American Politics Today and Tomorrow
Richard J. Bishirjian, Ph.D.
©2022 American Academy of Distance Learning
An “epitaph” according to the Oxford dictionary “is written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone.” How soon an epitaph is written reflects growing understanding, if written forty years later, or an epitaph written before a death occurs tends to reflect immediate bias, love or anger.
After the insurrection encouraged by a President of the United States on
January 6, 2021, many have begun to write a first epitaph for the Republican Party. Though still recognized for voting in elections in the fifty States, some believe that as a “national” Party the GOP is dead, killed by forces not entirely due to President #45, Donald Trump.
A series of Republican Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower (#34), Richard Nixon (#37), Gerald Ford (#38), Ronald Reagan (#40), George H. Bush (#41) and George W. Bush (#43) were “Internationalists” representing a tradition of international order originating in the Democratic civil religion of President Woodrow Wilson (#28).
In order to appreciate how effective and deeply imbued in the American mind this political or civil religion became requires study of Woodrow Wilson’s attempt to destroy “balance of power” between nations.
Despite President Wilson’s civil religion that suffused the minds of American leaders for eighty-five years, a more formidable mixture of ideology of Marxism/Leninism, Maoism and lust for power of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini disguised as Fascism, threw the world into three wars: World War I, World War II and Korea.
Every Republican President from Eisenhower to George W. Bush stood in the Internationalist tradition of democratic idealism and war until the election of 2016. Donald Trump caught a political wind of rejection of war to make the world “safe” for democracy and advocated something new—”make America great” policies in the national interest.
Students of the Trump Administration like John Bolton believe that Donald Trump has no political philosophy and like most of Bolton’s judgments Bolton is half-right. Donald Trump believes some things, but what is it that President Trump believes and where did he learn it? My guess is that military officers at New York Military Academy impressed him with British MP Enoch Powell’s anti-immigration ideas and taught him a smattering of Nietzsche.
Like most young Americans of draft age, Trump resisted enlistment the US Army and fighting in Vietnam and claimed a bone spur that protected him from “the Draft.” But there is nothing to like about war and to Trump’s credit, he kept the United States out of war.
That is President Trump’s major achievement.
But just as a bone spur protected a young Donald Trump from military service, his Dyslexia prohibited him from reading about past Presidents, the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the study of Constitutional law, American politics, history and law.
That explains Trump’s ignorant belief that the 2020 election of Joe Biden was “stolen” and that his Vice President could legally change the outcome of the 2020 Electoral College vote.
It was clear by signals—indirect and direct—that President Trump sent from 2018-2020 that he did not intend to leave office and he intentionally called for an assembly of his followers in Washington, DC on January 6 and incited them to invade the Capitol building where the House and Senate met to confirm the election of President #46, Joseph Biden of Delaware.
America’s Pre-Revolutionary Condition
On January 6, 2020, President Donald Trump’s supporters gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds at Trump’s request and were urged by the President to affirm his charge that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
What many observers of American politics had sensed was right: something was afoot in American politics.
The United States is in a pre-revolutionary situation—not unlike that of Czarist Russia shortly before WW I—and may see a dissolution of legal limits placed by the Constitution on the Chief Executive.
Transfer of powers of hard and soft coercion to the Chief Executive will lead to a contest with other centers of power–mass media, organizations committed to agitation (Black Lives Matter), institutional social forces—schools and colleges—and politicized churches—the Vatican and most Protestant denominations.
Let’s go back to the defeat of Donald Trump in the Presidential election of 2020.
That had been predictable ever since the by-election of 2018.
In “off year” mid-term elections the President’s party loses on average 29 seats. In 2018 the GOP lost 40 House seats giving control of the House of Representatives to Democrats.
Donald Trump didn’t understand the meaning of the 2018 mid-term elections, however, and ran for re-election thinking he would be re-elected. When he lost, he claimed that “the election was stolen” and organized an attack on the Capitol to delay certification of the election of Joe Biden.
Never in the history of the United States had a sitting President attempted to circumvent the process for election of a Chief Executive established in the Constitution of the United States. The future course of American politics had suddenly been saddled with a very big question mark.
Though twice Impeached, but not convicted, the future of American politics will turn on whether Donald Trump runs for President in 2024, fails to be elected and attempts another coup d’état.
Growth of an American “War State”
Like the Roman Republic whose Roman Legions protected the Republic from invaders and transformed a Republic into a “War State,” the United States became a “War State” to protect itself during a series of wars.
