For fours years we have been stuck in a bilious, amoral national haze driven by a leader disinterested in leadership and offended by the idea of service. Opposition and resistance were the watchwords on the Left from the day of his election. On the Right, the reality has finally sunk in for an ever-increasing chorus in the closing days of his time in power that supporting a President who has proven to be both disinterested in governing and unable to be corralled by better public servants (John Kelly et. al.) has reintroduced political violence to American politics. The response to this clarity cannot be to ignore the mean, violent, recent past in naive (or cynical) calls for unity that deny the nation’s need for accountability. We, as a nation, must look squarely at where we have arrived and to look forward for a new path that provides us justice for the crimes against community and humanity that we’ve allowed to parade as leadership and leaves behind the petty conflicts that ignore what Americans need from leadership and have turned us away from civic life.
Let us be clear: there is no rebuild. “Rebuilding”, “return”, and “again” narratives all suggest that we have ever had the nation that we want. The America we have had up to now has never been true to the best vision and highest ideals of the idea of America. We need to make America. Period. No modifier.
Millions of Americans greeted the rise of President Trump that arrived as the culmination of a four-decade-long process of expanding inequality of both opportunity and outcomes and a creeping futurelessness amongst communities that had been the working-class foundation of post-World War II emergence of the American middle class. Many of these Americans who watched the first four years of the Trump Administration unfold with the volume turned down (or off) wanted four more years of the policies that the Trump Administration delivered. More wealth for the wealthy. More comforting but dishonest truisms about a future more like our fictional past. More judges for the minority conservative ideologues who leverage the anti-democratic features of our republic to maintain their minority power. For most of these Americans, President Trump was an aberration to be ignored, to be minimized, to handwave…