I woke up in Istanbul at 4:30 a.m., seven hours in front of New York City on Nov. 9. I had long forecast an electoral college Clinton blowout. But the early numbers looked wrong for the Democrats. I went back to sleep, surprised, but certain they would change. Hours later over breakfast, looking out at the Hagia Sophia, I was incredulous, as were millions of others. Donald Trump had won. Trump had done the impossible.
On account of anti-terrorist warnings, few Americans or Europeans were in Istanbul. New Yorkers had told me, should Trump be elected, to watch out for my personal safety. But in the days that followed, several Turks exclaimed to me with a smile, “Trump, president!” thumbs up. What anti-Americanism? The Turks do understand nationalism and strongmen.
I was never a Trumpist. I remain skeptical of his ability to govern, listen to others, and conduct himself with the dignity that befits a president. As Obama and HRC before him, he seems imperial in nature. Yet I am relieved that America is trying to put the brakes on the left’s identity politics and shut-down of free speech. Over the years I had just stopped talking politics except among family and a few friends who could tolerate counterviews.
When did the “peasant’s revolt” begin? Was it the Black Lives Matter-inspired riots and war on police that the media recklessly fanned? The LGBT rainbow flag, flying loud and proud at the local elementary school? Planned Parenthood’s harvesting body parts did not make the case for abortion. Women in combat, cockpits and subs were not everyone’s must-do military imperative. Was there really a glass ceiling? Or did a big part of America simply find Lois Lerner, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, Huma Abedin, Gloria Allred, and Donna Brazile dishonest and possibly creepy?
The defamation of bourgeois America backfired. The Democratic establishment could not see what was before its eyes. It got America wrong. Those dreaded white nationalists were in reality a multi-ethnic, tax-paying middle class that values security, work, religion, and patriotism. They are economically squeezed by cheap labor. They don’t want their kids pushed further into weirdo land. They are not citizens of the world, nor do they want to be.
By Labor Day, the polarities had come to a point. “To just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables,’” Hillary Clinton remarked at a New York fundraiser on Sept. 9. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”
And now, a hunt for deviationists has begun. Columbia University law professor and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law Katherine M. Franke shamelessly accuses her colleague, the esteemed Mark Lilla, of getting in bed with white supremacists for his brilliant critique of identity liberalism in the New York Times. Read “Making White Supremacy Respectable Again” in the Los Angeles Review of Books for an example of the boot-heel politics of diversity’s hard left.
There was certainly more to the Trump win than class warfare or white consciousness. “Democrats knowingly chose to nominate a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate,” Glenn Greenwald noted. Some Democrats “tried frantically to warn Democrats that nominating Hillary Clinton was a huge and scary gamble.” But insiders, superdelegates, and diversity religionists knew better. So did Amanda Taub of the New York Times, writing “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity” eight days before the election. The Upper West Side knew — just knew — that white America was finished, and for not celebrating diversity, the Republican Party was rightly doomed.
Back to Istanbul. Turkey is Europe and not. Turkey puts journalists and Army officers in jail by the hundreds. Stoking nationalism, using Islam as cement, President Recep Erdogan takes on sweeping new powers, curtailing secularism and freedom of expression to build a stronger Turkey. What is cop-baiting and editorial license in the U.S. can lead to imprisonment and death in this cosmopolitan city, crowded with burkas these days. Istanbul overwhelms with contradictions. Amid Roman and Ottoman glory, the Muslim cool guy with baseball cap and shades, a trimmed beard, tee-shirt, Levi’s, and knapsack holds hands with his gal in full burka. It seems to work for them. It slightly chills me. (But then consider Miley Cyrus’s whorish stunts and politics — she has 56 million followers on Instagram — as they would appear to decorous Turks and their government.)
The question raised in Turkey: how can the U.S. admit deserving, high quality immigrants — including Muslims — while keeping locusts and bad guys out? We’re not getting the best, Trump’s right. Many of us know foreigners who would be plusses in the nation. A lot of Turks would love to move to the land of opportunity and free will. I can nominate a sharp, industrious Egyptian in Rome or a Pakistani in Istanbul, both Muslim, for a cut in line. Redlining Muslims purely on faith is a terrible idea.
Instead, why not clean house at pestholes like Dar-Al-Uloom, the San Bernardino mosque that spawned Syed Farook? Outsource some tattooed East L.A. cholos and welfare-for-life freeloaders on Upper Broadway? Curb birthright citizenship and shady family reunification schemes? Does the U.S. or Europe have a moral obligation to let the world in, all of it? We’ve already opened the doors with abandon. Don’t legal immigrants and American taxpayers come first? Who will win the prizes going forward?
National self-preservation is trending up. Watch what happens Dec. 4 in Vienna. An election is coming between the Green Party’s “what will the world think of Austria” Alexander Van der Bellen and the Freedom Party’s “home and security” Catholic nationalist Norbert Hofer. Watch Germany too. In power since 2005, Angela Merkel has announced a run for a fourth term as chancellor. “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent from origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views,” Ms. Merkel said in her tepid congratulations to president-elect Trump. Merkel has learned nothing from last year’s immigration errors, Brexit, or Trump’s victory, and her leadership is contested.
For Clinton, Manhattan went 87-10 percent; Cambridge, Massachusetts, 88-6 percent; the District of Columbia, 93-4 percent. Hello? Leftist America should get out more. For progressive true believers, “your worst nightmare is not a Trump presidency,” the able Harvard historian Niall Ferguson recently observed, “it’s a successful Trump presidency.”
Quite so. And Professor Franke, at long last, have you left no sense of decency, going after Mark Lilla like that for blowing the whistle on identity liberalism? Columbia law professors and the rest of us have an obligation to understand why the unthinkable happened, and even ponder the virtues of bourgeois nationalism, not react with drive-by smears.