How Trump Is Saving Western Civilization

President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump is saving Western civilization. Not necessarily because of his policies, though. Rather, Trump’s unorthodox political style has created a new political reality in which old ideas are being re-examined or even thrown out, while new ideas are being seriously considered. This is vital to a successful and functional country, and it may just mean the public is ready to have an honest conversation about radical Islam.

Of course, Clarion Project is a non-partisan organization. (While we comment on Trump’s counter-extremism policies, we are not endorsing or rejecting Trump’s policies as a whole). Rather, we have a single mission: to educate the public about the dangers of radical Islam and promote people and policies which are effective in working against it. 

Our staff holds a wide range of political opinions and loyalties. We feel this strengthens our organization and helps us build the broadest possible coalition to defeat radical Islam. 

At Clarion, by maintaining partisan neutrality, we are in a unique position to nudge the world one step closer to resolving the international problem of radical Islam that causes so much harm to so many.

Which brings us back to Trump. The president’s style can be understood through the context of the political philosophy called the “Overton Window.” Formulated by Joe Overton in the 1990s, the theory maintains that there is an “acceptable” range of politically viable ideas on any given issue, framed by the range of ideas held by the public. For example, discussions of taxes mostly focus on raising or lowering existing taxes and essentially tinkering with the current system. Rarely do you hear a politician proposing something genuinely radical, like abolishing income tax altogether and replacing it with a flat sales tax of 15%. This is because the idea is too outlandish and novel for most people to be willing to consider.

“So, if a think tank’s research and the principles of sound policy suggest a particular idea that lies outside the Overton window, what is to be done? Shift the window,” Nathan Russell wrote for the MacKinac Institute in an essay explaining the Overton window. “Since commonly held ideas, attitudes and presumptions frame what is politically possible and create the ‘window,’ a change in the opinions held by politicians and the people in general will shift it. Move the window of what is politically possible and those policies previously impractical can become the next great popular and legislative rage.”

Trump has been a brick through that window.

He has triggered a cultural moment where people are now discussing issues like radical Islam in an open,  candid way for the first time in decades.

Trump is saving the West is by reigniting that most important ingredient in a functional polity: an engaged citizenry. He is to the Overton window as the Kool-Aid man is to walls.

In 2018, Clarion intends to use this opportunity to keep speaking about radical Islam and tap into a public that is ready to look at new approaches and solutions to this on-going, global challenge.

 

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Elliot Friedland
Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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