March 14, 2016

FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP: The US elite abandoned the American dream – Trump is the terrifying result.

There was a time when Americans were taught with considerable rigour about how their government worked, and the sacred principles of their Constitution. It started with a primary school mantra: the government has three branches – the legislature makes the law, the executive enforces the law and the judiciary interprets the law. By the end of high school, it was proper civics, which involved full-blown participation in a political project of your choice – registering voters, lobbying for a Bill, working on a candidate’s campaign.

Alongside this, there was the study of the great documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution (“We the people…”), the Gettysburg Address (“government of the people, by the people, for the people”). All of this was seen as initiation into what you were told unreservedly was the greatest country on earth, created and sustained by the will of its own population. With knowledge came a sense of responsibility.

Well, that isn’t entirely gone. But it is countered relentlessly by what many Trump supporters would see as an urban intellectual elite – and particularly an educational establishment – that is obsessed with national guilt: over slavery, and then segregation, and the treatment of native Americans, and the various excesses of American militarism. However justified that self-criticism, it has tipped over into self-loathing and left a furious electorate feeling that this is no longer the country they called their own.

The problem for the elite was that sticking to the rules of the Republic limited their opportunities for graft and self-importance. So they chose otherwise. They chose . . . poorly. In weeks and months to come, a lot of people are going to wish for the old-fashioned norms of bourgeois decency that they happily trashed in the past. But those are easier to banish than to summon up.