An America Forged in the Crucible of Trump: A Q&A with Historian Kevin KruseHistorians in the News
tags: Donald Trump, Kevin Kruse, 2020
More than ever, the country is fractured along economic, partisan, racial, and cultural lines, and if there’s a plausible way to bridge the divide, we have yet to hear it.
In other words, Happy New Year, just don’t expect prevalent happiness.
To examine the stigmata of 2020 and where we’re heading in the post-Trump era, we turned to Princeton historian Kevin Kruse, who studies the political environment in granular detail in his most recent book, co-written with colleague Julian Zelizer.
Entitled Fault Lines, the book examines America since Vietnam and Watergate triggered national paroxysms of doubt and distrust in government, and explains how it all set the table for You Know Who.
Kruse, whose half-million Twitter followers know why one publication calls him “history’s attack dog,” spoke with Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board last Wednesday, with remarks edited for brevity.
Q. A New Yorker piece pointed out that 2020, this wretched year of death and distress and privation and protest is largely the culmination of what Donald Trump has wrought. Did America, at least, get a harsh lesson in the power of the presidency and the value of competence?
Kruse: That’s a fair way to say it, and I think we got a lesson in the fact that our institutions don’t run on auto-pilot, that it takes informed and capable leadership to make them work. A lot of things Americans had taken for granted in our lives — that things would run fine in the background, that you could rely on the CDC, that the Justice Department would do the right thing — a lot of people have been disabused of that in the last 12 months, for good reason.
Q. What about the 70 million who voted for Trump last month? What lesson will they take from 2020?
Kruse: There are a lot of lessons they could take. You’d think they’d take the lesson that your politics simply can’t be about owning the libs and voting for someone because you think he’ll upset the people you don’t like — that there’s more to it than that, and that we’re in it together. But I’m worried the lesson they’ll take is an entirely fabricated one – that the election was rigged and that Joe Biden isn’t a legitimate president. That’s the lesson Trump seems to want his followers to believe on his way out.
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