Make America Great Again is a bit difficult to pull off twice. Keep America Great is difficult given the exigencies of the moment.
How, then, should President Donald Trump frame his re-election campaign?
On his Wednesday show, Rush Limbaugh suggested one way, courtesy of a piece from Thomas Klingenstein, the chairman of the board of directors of the Claremont Institute, a California-based conservative think-tank.
In the piece, Klingenstein had a six-word slogan Rush thought would crystallize the Trump campaign: “Preserve the American way of life.”
“And that’s what struck me” about the piece, Limbaugh said, “because, folks, that’s what’s at stake, the American way of life. That’s what is being fought over.”
He quoted Klingenstein: “What is the American way of life that Republicans should want to preserve? It would not be difficult to reach a consensus on this question among Republicans. They want to preserve, and in some respects recover, what Americans thought was the right way of life until a generation or two ago.
“We then believed that we were the shining city on the hill, marked out to show the rest of the world that people can govern themselves. We saw ourselves as one people with a single culture, which was directed by a creed (expressed most notably in the Declaration), supported by the Judeo-Christian ethos, all flavored by our particular history.
“True, there were sub-cultures, but we understood them as all sharing the fundamental attributes of a single culture. There were no hyphenated Americans. We insisted that immigrants be assimilated. Colorblindness was our ideal.”
Limbaugh continued with Klingenstein’s piece: “We believed we had done great things in the past and were capable of doing more. This success, despite numerous missteps, made us a confident people. No wonder we thought ourselves exceptional in both senses of the term: distinct and better. No wonder we wore our patriotism on our sleeve and revered our military.
“We believed ourselves to be the least class-conscious, most individualist, most religious people in the world. We believed that success in life depends on one’s own talents and character and so we glorified the self-made man. We valued work, no matter how humble, and self-reliance. Dependency was thought to be shameful. This was all part of the ‘American Dream.'”
“So we weren’t class-conscious, and rugged individualism was a part of America’s founding. It certainly wasn’t anything that anybody was ashamed of. To be your own person was an offshoot of freedom and liberty. And we were the most religious people in the world,” Limbaugh said.
“So a generation or two ago and further, we glorified self-made people. They were great. They were great examples. They were heroes. The more obstacles they overcame, the more respect we had for them.”
There were other things Klingenstein pointed out as being part of the American way of life: “doing good in this world … serving in the military and participating in civic organizations, local government and political parties, and teaching one’s children what it meant to be a responsible citizen,” among others.
There is, however, another potential way of life to be considered, and that’s multiculturalism.
“As I am using the term, multiculturalism sees society not as a community of rights-bearing individuals with a shared understanding of a national good, but as a collection of cultural identity groups, ranked in order of victimhood (though all oppressed by white males), and aggregated within highly permeable national boundaries,” Klingenstein wrote.
“Multiculturalism replaces American citizens with so-called ‘global citizens.’ Identity politics is the politics of multiculturalism. Political correctness is its enforcement arm. Multiculturalism involves a way of life that cannot exist peacefully with the American way of life any more than could Communism or the antebellum South.”
One of the ways Klingenstein and Limbaugh thought the multiculturalists were destroying the American way of life was by inculcating young Americans through the educational system.
“You are not going to destroy the American way of life, and you’re not gonna destroy Western civilization, just as you were not gonna destroy the concept of American greatness. This is the battle that we are in,” Limbaugh said.
“Now, ‘multiculturalism teaches its beliefs and values to its future citizens.’ That’s why the multiculturalists have taken hold of the school curriculum — middle school, high school, and of course academe.”
To do this, however, history has to be rewritten — especially through initiatives like The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which traces America’s so-called actual founding back to the arrival of slaves in 1619.
“Multiculturalists, like totalitarians everywhere, understand that changing a culture requires rewriting its history so as to bring the past into line with the desired future,” Klingenstein wrote.
“It didn’t,” Limbaugh noted, calling it “a pack of lies.”
“The nation was not built on slavery. Slavery was not one of the ideals that led to the American away life,” he said.
“We had a civil war to get rid of it. The times version of American history makes slavery the cause of virtually everything. But look, they’ve taught it; they’ve had unfettered access to your kids for two generations. That is why Millennial-aged, affluent, suburban, college-educated white women essentially run and promote Black Lives Matter.
“They have had the guilt ladled all over them,” Limbaugh said. “They have had ‘the truth of this country,’ quote-unquote, spoon-fed them to the point that they hate America, that they’re embarrassed about it, that they believe in this silly ass notion of white supremacy and white privilege as defining aspects of the United States of America. So they’re running around feeling guilty all day, every day with a need to prove that they’re not evil.
“They are useful idiots,” he concluded. “They’re tools.”
And those six words could be the way of fighting back against said tools: “Protecting the American way of life.”
There are few times in our history where we’ve seen it seriously under question. This is perhaps the most serious of them all — especially given the shocks we’ve endured over the past six months.
That said, most Americans — and certainly most American voters — still believe in the way of life Klingenstein laid out in the Claremont Institute piece. It’s quite a bit longer than that and deserves a read, but Limbaugh hit upon the most valuable points.
One he left out is a simple way to reduce the two worldviews: It’s 1619 vs. 1776.
In a year in which we feel defeated, it’d seem easy for Americans to give in. And yet, the one thing most of us wondered is when we would be able to get back to working as a country — not when the country would start taking care of us.
We are a nation that works hard, that takes pride in working hard, that takes pride in the fact our ancestors came here to work hard and make a new life for themselves.
We believed in the American Dream and we still do. We believe that you can rise above your station by working hard and by doing the right things. We believe in the promise of this country and in the essential goodness of it.
The left believes in none of this.
Not only that, they believe this is all a lie fed to us to maintain a system of white supremacy. If we are one people, it’s not as Americans but as global citizens. In our own country, we’re balkanized into little groups.
This is all deeply unappealing to most Americans — and it’s also something that Joe Biden, if he wants to win over the left, is going to have to gulp down.
It’s why, if Donald Trump wants to win a second term, he should make sure Americans know it’s 1619 vs. 1776.
Americans will respond accordingly.
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