From the League of Nations to the Military Industrial Complex.
In President Eisenhower’s “Farewell Address” of January 16, 1961 the president observed that because we are “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” we must be aware of the danger of our “industrial military complex.” President Eisenhower did not contemplate that an insurrection by a sitting president could lead to suspension of orderly government by that very same industrial military complex.
The blame that one day an American president would engage in an insurrection must be placed on New York Governor Thomas Dewey who commenced the selection of a string of “Internationalist” presidents by engineering the election of General Dwight Eisenhower’s victory over Robert Taft (R-OH), Richard Nixon who chose Gerald Ford (R-MI) as his Vice President, and Ronald Reagan who chose Bush 41 (R-TX) over Gov. Paul Laxalt (R-NV).
The chain of errors leading to an insurrection on January 6 and the election of radical Democrats in 2020 is Dewey, Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43.
Race, Admiration of the Strong, and Immigration
In American politics, Donald Trump is unique, but if we look to England of forty years ago, we’ll find someone very much like “The Donald.”
In the mid-to late1960s, a British member of Parliament, Enoch Powell, commanded the attention of the British public by his stance against immigration and the British Labor Party’s Race Relations Bill.
Collapse of Britain’s empire after World War II generated a flood of immigrants from British India and other Dominions that threatened the racial makeup of England.
By the late 1960s, Indian Sikh’s were visible on British transit as bus drivers and Council Housing that had served a largely white British working class was roiled by the admission of non-white immigrants from the Dominions.
Enoch Powell’s stand against immigration attracted the support of British workers who had never supported Britain’s Conservative Party but felt threatened by the influx of immigrants. When the Conservative Party won the 1970 general election, Powell’s supporters claimed that Powell’s stance on immigration guaranteed the Conservative victory.
Enoch Powell, unlike Donald Trump, was an academic, a classicist and student of philosophy who early in his career was fascinated with the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. “Will to power” is a strong impulse in all politicians, but Enoch Powell’s identification with Nietzsche went beyond the pale of English politics and raised concerns that Powell had not learned lessons from Britain’s battle with Nazi Germany.
Opponents of Donald Trump express concern about his frequent verbal slights against women (the weaker sex), his failure to search for specialists in public policy who might inform and enrich his views, his self-confidence and absolute belief in his own intuition and judgment.
Those characteristics are compatible with Nietzsche’s concept of the Superman or Übermensch.
Trump’s appeal to strength against weakness is not necessarily Nietzchean, but we should not be surprised, therefore, that a businessman, unprepared for public office, has found approval with Republicans after years of pursuit of the “Democratic Project” that drove the purposes of American foreign policy and embroiled the United States in “nation building” and military action.
Trump ran against the expansionist foreign policy decisions of George W. Bush and defeated candidates who drank “W’s Kool-Aid. Politicians motivated in the belief of their own superiority, however, are not likely to retreat from using force in any confrontation.
Whether the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was a passing phase, an accident, or more enduring, will be decided during President Joe Biden’s first term as President #46. And until Republicans assess and reach agreement on the reasons for their loss in 2020, recovery of the GOP as an effective political force is in doubt.
Collusion of the Intellectuals
This is not the 1960s, however, and increased numbers of Republican House Members and the likely regaining of control of the U.S. Senate suggest that there is still a vibrant future of American Politics—thanks to the common sense of the American people.
Donald Trump won the 2016 contest because he correctly assessed that the policies of President George W. Bush, culminating in the invasion of Iraq and a series of actions in response to the attack on 9/11, had fostered “war weariness” among American voters. Rejection of war and “Tribalism.”
The Administrative State and the Need for Stability
Political stability in free societies is not only valued, but a necessary condition of representative government. Political stability of American government is grounded in a Constitution designed to assure limited government.
James Madison succinctly summarized the problem in The Federalist, #51.
It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
The “enlightened” ideas that the Framers of the Constitution shared, rooted as they were in the “Social Contract” ideas of John Locke, were sufficient to establish a stable representative government in the United States –until the Civil War. That political crisis, accompanied by Darwin’s Origins of Species and the introduction of German idealist humanism by the American “Transcendentalists,” challenged a dominant political order founded on Protestant Christianity. Once that shared theological system was broken, the America of the 18th Century was flung into a cauldron of more “modern” intellectual currents shaped by political ideologies.
In succeeding centuries, many Americans sought ways to affirm tradition as a way to preserve political and economic freedom. Most were believing Christians who understood that “salvation” was not to be found in this life, and thus they shared a political philosophy that rejected political and economic remedies that relied on the State. When confronted with “final solutions” of totalitarian movements they banded together to protect their way of life.
