The election really is over, even if a lot of people don’t accept it yet, and Trump will no longer be POTUS after January 20. That, at least, we can count on.
Will Trump continue to damage America? I believe the real danger going forward isn’t so much Trump as it is Trump voters. Trump is leaving behind a huge pool of ignorant and angry people nursing a fanatical grievance. These people are susceptible to manipulation, and the next sociopathic demagogue to manipulate them might be even better at it than Trump was.
See, for example, Jochen Bittner, 1918 Germany Has a Warning for America.
According to the Pew Research Center, 89 percent of Trump supporters believe that a Joe Biden presidency would do “lasting harm to the U.S.,” while 90 percent of Biden supporters think the reverse. And while the question of which news media to trust has long split America, now even the largely unmoderated Twitter is regarded as partisan. Since the election, millions of Trump supporters have installed the alternative social media app Parler. Filter bubbles are turning into filter networks.
Bittner sees parallels here with the factors that enabled the rise of the Nazis. He’s not comparing Trump himself to Hitler. He is saying that Trump and his enablers are creating conditions that a smarter and more skilled demagogue could use to devastating effect.
And if you didn’t see the BBC production Rise of the Nazis on PBS, you can still stream it. I thought it was well done.
I don’t think we can just ignore Trump voters and assume they’ll come to their senses. This perilous situation has to be addressed, in these ways:
First, I believe we need a clear and more comprehensive understanding of why so many people were so easily conned by Trump. Certainly racism is a factor, but there are many other factors. This issue needs exploring in light of economics and social psychology and how people are being divided and manipulated by media.
Second, we need a clear and more comprehensive understanding of the political landscape and how it has changed since at least World War II or so. Both parties pretty much abandoned working class folks along the way, IMO. But the Republicans made up for their neglect of deteriorating economic conditions and opportunities for the working class with culture war issues. Republicans haven’t done a thing to get people affordable health care or to bring manufacturing jobs back, but … oh, look! Some woman is demanding an abortion! Gay people are getting married! Sharia law! At this point the Republican Party barely functions as a political party at all. It’s more like a weird club for wealthy but unhinged people.
For too long Democrats took the official position that everything was mostly fine and just needed a little tweaking.This worked for parts of the population for which everything was mostly fine — urban, educated, upper income professionals — but less so with people who saw their union jobs fly off to China. So here we are.
Third, we need to look at all the media — news, social, and otherwise. We need to maintain freedom of the press, but we also need to clamp down on viral disinformation. This includes stuff churned out by Breitbart, Newsmax, OAN, and the likes of Sean Hannity. This won’t be simple. We can start by bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. We may have to do much more.
And fourth, Trump needs to be thorougly exposed as the scum that he is. Even if he never faces punishment, his activities both as a “businessman” and as POTUS need to be investigated, and whatever was unethical and illegal must be made known to the entire public, and not just to readers of the Washington Post. Ruth Marcus is cautioning us about “inflaming an already divided country.” But, lady, the country is already inflamed. If the myth of the great and mighty Trump brought low by the nefarious deep state Democrats is allowed to fester, it could destroy the nation eventually. That’s what Jochen Bittner was talking about.