Donald Trump
Patrick Michels

A Time for Radical Thinking

We need more bold ideas that challenge Trump and restore democracy.


A version of this story ran in the August 2018 issue.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump  Patrick Michels

Give Donald Trump this: he’s brought a certain clarity to our present condition. With democratic norms shattered, institutions weakened and the illusion of a shared polity ripped away, we can see our politics, our society, for the bloody scrapping for power that they are. There’s a wildness loose in the country that shows no signs of being tamed. And it’s far more feral and dangerous than incivility.

The U.S. government has been taken over by a corrupt authoritarian who likely colluded with a foreign power to steal an election. He has empowered white supremacists, shredded safety nets and environmental protections, played to the basest instincts of his followers by viciously attacking immigrants and the press, and… well, I have only so much space.

Trump lies with astonishing casualness and regularity. All politicians lie, but not like this. (Repeat after me: Not Normal.) For example, describing immigrants as an infestation is to inject the language of ethnic cleansing into the public bloodstream.

It’s time to fully infuse the Democratic Party with some common-sense radicalism.

And yet almost the entirety of the Republican Party and a good third or so of the country seem under his spell. It’s only getting worse. Even for those of us with relatively privileged lives, tuning out politics has been impossible, and frankly, irresponsible. For the most vulnerable, these are dangerous times.

For a host of reasons — the bad luck of the electoral calendar, gerrymandering, attacks on voting rights — it is far from certain that Democrats will gain control of either the Senate or the House. It’s hard to imagine Trump and the GOP would interpret a victory as anything short of license to kick the program into overdrive. Goodbye, Robert Mueller.

Democrats must win Congress. There are plenty of traditional ways to help candidates here in Texas: block walking, manning the phones, making financial contributions, talking to friends and neighbors. But the Democratic Party, as an institution, is a terribly inadequate counterweight to #MAGA. Its leadership, for the most part, seems to lack the fortitude to take on the dark forces of Trumpism. The crises we face are serious and the current modes of thinking are inadequate to the task of solving them. It’s time to fully infuse the party with some common-sense radicalism.

The #AbolishICE movement is instructive. What started as a preposterous cry from the fringes rapidly moved into the mainstream as ICE’s extremist behavior became evident. Healthy democracies do not tolerate police forces that snatch hardworking people from their homes, or split families apart and lock them in cages. #AbolishICE has been adopted by many mainstream Democratic candidates. Though the concept will surely morph if and when it reaches a legislative stage, it is a highly effective bit of agitprop and is defensible on both policy and political grounds. We need more bold ideas that challenge Trump and restore democracy.