Many rational people across the globe are trying to understand the Trump phenomenon. His manner and affectations offer little in the way of encouragement. Unless one believes building a wall and destroying years of social progress a good thing.
I recently came across a challenging book called,
Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America
Author: Richard Rorty
Publisher Harvard University Press
The book is not an easy read. In 1998, Rorty predicted the rise of an American strong man. He wrote,
“One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out.
Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet. …
After my imagined strongman takes charge, he will quickly betray the expectations of his supporters, make his peace with the international super-rich. … People will wonder why there was so little resistance to his evitable rise. Where, they will ask, was the American Left?
Why was it only rightists like [Pat] Buchanan who spoke to the workers about the consequences of globalization? Why could not the Left channel the mounting rage of the newly dispossessed?”
The words seem almost prophetic. In looking for similar pieces, I came across a novel by Sinclair Lewis called, It Can’t Happen Here.
One of the novel’s characters is Berzelius “Buzz” Windip, a politician who defeats FDR for the presidency. His campaign is based on fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms all to the backdrop of Patriotism and “traditional” values.
Things change after the election. He imposes a plutocratic totalitarian regime through a paramilitary force. The plot focuses on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the regime and his part in a liberal rebellion.
Critics connected the novel to Louisiana politician Huey Long who was preparing for a run for the presidency in 1936. Long was assassinated in 1935 just prior to the novel’s publication.
A time when America was resisting entanglement in the European turmoil leading to World War II.
History unveils the difficult decisions facing FDR. Americans were fearful of events in Europe. Such fears offered a politician such as the one in Lewis’s novel an opportunity to arise.
The fear of immigrants and refugees was powerful then and mirrored in our own time.
One of the little talked about aspects of the “Greatest Generation” is the rampant anti-Semitism that permeated American society. Once we entered the war, FDR had to balance the perceptions. He could not let our entry into the conflict appear to be a war to save the Jews.
There is much to be proud of in this country. The bravery and courage of the military, the resilience of Americans to bear any burden, and our past stands against injustice, yet we sometimes overlook the truths of history.
There will come a time when future generations take the measure of our actions. It would appear now that courage and determination to do the difficult and face down the enemy is sorely lacking.
As we face a new wave of innocent refugees, America must look them in the eye and choose. We can offer a beacon of hope with welcoming arms or the cold bayonet of fear.
Perhaps Americans need to step away from their insular iWorld and read a bit. It could be iOpening.