David Brooks has been thinking a lot about what is really happening in America since we elected Donald Trump. We have always had political contests between political parties that share a common myth about America but argue about some of the fringe issues. That has changed with the advent of Donald Trump and Steven Bannon who have a radical vision of how to "Make America Great Again". They have started a war about what America stands for. Bannon has been the architect and the propagandist for the new American identity. It is a nationalist vision that is based upon fear of foreigners and a retreat from the spirit of democracy that had inspired domestic and foreign policy for most of our history. America would join forces with nationalists in Europe who would capitalize on fear and economic hardship by retreating to autocracy and isolationism. Trump and Bannon would make America great again by shattering the myth of America and our national identity that has guided our nation for much of our history. They have the power of the presidency behind them to fight their war. If they win, America will have lost its soul and no longer be the "light on the hill" that has inspired hope in other nations.
This was not an easy article for David Brooks to write. He has traditionally supported a Republican Party that shared the same vision of American identity as the Democratic Party with a slightly different emphasis on how to achieve it. The risk to America, and to his favorite political party, is that it will join Trump and Bannon in establishing a new identity for America in exchange for political supremacy. Trump and Bannon may win that war unless the American public comes to understand what is really at issue. It is a war for our national identity.