President Donald Trump launched an international trade war last week, hanging on to Mexico’s president because he would not agree to pay for Trump’s border wall and declaring he supports confiscation of guns without due process. (from which position he quickly withdrew). All of these issues have something in common (apart from Trump) that goes to the root of what is wrong with American politics today.
As discussed during the 2016 campaign (here and here), both trade and immigration constitute a special kind of problem: each benefits the larger society, not only raising the standard of living of the nation as a whole but The majority within it. Yet both produce losers; For example, various studies show that immigration results in higher incomes for the already high-income – but lower wages for the less-skilled.
Such “wedge issues” are used by politicians to sway Americans not for the benefit of anyone else but for the benefit of these politicians. They are a means to exploit people’s misfortunes by turning them into anger and then converting that anger into votes. What they are not are exercises in building creative solutions to problems through agreement, consensus, or common cause. And they can all be traced to the single watershed moment in which Ronald Reagan turned American politics into a relentless exercise in selfishness that it still is today, when he asked Americans to vote based on one question alone: what you – not the country as a whole, or the other, but you – Are you better today than you were four years ago?
cartoon on president donald trump
Yes, politics is largely about self-interest, and even the framers believed that a balance of interests, not messianic utopianism, was the central requirement of stable democracy. But the nation’s leaders called on us to have a vision – even when the ultimate goal was individual freedom and self-realization – an America bigger than each of us individually. “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” “Are you better?”
Trump deserves this morally disapproved politics. Has a man ever had such an obvious interest in nothing but himself? Despite his mock populism, his agenda in office has been a mix of standard-issue tax breaks, aimed almost entirely at his fellow plutocrats and banana-republic self-promotion. Even his concept of “make America great again” is about nuclear self-interest, not a notion of “America” embraces all, or even most., Of us, weave together to form a society: a “greater good” beyond personal grievance? global leadership? moral values? As Robert D. Kaplan recently wrote in The National Interest (by no means a liberal publication), “[Trump] With its calls for protectionism and a narrowly defined American self-interest, it has voided American foreign policy of any real, lofty purpose—another sure sign of decline. Completely selfish.
Whatever the underlying themes of Trumpism’s racial, sexual, and economic outrage, Trump has chosen the demise of the trade, immigration, and evacuation industries as his chisel to tear American society apart, as it does to America as a whole. While generating tremendous profits, they produce a subset that pays the price for the overall advance. Morality – as well as a practical connection to political reality and social peace – suggests that some of the benefits of progress be redistributed to its victims; In fact, it can be considered the core of “progressiveism”. But as Democrats have become the “party of the ascendant” who have been left behind by the world economy – largely older, white, religious, conservative men living in rural or outlying areas with low levels of education – all this. Doesn’t seem appealing, or worthy of solicitation, for “progressive” nowadays. In exchange for adequate solutions, Trumpism has been left to exploit the resulting unfairness and outrage to tear down both broader progress and all social unity.
This is exemplified in the current polarization on guns, as well, a point brought home by Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez. At the end of his fiery speech, “We Say BS,” Gonzalez observed that gun advocates’ position appears to be that their rights to own guns exceed children’s right to live. This has been an oft-repeated liberal argument since the Parkland shootings – but liberals should be mindful that all rights must be balanced against other concerns: the right to a fair trial, or against cruel and unusual punishment. , or are simply for free speech no more than government compulsion or the sensibility of others. Yet, as I wrote in the aftermath of these shootings, most of us recognize and willingly accept non-governmental restrictions on our rights to live and help in a functioning society with others. It’s called decency.
What is striking about the gun debate today is its absolute reluctance to seek the kind of compromise needed by society, as opposed to a reluctant collection of individuals. We are no longer interested in anyone else’s point of view or anyone else’s rights. As Gonzalez summed up the situation, “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”
The incident isn’t helped by Trump’s sudden announcement that, as on many other issues, the answer is to empower his ID and worry about constitutional rights later, if at all. We really don’t need a great leader who believes that he alone can solve our problems as a society – although it is a tempting solution to a growing and frightening number of Americans. Rather, we need a society that is ready to solve its problems. as a society,
It is becoming increasingly clear that we no longer live in such a world. We increasingly live in neighborhoods where no one disagrees, read news that doesn’t challenge our views, choose our own definitions of truth as we do our music, and never let our priorities go to anyone. and does not have to be adjusted for. Neither politics, nor governments nor the country, as we know it, will survive in such an environment. The question is whether there will be concepts like the common good, or compromise.