John Fonte, American Greatness, July 18, 2017
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, our civilization and to set free suffering humanity . . . . and we know that by thy grace, and the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
Who wrote those words? Someone from the Alt-Right? A white nationalist, perhaps?
In fact, they were composed personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a D-Day prayer and read to the nation in a radio address on the evening of June 6, 1944. They exemplify the high-water mark of a confident mid-20th century American liberalism that did not hesitate to attach the possessive pronoun “our” to concepts such as nation, religion, civilization, culture, and freedom.
The conceptual core of liberalism has been drastically altered since the halcyon days of FDR, Truman, and JFK. The reaction of mainstream 21st century liberalism to President Trump’s historic Warsaw speech clearly reveals what today’s progressives value and what they debase. Thus, the president’s speech (besides presenting a clear vision of democratic sovereignty and a broad understanding of what constitutes the West), has the added advantage of having flushed out, for all to see, what progressive liberals really think of the institutions and ideals that have for centuries been at the center of any decent society.
We were told, the president’s speech was “dark,” “negative,” and “nativist.” For Peter Beinart, Trump’s “West is a racial and religious term” and “His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means.” James Fallows sees echoes of the Nuremberg rallies and is reminded of the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Richard Cohen declares that on the plane to Warsaw, “President Trump opened the door and threw out American values.” Jeet Heer fulminates that Trump’s rhetoric “is meant to conjure blood-soil-nationalism.” Eugene Robinson thought Trump’s speech “might have been appropriate” for a time when “Europe’s great powers held dominion for ‘lesser’ peoples around the globe.” Lawrence Summers agrees with “the fears of those” who believe that the President’s “conduct” in Europe “is currently the greatest threat to American national security.”
Democratic Sovereignty vs. Post-Democratic Bureaucracy
The 21st century Left in Europe, and to an extent in the United States, is often described as post-national and postmodern, seeking to move beyond the nation-state and the rational norms of modernism towards a more global and antinomian future.
The Left could also be considered Post-Western, as its elites have “deconstructed” the idea of the West using the ideological tools of postmodernism and multiculturalism. This deconstruction has made Western leaders for the past decade or so hesitant explicitly to articulate a public defense of our civilization. Twenty years ago, foreign policy scholar and Swarthmore professor James Kurth predicted in The National Interest, “The real clash of civilizations will not be between the West, and one or more of the Rest. It will be between the West and the Post-West, within the West itself.”
Trump’s speech was criticized by a former Clinton State Department official for not endorsing the EU. For years, the U.S. position has been on autopilot, mindlessly advocating more European integration meaning more power to the Brussels bureaucracy and less to the nation-states. Todd Huizinga, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, has written the definitive work for understanding the European Union. In The New Totalitarian Temptation, Huizinga captures the essence of the EU as “a soft utopia,” a proposed secular heaven on earth, based on the ideology of “global governance.” This means it is inherently at odds with the concept of democratic sovereignty and, thus, not surprisingly, often in tension with nations that take self-government seriously such as the United States, Poland, and Israel.
Restoring “Government by Consent of the Governed”
The chief organs of the EU constitute an administrative state that rules without the consent of the different peoples of Europe. A perfect example of this problem is the EU’s migration policy. The EU leadership backed by the governments (but not necessarily the people) of Germany and France have insisted that all EU member-states take a fixed quote of migrants/refugees from the developing world.
The Visegrad nations of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic (now Czechia) are resisting this EU diktat. The stakes for liberal democracy could not be higher. What is at issue is that old Lockean liberal notion of “government by consent of the governed.” Clearly, if democratic sovereignty (that is democratic self-government) means anything at all, it is the right of a free people to determine for themselves who may be residents and citizens in their own country.
EU elites, Merkel, and their transnational progressive allies, are attempting to strip government by consent of the governed from the peoples of Central Europe and force new populations upon them without their consent. This is a moral argument and Trump, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Slovaks and the Czechs are on the side of the angels — the side of “Philadelphian Sovereignty,” that is, the side of the republican principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
In short, “We, the People” decide who we shall admit within our borders. These fundamental issues are not decided for us — and against our consent — by foreign leaders and institutions.
William Galston wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “along with Hungary’s Victor Orban, the current Polish government is Europe’s leading threat to liberal democracy.” Galston could not be more wrong. The threat to democracy comes from the transnational EU elites and the enforcers of the EU administrative state in Germany and France. These are the same nations, after all, that several years ago, forced the ouster of democratically elected leaders in Italy and Greece.
Trump’s Warsaw speech has given hope to the peoples of Central Europe and crucially reiterated the core Enlightenment doctrine of “government by consent of the governed.” If Steve Bannon and Steven Miller had anything to do with formulating this new strategic outlook of democratic sovereignty, consensual government, and affirmation of the Judeo-Christian-Enlightenment basis of Western Civilization, then perhaps those persistent conservative critics of Bannon and Miller ought to rethink their Pavlovian carping about these two gentlemen.