Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clarity As to What This Election Is About

Sometime after the two party conventions later this year, I'll write a post to give a full analysis of this year's presidential election, the strangest one in my lifetime.   The 92 Clinton-Bush-Perot was an odd one, as was Bush-Gore 2000 by the time it was settled by the Supreme Court.  This election is already more bizarre and with perhaps the greatest weirdness to come.

Almost everyone in America now knows Donald Trump's campaign slogan, imprinted in white, mediocre, plain, block font on the front of a tricycle red baseball cap, "Make America Great Again." Trump represents nationalism.  The left, either Hillary or Bernie, might contend, "When was America ever great?  America isn't great."  They represent globalism.

Trump says, "Someone's right and it is the United States."  Hillary and Bernie say, "No one's wrong and everyone is right in his or her or his/her own way."  Trump says, "Build the wall."  Hillary and Bernie say, "Open the borders."

I don't think the election is only about nationalism versus globalism, but that contrast reduces it, I believe, to its most essential quality.  More than anyone Trump touched that nerve with his message, one that resonates with many people.  Many other Trump issues are a corollary to the nationalism. We should trade in a way that benefits our nation first and use our military in a way that benefits America first.

This election is way more basic than whether someone is a constitutional conservative, Ted Cruz's calling card.  The United States was the United States before its constitution was written.  I love our constitution, so don't get me wrong.  I'm saying that there are issues more basic or fundamental than the constitution.  You could take our constitution to many other countries, which has actually happened all over, and give it to them, and it won't make them a great nation.  We have seen this again and again.  We can take our system of government to other countries and they don't become great.

Here's how fundamental this election is.  It's not about what will make America great.  I understand that Trump thinks he knows.  It is about whether America should be great.  One side says, no.  The other side says, yes.  

Trump says, we're better than everyone else.  The other side says, no culture could be greater than any other culture.  America was never great.  It said it was, and for a time thought that it was, but it wasn't.  Trump may not understand greatness, but he does know that we had it and have about lost it.

Where there is no absolute truth, you can't be better.  If no one is greater than anyone else, then borders don't matter.  You have no culture to protect.  It doesn't make any difference.  The future won't be very bright for a country that doesn't see a reason for its own existence.

This election is about two stark differences in worldview.  Only one is compatible with biblical Christianity and it isn't globalism.  Some remind us that conservatism isn't the same as nationalism.  That's true, but you can't be a conservative without being a nationalist.  If you don't have a nation, then there's nothing left to conserve.  If nothing can be better, than why conserve anything anyway?


Kent Brandenburg said...

Keep it on topic, please. I don't want to hear who is a liar. According to one worldview, someone can lie, because we're more than chemicals spewing at one another.

Joe A. said...

"That's true, but you can't be a conservative without being a nationalist. If you don't have a nation, then there's nothing left to conserve." My response to this would be, I am not sure this is correct. I hate politics and dislike both candidates, but I think you can be a Christian in a country that you have no choice but to live in. Persecuted believers in Russia, the Middle East, and China may be a part of a country which hates them because they have no other choice. The Jews have retained their heritage, in spite of being ostracized and persecuted in many of the countries they were dispersed into over the last 2.5 millennia. That said, the Church's mission and goals (not the best terms, but what I can think of now) remain unchanged no matter what country we are in. In that sense, I think we can be true to what we believe whether or not we are nationalists and seek to "conserve" that which we have always known. Anyway, those are my scattered thoughts.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You essentially changed the subject. I'm not at all talking about theological conservatism. At all. I'm talking about conservative politics. They are related, it's true, but it is changing the subject. Sure, a Christian can live anywhere, but I'm not talking about individual Christians or even churches with this post. I didn't mention that at all. Yes, a person can preserve his own culture in his own home. is that true political conservatism? No. We're talking about the nation, a government, not individual people and families.

What I said was true. Conservatism says that we have something to conserve, to preserve, because we can know what is true, what is best. If no one can know that, because of a progressive worldview, then nations don't matter. The gun issue relates to this as well, because guns are a tool of that preservation. Guns don't preserve the Christian life.

However, if you are an individual Christian, you should have a view of nations and governments. There should be boundaries between nations, so that a nation can preserve what makes it unique. It would be better if we could agree on what makes a nation great, but if we can't even judge greatness, because we have no basis, then we have a basis for globalism, no borders, and no need to conserve anything with a gun.

