What we are seeing in the Trump era is the final stance of angry old white men who would rather destroy the institutions of democracy than share them with those who will follow.
Conservatives – whom Robert Nisbet referred to as “prophets of the past” – no longer care about the preservation of institutions. Instead, they undermine the Presidency, Congress, the courts, the rule of law, the armed forces, the United States postal service, human rights standards, the census, the right to vote, the elections and the peaceful transfer of power – democracy itself for short – not to mention science, Medicine, education and the press.
These old white men realize that as the nation’s demographics inevitably advance, their takeover wears off. Their shrinking but solid base of old and young, angry, white, male voters fear that they will be unqualified – uneducated – for a future that threatens them with automation and the internet, robots and self-driving vehicles, and job and security loss will .
But in the rhetoric of law, the internet is not the enemy; the people who use it are. Today, people who have not been seen at the tables of power or heard in the mass media for too long finally have their press – also known as social media – with which to pursue their first amendment aspirations to speak together, to each other Gather and act: to assert achievement. So we have #BlackLivesMatter and a movement that is bringing inequality to the surface in every area of society where it can no longer be ignored and catalyzing what I hope one day can be seen as the rise of an American Reformation.
Every institution has to react and adapt or become obsolete and replaced.
In the wake of COVID and its objectionably disproportionate burden on people of skin color and poor, journalism, health care and public order must now scrutinize medicine, insurance and employment from an equity perspective.
Now that witnesses to police killings can share their evidence online, the police as an institution is finally being challenged and needs to be reconsidered in the context of racial justice and the full range of social services that the government should provide. This is what is meant by defusing the police.
Even our most valuable American institution, freedom of expression, is threatened when President Trump attacks the press as an enemy of the people and seeks to ban a people’s press: TikTok. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress who are upset if their speech is labeled hate speech are threatening to unprotect the platforms for everyone’s vote under Section 230.
“Because our world has only been modern since the mid-nineteenth century, we don’t have to travel far back in time before institutions become alien to our senses,” writes Douglas W. Allen in his book “The Institutional” Revolution. “” Our local governments ; Tax systems; our widespread beliefs about marriage, occupation and social status; the practice of universal suffrage; our sense of individualism, to name a few, are all relatively new innovations. “
No institution is forever. Trump and Company seize a vulnerable moment for society’s institutions in the midst of challenges and change. The party in power decides to burn the fields behind them. It is an act not so much of political desperation as of cynical opportunism that tosses our once cherished symbols of stability into the flames in order to stir up anger among grassroots white men. We are told to empathize with their fear and anger, but one wonders what they must be angry about besides wasting their white privilege.
As an old, white man, I grew up at a time when we were taught the ideal of the melting pot: that a color-blind America would soon see everyone as equal. It took time for me to understand the racism in this myth that would lead us to obliterate the unique identities of individuals and communities in our diverse nation until all of us act like us, the white majority.
Fortunately, the opposite has happened. Those who would not be erased speak out loud to claim their own birthright to righteous anger, justice, and power. In response, the angry, uneducated, white men only get louder. It doesn’t matter what they scream. They can refuse to wear masks or spread conspiracy theories or attack institutions. It is all achievement in epistemological warfare that includes anger over reason and authoritarianism over authority. They believe they have nothing more to lose if they question the institution of the institutions: the truth.