Review of Dionne, Mann, & Ornstein’s, “One Nation After Trump”

I just finished One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported by E.J. Dionne, Thomas Mann & Norman Ornstein.  The authors were once known as the wise men of Washington, and The New Yorker once called Ornstein and Mann the über-respectables.”  So for those of us who still care about an impartial analysis of our current political woes, these are voices to be heard.

The book begins by assessing how someone as obviously unfit and unqualified for office, someone as vulgar and authoritarian could possibly end up as President. But the authors focus less on Trump as an aberration and more on how he is the outcome of the radicalization of the Republican party which began decades ago which includes: the war on the media; the appeals to racism and xenophobia; the support of theocracy; and the hostility to democratic norms.

The authors are particularly strong when they discuss the great threats that Trump poses, especially its pessimism about liberal democracy, and an open society. But these too are trends in a Republican Party which have become a majority party through minority rule by rigging the rules in their favor.

Our system is now biased against the American majority because of partisan redistricting (which distorts the outcome of legislative elections), the nature of representation in the United States Senate (which vastly underrepresents residents of larger states), the growing role of money in politics (which empowers a very small economic elite), the workings of the Electoral College (which is increasingly out of sync with the distribution of our population) and the ability of legislatures to use a variety of measures, from voter ID laws to the disenfranchisement of former felons, to obstruct the path of millions of Americans to the ballot box.

The authors go on to explain how Trump’s phony populism and his emphasis on race, immigration, culture and economic disadvantage all provide cover for plutocratic aims, They show why the truth has come under assault, why Republicans attack the truth-seeking media, and how this gives rise to the ridiculous and dangerous idea of alternative facts. They reveal the dangers of the disappearing norms of democratic government, and how this leads to authoritarianism, kleptocracy, and an undermining of the rule of law. (I’d add that if truth cannot adjudicate disputes, the battle for power will ultimately rely on violence.)

As for what is to be done the authors are still optimistic: “We believe that the popular mobilization and national soul-searching he has aroused could be the occasion for an era of democratic renewal,” assuming that Trump’s opponents can design “a hopeful and unifying alternative.”

In this spirit the authors offer an impressive list of policy ideas to address real economic grievances without appealing to racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia such as: a Charter for American Working Families, a GI Bill for American Workers, and a Contract for American Social Responsibility, aimed at getting corporations to take their public obligations seriously.

Reflections

The authors are great thinkers, concerned citizens, and if the three of them jointly ran our country we would all be better off. But I think their analysis will fall on deaf ears. We live in a society which disregards expertise and the best ideas of think tanks and Harvard professors are belittled. In fact, Trump voters delight in his obvious ignorance of government and policy. We also live in a country where motivate reasoning prevails which is why Trump supporters still overwhelmingly support him despite the fact that doing so is against their self-interest.

None of this is the author’s fault. They try to warn us and I applaud their efforts. But meanwhile, the conservative media bubble will attack any legitimate attempt to make the rule of law apply, or any attempt to usurp their power and those of their sycophants. In America today there is a battle for power, and considerations of morality or justice or fairness or truth are almost irrelevant. If I’m right, then only violence will finally settle the disputes. When truth and justice are gone, little else is left.

3 thoughts on “Review of Dionne, Mann, & Ornstein’s, “One Nation After Trump”

  1. “As for what is to be done the authors are still optimistic…”

    Time frame ought to be mentioned. If it took 50 yrs since the Vietnam War went bad (plus its related social catastrophes) to get us into the Trump era, it may well take 50 yrs to dig ourselves out of it.

  2. I’ll offer a ray of hope. I’ll suggest that Ms. Clinton lost because reasonable people believed the polls saying that she was certain to win. “Why bother voting?” Moreover, reasonable people simply could not believe that a charlatan like Mr. Trump could possibly deliver on the crazy schemes he promised. But now people are scared out of their minds. A lot of people are genuinely fearful that we are headed for a dictatorship. That kind of fear brings out the voters. Note that Mr. Trump’s candidate has lost every recent special election. The outcome of the Alabama election is particularly telling. Alabama is as red a state as there is. A Democrat winning an election in Alabama is like Trump winning an election in Berkeley, California.

    Moreover, the Republicans now realize that they’re in a terrible jam. They’re caught between two impossible forces. On the one hand, the Trumpsters dominate the primaries. Most reasonable Republicans have abandoned the party, so all they have left are the bloodthirsty crazies, who wildly overestimate their strength. Next year we’ll see a gaggle of sputtering maniacs nominated as Republicans. Mr. Trump will make that election a referendum on him, and with his approval ratings in the mid-30s, a referendum on Donald Trump is a certain loss for Republicans.

    Just a few months ago, the pundits dismissed the possibility of the Democrats retaking Congress as a fantasy. Now they’re saying that the Democrats have a shot at taking the Senate, but they think that it’s a long shot. I’m more optimistic. If Alabamans can elect a Democratic Senator, anything is possible.

    The Democratic get-out-the-vote campaign next year will be monumental. All those people who are terribly upset about Mr. Trump will finally have a place to put their energies, and they’ll get out every last vote.

    I consider it not just possible but likely that the Democrats will gain control of both houses of Congress next year.

    But then, I predicted that Trump had no chance of winning.

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