SCH said...

Some new thoughts here. I think a conservative can be a patriot rather than a nationalist. We are obviously faced with a choice between populist nationalism and international socialism. Both are dangerous.

I've found this link is helpful and the book is great

Stephen Hollowood

Kent Brandenburg said...


Are you saying that political conservatism is not nationalistic?

Here is the definition of nationalism: The strong belief that the interests of a particular nation-state are of primary importance. Also, the belief that a people who share a common language, history, and culture should constitute an independent nation, free of foreign domination.

A NAFTA style free trade seems to be globalist. A nation building neocon seems to be globalist. I remember George H.W. Bush and his expressed desire for a "new world order."

I would see Bernie Sanders as representing populism according to its strict definition. I don't think a Donald Trump can represent a populist movement.

Here's the definition of populism: Populism is a political position which holds that the virtuous citizens are being mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. The elites are depicted as trampling in illegitimate fashion upon the rights, values, and voice of the legitimate people.

That sounds like Bernie Sanders.

Joe A. said...

Brother Brandenburg, I get your point and probably should not have entered a discussion of a topic I severely dislike however, let me say that I do not separate theological conservatism from political which is why I will not be voting for Hillary or her donor. Thanks for the time and appreciate all of the challenge I get from this weblog, even when it stretches me.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Joe A,

I think anything is up for conversation and government is a biblical issue that we should know how to think and then address.

Nothing can be separated from anything in one sense, that is, there is one God, one truth, one world. God designed it all, created it all, so all of it is related. However, I'm saying that a political conservative is different than a theological conservative. Antonin Scalia was a political conservative and a devout Roman Catholic, as is Clarence Thomas. Being a Roman Catholic makes him not a theological conservative. There are atheists who are political conservatives -- George Will comes to mind. Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I do believe that you separate the two in that way, which is the way that I'm also separating them.

However, I do believe, Joe A., that there is a relationship between the two, that is, if you are theologically conservative, you must be a political conservative. You're view of the world results in your seeing everything in the same way, according to God's revelation. I also believe that when someone is a political conservative, he is borrowing from theological conservatism.

Only Trump could be a political conservative between he and Hillary or Bernie. I've explained why.

I have to admit that I don't understand how some of these conservatives vote. The people who sat out the Romney election in the general -- I don't get that at all, or those who voted American Independent Party. I didn't like Romney. I didn't like McCain. I didn't vote for George W. Bush in the primary, but I did in the general election. I didn't like Bob Dole. I didn't like George H.W. Bush. I voted for them all. When someone didn't vote for them, he was giving the vote to the Democrat. The only person that I liked in the general election for whom I voted was Ronald Reagan. I voted for him twice. He alone did I like of all the Republicans I have ever voted for, and yet I voted for all of them since I could vote.

Did you know that Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court? She wasn't the most conservative and wouldn't overturn Roe v. Wade when she had the chance. Kennedy and O'Connor were considered swing votes on the Supreme Court. George H.W. Bush appointed the liberal David Souter.

Trump had published his list. The very conservative Mormon, Mike Lee, from Utah, says that list is the best list of constitutional conservatives he's ever seen. What do you think Hillary or Bernie would do with the Supreme Court?

What I'm writing is that the only possible conservative is Trump. When you don't vote for him, you are voting for Hillary or Bernie. You are. Some say that would be worth it. That's their position. I say that is indefensible.

SCH said...

Kent, That is what I believe. I would go so far as to question whether a conservative can ever “belie(ve) that the interests of a particular nation-state are of primary importance.” PRIMARY is the operative word. How do we account for the part nationalism played in the WW2 phenomenon and actually for the type of destruction that in history has always seemed to follow whenever "the nation" is made central if we're going to view it positively?

George Orwell was on to something in 1945: “Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By "patriotism" I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.
The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

What you give as a definition for “populism” is contrived and problematic – if it came from Wikipedia as appears, I think it unreliable. Merriam-Webster online (for all its problems as a source usually the best) gives us “1) a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people 2) a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people.”

Does anyone besides “common people” go to Trump rallies? Many have pointed out that those aren't “baseball caps” but “truckers' hats”. These common people are fully convinced that he believes in their rights, wisdom, and virtues.

Bernie's supporters? People who've never held a real job. I question how many supporters he has from the common people. Are you seeing some in California?

