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Posted November 13, 2017:
Trump: Anomaly or New Normal? (continued)
This has seemed to me the real question —
is Trump an anomaly, a moment of collective craziness — or is
this our new normal?
I fervently hope it is the former, and
last week’s elections while limited give one some grounds for
E. J. Dionne and his co-authors, Norman
Ornstein and Thomas Mann, provide some hope for the anomaly
argument in their good book, “One Nation After Trump.” They
point out that Trump was elected by a minority and that he has
never had the support of a majority. His election was not a
mandate for “Trumpism”
At the same time, they also argue that
Trump’s election was hardly an accident. Rather it represented
an acceleration of processes long under way in American life,
including the erosion of norms in our politics, the decline of
instituions crucial to the republican form of government, and
the radicalization of the Republican Party and its primary
electorate base. To these I would add a coursening of American
life and a decline of character and personal responsibility.
These things will not be undone by one or
even several elections. They go deeper.
Still, last week’s returns are a reminder
that Trumpism is a minority movement. They suggest a stepping
back from the brink among crucial parts of the electorate.
That said, the Democrat Party has shown a
remarkable capacity for seizing defeat from the jaws of victory,
and there’s a lot of time yet before the 2018 mid-terms and the
2020 presidential election.
If the Democrats are to regain governing
responsibility, they will need to craft a believable economic
message and focus that convinces Americans they are not just
another party of the rich.
Dionne and company point out that while
Hillary had some important economic policy positions fewer than
10% of her ads addressed economic themes and anxieties, while
fully one-third of Trump’s ads focused there.
When the Democrats are no longer the
party of the working man/ woman, what’s left, as Mark Lilla
points out (“Once and Future Liberal”) is identity politics — a
message that feeds reactionary elements and undermines a winning
I suspect that 2020 will see the success
of return to normalcy candidacy/ presidency, perhaps that of Joe
Biden. Time will tell.