Trump and the Party of Lincoln.
To add briefly to Charles Kesler's insightful essay on pre-New Deal antecedents of Trumpism ("The Republican Trump," Winter 2016/17), I note that Franklin Roosevelt famously compared the pre-New Deal Republicans to Nazis toward the end of his 1944 State of the Union Address. FDR's party continues in this demagogic tradition.
One more pre-New Deal element Trump seems set on reviving is to restore the Republican Party for black Americans as the party of Lincoln. There are significant clues in his campaign speeches. (See, for example, his Charlotte, North Carolina, speech on October 26 but also his earlier North Dakota energy speech on May 26. See as well the opening of his February 28 speech to Congress, where he noted the significance of Black History Month.)
In Ben Carson President Trump has a cabinet member and senior who is a hero to many African Americans--a figure incomparable to any who served recent Republican presidents. (We'd have to go back to Frederick Douglass for a parallel.) As we have seen in the early days of the Trump Administration, the president has courted individual black politicians and the Congressional Black Caucus. He has refrained from attacks on affirmative action.
Trump's speeches about the black condition recall those by Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and are a necessary part of his overarching goal of the "safety and happiness" of the American people.
Whether this strategy works remains to be seen. Trump may have to use the tools of progressivism in order to achieve the destruction of the regnant progressive coalition, which would surely collapse if it were to lose enough black votes. That he dares to try shows the boldness of his administration, its extraordinary opportunities, and the extent of Trump's ambition.
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|Publication:||Claremont Review of Books|
|Article Type:||Letter to the editor|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2017|
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