Well. Here we are. The worst election season of our lifetimes has finally ended, and Donald Trump has been elected President. As we watch him make his cabinet selections (some ok, some curious, some awful) and policy proposals (some surprisingly good, many predictably terrible), we should reflect on something this election season has shown us.
If there’s one piece of advice I could give you this election cycle, it’s this: every time you overstate the power of the president or claim “we need a new law” for every problem, our country inches closer to authoritarianism. This is serious, and we need to fix our thinking to stop it before it’s too late.
American media commentators, in their infinite wisdom, often pontificate about how our political leaders should be made up of the “best and brightest.” But does this ever actually happen? Sure, great people may attain the heights of political office, but that’s if we’re lucky. A strong moral character is not hallmark of the state – even in liberal democracies. Schools often teach children that government exists for the sake of benevolent public service. In preaching this, they do our kids a massive, Wilsonian disservice. Many of our greatest authors, from Mark Twain to Nathaniel Hawthorne, embody an anti-authoritarian tradition, one that was eager to point out the propensity of the powerful toward scapegoating, moral panics and state aggression.
At the dawn of the 21st century, the term “BRIC” entered the world’s political and economic vocabulary. Shorthand for Brazil, Russia, India and China, the term came to signify the emergence of countries that would challenge the political, economic and perhaps even military dominance of the developed west (e.g. the US, UK, France). In the last 15 years, through the War on Terror, the Euro crisis and other geopolitical flashpoints, these countries have played an increasingly important and even disruptive role on the world stage.