The following is a summary of an interview with conservative military analyst Andrew Bacevich aired on National Public Radio on August 14, 2017. He says people should spend less time worrying about President Trump and more time thinking about how and why he was elected. Trump is not the cause “but the consequence” of the political climate in the U.S.
“Racism pre-exists the Trump administration. We had horrific manifestations of hatred when President Obama was in the White House. This president has helped to create an environment that is more conducive to bringing these people out of the woodwork. However, he did not create the problem. When we obsess about President Trump, we lose sight of the factors that created the conditions that allowed him to become president in the first place.
“I would endorse all of the criticisms made of President Trump. That he’s a deceiver, a narcissist, that he’s uneducated and uninterested in becoming educated, that he’s temperamental, lacks judgment, and a travesty as the U.S. president. Those who oppose Trump think that if we could just goad Trump into resigning tomorrow that the day after, everything would be hunky-dory. That’s not so. As Trump supporters view the direction and principles of the country since the end of the Cold War, they said, ‘Hey, these aren’t working for me.’
“His genius was being able to tap that collective animosity and to bring these people into the voting booth to cast votes for him. My point here is that what deserves more attention than I believe it’s getting is, what the heck are those ideas? What course did we follow?
“The election of Donald Trump is a reflection of a growing awareness that the country had gone wrong. That’s not an endorsement of Donald Trump. It’s simply an appeal to say, ‘The conditions that created him deserve far more attention than they have been getting.’
“My number one hypothesis is that globalization was going to bring us some type of collective utopia. However, globalization is really shorthand for American-style corporate capitalism on a planetary scale. This American style capitalism was going to create so much wealth that it was going to be a problem solver. Well, it did create great wealth but left a whole lot of people behind, hurting and disenchanted. So globalization did not live up to its promises.
Second idea, I think, was the notion that the United States was going to continue to be the great leader of the world. The availability of superior American military power was the instrument by which we would maintain peace harmony and our preeminence. That has led us to a series of very stupid, unsuccessful and costly wars with no end in sight. Trump promised that there would be an end. Now that he’s president, there’s still no end.
“The third idea is the conception of individual freedom that we collectively have embraced. The end of the Cold War is a rough date for when we have abandoned the traditional Judeo-Christian rooted notions of how we are to behave. We, collectively, have embraced the notion that there should be no limits on the exercise of personal freedom.
“An example is particularly evident in the whole realm of sexuality and gender relations. Those who have promoted this broader conception of freedom have not afforded happiness, solidarity, or a collective sense of being engaged as Americans in an enterprise to which we are all committed. When I look at our country – opioid addictions, obesity, porn epidemic – these are not indications of a healthy society. We have more individual freedoms today than we ever have had. But something ain’t right.
“I strongly believe that we need to have a debate. The core question: What is the definition of the common good in America in the 21st century? We need an answer to that question.”