America on the Verge

Author: Gary Hart

Sometime in the past decade or less the American political universe experienced a significant earthquake.  And I missed it.

Our correspondent Michael rightly attributes this, at least in part, to substantial changes in the media, and he is clearly right.  The decline of the print press, the explosion of social media, the rise of partisan electronic media, and much else.  Everyone is now a journalist, both a photographer and commentator.

In elections and governance, on the good side is the rise of small dollar fund raising on the Internet.  Sadly, this is outweighed by wholesale gerrymandering into red and blue Americas, blatant partisanship of the judiciary, demonization of the opposition, and in the Trump era blatant disregard of facts, meaning, and truth itself.

This latter pollution of language is the most disturbing epicenter of the earthquake.  It marks the 21st century’s refinement of last century’s totalitarianism of the right and left.  He who defines the meaning of words wins the debate.  The new authoritarianism massively redefines the meaning of words.

Nowhere is this more true than in Trumpian America where his supporters could care less that he calls black white and invents his own version of history.  This is incidental because “he understands me and my anger”, they say.

In war, the first casualty is the truth.  Trump has declared war on traditional democracy and its norms and declared dictators and autocrats his friends’ and a third of America doesn’t care whether he is telling the truth or not.  They may not care what truth is.

This has been documented and commented upon endlessly and vainly.  He does not care nor does his “base”.  There have been Trumps before, but none has ascended to the highest national office.  Now he is there and possibly for a second term.

A large segment of America has changed.  It not only tolerates his behavior, it rewards it.  This has been written off as anger at globalization and immigration.  Neither justifies wholesale abandonment of a rich democratic heritage, the rule of law, and standards of mature conduct in America.

Some current projections show a Trump re-election if markets stay up, if Democrats do not nominate a strong and persuasive candidate, if young people, women, and minorities stay home, and if voter turn out generally is low.

Too many Americans longing to recover better days have virtually assumed the next national election would restore normality.  This assumption is not assured.  If our nation is undergoing a negative resurgence, it could take only four more years to incorporate it into our culture.

If a substantial minority of our fellow citizens are becoming, or perhaps already have become, Trumpian to the core, then we are in for a dark period in our nation’s history.

Our unwillingness or inability to cooperate with allied nations will increasingly be mirrored by divisions at home along ethnic, racial, and religious lines.

Trump’s eagerness to appeal to the worst angels of our nature will continue to resonate and those dark angels will be legitimized.

Trump’s claim to represent the party of Lincoln is in fact a claim to represent the party of Trump, a party that Lincoln would not recognize.

A year from now we will know whether our current unprecedented detour is over or whether we are becoming a different kind of country.

2 Responses to “America on the Verge”

  1. Michael Says:

    Senator, thank you for this piece. Our ‘rich democratic heritage’; the great American experiment is in grave danger. Our democratic institutions are being tested; many have already been corrupted from within. It is imperative that respected, patriotic elder statesmen and women such as yourself build a coalition, sound the alarm and speak out. People must be made aware how perilous this moment actually is. That it is not normal and cannot be allowed to ever become normal. That democracy, even in the United States of America, can never be taken for granted. The moment the people come to believe that this nation’s democratic institutions can no longer protect them; that the Corinthian columns and the grand aspirations engraved in marble are a meaningless facade, that is the moment this nation will cease be what it was before. We will have become something else, fundamentally, now and in the future. Our march toward a more perfect union will have been halted once and for all. All the sacrifices and battles of the past 240 years will have been in vain.

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    Beautifully expressed, Michael. GH

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