One could say that Donald Trump’s presidency had been a four-year war on many people’s assumptions about what is and isn’t “America.” And which institutions really matter, whether power lies with elites or masses. And it has forced serious arguments about what information, and what version of our history, we can even agree on.
So what new insight has the Trump era given us about America? Well it’s obviously alarming to discover that our political institutions are more fragile than once thought and that our cultural elite have an overwhelming disconnect from the average citizen as well as an overwhelming advantage in manipulation.
Another phenomenon is how “patriotism” has become a blunt instrument that Americans wield against one another and that our national flag is used more for division than unity.
The past few years have taught us just how removed the cultural elite in the United States is from many of the other people in this nation. By cultural elite, I mean those who create the knowledge and the media content that people consume, as well those in positions of political and other decision-making power. There is a deep well of people in this country who are sure the system is not working for them, and we seem to be only coming around to recognizing how deep it goes.
“Truth Trumps Lies.” That motto has been a popular hashtag ever since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. But the past several years have revealed its hollowness, and in the digital world where most of us now get our news, falsehoods go viral while facts go begging.
The single most confounding thing about the Trump era is that we still do not really understand why more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and why there remains a smaller core of fanatical supporters who will believe anything he says.
Over the past several years of the Trump phenomenon some the explanations that have been put forward are that it is a backlash against the inequalities created by globalization, that it represents the fear of white voters fearing a loss of power and prestige, that is has been generated by social media companies, that it reflects a huge social divide between people living in big cities and those in smaller communities, that it is based on levels of religion, education, wealth, social status, and so on.
All of these factors are probably true to some extent. Unfortunately, a great deal of Americans put their faith in the hands of a pathological lying narcissist to quell their fears … and most of them still do. Sadly those fears have not subsided but rather multiplied.