HENNINGER: Trump Out-Hoped The Liberals Who Thought They Owned Hope

Post-Trump, Democrats are engaged in a pedestrian fight over who gets control of their party. More interesting is the evident political challenge to liberalism’s belief in large public bureaucracies as dispensers of hope.

Is the current welfare system still about hope? ObamaCare, as symbol and actuality, may be the apogee of modern liberalism’s politics of hope as mostly messaging.

Donald Trump, promiser of “a beautiful wall,” out-hoped the progressives who thought they owned it. Voters concluded that an ideology-free businessman would turn hope into change better than yet another bearer of liberal orthodoxy. Among the reasons for Mr. Trump’s win is the corrosive state of the nation’s culture, from the opioid crisis to political correctness. The notion that Donald Trump might help rehabilitate the culture would strike many as laughable.

Maybe so. But Donald Trump seems to have been genuinely moved by the opioid crisis he discovered in New Hampshire and elsewhere. That kind of exposure is another argument for the 50-state Electoral College.

Our electoral system, up and running since 1789, forces candidates to meet people living in a large, regionally complex country. Running for president may attract self-inflated personalities, but there is only one person looking into the faces of and listening to uncounted pleas on the campaign trail—from Iowans, Floridians, Ohioans, Mainers—and that is the candidate.

That system made Donald Trump spend more time than most of us will in some of the most dispirited places in white, black and brown America. I won’t go so far as to say Donald Trump will become Saul on the road to Damascus. But those in despair or grim doubt over the 45th president should not underestimate the effects an American presidential campaign had on his understanding of what hope means now in the United States.