How Did We Get to Donald Trump?

Less than a week after the most gut-wrenching election of modern times, we’re flooded with articles and essays purporting to offer “the real reason” that Donald Trump won (or Hillary Clinton lost). As I’ve mentioned before, I agree with a sentiment that Colonel Jack Jacobs once expressed on MSNBC: “I’m not a fan of single factor analysis.”

The truth is that when a country like the United State puts itself squarely on a path towards intolerance and fascism, it doesn’t occur as a result of any one single reason or because of any single individual. In fact, there were plenty of reasons for Clinton’s defeat, some of which date back a generation or more. Here, then, is my admittedly incomplete list of the most important milestones on our way to Trumpism, the inflexion points in history when we might have taken a different direction than the one that ended in last Tuesday’s tragedy:

  • The Founding Fathers create the Electoral College specifically to amplify the influence of slave-holding states in the nation’s governance (1787).
  • Writer Ayn Rand (whose personal morality included the long term cuckolding of her husband with one of her acolytes) releases Atlas Shrugged, an amoral magnum opus designed to provide a specious intellectual justification for unbridled capitalism (1957).
  • L. Brent Bozell founds an organization, the Media Research Center, devoted solely to the purpose of relentlessly promoting a baseless notion of a monolithic, liberal, left-wing media (1987).
  • The abolition of the Fairness Doctrine paves the way for right-wing talk radio (1987).
  • In the wake of George McGovern loss of 49 states in a reelection rout by Richard Nixon, the Democratic Party erroneously attributes the crushing defeat to McGovern’s political leanings and resolves to never again nominate an unabashed liberal (1972).
  • Bill Clinton runs for president as a “third way” Democrat, tacitly repudiating the party’s history of progressivism on his way to electoral victory (1992).
  • In the wake of Obama’s victory, the GOP explicitly opts for an unprecedented strategy of pure obstructionism for any and all initiatives undertaken by the new president, choosing partisanship over patriotism. (2009)
  • Right-wing media and the Republican Party embrace a strategy of relentless racial agitation, embracing the demonstrably false notion that Obama is not a citizen and empowering bigots and racists in the party’s base (2009).
  • In Citizens United vs. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court removes key restraints on corporate donations and “dark money” in U.S. elections (2010).
  • After Barack Obama installs Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the Chair of the DNC, she embarks on a strategy of paving the way for a single presidential candidate in 2016 rather than supporting the efforts of all qualified, viable candidates (2011).
  • In Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act (2013).
  • CBS president Les Moonves is the least discreet of all the country’s media moguls when he explicitly and relentlessly promotes Donald Trump as a candidate because of Trump’s impact on network ratings, in the process providing Trump with billions of dollars worth of free coverage (2016).
  • Republican FBI Director James Comey defies the Justice Department and puts the FBI’s massive finger on the scales in support of Trump’s candidacy during the leadup to the election (2016).

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