I believe that historians of the Donald Trump era will reject the convenient description of it as an “aberration,” and I bet they won’t see the 2016 election as how American democracy died.
I don’t consider the tens of millions of people who support Trump an aberration, and I definitely don’t think democracies die by democratically electing the wrong leader. Democracy dies when we prize stability over adjustment and think progress is neither possible nor beneficial; past America proves change is possible, and present America should prove change would be beneficial.
Trump, as the contemporary cliché goes, is the symptom of a disease whose cure is not a Biden Band-Aid but a purge of the Washington modus operandi.
Mass support for demagogue Trump and democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders is a clear indictment of the status quo, yet the political establishment angrily extols the centrist virtues of their acolyte Hillary Clinton and her heir apparent Joe Biden and insists that the nebulous fight for our “soul” is what’s truly at stake.
They chide the silly socialists for not knowing their place when wealth inequality soars and bemoan the working classes for fomenting division when real and imagined grievances go unaddressed. They enthusiastically urge us to participate by choosing which party gets to implement lobbyist law, corporate personhood, and environmental ambivalence, pausing only to admonish party “infighting” when these priorities are questioned.
The seeds of their pseudo-representation are bearing fruit – many see politics as a game, games as reality, and reality as pointless – and the political class wonders why they find the taste bitter.
There is nothing unifying about a platform of being not-Trump, but such objections are irrelevant to the fruitful marketing and news industries.
Though modern media refuses to, historians will accurately blame treadmill politics and its attendant institutions, not “identity politics” and “divisiveness,” as the precursor of our neopopulist era.