Classicist and historian VDH attempts to make sense of the Trumpist ideology, such as it is:
Trumpism promotes traditionalism. Trump showcases “Merry Christmas!” because his parents did. He believes in dressing formally and being addressed as Mr. Trump. And he insists that his children be well-behaved and polite.
You might object that Trump is thrice-married, Petronian in his tastes, and ethically sloppy or worse in his own business dealings. No matter: Trump seeks a return to normalcy all the more. His personal excesses apparently spur his impulses for traditional norms.
Perhaps Trump is like many Baby Boomers as they enter their final decades: They look back at their parents and grandparents, and wonder how they put up with their offspring — and see how far this generation has fallen short of their forebears’ ideals, which in turn sparks a desire for a return to normalcy in the wayward. Deists were believers in the abstract who otherwise shunned a living Christianity yet thought that active religion had social value for others. Similarly, Trump is a non-practicing moralist who believes traditional morality can restore structure and guidance to society.
So Trump is foul-mouthed but wants a return of decorum; he has been conniving but thinks his own recklessness is not necessarily a model for the nation.
Nationalism is another Trump axiom — the deliberate antithesis to the progressive and Socratic idea of being “a citizen of the world.” In Trump’s mind, the U.S. is a paradise thanks to its exceptional values and the hard work of past generations; the mess elsewhere (to the degree Trump worries about it) is due to human failing that is not America’s fault. Trump laments self-inflicted misery abroad but feels that he and his country are not culpable for it, and, other than Good Samarian disaster or famine relief, we cannot do too much about it in the long term.
If Mexico wants good jobs or Europe seeks to re-arm, then they can first make their own necessary adjustments to give them what they need without necessarily involving the U.S., whose first obligation is to make sure that its own citizens are well, secure, and employed. It seems that in Trump’s view, America’s poor and forgotten have claims on this country’s attention that far outweigh those of the illegal immigrant or the globe-trotting internationalist; the lathe worker in Des Moines and the real estate broker in Manhattan, by virtue of being American, deserve more of Washington’s attention than international bureaucrats or foreign royals. The least American is preferable to the greatest foreigner.
To the Left, this is xenophobic, nativist, and Peronist; in the Trump mind, it is a long-overdue pushback against 21st-centurty globalism. Good borders make good neighbors; illegal immigrants who arrive by breaking the law will certainly keep breaking the law to stay. Americans cannot pick and choose which American laws to follow; why would they allow foreigners to do what they themselves cannot and should not do?
I would describe Trump’s approach to governance, which is not an ideology proper, but rather an attitude more akin to conservatism, as the politics of the possible. Do what you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t. And always keep in mind that the best people, the very best, can accomplish more than anyone else thinks.
The God-Emperor Ascendant is the rare combination of ambition and optimism with pragmatism. It is, as we are beginning to see, a potent combination. And I, for one, will not be at all surprised if, eight years from now, he leaves the White House and enters the history books being widely regarded as a better and more popular president than Ronald Reagan.
That may sound absurd, but note that Trump is already showing signs of being much better at team-building, delegating, and holding his subordinates to high expectations than any president of the modern era.