Today, more than ever, consider history

A photo from a gallery on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma. (Pete Souza/Official White House photo) 

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

History teaches us the politics of hatred can only spur greater hatred, and the politics of fear spur only greater fear. As voters stream to the polls today, America teeters on a grand precipice, several amorphous, undecided states away from the crumbling of democracy itself. Democracy may be bought and sold by the wealthy and influential but it is destroyed by the votes of average citizens cast for con men, for demagogues, for fascists with a fetishized attraction to power. Today—of all days—consider history.

If, today, the American people gather their collective power to elect Donald J. Trump to the highest office in our government, the levee will break unleashing a legitimized deluge of division and suffering on those this reality-star and his followers exclude from their vision of the American tapestry.

America is a society and economy in transition; the white-majority is coming to a conclusion after unbroken dominance, just as the forces of globalization are bookending this nation’s industrial backbone.

One candidate seeks to continue the march of progress while finding a solution to ameliorate these problems of advance. The other looks to firebomb the intelligentsia, craft new divisions, promising to turn vitriolic hatred into greatness.

This is not an election with two political views equally deserving of respect. Casting a vote for Clinton is choosing the sort of long-term progress and growth begetting of collective stability. Casting a vote for Trump confirms a hellish worldview, and direct opposition to the rights and liberties extended to ever-greater swaths of the American populace since the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

Some argue those writing in opposition of Trump are alarmists, giving a profoundly negative view of him and his supporters, and overestimating the impact of his campaign. The charred frame of a black church in Mississippi, violated with a wide “Vote Trump” sprayed across the brick exterior; the fists thrown in the faces of protestors; the atmosphere of legitimized hatred—this all speaks to the need for alarm.

In no recent election could Americans accurately predict the impact of their chosen candidate in the long-term, beyond their evident historical implications. With Trump, there is not the case. His is a disastrous hypothetical Presidency, and one that must remain just that—hypothetical—if America is to continue a forward trajectory.

Trump has made it clearer than ever that, even with the progress made, there are still millions of Americans who do not wish to aid humanity; who do not wish to coexist; who do not wish to add to the collection of peoples known as America. To vote for Trump is to vote against the founding principles of America, made more egalitarian over time by monumental shockwaves of progress.

The freedom of Trumpists to support and promote their candidate must go unimpeded by authority for American democracy to function, as highlighted by President Obama at a recent rally for Secretary Clinton. In a Shakespearian act of tragic-irony, the pillars of American democracy—freedom of speech, assembly, press and thought—have been bastardized through a distillation of pure hatred to create a Trumpian-thing, fueled by the free-flow of corrupt ignorance in the digital age—a movement turned against the media and intellectuals who are labeled complicit in collusion to restrict America’s greatness.

Social media and instant connectivity have ameliorated the spread of information; but, along with the modern Enlightenment, nefarious tumors have been given life by virtue of outsider voices, made mainstream once again through popular exposure. It happened here with Trump, in France with Marine Le Pen, with Nigel Farage and UKIP in the United Kingdom and with the Fidesz Party in Hungary. America’s freedoms offer no safe haven from the uniquely human propensity for ignorance and hatred.

There are real concerns for the middle and working class in America. Wage stagnation, vanishing factories and industry, the unaffordability of education, the rising cost of healthcare—these things require scalpel solutions and an exacting, experienced hand.

The need for experience and a legitimate presidential candidate has been obfuscated by the resurgence of values promoted by nativist-populism. As this election has proven, these forces—racism, bigotry, sexism—were being choked of life slowly through the methodical, fragile process of progress. In running a campaign based upon this waiting wellspring of vitriol, Trump has turned back progress decades, turning the taboo into party platform. His supporters are either unaware of the historical implications of a Trump election, or are basking in the glow of 1950 returning.   

Dystopian authors often provide observations on a hyperbolized-version of our society. In her seminal work, “Children of Men,” P.D. James depicted a world robbed of the ability to procreate leaving humanity stuck inside a crucible of death fueled by the absence of new life. In this world, Britain was sealed off from foreigners, with the government rounding these people up and instilling a sense of greatness in native residents. She wrote “Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast.” In this world, society projects the root of all problems to the external world.

While many, especially immigrants, see America as a shining City on a Hill, others wish to create a citadel, turning away the targeted, the weary, the starving, the hopeful, the brave, the future. They wish to seal off America from new life and culture, hoping to subjugate Americans of color and limited-means in order to somehow lift themselves out of economic woes and back into a position of restored superiority.

Fifty-three percent of Americans disapprove of allowing Syrian refugees into the nation. Eric Posner of Slate reported a further 11 percent would only allow them in if they were of Christian faith. That fear exacerbated by Trumpism is no more a representation of modern American values than the Islamic State is a representation of the modern Islamic values.  

That anger and fear, born through the transition to a minority-majority nation, through the expansion of rights and through the paranoia of the post-9/11 world has birthed Trump.

Though Trump-voters may argue Clinton-voters are myopic, or playing into Clinton’s hand, consider history. Those voting for Clinton have a clear sense of history. Voting for Trump discredits history, arguing that somehow this time will be different; that fascism cannot be preceded with ‘American’; that Americans will stand by idly as progress is dismantled.

From 1776, it took black Americans 89 years to taste freedom, only to suffer another 99 years of legalized subjugation. It took 144 years for women to gain suffrage, and another 96 for a woman to be a major-party nominee.

On Nov. 8, all 240 years of progress will come under threat, with the achievements of the last half-century placed squarely under the guillotine by Trumpists and a man whose name, for New Yorkers, is synonymous with gaudy excess and failure.

Though Americans favoring humanity, morality and progress will not stand idly by as the fruits of blood and sweat are trounced by a tawny-haired monster, the rise of Trump and votes-for-fear have cracked the foundation of this House.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson argued “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Look at the words and the world of Donald Trump. The man is a princely-tyrant, living his life in a gilded-bubble, exploiting the very people he promises to aid, asking the people to hand him the reigns—the entirety of Federal power—promising to hand back control once we have returned to maximum greatness; trust me, he says. He is, as Jefferson wrote, unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

This is how democracy begins to crumble—if we let it.  


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu. He tweets @ChrisPSacco.