World War I and the Great Depression gave power to idealists, intellectuals and “experts” in the use of the powers of government, however, and wiped away many of the restraints placed on the national government by such 19th century institutions as Protestant churches and the many private colleges and universities whose purpose was threefold: 1) shape the character of educated Americans, 2) train the Protestant clergy, and 3) educate a class of attorneys at law committed to the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
That essentially Protestant Christian culture also prepared and trained a military elite to protect the nation and preserve the principle of civilian rule. By mid-twentieth century, however, each of the pillars of the former political culture that, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, sought to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” had been badly shaken.
The original system of the American written Constitution that placed limits on State power, after World War I and during the Great Depression, began to be replaced by an aggressive, centralized, bureaucratic, administrative State.
Other changes were visible.
Protestant and Catholic churches sought to assure salvation in this life through Social Justice. The Humanities and Social Sciences in American colleges and universities were transformed by rejection of classical liberalism of Adam Smith and putative “scientific” Behavioral studies.
In 2016 this social revolution was nearly complete American voters elected Donald Trump.
Already, I get ahead of myself.
I’ve said too much by using the word “State” without explanation to describe the administration of government by agencies led by “experts” who administer those agencies and nothing about a “civil religion” shared by those experts.
And by attributing President Trump’s election in 2016 to “war weariness” with policies that strove to achieve an “International order” that some call a “New World Order,” I use a term without explanation that evokes conspiracies surrounding the names “Davos” and “Soros.”
Rejection of a President
On this Republicans must agree: Though the Republican candidate lost the 2020 election his policies were not rejected—only Donald Trump lost that election.
The Presidential election of 2016 revealed a desire of Americans not to move in a radical “international” direction but to affirm priority of the national interest. The Republican Party must now ask whether it understands that lesson. Finding answers will be painful because every Republican President from Dwight Eisenhower through Bush 43 supported the ideas embodied in Woodrow Wilson’s political religion—until the election of President #45, Donald J. Trump.
Election of a political novice whose overall actions defended traditional order, in contrast to advocates for imposing “democracy” abroad by military action set Donald Trump apart from John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, John McCain and a host of others like them.
At the core of Trump Administration policies was espousal of “Nationalism” versus “Internationalism.”
The “Internationalist” aspect of Republican foreign policy is well-established, however, and began when Republicans chose Dwight Eisenhower over U.S. Senator Robert Taft (R-OH) as the Republican candidate for President at the 1952 Republican National Convention. That assured continuation of the Internationalist tradition of democratic idealism founded by President Woodrow Wilson.
That also assured domination of American politics by a stream of “Internationalists” from John Kennedy to Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
Transmission of this series of Internationalist judgments was continued by Ronald Reagan’s choice of George H. W. Bush as his running mate in the 1980 election. Just as the hearts of political conservatives were broken in 1952, twenty-eight years later many Conservatives like Tom Ellis, Jesse Helms political director, cried like babies when Gov. Paul Laxalt was passed over in favor of George H. W. Bush.
This stream of Internationalist Presidents was shattered by the election of Donald Trump who proposed a return to a revitalized American nationalism.
War weariness and “The Democratic Project”
Though the health of American politics was adversely affected by President Trump’s grave personal limitations and flawed character, don’t blame Trump.
The core eight policies of the Trump administration were grounded in the traditional principles and beliefs of the GOP:
●First, President Trump’s rejection of the ideology of democratic idealism first fashioned by Woodrow Wilson and the recent presidents representing that Internationalis ideology.
●Second, Trump’s nationalism visible in the theme “Make America Great,” and ●third Trump’s admonishment of our allies in NATO was long overdue.
Throw in ●a fourth attitude, his hatred of war, and ●five—tax cuts, ●six– restrictions on Muslim immigration, ●seven– shutting down the reliance of material and goods from Communist China and ●eight–judicial appointments –and President Trump has fashioned a platform of enduring policies for the GOP in the 21st Century.
Despite Donald Trump’s odious character flaws, nothing was gained and much was lost by the election of Joe Biden:
1. Biden did not reject the ideology of democratic idealism;
2. Biden rejected Trump’s nationalism visible in the theme “Make America Great”;
3. Biden did not admonish our allies in NATO to defend themselves from measures to reestablish a Russian Empire;
4. Biden’s hatred of war stops with willingness to go to war to advance the “Democratic Project”;
5. Biden raised taxes;
6. Biden opened our borders to Muslim and other immigrants;
7. Biden is seeking better relations with Communist China;
8. As for his judicial appointments, every Leftist Attorney General and District Attorney saw opportunity in federal judicial appointment.
