President Trump does not like to contradict President Vladimir Putin, and either Trump was concurring with one of his favorite authoritarian leaders or he does not understand what Western-style liberalism is.
Trump's response to a question during a press conference at the G-20 summit revealed his confusion, as his answer pertained to West Coast liberals. If you consider a Russian autocratic leader has been denouncing values and beliefs our American Democratic government was founded on, then Trump's response at the summit was an embarrassing moment for our nation as the world looked on.
Thomas Jefferson did not draft the Declaration of Independence without inspiration from one of Europe's eminent philosophers. Putin was not referencing the liberal members of the Democratic Party who run city governments of Los Angeles and San Francisco, but Trump did not catch that. Trump immediately began to denounce the sad state of affairs within the City of Angels and the Golden City, "which are run by an extraordinary group of liberal people." If Trump had been playing the word association."
Trump must have instantly conjured up an image in his mind when asked that question, and I am sure he thought of those latte-sipping liberal elites who are members of the Democratic Party. In case you haven't noticed, anytime a Republican wants to lash out at the Democratic Party, he will say "the Democrats," and Trump denounced the liberal leadership of two major California cities. Can you imagine if Trump had known what Western-style liberalism is when posed that question? Would he have denounced it like he denounced West Coast liberal government leadership? I can only imagine a post-press conference briefing between Trump and staff during which they had to educate him about some of the values Jefferson had drawn from English philosopher John Locke.
Trump missed a golden opportunity to shine in front of cameras at an international summit meeting, and speak to the very ideas of "natural rights" and government by social contract. Trump had the chance to remind the world of how Jefferson argued it is the rightful intent of the government to protect individuals, and that the American government is a proxy of the people. It would have been a proud and awe-inspiring moment at that G-20 podium for our nation if Trump had spoken to the concept of a government by consent, and how the people may refuse their consent to an unjust government. Consider how Trump's words would have resonated with Americans and many around the world if he had spoken of how this Lockean-Jeffersonian concept translates into the 21st century as the right of self-determination.
Obviously, anytime Trump does denounce liberal Democrats, the applause from the MAGA base roars, yet Trump had the opportunity at the summit to praise sovereignty as opposed to the hereditary authority of a monarchical government. This was his chance to endorse ideas about human equality, and how that equality is governed by natural law. Instead of rising to the occasion to counter Putin's remarks about the obsolete nature of Western-style liberalism in the post World War II era, Trump derailed into liberal-bashing.
Please, Mr. President, if you happen to be questioned again about other leaders bashing concepts contained within our Declaration of Independence, try to remember the three basic food groups: democracy, market economies, and individual liberty. Putin is certainly aware of these.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator specializing in history and civics.