At least we have some clarity. The mystifications and rationalizations are evaporating. If nothing else, the election of Donald Trump illuminates many of the deep structural problems that we need to face squarely.
While most post-election commentary is focused on Trump and the political realignment in Washington, I think the bigger stories are the tectonic shifts in the neoliberal political economy and representative democracy itself. Both are imploding. Both are losing credibility as vehicles for human governance and betterment. And yet the lineaments of a new order – a robust realm of social innovation relatively unknown to mainstream politics – remains out of focus.
The election of a narcissistic, authoritarian bigot with no experience in politics and no serious ideas about how to solve the country’s problems, reveals the dysfunctions of the US constitutional system and its two major political parties. The rollicking, vituperative campaigns made for blockbuster TV ratings, but they were a farce in terms of democratic deliberation and governance.
And how could it be otherwise? The venerable system devised by powdered-wig elites in the late 18th century has been eclipsed by the realities of the 21st century. Politics is now a self-referential bubble of mass-media spectacle and social media. As a branch of the entertainment world, it is a highly confected virtual space that caters more to emotional hot buttons and prejudices than rational deliberation or meaningful human dialogue.
Parties can’t help but regard this bizarre, modernist fun house as the real venue for getting and retaining power; solving real problems or fostering real democratic participation is a nostalgic fantasy. In hindsight, it now seems utterly logical that an outrageous former reality-show star could prevail in this arena – much as Ronald Reagan’s long experience in Hollywood was essential to his success in politics. Let's not pretend that this is "democracy." It's a Roman circus.