"For many years,"
As persuasive as the ALL CAPS are, I have my doubts.
Put aside Trump's specific shortcomings for the moment. The presidency has become ill-suited to the task of unifying the country, because the presidency has become the biggest prize and totem in the culture war. Like the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in
The political parties have been utterly complicit in the process. Exploiting social media and other technologies, Republicans and Democrats shape their messages around the assumption that they -- and they alone -- have legitimate ownership of America's authentic best self. That's why whichever party is out of power promises to "take back America" -- as if the other side were foreign invaders.
The colors of the electoral map may have been smudged and scrambled over the last eight years, but the underlying polarization Obama inherited from
The ugly squabble between the president-elect and Rep.
Lewis earned his icon status on the
In 2008, Lewis saw nothing wrong with comparing Sen.
This was not idealism, but poisonous cynicism, and it helped contribute to the feelings of resentment that were so essential to Trump's victory. Now, Lewis is going further still, refusing to attend Trump's inauguration and arguing that Trump cannot be a legitimate president because of Russian meddling in the election. Lewis may have reason to believe that Trump did not win fair and square, but questioning Trump's legitimacy is exactly what the Russians probably wanted from the beginning: to undermine Western and American faith and confidence in democracy. (It's a sign of Lewis' partisanship that he also boycotted
Of course, Trump made things worse. He attacked Lewis, saying the congressman "should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the
The Democrats will stop baiting Trump when he shows he can refuse the bait. Which means they won't stop.
There's an almost literary quality to Trump's insecurities; he craves respect more than almost anything else, and yet respect remains agonizingly elusive -- in part because he takes everything too personally.
The presidency, normally a job for people with thick skins and a nose for insincere flattery, promises to only heighten Trump's sense of entitlement to respect and exacerbate his inevitable resentment when he doesn't receive it. So we'll continue on divided, angry and untrusting.