RealClearPolicy Newsletters: Original Articles

Who We Are

Who We Are
Michael Ares/Palm Beach Post via AP

Dear Reader —

“That’s not who we are” has become a popular refrain to denounce policies that are out of step with American values — or, at least, a particular conception of them. But, as Ross Douthat points out, it’s less and less clear to whom “we” refers, precisely because it’s less and less clear that we share the same view of American identity. If our nation has split apart, it’s precisely because we do not — or, what may be worse, because we no longer enjoy the overlapping consensus within which such disagreements were once possible. 

Rather than fading into the background, such existential questions seem all the more urgent since the election of Donald J. Trump. As a country, we do not appear to be solidifying under a new vision of nationality; instead, we seem to be fracturing along lines of division, defined by rival conceptions of national identity. Interestingly, this fracturing no longer tracks our partisan divide.

On the Right, the question du jour is whether American conservatism is compatible with the new nationalism embodied by the Trump administration. Is there a meaningful distinction between patriotism and nationalism? Is what binds us together a common commitment to our political form of life or, rather, the pre-political ties of territory, ethnicity, or religion?

There may be more cohesion on the other side of the aisle, as opposition to the new administration appears, as it were, to trump real divisions between populists and neo-liberals. But something significant is afoot here, too. On the Left, a preoccupation with constitutionalism has taken center stage, whether to emphasize the constraints on executive authority or the dual sovereignty of the states and federal government. 

The Trump era has put our system of government under the microscope. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a defense of that peculiar system proved common ground for Left and Right — vindicating, perhaps, the notion that we are bound together first by a shared political project?

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy


Executive Power Run Amok. In The New York Times, John Yoo, a defender executive power, argues that President Trump’s use of it is cause for concern. 

Is President Trump’s Executive Order Constitutional? In The Washington Post, James Downie moderates a discussion with David Rivkin Jr. and Karen Tumlin about the constitutionality of President Trump’s travel ban. 

Deregulation Nation. Center for American Progress fellow Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza criticizes the new Congress’s push for deregulation.

The Anti-Trump Left Is Now the Only Hope for Moderates. For The New Republic, Jedediah Purdy suggests that the best hope for liberal and conservative moderates is to join the Left’s opposition to President Trump.

The Delusion That Openness Has Impoverished America. Also in The Washington Post, Lawrence Summers contends that while globalization may have hurt middle-class wages, multilateral trade agreements are not to blame. 

Who Are We? The New York Times’ Ross Douthat argues that liberal critics of Trump’s “chauvinist” vision exclude those Americans who disagree with them, and so fail to provide their own unifying vision.

For Love of Country. In National Review, Rich Lowry & Ramesh Ponnuru urge conservatives to embrace a “sensible and moderate form of nationalism.”

The Real Realignment. In The American Conservative, Samuel Hammond makes the case that Trump is pushing the GOP toward a style of conservatism that deviates from the liberal consensus shared by both parties since World War II. 

Government Agencies Usurp Our Rights. For City Journal, Philip Hamburger argues that by acting as prosecutor, judge, and jury, the federal bureaucracy denies Americans due process of law.

The Ninth Circuit’s Dangerous Ruling. Also in National Review, David French bemoans the Ninth Circuit’s ruling Thursday, which upholds a Seattle court’s decision to block President Trump’s travel ban, but urges the administration to proceed with caution.

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