Rick Shenkman is the founding editor of the History News Network. His newest book is Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics(Basic Books, January 2016). This article is excerpted from Politico. Click here to read the full article.
Everything was unfolding as it usually does. The academics who gathered in Lisbon this summer for the International Society of Political Psychology’s annual meeting had been politely listening for four days, nodding along as their peers took to the podium and delivered papers on everything from the explosion in conspiracy theories to the rise of authoritarianism.
Then, the mood changed. As one of the lions of the profession, 68-year-old Shawn Rosenberg, began delivering his paper, people in the crowd of about a hundred started shifting in their seats. They loudly whispered objections to their friends. Three women seated next to me near the back row grew so loud and heated I had difficulty hearing for a moment what Rosenberg was saying.
What caused the stir? Rosenberg, a professor at UC Irvine, was challenging a core assumption about America and the West. His theory? Democracy is devouring itself—his phrase — and it won’t last.
As much as President Donald Trump’s liberal critics might want to lay America’s ills at his door, Rosenberg says the president is not the cause of democracy’s fall—even if Trump’s successful anti-immigrant populist campaign may havebeen a symptom of democracy’s decline.
We’re to blame, said Rosenberg. As in “we the people.”
Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists.
His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”...
Click here to read the rest of this article.
UPDATE 9-13-19 -- This is Trump's America
Among the responses to this article was a message somebody named Jennifer sent to my personal email account. In 40 years as a journalist and historian I've never gotten anything like this.
It is a sign of what's happening in this country under Trump. He's given the most egregious racists license to reveal in public their darkest visions.
You can skim her email, which I've attached as an image – but be forewarned. It's absolutely vile.