There has been a spate of ‘how awful everything is under the reign of Il Trumpe‘ articles. And things are pretty crappy. But things were really awful under Bush 43 too. Katrina was horrible, not just in terms of the death toll, but also in the overt racism evinced by so many Americans–story after story of desperate black Louisianans being told to move along, often at gun point. There was no dog whistling. And Little Lord Pontchartrain did nothing, even to speak out.
Also there was that Iraq War you might have heard of which led to this:
While I agree Trump is doing this, normalizing the abnormal started well before Trump even considered running. If Trump would be Caesar, then the open advocacy of torture by most Republicans was Sulla (though #NotAllRepublicans and, shamefully, there was the tacit acquiescence of some Democrats).
For once you have decided that the mutilation and violation of other people is openly acceptable state policy, you have hit rock bottom. You can not fall any further. While I’m not naive about what the U.S. has done (especially in ‘outsourcing’ torture), it was never publicly acclaimed as a right and just action. Time was, in popular culture, torturers were viewed as evil, not as heroes ‘doing what needs to be done.’
…There is an entire cohort of conservatives (and, yes, some Democrats as well) who have no business being anywhere near public life due to their support for torture (and we should include on that list, Very Serious Pundits who excused such behavior). Likewise, we need to remember that many people openly embraced–and still do embrace–torture.
In a sense, it’s remarkable that it took the Republican Party this long to nominate someone like Trump: the moral rot had set in long before 2015.
The problem isn’t just Trump, it’s that we’ve had a quarter century decline, if not collapse, in many U.S. institutions and much of our political leadership. As Corey Robin (and others) has noted repeatedly, Trump isn’t getting much done, but at this point, he really doesn’t have to–we’re really far gone.
As Adam Smith wrote, there is a great deal of ruin in a nation, but just how much more ruin does the U.S. have left in it? That’s the danger of Il Trumpe.