One year later: How do we resist Donald Trump’s malignant reality?


After being condemned by Democrats and some Republicans for his repeated coddling of Putin and his defense of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, Trump tepidly backpedaled later that day: “As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted.”


Trump appears more concerned with protecting Putin’s feelings and reputation than he is in defending the United States from a foreign power. Ultimately, to live in the Age of Donald Trump is to experience the bastard child of postmodernism. Truth-testing is rejected. Facts are unimportant. The mere assertion of an opinion with no empirical basis can somehow make that claim true. Yes, the Age of Trump is a paradigm shift that has been years or decades in the making; nonetheless, it is a shock to the system.


How did this all come to pass?


There are many widely discussed factors that have led to the rise of Trumpism. They include resurgent white supremacy, an irresponsible and failing mainstream news media, consumerism, broken schools, a lack of civic literacy, weakening democratic institutions, a decades-long increase in authoritarianism among conservatives, extreme wealth inequality and the human devastation caused by neoliberalism, celebrity culture, and a destructive, irresponsible and revanchist right-wing movement and Republican Party.


But there are other dynamics which helped to birth the national (and global) crisis that is Donald Trump’s presidency.


They include:


  1. Anti-intellectualism. Trumpism is an assault on expert knowledge and intelligence. As Richard Hofstadter pointed out in 1963, a hostility to and rejection of learned knowledge, reason and education are fixtures of movement conservatism and today’s Republican Party. Anti-intellectualism masks ignorance and stupidity with crude “populism.” The whole toxic bundle is then sold to the impressionable and the gullible as meritorious traits of “real Americans.”

  2. The Dunning-Kruger effect. This is a psychological phenomenon where the least knowledgeable and most ignorant persons about a given subject are most likely to assert their expertise about it. Trump’s repeated claims to be “smart” and “intelligent” are an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in practice. Moreover, Trump’s administration has taken the elevation of ignorance to spectacular new heights by appointing cabinet-level and other officials who are wholly unqualified for their jobs.

  3. Information backfire. Trumpism is a political cult….

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