The Anti-Trump Obsession

The preoccupation with Trump’s threat to democracy is worse than a distraction. It threatens democracy, according to “Trump Isn’t a Threat to Our Democracy. Hysteria Is,” by Samuel Moyn and David Priestland in today’s New York Times.

They argue that Trump’s “threat to our liberal freedoms and institutions” is not “the overwhelmingly important political issue” we face. Rather, “underlying social and economic problems” are “the real source of danger…and only more economic fairness and solidarity can keep populists like him out.”

Even if Trump wants to seize power unconstitutionally  “there is no reason to think he could succeed.”

The more serious risk is the counterproductive impact of exaggerating the threat.

Excessive focus on liberal fundamentals, like basic freedoms or the rule of law, could prove self-defeating. By postponing serious efforts to give greater priority to social justice, [that approach] treats warning signs as a death sentence, while allowing the real disease to fester….

[That obsession] often exacerbates the social and international conflicts it seeks to resolve. This approach to politics threatens to widen the already yawning gulf between liberal groups and their opponents, while distracting from the deeply rooted forces that have been fueling right-wing populist politics, notably economic inequalities and status resentments.

Moyn and Priestland believe market fundamentalism is “helping to destroy the social mobility and economic opportunity that underpins a well-functioning democracy.” Given that reality,

a dysfunctional economy, not lurking tyranny, is what needs attention if recent electoral choices are to be explained — and voting patterns are to be changed in the future. Yet there is too little recognition of the need for new direction in either party. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York recently declared that the Democrats have merely failed to get their message across…. Those who act as though democracy is constantly on the precipice are likely to miss the path that leads not simply to fuller justice but to true safety.

The Trump soap opera is addictive. No scriptwriter could have imagined the absurdity. Exactly how the System’s administrators will usher him out of the White House will be interesting.

But every minute I indulge in the latest “breaking news” is another minute that I do not try to do what I can to address those “deeply rooted forces that have been fueling right-wing populist politics.”

Many factors contributed to Trump’s victory. But one key factor is that many white racists and others with racist tendencies forget or don’t realize that they are “pawns in a game.” To counter those manipulations, we need to illuminate how the game is played, and then redesign the rules.

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