I every much dislike someone identifying a moment as the one where "America lost its innocence". The United State is a real country, with real people in it, real people with real needs, fears, prejudices, and false beliefs. Its citizens have done many terrible things, to each other and to others. They have also done great things. That is why there is less excuse for us.
My headline comes from Jonathan Kirschner's excellent article America, America, in the LA Review of Books, where he also says "there is no happy ending to this story". (I found Kirschner's piece via Daniel Drezner's Why President Obama is the Jon Snow of American foreign policy)
I do think Trump is the human O-ring, and that we are running a real risk of permanent damage to our political system. Kirschner runs down many of the real issues that led to the rise of Trump, and the refusal of responsible people to deal with these issues. We really do have things we need to do. Serious, hard, unrewarding things that no one will really thank us for, because, despite the fact that we have become rich and free through hard, incremental work, no one seems to find hard, incremental work credible as a solution to anything.
One thing I think everyone with anxiety about what Trump will do to our future needs to do is consider the practical consequences of their actions. They should have a plan, something they are aiming at, and then ask themselves, when tempted to do something emotionally satisfying that will get some clicks and likes from people who agree with them, "is this helping us get to where we should be?"
Does claiming Trump is not a legitimate President get you a step toward where you want to be? Or does it, in fact, make the future where a coalition successfully addresses the issues less likely, because a President they campaign for is then also considered illegitimate?
I tend to support Obama in fighting cleanly and fairly. Others think any weapon in this conflict is welcome. But, again, the question: will fighting dirty help you win? And if you do "win" with such methods, can you govern, help the weak, increase freedom, increase wealth, and do a minimum of harm? Can you pass a working system down to future generations?
But, of course, we know that the important issues revolve around arguments about how many people attended various past public events.
After such an election, what forgiveness?