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Donald Trump has unified Americans — against him

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | July 20, 2020

Donald Trump is on the verge of accomplishing what no American president has ever achieved — a truly multi-racial, multi-class, bipartisan political coalition so encompassing it could realign US politics for years to come.

Unfortunately for Trump, that coalition has come into existence to prevent him from having another term in office.

Trump and Putin meeting in Helsinki 2019Start with race. Rather than fuel his base, Trump’s hostility toward people protesting the police killing of George Floyd and systemic racism has pulled millions of white Americans closer to Black Americans. More than half of whites now say they agree with the ideas expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement, and more white people support than oppose protests against police brutality. To a remarkable degree, the protests themselves have been biracial.

As John Lewis, the great civil rights hero who died on Friday, said last month near where Trump and William Barr, the attorney general, had set federal police in riot gear and wielding tear gas on peaceful protesters, “Mr. President, the American people … have a right to protest. You cannot stop the people with all of the forces that you may have at your command.”

Even many former Trump voters are appalled by Trump’s racism, as well as his overall moral squalor. According to a recent New York Times/Sienna College poll, more than 80% of people who voted for Trump in 2016, but won’t back him again in 2020, think he “doesn’t behave the way a president ought to act” — a view shared by 75% of registered voters across battleground states which will make all the difference in November.

A second big unifier has been Trump’s attacks on our system of government. Americans don’t particularly like or trust government but almost all feel some loyalty toward the Constitution and the principle that no person is above the law.

Trump’s politicization of the Justice Department, attacks on the rule of law, requests to other nations to help dig up dirt on his political opponents, and evident love of dictators — especially Vladimir Putin — have played badly even among diehard conservatives.

Refugees from the pre-Trump GOP along with “Never Trumper” Republicans who rejected him from the start are teaming up with groups such as Republican Voters Against Trump, Republicans for the Rule of Law, the Lincoln Project and 43 Alumni for Biden, which comprises former officials of George W. Bush’s (the 43rd president) administration. The Lincoln Project has produced dozens of hard-hitting anti-Trump ads, many running on Fox News.

The third big unifier has been Trump’s catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic. Many who might have forgiven his personality defects and authoritarian impulses can’t abide his bungling of a public health crisis that threatens their lives and loved ones.

In a poll released last week, 62% said Trump was “hurting rather than helping” efforts to combat COVID-19. Fully 78% of those who supported him in 2016, but won’t vote for him again, disapprove of his handling of the pandemic. Voters in swing states like Texas, Florida and Arizona — now feeling the brunt of the virus — are telling pollsters they won’t vote for Trump.

Although the reasons for joining the anti-Trump coalition have little to do with Joe Biden, Trump’s presumed challenger, the Democrat may still become a transformational president. That’s less because of his inherent skills than because Trump has readied America for transformation.

The tempting analogy is to the election of 1932, in the midst of another set of crises. The public barely knew Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom critics called an aristocrat without a coherent theory of how to end the Great Depression. But after four years of Herbert Hoover, America was so desperate for coherent leadership it was eager to support FDR and follow wherever he led.

There are still more than 100 days until Election Day, and many things could derail the emerging anti-Trump coalition: impediments to voting during the pandemic, foreign hacking into election machines, Republican efforts to suppress votes, quirks of the electoral college, Trumpian dirty tricks and his likely challenge to any electoral loss.

Yet even now, the breadth of the anti-Trump coalition is a remarkable testament to Donald Trump’s capacity to inspire disgust.

This commentary was originally published in The Guardian.

Comments to “Donald Trump has unified Americans — against him

  1. Prof. Reich, in preparation for getting Trump out of the White House we must be ready to, with the greatest sense of urgency, Build Back Better by restoring our Democracy in Washington. And we must immediately implement solutions to end the out of control threats that have been gravely increased by Trump’s failures in leadership, such as global warming, the pandemic plus social, political and economic chaos produced by republican congressmen who enabled Trump.

    Along this line, the Summer 2020 issue of CALIFORNIA Magazine features a Pandemic Roundtable discussion “What Comes After the Pandemic?” that asks paramount questions of Berkeley’s leading experts on health, public policy, economics, food, science, art, and technology (with my own suggestions in parenthesis):

    What lessons should be learned from this crisis? (We Must Fight Like Hell for the Living)
    What old values do we need to jettison? (Us/Them dichotomies)

    What new ones should we cultivate? (we must join together socially, politically and economically to Fight Like Hell for The Living),

    What technologies or institutions will become ascendant or obsolete? (UC academics must inform, educate and motivate the public, and have two-way conversations with the public to overcome the failures produced by Hofstadter’s Law of Academic Purity that enables inequality, racism and materialism),

    What matters most (Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness including an acceptable environment for all future generations, basic health with controls to prevent/cure disease, free education services, living wages, social opportunity and equality for all with protection from materialism),

    and what should we focus on? (all of the above with the greatest sense of urgency to prevent the end of our civilization in this century).

  2. Last week, Joe Scarborough wrote a Washington Post Opinion about Trump with the title: “None dare call it treason, but perhaps one day they will,” emphasizing Trump’s other job as Putin’s Puppet. Interestingly, McConnell is also guilty of the same charge and title, especially since McConnell has led most of his republican congressional colleagues to be silent cowards enabling Trump to overthrow our Democracy. Also last week, a Rasmussen poll gave Trump a 50% job approval rating!

    It’s time to Fight Like Hell for The Living (per Mother Jones) or lose everything that over one million American military gave their lives to protect.

    When are your UC colleagues going to join with you to inform, educate and motivate the public to protect our Democracy?

  3. Prof. Reich, you are the best spokesperson our university has and I wish to thank you for your continuous exposures of acts of betrayals and corruption that threaten our future, but you and your colleagues must also produce implementable solutions that can protect our future quality of life from destructive challenges of change like out of control global warming and pandemics, along with social, political/intellectual and economic chaos we are experiencing today.

    A fact of life is that far too many academicians keep proving that Hofstadter’s Law of Academic Purity is as true today as it was when he documented that cultural reality in 1963 so this makes it virtually impossible to communicate with you folks. Along with Sir John Maddox’s documentation, and Linus Pauling’s marginalization, proving that The Power of Money dominates far too many academicians makes it much more difficult to produce and implement urgently needed solutions.

    And, as Pogo is quoted on the First Earth Day poster in 1970: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us. 50 years later, even though our universities are the best in history, current events prove daily on TV that we must not have evolved enough to save ourselves from ourselves.

    I respectfully request that you and your colleagues at UC unite and dedicate all necessary resources with the greatest sense of urgency to make the right things happen before time runs out, especially since Trump and his enabler McConnell have gravely accelerated the most destructive challenges of change we face today.

  4. Robert, I most certainly hope you are correct about “Donald Trump has unified Americans — against him,” and that it shall result in the rebuilding of our democracy with this election.

    As you and your academic colleagues document daily on blogs, etc., for over three years Trump and his Senate sycophants have attacked American Democracy and the human race like modern day barbarians regardless of how destructive the consequences of their attacks are. So far, their attacks have produced both out of control pandemic and environmental destruction, along with social, political and economic chaos that could destroy an acceptable quality of life for our newest generations.

    So, the paramount question is, will intellectuals be able to meet the challenges of change one more time, or is this the end of just one more civilization? And, since we have the best universities in history, have our academics evolved enough to protect and perpetuate an acceptable future for the human race?

    Specifically, are you and your academic colleagues capable of overcoming Washington’s barbarians and rebuilding America, or will far too many pre-eminent academics continue to act like Roman pontifices while daily news reports enable us to watch our destruction until the fall of our civilization?

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