Proponents of “American exceptionalism,” from Thomas Jefferson to Dick Cheney, have argued that the United States is an “empire of liberty,” a nation uniquely dedicated “to the preservation and progress of freedom.” Donald Trump, for better and most certainly for worse, has stripped away this sort of self-serving optimism about the meaning and history of the United States. Trump speaks to another American vision, a far darker one that has never before been so boldly articulated by an American president. In Trump’s Republic order, security, power, hierarchy and “America first" nationalism rank far higher than liberty, freedom, and equality. This vision of America, too, has a history and a powerful constituency within the United States. Trump did not invent the reactionary nationalism that swept him into the presidency; he inherited it and marketed it anew for an American electorate at the crossroads of its national destiny.
David Farber is the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Modern American History at the University of Kansas. An elected member of the Society of American Historians, he has published many books including Chicago ’68, The Age of Great Dreams, Taken Hostage, The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism, and the forthcoming Crack: Rock Cocaine, Street Capitalism, and the Decade of Greed.
To listen to the podcast from the lecture, visit https://youtu.be/ptFPWEoX-64