Democracy Is Holding Up, for Now
Photo credit: Hunter Bliss / Shutterstock, Inc.
When faced with a choice between a candidate with no vision and a candidate with a nasty vision, many voters will embrace the nasty vision. Even in times of peace and prosperity, perfectly decent human beings are willing to vote for candidates promising extraordinarily cruel policies. When a candidate who promises to inflict extraordinary cruelty on the despised and the abject wins high office, he will (surprise, surprise) use his new-won powers to inflict cruelty on the abject and the despised.
The last 12 months hold out many lessons such as these. But in the last days, I’ve been thinking of another, more abstract takeaway. Before the election, most people I knew were saying that a Trump presidency would be extremely dangerous—but that this wasn’t something to worry about since he could never get elected. After the election, a lot of those same people started to say that Trump was a nasty man—but that this wasn’t something to worry about because our institutions would stop him before he could possibly do lasting damage.
What explains their change of heart? A rather trivial, but very dangerous, failing: the deep desire to believe that the world we live in—which for most of us has been mostly decent for most of our lives—could not possibly turn quite so dark quite so quickly...