The Struggle for America’s Soul

No one beyond America’s shores any longer sees the US as a global model. How can American values be universal when Americans are at war over what these values might be?

The art of the confidence trickster is in knowing their victims better than they know themselves, and Trump has demonstrated clairvoyant insight into areas of the American psyche that have been ignored or concealed. It may be this uncanny ability, more than anything he has done, that has made him such an irresistible object of horror and fascination.

Visions of the rise of fascism in the US were attempts by liberals to avert their gaze, Dorian Gray-like, from the putrefaction of the society over which they for so long presided. It is an understandable reaction. Brutal and savage racial hatreds, the highest incarceration rate in the world, a uniquely powerful gun lobby, the worst medical provision for the poor of any rich society, a huge profit-driven opioid epidemic, despairing post-industrial wastelands and a pervasive conspiracy culture – all of them pre-dating Trump, some by many years – mock any idea of an Arcadian liberal era cruelly cut short. But denial is not confined to these realities. It includes the weakening legitimacy of the US’s judicial institutions, and thereby of the American regime itself.

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