Identity politics thrives on division, and the president has become the icon of a divided nation. These divisions became clear in the 2016 election campaign as Trump mocked the elites and Hillary Clinton scorned the “deplorables.” Both jeered with a sneer, appealing to a low common denominator of resentment.
Democrats had designated minorities and women as victims, and as Harvey Mansfield observes in Commentary Magazine, no Republican except Trump could exploit the weakness and absurdities of political correctness with the labels he put on the Democrats’ designated constituencies for special favor in awarding jobs, honors and benefits.
“Without saying so — for in this Trump was cautious and prudent — he began to mobilize a white community to match the long-existing ‘black community,’ thus turning the strategy of identity against itself,” Mansfield writes. “It was now Trump voters who were encouraged to think themselves marginalized.”
The endless war in Afghanistan does not have the moral clarity of World War II, when everything here as well as there was at stake. The president eloquently made the case this week that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda.” It was a useful reminder to all that “a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all.”
He offered a deeply moving prescription for dissolving that hurt. “Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one,” he said.
That’s an unaccustomed idealism coming from Donald Trump, a man of erratic temperament who rarely shows such introspection or invokes the grander emotions. But it’s a worthy invocation nonetheless from the president of the United States.