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Trumpism and the Philosophy of World Order

Many liberals have been tempted to condemn Donald Trump’s behavior in personal terms, accusing him of incompetence and speculating about his mental stability. But there is a deeper – and even more troubling – explanation of the US president’s behavior.

HAMDEN, CONNECTICUT – In the wake of the NATO and Helsinki summits, many liberals have been tempted to condemn US President Donald Trump’s behavior in personal terms. His embrace of Vladimir Putin, and his snubbing of his own intelligence services and of America’s traditional allies, seem to reveal that he is out of his depth. Or that he was played. Or that he is mentally unstable. Or that he is Russia’s ultimate made man – a “traitor.”

Any or all of these judgments may well be true. But there is a deeper – and even more troubling – explanation of Trump’s behavior: it arises from his ideas, especially his implicit philosophical commitments concerning world order. These commitments will be much more difficult to combat.

Of course, Trump is no philosopher. Yet he does channel certain concepts instinctively, thanks to his mastery of popular storytelling and his deep sensitivity to how his supporters respond to him emotionally. With every rally, he is encouraged by mass audiences to refine his ideas to meet their self-perceived emotional needs, which he in turn politicizes through social media.

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