Literally seven out of every ten politics stories published in the mainstream media this year have centered upon the improbable campaign for president of Donald Trump. The media have pretty much covered the gamut – from Trump’s shocking rhetoric, to his unorthodox campaign finance strategies, to Trump’s strong appeal among certain cross-section of the electorate. By almost all accounts, Trump’s rise has defied the odds and is leaving the political prognosticators and prediction markets increasingly irrelevant.
But few have really discussed the rise of Donald Trump from a moral perspective. What is it about the state of the spirit of the American people that gives rise to a political anomaly like Trump?
There are a host of factors, but among them are concern about America’s decline, economic despair from a decade of recession, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as a credible challenge to Western hegemony.
The origins of this moral dilemma facing Americans actually goes back to President George Bush. Bush outlined a vision for American foreign policy oriented in opposition to what he termed an ‘axis of evil.’ The term – which Bush coined during his State of The Union Address in in 2002, was to describe nations that supported terrorism seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction (or were threatening to use them). The Axis, consisting of Iran, Iraq and North Korea, took on an almost mystical quality in the philosophy and terminology of George Bush. If these nations were inherently evil, then America, in opposing them, was a force for good in the world. More critically, the fact that America is an inherently good country, that is ‘exceptional,’ justifies America’s own military actions around the world.