Trump is showing the historic America(Photo:Ap)

Donald Trump is normal in that he embodies recurring maladies of American public life; perhaps the main anomaly is that he brings so many of them together. Such historical awareness can comfort, especially if you believe, as Meacham does, that every generation considers itself under siege and that, with the right leadership, Americans usually find a way forward rather than back. “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before,” he writes. “All has seemed lost before, only to give way, after decades of gloom, to light.”

Stop saying the Trump era is ‘not normal’ or ‘not who we are.’ We’ve been here before, asks Carlos Lozada in Washington Post. A home in Youngstown, Pa., featuring a huge cut-out of Donald Trump draws visitors in the days before the 2016 election, photographed by by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The horror with which many citizens regard the Trump presidency is premised, in part, on the notion that its challenges are unprecedented and its morality antithetical to long-standing national values. So “normalizing” President Trump has become a mortal sin, and “that’s not who we are” a rallying cry for those who view today’s anti-democratic and nativist compulsions as aberrations along that long arc toward justice. Here is Wahington posts Review of ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham

The Soul of America

Jon Meacham’s “The Soul of America,” though it intends to uplift, nonetheless offers a necessary and sobering corrective. America’s past is “more often tragic” than otherwise, the historian writes, “full of broken hearts and broken promises, disappointed hopes and dreams delayed.” In times of fear, our leaders “can be as often disappointing as they are heroic.” And if the soul of America is found in those attempts to expand the space for more people to live freely and pursue happiness, Meacham also points to a “universal American inconsistency” — even as we uphold life and liberty for some, we hold back others deemed unworthy.

Slavery, the Klan, Jim Crow, the Klan again. Internment of Japanese Americans. Gender discrimination and scientific racism. McCarthyism. George Wallace. All leading to a president whom Meacham considers “an heir to the white populist tradition,” a leader eager to undermine the law, the truth and “the sense of hope essential to American life.”

Aware of historical Patters

Of course, if you’re living in the gloom, awareness of historical patterns bestows limited consolation. It might, however, inject small doses of those qualities that latter-day resistance requires: Inspiration. Patience. Even humility.
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Counterpoints and parallels to Trump abound throughout history and throughout “The Soul of America,” too. It’s no surprise that Meacham, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and George H.W. Bush, focuses on the White House. “The most consequential of our past presidents have unified and inspired with conscious dignity and conscientious efficiency,” he writes, citing qualities that do not immediately evoke the 45th commander in chief.

Yet even the exemplars are imperfect. Woodrow Wilson, who signed women’s suffrage into law, also resegregated the federal workforce, suppressed free speech and screened “The Birth of a Nation” in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt, who saved the country from the Great Depression, also sought to pack the Supreme Court and, more damning, detained Americans for no other cause than their Japanese ancestry. “A tragic element of history is that every advance must contend with forces of reaction,” Meacham writes.

Trump-like figures

Trump-like figures are most evident among the latter forces. It is difficult to read Meacham’s descriptions of politicians such as President Andrew Johnson, Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Gov. George Wallace and not feel the current president looming. McCarthy, stoking the Red Scare of the early 1950s, emerged as “a master of false charges, of conspiracy-tinged rhetoric, and of calculated disrespect for conventional figures. . . . McCarthy could distract the public, play the press, and change the subject — all while keeping himself at center stage.” Wallace, who called for segregation now, tomorrow and forever, “brought something intriguing to the modern politics of fear in America: a visceral connection to his crowds, an appeal that confounded elites but which gave him a durable base.” And don’t forget Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker, who at a 1924 Klan convention urged America to “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven, against the admission of a single one of those Southern Europeans who never thought the thoughts or spoke the language of a democracy in their lives.” (No word on whether Italy would pay for it.)

Character of the Country

For all his emphasis on elected leaders, however, Meacham argues that “what counts is not just the character of the individual at the top, but the character of the country.” Here, the American soul proves expansive and malleable, sometimes dangerously so. When industrial upheaval and urbanization upended rural life, Meacham recalls, the Ku Klux Klan promised “racial solidarity and cultural certitude” — an apt summation of white-nationalists’ appeal a century later. In the 1920s, Klansmen held 11 governorships and 16 U.S. Senate seats, while more than 300 delegates at the 1924 Democratic National Convention were Klan members. The opposition of the press “had the perverse effect of boosting the Klan rather than undercutting it,” Meacham notes. “Hostility from the journalists of the East convinced a number of middle Americans that a cause under such assault must have something to recommend it.” The elite news media as the enemy of real America is hardly just a Trumpian conceit.

Dwells on Luther King

Meacham dwells on the prophetic power of Martin Luther King Jr., who upon launching the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 declared that black Americans were simply seeking to live out American citizenship “to the fullness of its meaning.” A decade later, King would marvel that it took a white Southerner, Lyndon Johnson, to help fulfill that vision. Progress in America, Meacham explains, “comes when the whispered hopes of those outside the mainstream rise in volume to reach the ears and hearts and minds of the powerful.”

Travels with Charlie

John Steinbeck drove through America with his dog «Charley»(Photo:

Today, those whispered hopes seem raised in anger and jeers, but in “Our Towns,” James and Deborah Fallows find and heed different voices. Self-consciously invoking past literary road trips by John Steinbeck and Alexis de Tocqueville, the husband-and-wife writers roam the United States in a single-engine propeller airplane for 100,000 miles, visiting dozens of small towns and cities from 2012 to 2017 to take a “fresh look at the country, its disappointments and its possibilities.”

THE SOUL OF AMERICA: The Battle for Our Better Angels By Jon Meacham. Random House. 402 pp. $30. Sent to Nordic News trough svein melbyes Titter-account.
-Å nei, Trump er ingen unik og unormal størrelse i amerikansk historie, skriver Svein Melbye på Twitter.

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