The greatest danger

The difficulty is that Trump is correct: truth is interpretation; news is biased; elected officials are corrupt; America is not innocent; protecting individual liberties makes us vulnerable. The technical correctness of these claims makes Trump’s effort to delegitimize our institutions alluring to many who resent the bullshit, hypocrisy, and moralism in our culture.

But that does not make him right. It is precisely because knowledge is contestable, objectivity is impossible, self-government is imperfect, power is violent, liberty is precarious that we must strive all the more wholeheartedly toward truth, democracy, freedom, fairness — even though we can never fully obtain them.

Without faith in the legitimacy of our institutions of science, discourse, democracy, diplomacy, and constitutionality, then we have have only the rule of brute, unconstrained power. If Trump delegitimates everything, then there is no argument against him.

This danger should make conservatives of us all, not in the ideological sense of contemporary “conservatives,” but in the civilization-affirming sense that we must fight to conserve our imperfect institutions.

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