There is so much we have learned from this painful election season and the rise of a demagogic real estate developer.
We have learned that a human branding machine who grew up in the shadows and spotlight of New York’s cutthroat media knows intuitively how to exploit that media.
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We have learned that too many in the media are ever so willing to be exploited if the exploitation is mutual and money is to be made.
We have learned what conditions make the prime environment for the rise of a demagogue: disaffection, demographic change, the demise of hope and opportunity and the dislocation of traditional power and privilege from automatic inheritance of prosperity.
We have seen that divisive, dangerous leaders don’t necessarily rise because of stirring oration or a clear and compelling vision. They can be quirky, disarming and idiosyncratic, with a vague, hollow message that says little even as it promises much.
We have learned the dangers of doubting the depravity and desperation of some who would follow such a man despite, or possibly even because of, his offensive rhetoric and outrageous policies.
We have learned just how much ugliness exists in this country, and what it looks like when it finds a voice, a leader and a reason to gather and unite.
Bershidsky: Political violence is an American tradition
We have learned that the Republican establishment has no clue who the Republican base is anymore, or if they do, they thought wrongly that they could control them by feeding them crumbs of obstruction and vague aspirationalism from their table of excess. In fact, that base has been gorging itself on fear and anger, vileness and the possibility of violence.
As Rolling Stone reported last week in the following exchange with the Republican pollster Frank Luntz:
“Republicans didn’t listen,” Luntz says. “They didn’t hear the anger because they spent too much time in Washington and not enough in the rest of America. The Republican finance people, the donor class, they didn’t see it and didn’t hear it, and by the time they did, it was too late.” Luntz compared it to a horror film: “You know something’s out there, but you don’t see it until you’re getting stabbed.”
When you compare your own base to the killer in a slasher flick, you know you have a problem.
We have learned what it looks like when a party eventually wakes up to itself being overtaken and undone and throws itself into convulsions to rescue itself from a creature of its own creation.
As The New York Times reported Saturday, Republican leaders adamantly opposed to their own front-runner’s candidacy “are preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential nomination” with a “delegate-by-delegate lobbying effort” that would cast him as “a calamitous choice for the general election.”
The article continued, saying that “an effort to block him would rely on an array of desperation measures, the political equivalent of guerrilla fighting.” It’s war.
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But for all those looking on in horror and disbelief, I hope that we have learned something else, something great.
I hope that we learn to constantly center the ideal at that core of the current offense: enlightenment, equality and idealism.
I hope that we learn that progress is not an unfailingly upward, inexorably positive movement, but an awkward and clumsy dance in which we lurch forward three steps and stumble back two.
I hope we learn that citizenship and comfort in a free society is not free. It comes at a cost. You must work to grow and maintain our liberty, because there are forces that would undo and dismantle those liberties. We must stay awake and engaged, informed and involved if we are to continue to move out of darkness and into light.
I hope we learn that if one is not actively working to dismantle oppressive forces and inclinations in oneself and in society, one’s silence and inaction provide support for their continuation and prosperity.
Inertia is no respecter of ideology. It can move right just as easily as it can move left. It can move toward the better just as easily as toward the worse.
There is no moment in a republic when there is a lull in the fight. The battles always rage. The enemy stays busy. Nothing that is won stays won without vigilant protection. We, as a country, again find ourselves standing at the precipice, staring into the darkness of the void, and we must fight our way back from it.
And this is not just about being against the real estate developer. It’s more. It’s about being for something: nobility, honor and character, righteousness, civility and togetherness. We have to decide who we are as a country, not as an opposition force but as a positive, proactive force, and use all levers of power to which we have access to bring our vision of America into reality.
The rise of the real estate developer has drawn into sharp relief the idea that doing nothing and expecting to preserve or extend progress isn’t an option.
Contact Mr. Blow at email@example.com.