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Sunday, April 2, 2023

How the American experiment in democracy failed: Donald Trump

 I have an old colleague, a political scholar, who claims America ended when Donald Trump was elected president.  He is what some people call a political scientist, but he prefers to call himself a professor of political theory and practice.  He  is among the growing number of political analysts who see that America has made a major movement away from the democratic goals of freedom, equality, and justice for all.  He was not surprised when the Jan. 6, 2021, mob invaded and took over the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election.  They did it at the behest of Donald Trump.  But, my colleague says, Trump did not convert these people against democracy;  they found a voice and leader that represents their values in Donald Trump.

My colleague thinks Americans fool themselves with patriotic babble.  They believe America is a better country than it actually is.  He says we talk about the divide among Americans, but the divide has always been there.  There has always been a faction that hates freedom for anybody but themselves.  They resent that people they hate on a racial, ethnic, religious, economic, or sexual basis are considered equal with them.  They think that justice is the oppression and punishment of the people they hate.  Hatred to them is a driving virtue.  We are living in an age when some gains in civil rights and social progress are being reversed.

A few years ago, we were instituting measures to increase the vote.  Now many states are taking measures to restrict it by claiming widespread voter fraud.  Racial oppression and anti-semitism are notably on the rise.  Reports of police killings of unarmed Blacks and anti-Jewish propaganda fill the news.  And school systems are beset by people who want only their ignorance and bigotry taught in classrooms.

Trump has been indicted and Republican are rushing to his defense.  Tump's personal lawyer and the chef financial officer of his company have received prison sentences for what they did under Trump'a direction, but the GOP leaders claim the indictments against Trump are political vengeance.  In his former home base of New York City, Trump is despised for being an obnoxious jackass in his social life and a shyster in his business practices.  The fact that he holds the Republican party in thrall, however, says more about the intellectual and moral deterioration of America than it does about Trump's quality of personhood.  My former colleague says the large segment of the American populace that adores Trump suffers from Mafia envy.  What they admire in Trump is the freedom and power to do wrong.  They regard organized crime as entrepreneurship.

Good South Dakotans would be quick to say that if that is what my colleague thinks of America, he should leave.  He has. When he retired, he moved to a university town in a Scandinavian country from where he monitors what he regards as the demise of America.  Many fellow political scholars in Europe share his views.  To them, America chose to end the democratic enterprise when it chose Trump as its leader.  They think that Jan. 6 iwas the first major event in the disintegration of the American republic.  It and the support of Trump in another run for the presidency are a deliberate rejection of the American experiment in democracy.

While there are forces in charge that pursue the goals of that experiment, the adversaries have gained ground in recent years.  And while there are hordes of people at the borders waiting to get into America, a significant outmigration is in process.  An article in Wickpedia, notes the trend:

According to a Gallup poll from January 2019, 16% of Americans, including 40% of women under the age of 30, would like to leave the United States.[69] In 2018, the Federal Voting Assistance Program estimated a total number of 4.8 million American civilians lived abroad, 3.9 million civilians, plus 1.2 million service members and other government-affiliated Americans.[70]

Whatever happened to America?   For one thing, Trump did.  And the GOP stands with him.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States