Compassion and Why You Got Trump


Dan Yorke had an interesting conversation with liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on WPRO the other day, and although I’ll likely elaborate on the point in my Last Impressions podcast this week, a link that I found today is relevant enough for a post.

Although they’re in different places, ideologically, both Yorke and Kristof had difficulty explaining why so many Americans want a wall on the southern border and oppose the United States’s playing the role of global citizen and taking in more refugees from places in the world that are in crisis.  I say they had “difficulty” because the excuse that Americans are “afraid” is so overly easy as to be a dodge.

For a sideways explanation, read James Poulos, in The Week, on the implications of the rise of supposedly “extremist” candidates in Europe:

… How dire it was, throughout the French campaign, to watch centrists left and right insist that only they could beat back the forces of “extremism,” that catchall term which has served the West so poorly in organizing its resources against foes foreign and domestic. The continued rise of populist, nationalist, and, yes, even communist parties in Europe has shown just how extreme a reaction established neoliberalism has provoked in its failings to date — inadequate, costly efforts, by turns ham-handed, shambolic, and impotent, to manage everything from the Eurozone crisis to the immigration debacle.

Yes, it’s all been a tall order; yes, the ruling (or is it managing?) classes should have seen it coming. And yes: However well-intentioned and authentic the likes of Macron and Co., who probably grasp how truly bad it can get in Europe, their ilk are still locked into policies guaranteed to further aggravate political extremism left, right, and Islamic. They think their political stalemate with Le Pen and her fellow travelers is a victory. Really, it spells a fiercer culture war.

Returning to Kristof and Yorke on Americans:  I’d suggest that we haven’t lost our compassion, but we are catching on in a critical mass to the elites’ trick of exploiting our reasonableness and human sympathy in order push a broader, sometimes-barely-related agenda.  We can only make exceptions for especially sympathetic illegal immigrants, for example, if we open wide the borders and accommodate all comers with special benefits.

Liberals and moderates have gotten far, indeed, on the bet that the West would rather be played for a sucker than stop being morally upstanding.  And that bet might have played out to a progressive conclusion if it weren’t for one problem:  Liberal policies are a disaster the moment they are anything more than a mild corrective to a conservative, free-market culture, and whenever that reality begins to play out, the liberals and moderates go for their own ideological extremism.

Compassion requires we revive our conservative culture, and more and more Westerners are concluding that the only path to that end involves bulldozers to plow through the well-fertilized politically correct berms.