Trumpism will not magically disappear in January 2021 unless there is a concerted effort to address it.
Should Trump lose the election in November, he will not be quiet. He will tweetstorm his same brand of venal racism, sexism, xenophobia, tear-down-the-government, uplift fascism on which he has built his cult.
Trump has a ready and willing echo chamber in Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Daily Caller, QAnon, and their brethren.
Russia and other foreign enemies will continue to sow distrust and confusion in U.S. democracy. They will continue to try to drive a wedge between Americans making it harder for us to come back together.
White extremism and white nationalism have blossomed. Proud Boys and Boogaloos have donned their AK47s and threaten peaceful assembly.
There are Trumps in waiting for 2024, not just Don Jr. and Ivanka, but Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Stephen Miller, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Nikki Haley.
In 2013, the Republican National Committee chaired by Reince Priebus published a frank assessment of how the Republican party was out of touch with a great many Americans. It said,
“When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”
Rather than remake its party, Trump did what he does best and doubled down in the opposite direction. He built a campaign calling women “pigs” and Mexicans “rapists.” He pledged to build a wall along the US Mexico border, and implemented a travel ban against mostly Muslim countries. His supporters cheered his calls to violence, embraced (or ignored) his sexual misconduct, and retweeted his support for the very good people of the KKK. Reince Preibus joined him and became his first Chief-of-Staff. There is no evidence that the Trumps in waiting will recalibrate.
How then can America heal its wounds and reunite in common purpose? Failing to address the fascism that is at our doorstep will not make it go away. Here are six actions to consider.
Promote the golden rule. It is a value shared across religions and secularists. Americans have lost an ability to treat each other the way in which we want to be treated. “Karens” have been emboldened to spew racist rants at Walmart. Imagine a campaign of healing and reconciliation led by Oprah Winfrey, Rev. William Barber, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and others that tries to reset the barometer for mutual respect. There are lots of Americans that are feeling pain and feeling left behind, and we need a shared and renewed sense of responsibility to move the nation forward.
Establish national service. The best way to bridge divides is to bring people together in common purpose. Young men and women from red states and blue states, rural and urban areas, and diverse communities across America could be asked to serve our nation in a variety of ways that is not only necessary to rebuild our economy but rebuild our trust and faith in each other. National service options could include diverse fields such as education, medicine, environment, the arts, infrastructure, diplomacy and the military. A grateful nation could provide a stipend for education after service. National service could also extend into adulthood if we imagine adult obligations for community policing, active and inactive reserves for medical and diplomatic needs. National service not only brings us together, it builds skills and provides opportunities.
Level the political playing field. One of the reasons that we are experiencing such polarization in our society is that our political system allows it. Majority parties have rigged district boundaries to consolidate power rather than allow fair competition. Eliminating gerrymandering through fair and neutral committees guided by algorithms could help. Allowing the slow roll out of elections favors states like Iowa and New Hampshire that do not reflect the rest of America. Hold three Super Tuesdays with equal populations and representations of America so that there is a fairer system of electing someone favored by the majority. Eliminate the electoral college. The Senate provides a counter-majoritarian check on the House of Representatives. The President should be elected by one-person, one-vote.
Rebuild trust in government. The media do not report on the good government does (when its working well). Failure and controversy sell. For decades, the public has been given a steady dose of why the government is the problem. Trust requires that government act in a trustworthy fashion, which requires it to be honest, competent and reliable. If the Fifth Estate cannot deliver the good messages, then NGOs and government should. Let’s celebrate civil servants as we celebrate our men and women in uniform. Applauding good service does not mean we will agree on policy. Vigorous debate is appropriate. But let’s support those who are working to make the U.S. and the world a better place.
Instill civics. It used to be that civics was a required class for every student. It isn’t anymore. The failure of many Americans to grasp the basics of our Constitutional freedoms is staggering. Let’s just take the First Amendment as an example. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Mobilizing federal law enforcement to shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors harkens to the days when state police turned the firehouses on civil rights demonstrators. The First Amendment guarantees a free press as a necessary check on the corruption of public officials. Calling out the media as the “enemy of the people” undermines that basic freedom. Civics education must be restored. Imagine a civics corps of scholars steeped in law, history and political science that joined classrooms to restore the principles that guide our nation.
Enact the Fairness Doctrine. Until the early 1980’s, the Fairness Doctrine required media outlets to provide equal coverage to opposite opinions. Since then, the media landscape has been transformed by cable news and social media, and a blurring of the lines between news and “entertainment.” Restoring the Fairness Doctrine and extending it to the new platforms could help break through the echo chambers that have isolated Americans from one another.
There are many other actions that also need to be taken, from criminal and civil justice reform, to holding corrupt actors accountable, to reform of Congress, the Executive and the judiciary. These are all necessary and achievable goals if we come together.
There are divides that will make unity challenging should Trump lose the election this November. Just because the Lincoln Project and Republicans Against Trump seek Trump’s defeat at the ballot box, does not mean that they will endorse Biden’s policies. The same holds true for the unity coalition between Mr. Biden and Bernie Sanders. If the nation, however, does not try to heal the deep divisions our nation confronts, puts aside differences, elevates respect and dignity for all, restores balance in politics and belief in civics, then Trumpism lives on and Don Jr. awaits in 2024.