Criticizing the underpinnings of liberal democratic government is in vogue again. Populism is shaking some people’s faith in the wisdom of voters, and others, such as Patrick Deneen, argue outright that liberalism has failed. Some consider Evangelical Christians the big winners of 2016, but the ongoing debate about supporting President Donald Trump betrays their unease about the American system. From a reformed Protestant prospective, pastor and author Jonathan Leeman brings his own criticism to bear on the liberal order and ultimately concludes there’s something there worth conserving.
When liberal historian John Patrick Diggins informed Arthur Schlesinger Jr. that he was writing a biography of Ronald Reagan, Schlesinger urged him not to make Reagan “look too good.”
But unlike Schlesinger, who made “his” president—John F. Kennedy—look too good (i.e., an Arthurian king who would have ended the Cold War had he dodged Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets), Diggins was an old-fashioned historian, the kind who followed the evidence no matter where it led.
Who could doubt that the best thing America has experienced since the Second World War is the collapse of the Soviet empire? Victory in the Cold War finished off the deep threat of international communism backed by major military power. It freed the United States from entanglement in proxy wars with the Soviet Union, and it released from the national consciousness the high tension of possible global thermonuclear war. “The biggest thing that has happened in the world in my life, in our lives, is this,” George H.W. Bush would later write. “By the grace of God, America won the Cold War.”