James Fallows - the longtime commentator on American society and politics, a regular on NPR is on the brink of despair:
"I view Trump’s election as the most grievous blow that the American idea has suffered in my lifetime. The Kennedy and King assassinations and the 9/11 attacks were crimes and tragedies. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were disastrous mistakes. But the country recovered. For a democratic process to elevate a man expressing total disregard for democratic norms and institutions is worse. "The African American writer Ta Nehisi Coates said in an interview with Ezra Klein that unlike President Obama he does not think that history has a moral arc. Many optimistic tales are told: Marx saw progress from slavery to feudalism, to capitalism,to socialism,and communism. President Obama appeals to our better angels...slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow, then the second reconstruction led and symbolised by Martin Luther King, Then extension of greater rights to women and recently to homosexuals.
But the election of Donald Trump and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress tells a different tale. The mistrust in our civic institutions has many roots (the Vietnam war). But contempt for government itself received a huge boost when Ronald Reagan declared "the eight most feared words in the language: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Thence began the move of the modern day GOP to becoming not a conservative but an anti-government party. That process was concisely described by PBS commentators Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann: "It's even worse than it looks".
The whole process is overdetermined (meaning it is a welter of overlapping causes). But in my view race - whie backlash - does the most to explain Trump's and the GOP's overall victory, as Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has said. At the moment I am inclined toward despair: but despair leads to inaction - which is intolerable. So put me in the hope camp.
Despair and Hope in Trump’s America - The Atlantic
by James Fallows
***I have been personally and professionally, and increasingly, an American optimist. The long years I have spent living and working outside the United States have not simply made me more aware of my own strong identity as an American. They have also sharpened my appreciation for the practical ramifications of the American idea. For me this is the belief that through its cycle of struggle and renewal, the United States is in a continual process of becoming a better version of itself. What I have seen directly over the past decade, roughly half in China and much of the rest in reporting trips around the United States, has reinforced my sense that our current era has been another one of painful but remarkable reinvention, in which the United States is doing more than most other societies to position itself, despite technological and economic challenges, for a new era of prosperity, opportunity, and hope.
And now we have Donald Trump. We have small-town inland America—the culture I think of myself as being from—being credited or blamed for making a man like this the 45th in a sequence that includes Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. I view Trump’s election as the most grievous blow that the American idea has suffered in my lifetime. The Kennedy and King assassinations and the 9/11 attacks were crimes and tragedies. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq were disastrous mistakes. But the country recovered. For a democratic process to elevate a man expressing total disregard for democratic norms and institutions is worse. The American republic is based on rules but has always depended for its survival on norms—standards of behavior, conduct toward fellow citizens and especially critics and opponents that is decent beyond what the letter of the law dictates. Trump disdains them all. The American leaders I revere are sure enough of themselves to be modest, strong enough to entertain self-doubt. When I think of Republican Party civic virtues, I think of Eisenhower. But voters, or enough of them, have chosen Trump.