Waking Up to a Changed America

There’s a long-running argument among two camps of historians: the “trends and forces” school and the “great man” school. Great or not, too many of us have been fixated on one man for too long: we missed the trends and forces that led us here, and we’re still not looking hard enough at where they’re taking us.

Let’s begin, then, with a macro analysis of a “looming Constitutional crisis” and the possible undoing of the United States. In a big read, the FT’s Ed Luce takes a hard look at the slow-motion ossification of a governing document written by hand on parchment more than 200 years ago. Perhaps it’s easier for a non-U.S. newspaper to ask hard questions about a quasi-sacred text and the idolatry of “originalism” that’s sprung up around it; in any case, Luce shines light into several corners that most Americans — even run-of-the-mill institutionalists — shy away from.

Moving from structural forces to cultural trends, Luce also penned an incisive, courageous analysis of the future of Trumpism: in short, it’s not going away, even if its namesake does. There’s lively debate on this, including in the FT’s comment pages, but I’m with Luce here. Ideologies seem to be hardening and hardening, and it’s going to take a pretty radical reframing to get us back on the same team — if that’s possible.

Finally, for a look at just how polarization, suspicion, and violence compound, consider Lauren Smiley’s excellent chronicle of “The True Story of the Antifa Invasion of Forks, Washington,” in Wired [HT Longreads]. As Twain is supposed to have said, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on — and, these days, the lie can literally appear in boots (and camo, and body armor, bearing weapons) weeks and months before the truth comes out. If ever it does.