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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 hope.

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 unity.

I suspect that 2020 will see the success of return to normalcy candidacy/ presidency, perhaps that of Joe Biden. Time will tell.

 

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