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks. I put in the definition of nationalism just so that you would know what I meant when I said nationalism. I'm differentiating it from globalism, which is what I think this is about. I didn't write the definition.

You are saying we are seeing populist nationalism, but that's what I hear liberals saying, and perhaps some neo-con types that might also be corporatistic, like the moderate democrats. Nationalism is putting our interests above other nations. A conservative believes he knows absolutes that he can judge something to be better than something else, that he should conserve. A conservative nation will be nationalistic. You are saying patriotic. I'm fine with that, but I'm differentiating with globalism. You seem to be saying that nationalism by nature will force people to submit to a particular point of view. I recognize that there is nationalism that goes bad, and I think of Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam.

Joe A. said...

Brother Brandenburg,
I too have held my nose and voted for every Republican since Geo HW Bush. None have pleased me fully, yet I voted for them anyway and took a tums later. I cannot vote for Trump because I do not believe he is truly anti-Abortion. I do not believe it. It would be like you coming out on your blog after years of being pro-life and stating that you were now pro-choice. Your readers first reaction would be "really, with his track record???" I do not know how old you are, but I assume many of these major decisions in your life have been made I will likely not change. Why would I feel the same way with Trump? A man who has said he will flop positions, change his mind, and make deals. I just don't believe it. All of the other stuff I about Trump I can take with a large grain of salt. I will not have on my conscience that I voted for a man who is pro-abortion. If you can, then that is between you and God. I would like to add in an article which I think speaks to much of what is being said about Trump. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435805/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-why-hillary-is-even-worse-doesnt-cut-it Thank you for the time.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Kent, I know this comment is related more to the comments than to the post, but it might be helpful.

Conservatives that have a problem with the term "national" would do so when it is contrasted with "federal." With those two being the choice of terms, true conservatives would want to restore the federal nature of our government and would probably be decrying the increasing national nature of our government.

If you understand what I'm referring to there, you can begin to see that a Trump presidency will most likely give us even more top-down national government that We the People will suffer under.

A true conservative is going to want less top-down national government and a return to a federated system of government.

Trump's problem with some is that it's hard to know what he would actually do. In January, voters could say, "He sounds good, and he's decided conservative values are better for America." But since then, he's been "all over the map" on issues, and it's hard to know what he would do governmentally (not nationally).

But, in contrast with Hillary or Sanders, he seems to be better for national pride and respect.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I think we've got Trump right now. Trump, in a sense, is the vessel of what we're talking about though. I think the election isn't about strict constitutional conservatism. We might want it to be that. If we get two or three Supreme Court justices from him that are on that list, then it would be that. It seems that overall people's concern are with Trump following through with what he says he will do, that he's not just lying, because they are thinking that he will flip flop back to statements in the past. I've made statements in the past, that if someone played on tape, would say things I don't know think or believe. I've changed. Whatever I say that I think he'll do, someone can find something he said in the past that they say means that he won't do it, because he really doesn't believe it.

For those people who don't believe what Trump is now saying, this election could or should be like a friend of mine explained it. Trump may not follow through with what he's saying he will do, for instance, undoing Obamacare. I can see by the way in an article in the last few days that he is hiring the Reagan economic guys to be his economic advisers -- Laffer, etc. His not doing what he says is a revolver with one chamber with a bullet, that kind of chance, but with Hillary and Bernie, it is a fully automatic, fully loaded, sure thing that it's going to be bad. Trump is a risk, but the other two are no risk at all, we know they'll be horrible.

When Trump was recently asked about the transgender bathroom for issue, his latest answer to that question is that he believes it's states rights. I believe he wants the health care issue to be states rights too, after overturning Obamacare.

When I say nationalism, I mean that we will have a nation. When I say globalism, I'm saying that we will not have a nation. My point was that people who are talking about having a nation to be great are people who think that something can be greater than something else. I thought I was clear. This is foundational in a Christian worldview.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Joe A,

The abortion issue is a court issue now. The only way to change it is through the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade. If you really believe what you say, then you have to vote Trump, because he has guaranteed he will choose someone from a short list, all pro-life. Bernie and Hillary will be a pro-abortion person. You either don't vote or vote third party, and you will get abortion, what you say you don't want.

Joe A. said...

I disagree, but do not want to continue going round and round. Thanks for the time.

