Opinion | Defeating Trump Is Just a Start

“We are simply not raised in cultural worlds in which collective agency is a meaningful reality,” Rana goes on to say.

Recent expressions of labor militancy have been heartening, but they have also come at the same time that conservative politicians, entrenched financial interests and neoliberal ideologues have targeted what’s left of our commons — and in particular, our public schools and universities — to be stripped for parts.

Democrats have already framed the coming presidential election as a battle for the future of American democracy, and for good reason. Donald Trump, who threatened not to accept the results in 2016 and actively tried to overturn them in 2020, will almost certainly be on the ballot. And he has no intention of honoring the democratic traditions of the United States. Instead, he has promised his supporters to be their “retribution” in the White House. He says he’ll be a “dictator,” on “Day 1” at least, and his allies are busy devising plans to radically empower the executive branch and punish the former president’s political enemies.

The American republic is genuinely at stake. But as Democrats and their allies gear up for that battle, they should understand that beating Trump is the beginning of the beginning. We need to fight political despair everywhere we find it, which means this country needs an overhaul of its economic system, its political institutions and its public life.

We need to recognize, as Dewey did, that it is wrong to think that “democratic conditions automatically maintain themselves” or that “they can be identified with fulfillment of prescriptions laid down in a constitution.” Beliefs of this sort, he continued,

merely divert attention from what is going on, just as the patter of the prestidigitator enables him to do things that are not noticed by those whom he is engaged in fooling. For what is actually going on may be the formation of conditions that are hostile to any kind of democratic liberties.

Defeating Trump is only the first step toward saving — and revitalizing — American democracy. It’ll be hard. The next steps may well be even harder.

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