a platform to save the Union pushed Grant into the arms of the Republican Party and closer to Lincoln, whom Grant admired deeply. He was a fastidious believer in the equality of all human beings. This was the prime motivating factor for Grant in acting to move the country toward the political and social equality of the races.