Donald Trump has eviscerated his Republican opposition and his hostile takeover of the party of Lincoln is now complete. The Republican elites have fallen in line, normalizing the xenophobia, the racism, and the politics of resentment that fuel his campaign.
The unimaginable has become imaginable: a politician who has repeatedly threatened our democratic institutions has seized the imagination of a significant portion of the Republican electorate. Even more disturbingly, the Molotov cocktail of words Trump hurls at the American republic has invited not condemnation, but uncomfortable silence, from the GOP elites, and playful giggles from those who should be opposing him. The latter are seasoned journalists, pundits, activists, and even Democratic Party operatives who every time they are asked to comment on yet another incoherent insult Trump had made, inevitably respond by giggling, or even laughing, thereby turning any explanation that comes after into a joke. The giggles bespeak a widespread cynicism that has infected our imagination and made it possible for someone as authoritarian as Trump to come a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
The plague of cynicism has taken root not only in America, but even more corrosively, in Europe where authoritarianism has rapidly gained ground (Hungary, Poland, Turkey), xenophobia become a part of immigration policies (Denmark), and early 20th century-style nationalism edged out the idea of a European identity, threatening the very existence of the European Union (Brexit). In the immediate post-WWII period, progressive liberalism mobilized millions of Europeans into building a continent that would never again succumb to the barbarism that was Nazism.