To rework a famous line from Senator Marco Rubio, let us dispel with the fiction that our democracy will magically heal the moment Donald Trump leaves office.
Jake Tapper’s interview with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday was profoundly frustrating, because Clapper would not define the true magnitude of the threat to our democracy. He seems to limit that threat to Trump and Vladimir Putin:
JAMES CLAPPER (FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE): Well, I will just say that the developments of the past week are very bothersome, very disturbing to me. I think in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally, and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think, as well, our institutions are under assault internally.
TAPPER: Internally from the president?
TAPPER: Because he’s firing the checks and balances?
CLAPPER: Well I think, the Founding Fathers in their genius created a system of three co-equal branches of government, and a built-in system of checks and balances. And I feel as though that’s under assault and is eroding.
Yet Trump is, from a certain perspective, not the greatest threat to our institutions. The greatest threat to our institutions comes from those who choose to embrace nihilism and ignorance at the ballot box—a problem that will remain with us long after Trump has left the White House.
Those who voted for Trump—those who put this madman into power, and who will be eager to put future right-wing madmen into power—threatened our institutions. Those who voted for Trump bear full responsibility for the havoc he has inflicted upon this country. Those who voted for Trump owe an apology to everyone who will suffer as a result of his actions.
Is it too harsh to regard the people who voted for this man as citizens who, with extremely rare exceptions, sought a “safe space” from an increasingly diverse country and a culture trending leftward? Is it too snobbish to regard these voters as the sort of people who, when they say they want “good jobs” to return to this country, actually mean they only want one specific demographic to have access to “good jobs”?
Donald Trump did not make himself President. A significant portion of the American electorate begged for a candidate like Trump—someone who scorned expertise, someone who believed that talking tough constituted leadership, someone who believed America fell into degeneration in the years following Brown v. Board of Education. Trump is the natural consequence of a generation of folks that watched All in the Family and actually thought the Archie Bunker character would make a one heck of a president.
The folks who voted for Trump knew exactly what they were doing. It wasn’t desperation. It wasn’t confusion. It was a willful and deliberate attempt to turn the clock back, to “deconstruct the administrative state,” to live out a fantasy of privilege, prejudice and power.
When Trump attacks our institutions, he is doing so with the full and total imprimatur and approval of those who voted for him. They like what they’re getting. Progressive nightmares are the same as their dreams.
It’s easy to put this all on Trump. It’s easy to say he’s out of control. It’s harder to countenance the idea that those who voted for Trump wanted chaos and disorder, wanted national and international harmony destroyed, wanted to eliminate all vestiges of progressivism and enlightenment in this country. No one wants to believe their neighbors hate them.
Speaking of neighbors, five years ago the Boston Globe ran a peculiar piece about a supporter of then-Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who agreed to, shall we say, coexist with a supporter of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who would ultimately lose his seat to Warren. I thought the story was complete BS at the time, doubting that people who embraced such drastically different candidates could ever be civil towards each other.
I doubt that Trump and Clinton supporters who live next to each other are feeling the love. Why should they? The Trump supporter wishes to obliterate everything the Clinton supporter believes in, whereas the Clinton supporter merely wants this country’s abundant prosperity to be enjoyed by as many Americans as possible. Both visions cannot peacefully coexist. One must destroy the other. Which one will?