Famed Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Will Durant, during a 96-year life devoted to sharing the lessons of history—chronicled in an 11-volume, 11,000-page tour de force—concluded that the story of civilization is the tension between the values of freedom and order. Order typically prevails, he wrote, which explains why President Donald Trump must be favored going into the fall election.
Durant, whose wife and collaborator, Ariel, joined him as co-author in the later works, chronicles the ebbs and flows of civilizations and eras in an accessible and entertaining prose. But he punctuates the key points with great clarity. His essential message—from “The Lessons of History”—is that, if the two values are in conflict, we embrace order over freedom.
Freedom, the couple asserts, leads to chaos over time. The citizenry demands that government respond to the emerging chaos to reestablish order. The cost is a loss of freedom, but the benefit is an increase in certainty and safety.
This lesson could not be more tailor-made for the 2020 presidential election. Earlier this summer, with the uncertainties of the pandemic still weighing heavily, the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, had a clear lead in the polls and in the punditry.
That has shifted with the outbreak of violence in many major American cities, including our own Indianapolis, but most especially in New York City, Minneapolis, Louisville and Portland, Oregon. The violence in Minneapolis, for example, puts the state of Minnesota in play for Trump, a state with the longest Democratic win streak in presidential politics (native son Walter Mondale carried it in 1984 against Ronald Reagan’s 49-state electoral college blowout).
The summer backdrop of Antifa, Black Lives Matter and other groups on the left rioting, looting, engaging in arson and violence (including murders and maiming) presents a picture of unrest and disorder. The president is stepping into that void, wisely so, for political advantage as well as to fulfill his oath of office to uphold the Constitution, which, among other things, calls on the chief executive to promote the general welfare.
Most so-called police power to thwart or arrest such disorder resides in the states with our governors. But Trump, as the master marketer, knows how to be at the center of the news story, especially in light of the political vacuum left by many mayors’ and governors’ tepid response to the rampant lawlessness.
Recent polling gives Trump the advantage due to the disturbing social unrest, this lack of order. It is quite an advantage, too.
For example, one demand, or at least refrain, of the rioters is to defund the police. Wide majorities of Americans believe just the opposite—police need more support and resources in these troubling times. Indeed, one poll showed 81% of African Americans do not favor defunding the police, perhaps explaining why Black voters at far higher rates are open to voting for Trump than in recent presidential elections.
Trump is a disruptive political figure. If this unrest continues and he rides into a second term on a law-and-order ticket, it will likely be because this unrest gave him the margin of victory needed to continue his unfolding political realignment and his lower-tax, less-regulation approach to what had been our most successful economy in recent history.
How ironic if historians like the Durants look back at the 2020 presidential election and conclude that the chaos unleashed in many urban centers by the far left secured the very victory for Trump that those protestors and rioters thought they were working against. The Durants would relish such a conclusion as further confirmation of the thesis of their fruitful life work—order trumps lawlessness.•
Smith is chairman of the Indiana Family Institute and author of “Deicide: Why Eliminating The Deity is Destroying America.” Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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