Everything that has happened and will happen in the US capital stems from Donald Trump. That’s not controversial. He stoked fury and that fury turned to action, as fury so often does.
It speaks to something Trump is incredibly good at. Unfortunately, that something is one that liberals and progressives have long found it hard to stop. Here’s journalist Isobel Hilton, talking about Trump and his supporters on Monocle 24’s fantastic Foreign Desk podcast:
That’s his political genius. He keeps politics in a state of radical indecision because nothing is settled. It can’t move on. And his supporters are stuck in anger and denial and that is extremely destabilising. I think we’ve learned in the past four years that this is a mode of political operation that liberals find very hard to counter. If you’re faced with strong feelings based on lies, it’s very difficult to make an argument against that if you’re operating within, if you like, the norms of reality. And I don’t think that’s going to go away. And it’s going to bedevil certainly US politics, with a contagion around the world for some time.
It isn’t something new in US politics: it wasn’t so long ago that the US and a few eager allies jumped into Iraq, missiles blazing, for a disastrous war they justified with a lie. A whole lot of people on both sides of politics where all for it and dissenters had a hard time mounting a case against, again, a straight-up fabrication. Conservatives have been a lot better at framing debates for a long time and, for whatever reason, the mainstream Left has been eager to play along.1
That said, this dabbling with unreality has reached it’s zenith (or nadir; both work) in the West with Trump. And it’s not going anywhere. It works too well. Liberals and progressives need to figure out how they’re going to counter it when Trump, or the next Trump, pushes things even further.
Nor is Trump’s brand of genius novel on the world stage. Strongmen types who peddle unreality abound throughout time and across the globe so it would be a mistake to think that this is a US-centric problem (American exceptionalism be damned). ↩
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