The Age of Impunity
And How to Fight It
After the most unusual election in modern U.S. history came the most unusual transition, to be followed, surely, by the most unusual presidency. As David Bowie might say, it is time to turn and face the strange.
Global elites need to recognize that the masses that they spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to their consultations—they’re quite aware what they’re going through. Walter Russell Mead’s article in our lead package traces the Jacksonian revolt that powered Donald Trump’s stunning victory, focusing in particular on his voters’ defense of a community they perceived to be under attack from above and below. Arthur Brooks’ lament for Americans’ lost sense of dignity later in the issue adds another side to the same story.
Bubble-wrapped cosmopolitans clearly need to broaden their perspectives and engage the full reality of their fellow citizens’ lives. But so, too, do angry populists—especially those who ascend to political power. It’s one thing to score points by bashing the establishment during the heat of a campaign; it’s another to do so once you are in charge of that same establishment and responsible for shaping the fates of hundreds of millions of people at home and billions abroad.
Trump’s statements on policy during the campaign varied dramatically from month to month, sometimes hour to hour—when they were specific enough to be understood as actual proposals. His cabinet picks have confused the picture further, often espousing positions different from those of Trump, one another, and Republicans in Congress. How all of this can be forged into a coherent and effective foreign policy is unclear, and the new administration’s attempts to do so will be fascinating to watch.
Trump’s central economic priority will be increasing the rate of growth, and the hedge fund manager John Paulson, an adviser to his campaign, explains how the administration will go about doing that. Other articles in the package explore the challenges the Trump team will face in its dealings with Russia, China, North Korea, the Middle East, and terrorism. Stewart Patrick, finally, notes the likely adverse consequences for international order should Trump stick to his most consistently expressed positions on pretty much all these issues.
As always, the authors of these and our other articles are worth listening to because they know what they’re talking about. These days, few seem to care about such things, with the spirit of the age best captured by Brexit supporter Michael Gove’s rebuke to critics that “people in this country have had enough of experts.” Those appalled by Gove’s Philistinism will appreciate Tom Nichols’ essay elsewhere in the issue, which maps the spread of this intellectual epidemic.
—Gideon Rose, Editor