I thought of Memorial Hall last week when President Trump made his now-infamous comments about the Civil War. “People don't realize,” he began, “you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask the question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
In a fun coincidence for those of us who are New England sports fans, the actual anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, April 19, was also the day on which the Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots visited the White House. Under any other President, this event would have been simply another fun reminder of a miracle comeback. Instead, under current circumstances, it was a moment of cognitive dissonance.
Nevertheless, the American system—domestically and globally—has, for all its manifest flaws, been a great engine of progress. At home, a federal court system that once declared white supremacy to be a cornerstone of American nationhood this month extended the Civil Rights Act to forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Abroad, a world order of empires that fell apart twice in the space of twenty-five years has transformed itself into a collection of independent nations bound by international norms. These characterizations by no means imply that the world is without problems; rather, they suggest that the world of today is one that would arouse the envy of past generations.
The bad news? The chorus almost lost this opportunity due to overzealous First Amendment lawyers who seem to have lost track of their priorities in the age of Trump.
In essence, Bannon revealed at CPAC that the Trump administration views itself to be at war with a great boogeyman of the conservative movement, a specter signified by the term “administrative state.” Google the term, and you will find a collection of articles by conservative scholars arguing that this entity is the enemy of American liberty and constitutional government. Nothing could be further from the truth.