Quote of the Day: “He leaves behind a nation deranged.” -Michelle Goldberg.
Michelle Goldberg, Opinion Columnist at the NY Times, asks Just How Dangerous Was Donald Trump?. He failed to bend the state to his will, but he still broke the country.
And he continues to do so even after a landslide losses in both the popular vote and the electoral college.
The inevitable post mortem starts today.
Thanks to Editor at Large Sherry.
The American left’s most famous figures — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky — saw Trump as an authoritarian who could, if re-elected, destroy American democracy for good. But another strain of left opinion viewed Trump’s fascistic gestures as almost purely performative, and believed his clumsiness in marshaling state power made him less dangerous than, say, George W. Bush.
A leading proponent of this position is the political theorist Corey Robin, author of an essential book about right-wing thought, “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.” In an interview with the left-wing publication Jewish Currents, he argued, “Compared to the Republican presidencies of Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump’s was significantly less transformational, and its legacy is far less assured.”
The damage he’s done, however, may be irreversible. On Twitter, Robin argued, correctly, that George W. Bush, far more than Trump, changed the shape of government, leaving behind the Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security. Most of Trump’s legacy, by contrast, is destruction — of even the pretense that the law should apply equally to ruler and ruled, of large parts of the Civil Service, of America’s standing in the world. (If mainstream liberals are more deeply horrified by Trump than some leftists, it could be because they maintain greater romantic attachments to the institutions he’s defiled.)
Most consequentially, Trump has eviscerated in America any common conception of reality. Other presidents sneered at the truth; a senior Bush official, widely believed to be Karl Rove, famously derided the “reality-based community” to the journalist Ron Suskind.
But Trump’s ability to envelop his followers in a cocoon of lies is unparalleled. The Bush administration deceived the country to go to war in Iraq. It did not insist, after the invasion, that weapons of mass destruction had been found when they obviously were not. That’s why the country was able to reach a consensus that the war was a disaster.
No such consensus will be possible about Trump — not about his abuses of power, his calamitous response to the coronavirus, or his electoral defeat. He leaves behind a nation deranged.
The postmodern blood libel of QAnon will have adherents in Congress. Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man charged with killing Black Lives Matter protesters, is a right-wing folk hero. The Republican Party has become more hostile to democracy than ever. Both the Trump and Bush presidencies concluded with America a smoking ruin. Only Trump has ensured that nearly half the country doesn’t see it.
As American electors gathered — with the police offering armed guards and Michigan’s capitol closed by “credible threats of violence” — Moyn’s words, meant cynically, seem too optimistic. Trump failed to capture America, but he may have irrevocably broken it.