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America's Shining City On A Hill Has Gone Dark

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Supporters yell as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Sioux City, Iowa on Nov. 06, 2016. (Photo: Getty Images)

In Hillary Clinton's final speech of this slow-motion car crash of a campaign, she declared that "love trumps hate."

Turns out she was wrong.

There were no Jaws of Life to pry Clinton from the fiery wreckage of the nation's drunken drive towards fascism. America did not choose the eminently qualified incrementalist who understands equality but not email.

Instead, hate trumped love and so they picked Donald Trump, a vengeful demagogue running on a fear-fueled platform of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and Islamophobia alongside a running-mate known primarily for his anti-LGBTQ radicalism.

This tragic car crash is not the metaphor that the Republicans' patron saint Ronald Reagan famously used to describe America and justify its role as a global superpower.

In 1974, when the Cold War carved the planet into ideologically opposed factions, Ronald Reagan famously said, "America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere."

"Needless to say, this was not the vision for America that Donald J. Trump campaigned on -- and won with. That is, unless you dig deeper."

He elaborated in his 1989 presidential farewell address, describing the shining metropolis as "teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here."

ronald reagan 1989Ronald Reagan had a different vision of America than Donald Trump (Photo: Getty Images)

"And she's still a beacon," Reagan added, "still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Needless to say, this was not the vision for America that Donald J. Trump campaigned on -- and won with.

That is, unless you dig deeper. The shining city actually originated in a 1630 sermon by John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony. Turns out he was something of a proto-Trumpist.

"There has been darkness at the heart of America since day one, but in recent times it had been seemingly reduced to subtext, somewhat de-powered by the lack of overt support from the top political ranks."

Winthrop, who declared that democracy was "the meanest and worst of all forms of government," kept American Indian slaves and helped write the first law in North America legalizing African slavery.

Then there was the trial he presided over of "American Jezebel" Anne Hutchinson, an influential midwife and proto-feminist who the New York Times says he banished for c̶h̶a̶l̶l̶e̶n̶g̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶a̶l̶e̶ ̶a̶u̶t̶h̶o̶r̶i̶t̶y̶ "heresy, political anarchy and witchcraft."

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There has been darkness at the heart of America since day one, but in recent times it had been seemingly reduced to subtext, somewhat de-powered by the lack of overt support from the top political ranks.

Then in 2008 it looked like the U.S. was finally living up to its shining city promise, and the world rejoiced as America elected its first black president on a wave of hope and change.

That year's campaign certainly got ugly, though it now seems quaint in hindsight. Sarah Palin blew her share of dog whistles, but when a racist Republican attacked Obama during a town hall, then-presidential candidate John McCain responded that "He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues."

During that same town hall, Senator McCain said Obama was "a person you don't have to be scared of as president of the United States" and "I admire Senator Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him."

Each time, the crowd booed and called Obama "liar" and "terrorist." Those people, stirred up by Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, did not go away.

They became the Tea Party, and more recently the alt-right, a decentralized collection of white supremacists, Islamophobes, misogynists, anti-LGBTQ bigots and message board trolls. Now also inspired by Breitbart.com, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and the rest of the alt-right echo chamber they believe immigrants, Muslims, gays, Jews, black and the amorphous "threat" of political correctness are siphoning power from straight white males.

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Fast-forward to 2016 and McCain himself said Obama was "directly responsible" for the Orlando terror attack and said he would never even hold a hearing on a Supreme Court justice nominated by Hillary Clinton.

McCain's always represented the reasonable wing of the Republican Party and, relatively speaking, perhaps he still does because the party and their supporters have moved that far from sanity and civility.

What happened in between was that the Tea Party protesters -- white voters beset by the Great Recession and fear of a black president -- took over the Republican Party while an orange reality show star and self-styled billionaire began his ugly rise to political prominence with racist birther claims about Obama's birthplace.

But the fix was already in. The 2010 midterm landslides allowed Republican governors to gerrymander the House of Representatives to the extent that In 2012 they got 33 more seats despite 1.4 million less votes.

These safe seats allowed the Tea Party Republicans to hold the Obama administration hostage and use primaries to boot moderates and scare the rest to the far right. That was the price for the party legitimizing their anger.

Donald Trump raised those stakes even further as his election campaign legitimized their hate because now it was coming from the top of the ticket.

Trump began by calling Mexicans rapists, and ended with an anti-Semitic ad and an Islamaphobic attack on Somali refugees in Minnesota.

The months in between were filled with misogyny, racism and xenophobia, including that shocking promise to ban 1.6 billion Muslims from entering a country literally founded on religious freedom.

But perhaps the scariest part of this was that Trump installed alt-right provocateur and Breitbart News CEO Steven Bannon at the top of his campaign, giving the presidential candidate an unprecedented propaganda wing and giving Bannon, a white nationalist, access to the White House.

Over the length of the campaign, Trump incited his angry white followers and they responded on cue, beating up protesters, shouting Nazi slogan "lügenpresse" at members of the media and turning politics into a grotesque reality show.

No wonder he was endorsed by the KKK.

laura ingraham
Radio Host Laura Ingraham gestures while speaking during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio on July 20, 2016. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Republican convention was practically a witch trial of Hillary Clinton, with its incessant "lock her up" chants over the email non-scandal -- and if you think that's going a bit far, well, a poll found that 84 per cent of Trump supporters think should be in jail and 40 per cent literally think Hillary is a demon. (A demon!)

I wrote at the time that Trump was fuelling the rise of white fright. That turned out to be the phenomenon that won him the presidency and it will further metastasize just like it did after McCain lost but far worse because there's nobody left on the right to try and bring sanity, much less respect, back.

"With a Republican controlled congress and an alt-right controlled Trump, new Supreme Court judges may start rolling back other civil liberties like Roe v. Wade and marriage equality."

The Republicans have been on this trajectory since Nixon's southern strategy used racism as a campaign tactic, though it ramped up in 1994 when Hillary's failed attempt to bring Canadian-style health care incited the Newt Gingrich-led Republican revolution that got her husband Bill impeached.

That disdain for democracy was amplified this year as Trump repeatedly claimed the election was rigged despite the Republicans being the ones who were trying to rig it with voter suppression tactics facilitated by the Supreme Court gutting the Civil Rights Act.

And that's just the start. With a Republican controlled congress and an alt-right controlled Trump, new Supreme Court judges may start rolling back other civil liberties like Roe v. Wade and marriage equality.

One of the ugliest parts of the election night coverage is the Trump surrogates claiming that this was the American people saying they want their government back from the elite. That's not true. It was straight white America saying they want their supremacy back from minorities (not that they ever lost it) and it was men saying they want women to know their place.

"The chances of the Republicans holding Trump and his alt-right deplorables in check is dim."

Now if the Republican leadership truly revered Reagan, if they really wanted America to be a shining city that can inspire the world -- one that has the moral authority to promote democracy and human rights abroad -- then they need to defend democracy and human rights at home.

But given their spinelessness during the campaign, and their tradition of choosing divisiveness over diversity, the chances of the Republicans holding Trump and his alt-right deplorables in check is dim.

With at least four years of dystopia to look forward to, who knows when, or if, that beacon of freedom will light up again.

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Hate trumped love.