I’ve previously written that one of the chief motivations behind the high level of support for Donald Trump’s astoundingly effective candidacy is widespread discontent over the direction our nation has taken in recent decades.

As we enter the heat of party primaries, let’s explore the roots of that discord.

Three prominent analysts of American life have written recently on this subject: Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has authored many best-selling social science books; David Gelernter, a Yale computer scientist and prominent Unabomber target, does public policy analysis as well; and Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University.

Murray, writing Feb. 12 in The Wall Street Journal, says we shouldn’t think “Trumpism” will fade away if he does: “It is the endgame,” he says, “of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.”

That identity, he says, involved “egalitarianism, liberty and individualism,” which spurred “equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics (and) decentralized and devolved political authority.”

But now, our elites have become significantly isolated and our lower class has given up on the benefits of work and marriage to rely on government transfer payments – and the working class has noticed.

“White working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses – and life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?”

Tellingly, Murray adds: “There is nothing conservative about how they want to fix things. They want a now-indifferent government to act on their behalf, big time. If Bernie Sanders were passionate about immigration, the rest of his ideology would have a lot more in common with Trumpism than conservatism does.”

In the Weekly Standard on Feb. 29, Gelernter says Trumpian discontent has many sources, but they all fall under one general rubric: that scourge of modern life called “political correctness,” which has soured nearly every aspect of American comity.

Gelernter offers numerous examples – we fight Islamic terrorism, but our president won’t even say its name; when Marines prove women are far less effective than men in combat, “a hack overrules them”; the Environmental Protection Agency issues rules that will destroy the American coal industry for a purely symbolic statement on carbon; the Internal Revenue Service systematically punishes conservative groups and “not one IRS worker has the integrity or guts to resign on principle, not one.”

I could add other examples: One is that our elites send their own children to exclusive private schools, but join with greedy teachers’ unions to fight charter schools and school-choice programs that would give ordinary people the same discretion. But, Gelernter says, none of that is the main point, which is that “many white male job-seekers have faced aggressive state-enforced bigotry their whole lives.” Preference programs place them – and their college-applying children – at the bottom of too many lists to count, and they are finally, completely, tired of it.

Finally, Codevilla, writing on The Federalist website Feb. 29, says, “America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. … This class’ fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed.”

No wonder then, he says, that “millions of Americans lose respect for a ruling class that disrespects them, that they identify with whomever promises some kind of turnabout against that class, and that they care less and less for the integrity of institutions that fail to protect them.”

None of these writers are fans of Trump, and for good reason. Americans want and deserve to be governed, and governed well – but they have fallen into the hands of those who would rule over them instead.

As Codevilla concludes, “America’s founders, steeped in history as few of our contemporaries are, were acutely aware of how easily factional enmities deliver free peoples into the hands of emperors. America is already advanced in this vicious cycle. The only possible chance of returning it to republicanism lies in not taking the next turn, and in not following one imperial ruler with another.”

Still (pending the outcome of the Democrats’ ongoing “FBI primary”), we may not be able to avoid that outcome if the race comes down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump – a Scylla-or-Charybdis roll of the dice where every result is snake eyes.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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