Donald Trump’s supporters believe that his election will end business as usual in Washington. The self-glorifying Trump agrees and indeed has, so far, been the most unorthodox president of our era, if not any era. It’s a chaotic and tweet-driven administration that makes headlines daily thanks to scandals, acts of stunning incompetence, rants, accusations, wild claims, and conspiracy theories.
On one crucial issue, however, Trump has been a complete conformist. Despite the headline-grabbing uproar over Muslim bans and the like, his stance on national security couldn’t be more recognizable. His list of major threats—terrorism, Iran, North Korea, and China—features the usual suspects that Republicans, Democrats, and the foreign-policy establishment have long deemed dangerous.
Trump’s conception of security not only doesn’t break the mold of recent administrations, it’s a remarkably fine fit for it. That’s because his focus is on protecting Americans from foreign groups or governments that could threaten us or destroy physical objects (buildings, bridges, and the like) in the homeland. In doing so, he, like his predecessors, steers clear of a definition of “security” that would include the workaday difficulties that actually make Americans insecure.
These include poverty, joblessness or underemployment, wages too meager to enable even full-time workers to make ends meet, and a wealth-based public school system that hampers the economic and professional prospects, as well as futures, of startling numbers of American children. To this list must be added the radical dangers climate change poses to the health and safety of future citizens.