In other words, the Biden administration is reviving 60’s Liberalism sixty years after all its faults were exposed.
Character of an “Insurrectionist in Chief”
Despite the eight good Trump Administration policies, former-President Trump did not understand the character of the “administrative state,” nor how government agencies can be brought to a grudging acceptance of a conservative Republican chief executive elected by the voters.
And President Trump lacked an essential skill for government service: President Trump reads with difficulty and has difficulty reading legislation and intelligence reports and prefers to learn from listening and watching radio and television. This President of the United States most probably suffers from Dyslexia.
His understanding of market economics is limited also, as was his understanding of the mechanism of Tariffs, and Trump lacked previous government service.
Most important, Donald Trump lacked knowledge of persons who approve of his policies—except for fellow New Yorkers Rudy Giuliani and Larry Kudlow.
Lacking knowledge of persons of similar beliefs, the Trump Administration did not have a functioning Office of Presidential Personnel and after President Trump left office, he did not leave a legacy of former appointees to advocate his policies.
Those nominated for leadership of government agencies in the Trump Administration tended to be the wealthy (Betsy DeVos), current and former military professionals (Mike Pompeo), and an odd assortment of friends and family of GOP politicians.
Of course, President Trump’s appointment of members of the Trump family to service on the White House staff or as diplomatic envoys was a mistake.
Add to that inadequacy, his intolerance of staff who brought him ideas that were not his (Steve Bannon) and his consistent attacks on journalists unnecessarily hurt his Administration. “Never attack anyone with a printing press” is a maxim based in common sense that Donald Trump violated.
In addition to this list of transgressions was Trump’s appointment of pro-Russia political operator, Paul Manafort, as his campaign manager and his curious subservience to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and we can appreciate why American voters chose a politician with substantial government service.
But Biden’s 60’s Liberalism caused him to prefer policies that cater to a minority of the electorate. His choice of a woman of color and radical political inclinations as his Vice President plays to that by giving in to racial and gender policies that can only further divide, not unite, American society.
The best that can be said about the elections of 2020 and 2021 is that, despite fraudulent ballot counting endemic to elective politics, Republican gains of a Virginia governor and election of women candidates to State and Federal office inched the GOP toward a House majority in 2022 and possible majority in the Senate.
That’s the good news, and that is due to the common sense of the American electorate—Donald Trump notwithstanding.
What then is the future of American politics?
Election results in 2020 did not suggest an endorsement by voters of far-Left “Progressive” elements in the Democrat Party.
That election presaged contests between the House Speaker (age 80) and committed utopian socialists including Alexandra Ocacio-Cortez (age 31). The “Squads” many radical, hyper-active proposals will weary observant voters, and give the GOP time to recover from the Trump presidency.
During the next two years, Donald Trump is the wild card who has signaled that he will seek election in 2024, but his dominant influence is engendering a search for new leaders.
“The” problems facing the GOP, however, can be attributed to a long line of Internationalist presidents from Eisenhower to Obama who were committed “Wilsonian idealists.”
In that historic combination, Presidents of both parties imbibed the Kool-Aid of democratic idealism—until Donald Trump reintroduced a form of “nationalism” that gave priority to America’s interests over “the Democratic project.”
That concept–“the Democratic project”—is a manifestation of modern political religion—an ideology that places a commitment to “Democracy” before the national interest. That is evident, even today, 29 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, when otherwise intelligent observers refer to the United States as “Leader of the Free World.”
We do have foreign enemies but they do not represent a unified force against a “free world.” The concept of a “free world” is an anachronism from the Cold War and a deeply held belief for those ideologically committed to what they call “the Democratic project.”
“The Democratic project” means pursuit of policies not directed toward our national interest but to expanding democratic idealism in every part of the world—by war if necessary.
During 105 years from America’s entry in WW I through 2020, the lives of Americans have been disrupted by wars. Wars are disruptive of lives and attitudes that sustain tradition, stifles creativity, misdirects material assets, destroys lives and divides members of civil society.
In World War I, American citizens of German descent were careful to avoid notice by speaking German and sauerkraut was renamed “Liberty cabbage.” In World War II Americans of Japanese descent were placed in “camps.” And during the war in Vietnam students of draft age disrupted campuses, burned draft cards and went into exile in Canada. Those who were drafted and returned were spit upon as “baby killers.”
