Leading observers argue that the U.S. has reached a moral crisis, where the very existence of a modern, liberal, multiracial democracy is at stake. Adam Serwer of The Atlantic, Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times and Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post argue, in different ways, that as a nation we have reached a moment of truth. Below we link to and excerpt these must-read pieces.
Under the headline What Americans Do Now Will Define Us Forever, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer argues that If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America, it will not be defended elsewhere.
[W]e have never seen an American president make a U.S. representative, a refugee, an American citizen, a woman of color, and a religious minority an object of hate for the political masses, in a deliberate attempt to turn the country against his fellow Americans who share any of those traits. Trump is assailing the moral foundations of the multiracial democracy Americans have struggled to bring into existence since 1965, and unless Trumpism is defeated, that fragile project will fail…[A]s a black woman, a Muslim, an immigrant, and a progressive member of Congress, she represents in vivid terms a threat to the nation Trumpists fear they are losing.
To attack Omar is to attack a symbol of the demographic change that is eroding white cultural and political hegemony, the defense of which is Trumpism’s only sincere political purpose. Many of the president’s most outrageous comments have been delivered extemporaneously, when he departs from his prepared remarks. Last night, though, his attacks on Omar were carefully scripted, written out by his staff and then read off a teleprompter. To defend the remarks as politically shrewd is to confess that the president is deliberately campaigning on the claim that only white people can truly, irrevocably be American. […]
In the face of such a challenge to the American idea, tactics become intertwined with morality. If the Democrats convince themselves that anything they do to attack the president risks alienating white voters who believe the country belongs only to them, then they will be partially responsible for the path the country is taking, and the standard it is upholding. The Democrats’ weakness has not appeased the president. Instead, it has only invited bolder challenges to democracy and the rule of law. This will not change. If congressional Democrats cannot or will not defend the principle that America belongs to all of its citizens, regardless of race, creed, color, or religion, their oaths to defend the Constitution are meaningless.
The New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie continues the theme of urging journalists and Democrats to refrain from obsessing over Trump voters when the majority of Americans oppose him and his racism.
The anti-Trump vote is the single largest coalition in American politics. That was true in 2016, despite Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the Electoral College. It was true in 2017, after Democrats won major victories in Virginia and Alabama. And it was true in 2018, when the anti-Trump coalition gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives.
Despite their influence, however, anti-Trump voters are practically invisible in recent mainstream political coverage. Instead, the focus is the president’s most fervent supporters, as it has been since 2015, when Trump came down his escalator and announced his campaign for the White House.
….Conventional wisdom on 2020 is that Democrats will lose if they can’t get their progressive wing under control. This overstates the leftward swing of the Democratic Party and understates the distance between the center of American politics and the president’s right-wing policies. It also misses another, crucial dynamic — that by trying to court and convert voters who backed Trump, Democrats may sacrifice an opportunity to deepen support among their existing voters, to powerful electoral consequences.
The press may not have much interest in the broader electorate, but Democratic leaders and strategists, at least, should understand that the anti-Trump coalition is much bigger than the Trump base. If they want to oust the president next November, they should start to take that fact seriously.
Finally, Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post argues that Trump’s racism and attacks on a multi-ethnic democracy are not confined to his rhetoric or Tweets, but can be clearly seen in his policies:
[R]acist, xenophobic rhetoric has inspired a lot of (deserved) outrage. But did Americans really need to hear these words to know that Trump considers immigrants and brown people to be subhuman? The actual policies his administration has been undertaking should have left no doubt.
She then enumerates a long list of immigration actions, mostly taken this very week, that speak to the President’s animus towards people of color. Rampell concludes:
By all means, we must continue to condemn Trump’s virulently bigoted rhetoric. But we never needed him to talk the talk to know what he thinks. He’s long been walking the walk.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
Having worked on immigration issues for two decades, I can say that concern for the wellbeing of immigrants and refugees is more salient with the average American voter than it has been in a long time. But it goes beyond the specific policies or the treatment of children and families and is touching a chord in America about who we are or want to be as a country. Americans are rightly proud that we have made tremendous strides in the past half-century or so to live up to the ideals enshrined in our founding documents of equality, justice, and freedom, yet all of that seems to be under attack by the President and those who chant at his rallies about sending a black person back to Africa. The coalition of those who still believe in the greatness of the America idea as it has evolved and improved over the course of two centuries vastly outnumber those who want to turn back the clock. Our progress will only continue if we demand it.