Behind the revolt of the “deplorables” the malaise of US democracy: the de-legitimization of half of America

Much, perhaps too much, has already been written and said about what happened in the United States. One issue, however, remains hidden in the vortex of emotions and recriminations: that of legitimacy. Incidents such as those seen on January 6 are important indicators of the health of the system, especially liberal democracy. When millions of people believe an election result is rigged and come to occupy the center of political power (with the approval of 45 percent of Republican voters, according to a YouGov poll ), perhaps it is time to make a serious and objective reflection on the situation. .

A premise: those who look to Trump as the primary responsible for what happened on January 6 and in the past four years have not understood how certain social dynamics are generated and do nothing but feed the vicious circle that led to the violence. Trump's rhetoric has certainly worsened the general climate, and indirectly favored the unrest of the Epiphany, but the malaise of US civil society has ancient roots and predates Trump's rise by many years. The first question to ask should therefore be: what are the causes of this malaise? But above all, why do millions of people believe they no longer have a say in the management of the system? Because here lies the main reason for what happened on Capitol Hill.

Millions of people feel they are no longer legitimate components of the system. The whole is heterogeneous: from white males, whose lives have been destroyed by globalization, to the "religious right", passing through simple "classic" republicans. This group has been told, repeatedly, in recent years, that their positions are wrong, unacceptable in a civil society; it has been said that they had to find a new job, perhaps in a nice green sector, or that they had to abandon their bigoted conceptions of life. It is the whole that then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unhappily called the basket of deplorables , including half of Trump's supporters, tens of millions of Americans.

All of this has been progressively fueled not only by some politicians, but also by the media and experts, making the set of "deplorables" increasingly nasty. Seeing no way to reconciliation with acceptance, nor any way to escape, they preferred the Trump option when faced with the option of submission. The tycoon's victory in 2016 should have shown the risks of a certain political strategy and an interpretation of the Manichaean world, but this did not happen. On the contrary, the Trump presidency has been marked by continuous attacks based precisely on the alleged illegitimacy of the same and his visions: first it was an illegitimate presidency since Trump's victory would have depended on Russian intervention, then due to a phone call deemed inadequate to the Ukrainian president. In general, the positions of Trump – and many Republicans – have been labeled as unacceptable, ignorant, racist, illegitimate.

At the same time, the accusers have shown themselves, for example, much more timid with regard to the devastation wrought for months by Black Lives Matter and far-left militants in US cities. To point out, today, that months of inadequately condemned violence may have further convinced a group of fomenters to believe possible the assault on the Capitol is, of course, unthinkable. Indeed, even trying to explain the reasons for what happened Epiphany is considered as an attempt at justification, therefore to be absolutely condemned. The space for dialogue is reduced to a minimum.

It is natural that in this kind of climate it was unthinkable to expect that tens of millions of people feeling a progressive exclusion from the public debate would simply accept Biden's victory. And not only objective reality counts but also, and above all, the image that every single person builds of reality, over years or even decades. The first to understand this was Biden himself, who tried to send timid messages of reconciliation. However, the assault on the Capitol shows how an objective and calm discussion of the situation has become almost impossible. On the one hand, the blame is placed solely on Trump and the Republicans; on the other hand, anyone who tries to argue that the strategy adopted by Trump in the last two months has turned out to be wrong or that part of the responsibility for what happened and for the growing polarization is also severely attacked.

How can you get out of such a situation? Certainly not by deleting Trump from all social networks , an act of censorship not worthy of a liberal democracy, nor by promoting a new attempt at impeachment now, less than two weeks after Biden's inauguration. This only contributes to adding fuel to the fire. Democratic representatives, however, are clamoring for Trump's removal from office: even in this case, Biden himself is against, well aware of how much such a (useless) move would only serve to further incite political opponents, especially now that Trump has granted and ensured an orderly transition.

To further complicate the picture, it should be noted that the dynamics presented above are located in a broader set of profound social, economic and political transformations. In particular, in recent decades there has been a progressive disconnect between elites and citizens, which has led to the crisis of the system of representativeness and widespread distrust of the main democratic institutions. Trust in governments and parties is at an all-time low substantially throughout the Western world. In addition, we are witnessing the weakening of the intermediate bodies of society and the deformation of reality, which increasingly takes on the features of a reality show or is tinged with sectarian dynamics that have exploded also thanks to social networks . The latter, in particular, increasingly push people to close themselves in ideological bubbles, fueling a process of constant radicalization of positions, the inability to discuss and the fragmentation of civil society. While the Americans still had an indulgent opinion towards their political opponents at the time of Bush Sr., in the last three decades, and in particular since the election of Obama, the figure has collapsed. Today the score assigned to the adverse "group" is 26/100 (compared to almost 50/100 thirty years ago). In Italy the situation is even worse, with an average vote assigned to political opponents which is around 15/100, with almost 50 percent assigning 0/100.

Even in the Italian case, therefore, it is possible to detect a growing polarization with a widespread malaise that is increasingly radicalizing positions. This is not due, in the first instance, to economic reasons, but to political-ideal reasons. To give a trivial example, but of immediate understanding: how can millions of Italians react to the choice of Netflix to suggest, in the description of Gone with the Wind , to look for Black Lives Matter to better understand the situation of blacks in America? Maybe after seeing scenes of violence caused by the same movement? Of course, if it were a single case, there would be no reaction: but also in Italy, for some time now, some positions have been marginalized and considered illegitimate, others are raised on the basis of religious truths.

A well-known Italian commentator, for example, took advantage of what happened in the United States to lash out against the "white privilege". In response, the belief that the adversary is an enemy, someone with whom one cannot and must not argue, is growing stronger even on the right. The natural consequence is a political debate that assumes more the aspect of an arena of confrontation between different faiths, or between groups increasingly inclined to consider the thinking of others heretical and evil. It is the reason why many, often adopting millennial tones, have portrayed Trump as the last hope and, therefore, argued for the need for an all-out struggle.

In conclusion, the first step towards the necessary reconciliation would be the recognition of all positions that remain within the law as legitimate and worthy of attention and understanding. Considering those who attacked the Capitol as a mass of "poorly educated, marginal, easily manipulated, junk food and fake news , puppets in the hands of a wretch", certainly does not help either the understanding of what happened or the reconciliation. The question, however, can be reduced to a simple consideration: the more legitimate the system is, the more solid it is. On the contrary, the more people feel excluded from the system, the more they risk witnessing much more serious episodes than what happened in Washington. The hope, therefore, is that everyone will return to respect the positions of all, even when they are not appreciated, avoiding setting themselves up as holders of moral primacy or truth. This is the only way, in the medium to long term, to guarantee the stability and survival of the system itself.

The post Behind the revolt of the "deplorables" the malaise of US democracy: the de-legitimization of half of America appeared first on Atlantico Quotidiano .

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Wed, 13 Jan 2021 04:58:00 +0000.