We can compare the 105 years of turmoil in American politics from 1915 to 2020
Historians call the 700-year period from the fall of Rome in 410 AD to 1200 AD–“First Europe.” Persons who lived during those 700 years from the fall of Rome suffered in ways that occur in every period of social disorder and wars.
But by the year 1200 AD, persons in “the West” experienced an outburst of artistic, cultural and philosophic accomplishment. That was evident in the achievement of origination of many Monastic Christian contemplative religious orders and the efforts of four intellectuals who lived from 1033 to 1180: St. Anselm, Roscelin, Peter Abelard and John of Salisbury.
It is in that historical context that we should look at Donald Trump’s commitment to keep America out of war and his redirecting foreign policy toward pursuit of the American national interest. And we should worry, therefore, that political commentators now look to President Joe Biden to revive “the Democratic project.”
And finally, we have a higher education problem, what Dr. James Piereson in 2005 called a “Left University.”
As early as 1910 our law schools were invaded by “Progressives,” an ideological movement of utopian socialists who argued for a Constitution unburdened by limits on the power of the State that changed with the times. During the Great Depression classical liberalism was replaced by advocates of utopian idealism, and during the period from 1968-1973, curricular requirements were abolished and replaced with “cafeteria style” education accompanied by the exclusion of political conservatives from academic employment.
A “Left university” is now dominant and families live in fear that by sending their college age students to college to earn a college diploma their children will be turned against them.
This is not the 1960s, however, and increased numbers of Republican House Members and the likely regaining of control of the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly the Senate suggest that there is still a vibrant future of American Politics—thanks to the common sense of the American people.
Donald Trump won the 2016 contest because he correctly assessed that the policies of President George W. Bush, culminating in the invasion of Iraq and a series of actions in response to the attack on 9/11, had fostered “war weariness” among American voters.
The future is uncertain but not unknown.
Organizing a gathering of followers of something he calls “the Trump movement” on January 6 and inciting them to march to the Capitol and stop certification of the 2020 election was an act of sedition.
Having demonstrated that he is ignorant of the limits placed on the Chief Executive by the Constitution of the United States, we can expect Trump to organize his followers to achieve power. His first attempt will be to organize a campaign for President. If he wins, he can be expected to aspire to be “President for Life.”
Had the Senate Impeached and convicted Trump and banned him from seeking office, we may have cut to the chase and witnessed the marshaling of Trump forces to seize power in 2021—not in 2024.
If that effort to institute a “post-Constitutional Order” occurs, it will be resisted and we will experience another civil war of citizens killing one another, with mobs targeting opponents and the organizing of resistance leading to grave destruction, riot and violent death.
Readers who tell me that Trump was the greatest President in American history are as numerous as those good citizens who gathered on the Ellipse on January 6 who felt that fighting in this manner was the only remedy available to protect Constitutional freedom.
Democrats believe that the former President is irresponsible, should have been Impeached and convicted and Republicans are of three minds about that.
The “Two Party” system inaugurated in 1800 when Vice President Thomas Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party and defeated incumbent President John Adams of the Federalist Party will be subject to realignment. There are some signs already that the United States will experience a multi-party system. Here is an outline of that “multi Party system”
Progressive Democrats and Internationalists, secondary education teachers and university professors
Traditional Democrats: Labor Unions, employees of NGO non-profits organizations and government Agencies in service to the “Administrative State, secondary education teachers and university professors
Never Trump Republicans and Internationalists
Nationalist conservators of tradition
 See Richard Bishirjian, “Modern Political Religion,” VoegelinView, October 23, 2018.
 See my discussion of political religion: https://voegelinview.com/modern-political-religion
About the Author
Richard J, Bishirjian earned a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, 1964, and a Ph.D. in Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame, 1971.
He is the editor of A Public Philosophy Reader and author of five books, The Development of Political Theory, The Conservative Rebellion, The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education and a Memoir titled Ennobling Encounters. His Rise and Fall of the American Empire was published om July 7, 2022. His entry into writing fiction, “Coda,” is a political novel published by En Route Books. Bishirjian’s essays have been published in Forbes, The Political Science Reviewer, Modern Age, Review of Politics, Chronicles, the American Spectator and The Imaginative Conservative.
 Richard Bishirjian, The Conservative Rebellion (St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, 2015.)
 Richard Bishirjian, “Modern Political Religion,” VoegelinView, October 23, 2018.