November 15, 2016 | Forbes

Another American Revolution

Donald Trump’s electoral victory surprised no end of pundits, not just because the polls were so off-base, but also because they couldn’t imagine the American people turning against a Western consensus in favor of globalization, big state government with expanding power, and political correctness.

Many pundits are now talking about a surge of American “nationalism,”  what they take to be the implication of  the Trumpist slogan “let’s make America great again.”

They are as mistaken about American identity as they were about the support for Trump.  There is no American nationalism—a 19th century European ideology that developed in countries with overwhelming majorities of a single religion and/or ethnicity.  The classic examples are France, England and Germany, all of which had largely homogeneous populations.  There is an American counterpart, but it’s very different.  We have patriotism, pride of nation, and that nation is defined by a distinctly anti-nationalist idea, since Americans belong to myriad religions and come in many colors, accents, and traditions.  American patriotism—aka American exceptionalism—rests on the Declaration and the Constitution, not a national church or ethnic group.

We embrace individual rights rather than collective entitlements, leaving Americans free to organize themselves to solve their problems.  Alexis de Tocqueville identified this as one of the prime elements of American democracy, and a dramatic difference between us and the Europeans.

American is the most revolutionary country in the world precisely because of our tradition of rejecting big-state “solutions,” and the ideas and doctrines that the big-state elites advocate.  The election of Donald Trump shows American revolutionary patriotism at work.  He won in the face of overwhelming opposition from the “establishment,”  from the political parties to the government bureaucracy (there are still stories of “massive resignations” in the State Department, for example), from big media, big business, self-proclaimed policy experts, Silicon Valley tycoons, and most political pundits.

Voters have been bitterly disappointed by these elites and want Americans to take control over their own destiny.  This election is comparable to our several “great awakenings,”  so often associated with dramatic changes throughout American history.

A Working Class Revolution?

Revolutions invariably mobilize people who had been politically apathetic, and the Trump revolution is no exception.  He received decisive support from workers who had either defaulted to their unions or stayed at home on election day.  They are now politically engaged.  Are we seeing a working-class revolution?  If so, it is not the sort of class conflict the Marxists imagined.  Instead it bespeaks a revolutionary revival against an establishment viewed as selfish, unpatriotic, and, via political correctness, anti-American.   As Joel Kotkin put it, “Trump’s America…does not see the United States as part of a global system to be managed.”

Trump understood this. The establishment didn’t.

Michael Ledeen is a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.