Republicans hold key to future of democracy

Tuesday, July 11, 2017|2 a.m.

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President Donald Trump has actually performed a service of sorts to our debate over how the United States sees itself and its function on the planet. He has actually reminded the democratic left and the democratic right– keep in mind the small “d”– that they share more common ground than they often realize about the significance of democracy, the presents of modernity and the value of pluralism.

Trump has actually done this by articulating, fitfully and inconsistently, a dark worldview rooted in nationalism, authoritarianism, pain with ethnic and religious differences, and an uncertainty about the contemporary task.

His lack of constancy makes it tough to evaluate precisely what he thinks.

We typically explain his contradictions as the item of administration power struggles in between Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, the populist nationalists, and James Mattis and H.R. McMaster, the agents of a more standard technique to diplomacy.

On the days when Trump promises allegiance to NATO and our allies, we see Defense Secretary Mattis and national security adviser McMaster winning. When Trump diverts off this course, disses our allies and adopts apocalyptic pronouncements about the state of the world, we declare senior White House assistants Bannon and Miller victorious.

Optimists about Trump firmly insist that “the grown-ups,” as Mattis and McMaster are often (somewhat obnoxiously) explained by the old diplomacy establishment, will eventually limit the damage Trump can trigger us. Pessimists indicate the occasions when Bannon and Miller prevail.

Trump’s European journey, including his conference with Vladimir Putin, was a high-wire act specifically since of the president’s unpredictability and his allergic reaction to rundown books. For Trump, whatever is personal, which implies he undergoes being easily played. Foreign leaders know that flattering him is the method to his heart which his deepest dedications seem to his company interests. This technique to Trump has actually worked rather well so far for the Chinese and the Saudis.

But to the level that Trump does have a gut instinct about the world, it seems closer to Bannon’s. The president’s spontaneous outbursts, his Twitter revelations and his reactions to individual foreign leaders point Bannon’s way.

Trump has actually spoken to far higher affection about Putin, Saudi princes and the right-wing nationalists now in power in Poland than of democratic pluralists such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron. In truth, both Merkel and Macron sound more like post-World War II American presidents than Trump does.

Trump’s speech on Thursday in Poland might, in a limited sense, be viewed as a compromise in between the administration factions. The president committed himself to the Western alliance (a win for Mattis and McMaster) however was otherwise gloomy, backward-looking and Manichaean.

“The basic concern of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Trump stated. “Do we have the desire and the guts to maintain our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and damage it?” If we cannot protect what our “ancestors” passed down to us, Trump alerted, “it will never, ever exist again.”

To which one might respond: Yikes! On the whole, Trump’s words sounded remarkably much like Bannon’s pronouncements in a speech to a traditionalist Catholic group in 2014 in Rome. Bannon spoke of a “Judeo-Christian West” that finds itself “in a crisis” and faces a “brand-new barbarity” that “will totally eradicate everything that we have actually been bestowed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

This alarming view ought to advise the democratic left and the democratic right that while they have actually disagreed on many issues and numerous elements of American diplomacy over the last two decades, they share some deep obligations. These include a largely positive assessment of exactly what the Enlightenment and the modern world have accomplished; a hopeful vision of what might lie prior to us; a dedication to democratic norms as the basis of our thinking about the type of world we look for; and a belief that ethnic and spiritual pluralism are to be celebrated, not feared.

This, in turn, leads to a judgment that alliances with fellow democracies serve us better than pacts with autocratic routines that cynically promote their commitment to “standard values” as a cover for old-fashioned repression and expansionism.

Democrats have lots of factors for opposing Trump. But it’s Republicans who have the power that originates from controlling Congress. Their desire to withstand a president of their own party could determine the future of democracy and pluralism.

He is, alas, a guy whose commitment to these values we have need to doubt.

E.J. Dionne is a columnist for the Washington Post.

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