American Tension: Trumpism, the Squad, and the Battle for Primacy
O let America be America, the land that never has been yet- Langston Hughes
Since Donald Trump’s repugnant attack demanding that four Democratic Congresswomen “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came,” (hint: America, in 3 out of the 4 instances) a cottage industry of Kremlinologists has attempted to discern his intent. Is Trump a master manipulator, throwing the public off of the scent of his association with the disgraced Jeffrey Epstein? Is he attempting to shape the table before the Muller testimony to Congress? Is he pulling the strings of the Democratic party, forcing them to line up behind the most liberal members in advance of 2020? Or is he simply creating drama for its own sake, the reality-show president thirsting for ratings at any cost?
Any of these explanations, or a combination thereof, is possible, but largely irrelevant (and needlessly exculpatory, as if injecting the concentrated poison of racial divisiveness into the public domain for electoral gain makes it more excusable). The guts of Trump’s version of the Two Minute Hate is, however, explicable largely in terms of the wider arc of American history. Whether he knows it or not, Trump’s diatribe against four American citizens and public servants for daring to propose better for the country (while he himself ran on an argument that America had descended into an unlivable shithole) fits well within the struggle for multiracial democracy and the counterreformation against it, the ying and the yang, which has marked the majority of our history. “This is not who we are,” said a million times in a million ways since 2016, is less true than we want it to be. We have, after all, seen this play before.
Speaking from the lectern in front of thousands of potential voters, the candidate can sense he has his listeners in the palm of his hand. In his audience sees a sea of red headgear perched on the heads of a predominantly- or entirely- rural white audience, many nodding or yelling agreement with particular points in a manner the more pristine members of the candidate’s party would disdain as uncouth. The politician welcomes the establishment’s disgust as central to his appeal and wears it as a badge of honor. He is tall and broad shouldered, an effect he…