Probably most important is the anger at being treated like suckers by a corrupt establishment:
At the same time, rampant corruption among those connected to the liberal establishment – most shockingly with Hillary Clinton being cleared of charges of misusing classified material when the same facts would have doubtlessly led to the imprisonment of unconnected Americans – opened a path for Trump. This was especially disruptive because so many Republican politicians, while ideologically conservative, culturally identified with prosperous coastal, urban elites over the suffering citizens of “flyover” America and tried to enforce the same “political correctness.”It makes sense that people are tired of having their government run by self-dealing liars who treat them like fools, while also subjecting them to social pressures designed to shame them into knuckling under.
Still, what caught my eye about this piece is the author's comment on the shift toward isolationism. It's partly about a failure of allied governments (and, frankly, allied nations' populations) to be willing to stand up and suffer for allegedly shared values. But it's even more about a loss of trust in our own leaders to defend our sacrifices:
The non-elite Americans who make up the military have suffered greatly in wars they see as perfectly justifiable morally, but which were fought without a commitment to victory and therefore led to an inexcusable waste of soldiers’ lives.If we can't trust either our allies or our leadership, why go off to die in foreign lands? For adventure, perhaps, or for glory; those are good things, to be sure. But more important than either adventure or glory is the sense of being engaged in a moral purpose, especially in war where you will often have to do morally difficult things, or watch good men die. It needs to be worth it, and that means you need to be able to have confidence both that there is a moral purpose, and that the sacrifices will not be in vain.
Furthermore, Trump has given voice to the feeling that those America has fought to free – and keep free – are ungrateful and unwilling to shoulder the burden of their own defense. His recent heresy on NATO’s Article 5 was not based upon a misunderstanding of America’s treaty obligations but upon the widespread feeling that America’s allies have had a free ride on America’s largesse, and that this must end. Having served in the U.S. Army in Germany in the Cold War, I understood my mission in case of a hot conflict would have been to kill Russians until either the reserves arrived or I died, and this was fine – I knew a large and powerful Bundeswehr would be fighting by my side. But today, Germany and Europe have allowed their militaries to wither into near uselessness. Trump embodies the question on many Americans’ minds – if the Germans don’t think defending Germany is worth German money and lives, why is it worth American money and lives?
Our leaders have not taken either of those factors seriously since George W. Bush left office. The nearly complete erosion of the American position in west Asia and the northern Middle East is a consequence. I doubt it will be the only consequence.