One can almost better understand how so many fine, God-fearing Germans and Italians lost their way nearly a century ago, back when people chanted, “Jews will not replace us!”
. . . Trump’s lies were different. They belonged to the postmodern era. They were assaults against not this or that fact, but reality itself. They spread beyond public policy to invade private life, clouding the mental faculties of everyone who had to breathe his air, dissolving the very distinction between truth and falsehood. Their purpose was never the conventional desire to conceal something shameful from the public. He was stunningly forthright about things that other presidents would have gone to great lengths to keep secret: his true feelings about Senator John McCain and other war heroes; his eagerness to get rid of disloyal underlings; his desire for law enforcement to protect his friends and hurt his enemies; his effort to extort a foreign leader for dirt on a political adversary; his affection for Kim Jong Un and admiration for Vladimir Putin; his positive view of white nationalists; his hostility toward racial and religious minorities; and his contempt for women.
The most mendacious of Trump’s predecessors would have been careful to limit these thoughts to private recording systems. Trump spoke them openly, not because he couldn’t control his impulses, but intentionally, even systematically, in order to demolish the norms that would otherwise have constrained his power. To his supporters, his shamelessness became a badge of honesty and strength. They grasped the message that they, too, could say whatever they wanted without apology.
. . . For his opponents, the lies were intended to be profoundly demoralizing. . . . Trump demonstrated again and again that the truth doesn’t matter. In rational people this provoked incredulity, outrage, exhaustion, and finally an impulse to crawl away and abandon the field of politics to the fantasists.
For believers, the consequences were worse. They surrendered the ability to make basic judgments about facts, exiling themselves from the common framework of self-government. They became litter swirling in the wind of any preposterous claim that blew from @realDonaldTrump. Truth was whatever made the world whole again by hurting their enemies—the more far-fetched, the more potent and thrilling.
. . . The election didn’t end his lies—nothing will—or the deeper conflicts that the lies revealed. But we learned that we still want democracy. This, too, is the legacy of Donald Trump.
Totally worth reading in full, by George Packer in the Atlantic.
(Nowhere mentioned, but for trivia lovers: Trump is the first president in two lifetimes not to have had a pet in the White House; and the only one, before moving in, to have kept this book by his bedside.)
BONUS: FREE POWER TRIP
NC WARN highly recommends Jonathan Scott’s Power Trip, an 80-minute case for the clean energy revolution and a riveting depiction of the decade-long conspiracy by fossil fuel corporations to suppress solar power. The story is ultimately hopeful – showing how grassroots efforts across the US are gradually pushing past the polluters. One caveat: the information on energy storage is outdated; pairing renewables with storage is now cheaper and more reliable than building scores of gas-fired power plants. Watch for free until December 16.