SCH said...

Kent, I agree that anti-globalism is the conservative position. Some of us have found a way to be anti-globalists without being nationalists (or, in other words, without considering the nation to be of primary importance as that definition puts it). Were there German conservatives in the 1930's? How did they view their nation? If they viewed THEIR nation as something the interests of which were of primary importance they were not conservatives. I think history shows that ascribing primary importance to the nation ends in . . . let's say “problems.” It goes well beyond Ho Ch Minh. Look at the former Yugoslavia or (shudder) Rwanda.

An anti-nationalist anti-globalist could not agree with this: “If you don't have a nation, then there's nothing left to conserve.” I would hope that even if the nation disintegrated a conservative would see a lot that is worth conserving in their county, city or town, neighborhood, church, yard and home. I'm not even sure that the Permanent Things, as Russell Kirk called them, CAN be conserved at the national level at all.

This isn't semantics. You argue eloquently and correctly that Globalism is dangerous. I'm saying that Nationalism (of Trump's variety or other) is dangerous also. It has a bloody track record. Can't we agree to be anti-globalists and support (as opposed to obey which we must do regardless) the nation in a secondary sense – insofar as it allows us to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim 2:2)?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't think that nationalism, as I'm speaking of it, and conservatism are synonymous. There are forms of nationalism that are not conservative. We've got the globe and we've got the nation as geo-political entities. If you are anti-globalist, what are you left with. The globalists don't believe in absolute truth. They are relativists, which is the toleration that yields the borderless world. A conservative in a geo-political way will accomplish it through a nation. If there is no conservative nation or no nation, sure you still believe and practice conservative principles, but as for as the geo-political go, it's a nation. Hopefully, that expresses it.

God chose Abraham to be a nation. God uses nations. That's the only God instituted and approved geo-political institution.

Why no nation? Cultural relativism of an astonishing magnitude.


SCH said...

Kent, I appreciate that. It is clarifying, helpful and thought-provoking.

SCH said...

Kent, I think you'll appreciate this article which will soon disappear behind a paywall.

two excerpts:

While Trump is very far from being a Burkean conservative, there is a distinct tendency in his public pronouncements to recall the wisdom of the Old Right: “Make America Great Again” distills the conservative longing for something that has clearly been lost. We were great, we aren’t anymore, and we need to reclaim what has slipped from our grasp.


By characterizing Iraq as a war based on a lie, and in attacking globalism in all its forms, Trumpism represents a complete break with Buckleyite “conservatism,” which has always been internationalist in every sense of the term.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Stephen,

I had not read that article, but our thinking is the same. I just wrote mine without all the historical precedent to be more simple. I'm glad you read it, because it is what I meant to a large degree.

The opposition to Trump even in the Republican party comes from globalist, perhaps more fine-tuned, internationalists, and then corporatists. That isn't the position of Reagan even. I thought his inside baseball take on William Buckley and National Review, something I had read before, was also good.

Kent Brandenburg said...

One more thing, I was also arguing, hopefully people understand, for the conservation of a greater culture, which doesn't occur without wall, literally and metaphorically. The left is calling this white nationalism, but it isn't white -- it's just superior and could work. It's saying we have a culture, Americanism, and we're not multicultural.

Kent Brandenburg said...

When I say opposition from the Republican Party, I'm talking about the party itself, not rank and file voters, and I'm also talking in general -- this refers to a couple of comments above this one. I recognize that "Never-Trump" people are those who can't support Trump for moral issues. And I understand their argument that they want the Republican party to lose in favor of what they think are conservative principles. That is, they think that Trump winning is worse than Hillary winning. I believe these people are totally, out-and-out wrong, very wrong, but I am saying that I get what they are saying.

SCH said...

Kent, That's good. I think their reasons against him are too ideological to be conservative (i realize you weren't saying they were conservative - just that they think they are). Conservatism is the anti-ideolgy

They're missing the point in that ideology doesn’t matter this time. Trump is supported by people whose families have felt for 40 years as if almost every year has meant that more of their NATION, their home has slipped from their grasp. They think Trump will provide a context where they can fight for what has been slipping away. It's not my position but I do understand the conservative idea behind it. And NEVERTRUMP ("he doesn't agree with our ideology on absolute religious freedom, "nation of immigrants", NATO Middle East wars"!!!!!) never will. Real people don't care.