Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Trump, reality-free politics, and the reinvention of America [?]

Bruno Maçães, How Trump Almost Broke the Bounds of Reality, NYTimes, Nov. 12, 2020.

What Mr. Trump promised was the power to create imaginary worlds and the freedom to unleash a selfish and extravagant fantasy life, free of the constraints of political correctness or even good manners, the limits imposed by climate change and the international rules tying America to the ground. This extreme form of freedom — call it hyperfreedom — appealed to Greenwich, Conn., financiers no less than to West Virginia coal miners. It was also, as we found out in the election, attractive to some minorities.

In the traditional way to think about freedom, we want to limit or even eliminate obstacles to individual choice, but ultimately we must deal with reality. Mr. Trump’s example is to take it an extra step: Why not be free from reality as well? Indeed, this may be the ultimate goal of contemporary America: a society that is pure fantasy life, free from reality.

What Joe Biden seemed to understand before everyone else was that the fantasy was about to collapse, and voters weren’t ready for an alternative liberal fiction. The main binary in American politics now may not be between left and right, but between fiction and reality. At some point, fictions must be revealed as no more than fictions — and they must be switched off. [...]

In this view, Mr. Biden is the kill switch. He promised to remove Mr. Trump and switch the channel to something less risky.

After the election, a verdict is being widely shared: Mr. Trump may leave, but Trumpism is here to stay. This may be true, but it won’t be in the way people think.

What survived the election was not Trumpism as a policy platform but the fantasy politics of the last four years. Those are as powerful and addictive as ever, but they will look very different once the current executive producer has left the job.

The return to reality is but one stage in developing new fantasies. It is a way to wipe clean the canvas before departing again in search of new adventures. The search could well be resumed on the left, where there are also many powerful instincts to fight against the limits imposed by reality.

No comments:

Post a Comment