by Candice Malcolm
July 22, 2016
In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. And in America, they deserve Donald Trump.
The old adage comes from Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and writer who studied early American democracy. Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America, examined how and why the political system worked so well in the U.S., whereas it tended towards corruption and abuse in much of Europe.
Tocqueville admired democracy in America, which was built upon strong traditions of individual liberty, religious freedoms and tight-knit communities.
If you landed in the U.S. in the 1830s, you would have been more impressed by the booming economy and strong civil society than merely just the voting system.
In the two centuries since, America became the global super power; the world’s largest economy, military, cultural exporter and soft power. It helped accomplish the global peace and stability we’ve enjoyed over the last 70 years.
But something has changed in the past few decades. America has changed.
Today, the U.S. is a deeply divided country. It’s divided by race, by class and by political affiliation. Everywhere you look, Americans are angry, and they seem determined to pit people against one another.
It’s easy to see why there is so much frustration in America. The economy has changed. The type of jobs available have changed, and will continue to change. Immigration, free trade deals and the incredible growth of new technologies has made life better for many people, especially for well-educated and middle class Americans. But these advances also left many people behind.
The people of Ferguson, Missouri or Flint, Michigan do not feel better off. They may have amazing smart phones and government health care, but they don’t have meaningful jobs or the self-respect and confidence that comes with providing for your family.
Immigration, likewise, helps grow the economy and makes our culture more diverse and interesting. It’s great for urbanites looking for new food options or a cheap nanny. But it isn’t so great for residents of Tucson, Arizona who have to deal with the disproportionate crime as the Mexican drug war spills into their community.
Rather than trying to understand these complex social problems, and working with the people of these communities to find palpable solutions, the issues were largely ignored. Worse than ignored, in many cases, the people raising these valid concerns were ridiculed.
And far from the robust communities that used to unite Americans, today, Democrats and Republicans barely interact. When they do, on cable news shows, they digress into shouting matches and name-calling.
America has changed. It’s lost many of the advantages Tocqueville admired.
Rather than addressing the real issues facing the country, American political discourse revolves around distractions and fake culture wars.
Rather than trying to understand voters with lower education and different cultural values, it’s become fashionable to simply call them stupid and make fun of them. But the more media elites like Jon Stewart – or his unfunny successor on the Daily Show, Trevor Noah – belittle Donald Trump and his supporters, the more divided American becomes. The angrier it becomes.
Donald Trump embodies this anger. And that’s why we shouldn’t underestimate his appeal to the American voter.
Despite drastically negative news coverage, sneering elites and fear-mongering from across the political spectrum over how bad a Trump presidency would be, Trump is still a viable contender.
If he wins in November, despite all the naysayers, it’ll be what America deserves.