This is a column directed at high school and college students. I’m going to try to convey to you how astoundingly different the Republican Party felt when I was your age.
The big guy then was Ronald Reagan. Temperamentally, though not politically, Reagan was heir to the two Roosevelts. He inherited a love of audacity from T.R. and optimism and charm from F.D.R.
He had a sunny faith in America’s destiny and in America’s ability to bend global history toward freedom. He had a sunny faith in the free market to deliver prosperity to all. He had a sunny faith in the power of technology to deliver bounty and even protect us from nuclear missiles.
He could be very hard on big government or the Soviet Union, but he generally saw the world as a welcoming place; he looked for the good news in others and saw the arc of history bending toward progress.
When he erred it was often on the utopian side of things, believing that tax cuts could pay for themselves, believing that he and Mikhail Gorbachev could shed history and eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The mood of the party is so different today. Donald Trump expressed the party’s new mood to David Muir of ABC, when asked about his decision to suspend immigration from some Muslim countries: “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.”
Consider the tenor of Trump’s first week in office. It’s all about threat perception. He has made moves to build a wall against the Mexican threat, to build barriers against the Muslim threat, to end a trade deal with Asia to fight the foreign economic threat, to build black site torture chambers against the terrorist threat.
Trump is on his political honeymoon, which should be a moment of joy and promise. But he seems to suffer from an angry form of anhedonia, the…