BY RICHARD DEATON
It is the morning after the American mid-term elections, and many people, including myself, are wrung out, if not exhausted, from the ramped-up expectations and hype. Many people undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief. American politics, always a source of entertainment, has provided us with a thriller. Far from a blue wave, last night ended with a fizzle.
There will be a temptation by many to say that the worst is over, and that forces of good have triumphed over the forces of evil in the form of American-styled Christian fascism. In short, liberal democracy, having survived this unpleasant historical blimp has dodged the bullet, and the future will now unfold as it should.
Nonsense. I know a professional academic historian who tells me that Trump's damage to the office of the U.S. president will fade away over time, and that he is a short-term aberration and will be forgotten. Unlikely. This ain't over by a long shot, because those socio-economic forces and trends that gave birth to Trumpism have not been dealt with.
Trumpism represents a fundamental rupture, and possibly permanent, change in the nature of American politics. And it ain't going away. Trumpism is the revolt, to paraphrase philosopher Jose Ortega, of the "deplorables." Trumpism has opened up and legitimized those ugly putrescent forces, such as virulent racism and nativism, that have been latent in the American political psyche for decades. And it is doubtful whether the genie can be put back in the bottle.
Blue collar football fans in the U.S. cheer for their teams because it gives them something to feel good about. The deplorables, with their overt redneck hatreds and racism, are those who haven't the faintest chance of being part of the American Dream. They have been left behind.
Well-known political theorist Erich Fromm studied the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s as a social phenomenon; similarly, Trumpism must be studied as a mass political movement. We must ask ourselves why Trump's message has a resonance with his base.
Tuesday night's mid-term electoral results were a stay of execution. In the first instance, if the results, where the Democrats regained the House, but lost ground in the Senate, are any indication of a maximum all out organizational and political effort by the Democrats, the electoral results were, at best, disappointing.
The so-called blue wave of galvanize voters that was to sweep the Democrats into a position of strength in Congress really never materialized, and was more like a weak fizzle. There were bitter losses such the gubernatorial races in Florida and Georgia where strong black candidates made their mark; and we will hear from the young Palestinian, Somali, and Hispanic woman who won their districts.
But fundamentally, the Democratic Party must sort out where it is on the political spectrum. For the first time, there is a looming battle over the politics and soul of the Democratic Party. Some people are expecting that the Democratic Party to assume the mantle of "democratic socialism" (whatever that might mean), or at least, carry on in the tradition of FDR's welfarism. The ideological and programmatic status quo is an invitation for the Democrat's electoral defeat and will feed Trumpism.
Lastly, the totalitarian tendencies embodied in Trumpism will win unless Democrats, liberals, and progressives identify and provide systemic solutions to the concerns and problems of the deplorables, including the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector. Tuesday night was a reprieve, but not for long.
- Richard Deaton, Ph.D., LLB., Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.