I would love to say that U.S. citizens collectively can be relied on to reason from evidence to a thoughtful if imperfect conclusion. And if you’re like me, you would too. After all, as flawed human beings, isn’t that the best any of us can do? Unfortunately, the events of the past couple decades suggest we should be rethinking that hopeful notion.
It’s hard to find a self-appointed thought leader today who isn’t convinced we are a nation hopelessly divided. And to be fair, there’s considerable evidence supporting that notion. But am I the only one who thinks too many of those clever pundits keep whiffing on the truth? Work with me, here.
Is the “Rift” Political, Cultural or Geographical?
Short answer—yeah, but… If someone handed out nickels for every self-styled “thoughtful observer” attributing the current divisiveness to Trump, “The Tea Party” or “The Freedom Caucus,” we could all retire on the proceeds. And put a sizable dent in the national debt.
Or maybe you subscribe to the line of reasoning that parses us geographically. It’s rural America (AKA flyover country) versus the coasts, and urban America. As someone who grew up in flyover country, I’m here to confirm the coasts and cities are different—both economically and demographically. And recent electoral maps suggest there’s a correlation in voting patterns and those economic/cultural differences. But is correlation causation? Uh, no.
The Culprits Hiding in Plain Sight
Every decade or so, some luminary rediscovers the Military-Industrial Complex or The Power Elite—and repackages them. Today, it’s The Deep State. There’s a reason we keep recycling the themes in Eisenhower’s farewell speech or C. Wright Mill’s book. They were right then and they’re still right. The problem is we’ve allowed our elected representatives to punt on the fixes.
Instead of exorcising money from politics when we clearly needed to, Citizens’ United and Super-PACS have made it easier for the wealthy and powerful to buy our political discourse. And hide that they’re doing so. Is it any wonder our elected representatives spend more time raising money than legislating? Say what you want about DJT, he was right about Washington being a swamp in desperate need of draining. What he won’t tell us is he’s stocked the swamp with his very own pet crocodiles. And wants to feed most of us to them.
The Handwriting on the Wall
Nobody asked me, but… Mr. Trump’s painfully obvious shortcomings aside, he will not be the downfall of this Republic. Will he be the implementer, if re-elected? Yes. But he will not be the cause. The downfall of the Republic will be the harnessed resentment of the self-styled victims—and our collective complacency in the face of it.
Authoritarians need two elements to succeed. They need a plausible narrative to euchre the credulous—and willing accomplices, who will cynically promote their deceptions. And however much we’d like to ignore it, conditions are ripe here in the U.S. The resentment of the disadvantaged is real and plausible. But neither the man who would be king nor his accomplices will identify the real culprits. They’re the problem—and they know it.
They will weaponize resentment and scapegoat Jews, Muslims, people of color or immigrants, depending on the audience. They will blame the current administration for the manifold woes it took generations for lobbyists to craft. They will ask us to turn a blind eye to how the wealthy and powerful have progressively tilted the playing field in their favor. They will scapegoat “radical liberals,” the 1619 Project and its founder, Black Lives Matter and Antifa. But it’s all a distractor from the core problems both parties have permitted to fester for too long.
They will pose as advocates for retribution on behalf of the less fortunate, then steal what little they have left. And his true allies—the wealthy—will go along because they want what he wants. No accountability for their own legalized theft. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the maunderings of Kash Patel, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn. And (of course) Stephen Miller, Trump’s would-be immigration hitman.
It’s not like they’re keeping any secrets. As Maya Angelou famously observed: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
So now what?
Whatever you may think of the probable Democratic candidate in the 2024 presidential election, we need a prophylactic movement denying the former president renascence in any form. However many declared candidates wind up running for president, there are only two who have an ice cube’s chance in the hot place of winning. And only one who will surrender power when his term is up.
Consider for a moment the likely alternative to the current administration. Imagine turning Stephen Miller loose to round-up migrant workers. Think groceries are expensive now? Let the man who would be king establish the massive concentration camps he has in mind for migrant workers—and see what happens to your grocery bill.
Do you believe women should have unfettered autonomy with respect to their reproductive health and freedom? Yeah, me too. But we can all kiss whatever remains of that self-determination goodbye if Trump and his minions get a second bite of the apple.
Worried about climate change? Consider what will happen if the man who would be king returns with his sell-out to fossil fuels at any cost. Drill, drill drill? America is already a net exporter of fossil fuels. Yes, we still need them, but we should resist the temptation to prolong our dependence on the fuels of the past and focus on creating something that looks like a sustainable future.
No one who enjoys his/her freedoms can afford to sit this one out. Does anyone really think Trump will be dictator for a day? That said, how you vote is (at least for now), entirely up to you. If you’d like it to remain that way, we all need to consider this election a binary choice between democracy and autocracy. Irrespective of how many candidates are still in the running on election day, a vote for anyone other than the incumbent president risks everything thoughtful Americans fear. And preventing our worst fear is on the short-list of things that truly matter in 2024.