Meditations on the 5th of July 2020 — USA today from a short distance away (on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario)

Jul 5th, 2020 | By | Category: USA Today

L. FRANK BUNTING : History is written by the winners as the old adage has it. Looking at Donald Trump’s USA halfway through 2020 suggests a corollary : it is also constantly being re-written as the winners change.

“America” today is not what it was in 1920, to say nothing of 1820, 1720, or especially 1620 when the Mayflower landed in what is now New England.

(A dozen years before, Virginia had been established by another group of English settlers, who welcomed their first boatload of reluctant workers from Africa in 1619. In northern California today some will say that Francis Drake landed just north of San Francisco on behalf of England as long ago as 1580, though this has recently been disputed by an archaeologist at Portland State University in Oregon. And then there is, eg, the 17th and 18th century imperialism of the Five and later Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy in northern New York, opening up the westward canoe-and-portage waterways for the later transcontinental expansion of the financial sector on Wall Street in New York City.)

Pilgrims John Alden and Mary Chilton landing at Plymouth from the ship Mayflower 1620.”

At his 2020 Mount Rushmore rally in South Dakota the President Trump who is not otherwise known as even an unserious student of anyone’s history (including his own) emotionally denounced some current “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”And then he altogether insanely claimed : “There is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance … this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution.”

You could say that, here as elsewhere, Trump’s recurrently wild and crazy fantasies on the US past, present, and future still have some clever political traction, even with audiences that are not always his own. Whatever else, however, they have nothing at all to do with the ongoing real-world story of Democracy in America : the one great political innovation for which the modern United States of America was at least once genuinely admired, around the world.

The underlying crux of American democratic political evolution in the earlier 21st century has everything to do with demographic change — in both the USA today and the wider global village. In March 2018, eg, it was reported that : “The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, Census projects … Youthful minorities are the engine of future growth.”

What it might be most analytically appropriate to characterize as the old age of “White Hegemony” (or even until not all that long ago “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Hegemony”) is on its way out. A new more diverse multicultural and multiracial American majority is waiting in the wings.

The administration of President Barack Obama (2009–2016) marks one early expression of what lies ahead. The government of President Donald Trump (2017–????) has been possibly not the last over-anxious gasp of the old age of White Hegemony. (Which does indeed have too long a history, in the USA first introduced to the global village by the stirring near-universalism of the 1776 Declaration of Independence.)

My own sense is that the conservative cause must finally make its peace with the new more diverse multicultural and multiracial American majority now on the rise, if it is going to stay relevant in the longest term. The Republican embrace of Donald Trump is a mistake that will not last — even if Trump does somehow win again on November 3, 2020.

At the same time, one thing the Trump era has already shown us is that the new next phase in the growth of Democracy in America is not at all necessarily going to come easily. Mitch McConnell could not hold President Obama to one term. But his never-say-die commitment to hanging on to the last vestiges of the old order for as long as possible, is not going to sulk off into some corner and take a quiet opioid overdose.

And the demographic evolution involved will be moving slowly enough for some time. It could still let Donald Trump and his current Republican party, catering to vague concepts of American history largely rooted in 1950s comic books, use such anti-democratic devices as the electoral college and voter suppression to win by a hair’s breadth again on November 3, 2020.

The Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms — our favourite rising star of the new city nation in America — with her husband Derek Bottoms and their four children.

This is not what the great weight of recent opinion polls suggests of course. And I take considerable heart from Rev. Al Sharpton’s recent argument that “GOP’s ‘Shotgun Wedding’ To ‘Fat Elvis’ Trump To End Soon.” Meanwhile, there are still four long nervous months ahead. (And as David Runciman recently concluded his review of Rahm Emanuel’s new book on The Nation City : “Three months is a long time in politics.”)

Meanwhile, I continue to worry about such things as a recent argument from the often excellent Adam Shatz — a “contributing editor at the LRB [London Review of Books] based in New York” — in a June 18 article called “America Explodes … on Trump’s domestic war.”

In Mr Shatz’s own words : “On 1 June I saw a group of young people ritually renounce their white privilege in a ceremony led by a black activist. They seemed unaware that such gestures amount to little: it is oppressive conditions that produce racism … The cleansing of white souls doesn’t mean much without radical change to America’s political and economic structures.”

Even my California pro-Democrat informants agree that, when you try to lay it all out on the table right now, there does not really seem to be any vigorous popular majority for “radical change to America’s political and economic structures” in 2020. Joe Biden as Democratic leader personifies this assessment himself. Many Democrats (to say nothing of Independents and anti-Trump Republicans) are too focused on their own rocky futures in the midst of the pandemic to risk seriously “radical” change.

Yet my California informants also tell me that there must somehow be some kind of serious enough change, to meet at least some of the lofty demands that the latest street-level resistance to Trump has raised. To start with, the federal government in Washington will have to do something serious to help the struggle against police brutality in many local areas, especially in African American communities.

And then there will have to be some effective public option in Obamacare — moving towards a public health care system in the USA gradually, while retaining some of the ongoing virtues of (well sort-of) free markets, free societies, and so forth.

I agree with all this.

And like others on this site I will almost certainly continue to worry right down to November 3.

It’s late at night as I finish writing here. So I am foolish enough to confess as well that over the past few weeks I have actually started beseeching higher powers.

I now pray almost every night that on November 3, 2020 the American people will free (at last) Donald Trump from responsibilities he doesn’t really seem comfortable with.

And let him return to doing what he does best, in the private sector.

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