Ross Douthat, columnist for the New York Times, wrote an opinion piece last Tuesday as a follow-up to my previous post, “A Bleak American Future?”, in which I mentioned my new novel, 2084. Okay, that’s wishful thinking on my part—but…
Douthat’s column, “Are We Headed for A Coup in 2024?” considers the same challenge to American democracy that 2084 presents. No, he wrote, Donald Trump will not plunge the country into crisis, as many progressives fear. Certain doom, he believes, is not on the horizon. However, Douthat acknowledges “the absurd lengths to which Trump’s fantasies extended and the scale and seriousness of ordinary-Republican belief in his narrative of fraud.”
My novel? It’s set in the year 2044 (twenty forty-four). A white-Christian government has replaced the U.S.A. with the Covenantal States of America. The Covenantal States did not emerge overnight but followed extended post-pandemic turmoil in the 2020s and early 30s. (See pages 136-138.) Of course, this is fiction. But problems that could lead to America’s democratic (small “d’) downfall are real.
2084 serves as a cautionary tale (while being a great read) regarding what could happen, in some form, if America remains as divided—politically, culturally and economically—as it is today. Probable? I don’t know. Possible? Yes.
As Douthat writes, progressive fear of a Trumpist takeover may go too far but “does not make the worriers unreasonable; it just makes their we’re all doomed attitude seem extremely premature.”
Consider that “premature” might relate to “prophetic.” The Covenantal States of America does not cast aside the Constitution until after the 2032 election. That’s eleven years off—a lot of time—and not a lot of time.
We Americans need to ask ourselves important questions now.
Is the growing divide between rich and poor/struggling sustainable? Can we find ways to fight climate change—if we can agree that we have a problem? Can many Americans continue to find higher education out of reach? Can some members of the white majority—as broad a definition as “white” may be—accept minority (though plurality) status? In that vein, can we guarantee voting opportunities to everyone? On the left, will identity politics further divide us? And, can Americans resist the lure of “the man on the white horse?”
America is not Nazi Germany. But German Jews, thousands of whom fought for their country in World War One, believed that Hitler was a buffoon, that laws limiting Jewish freedoms would quickly fade away, that life soon would return to normal.
We know how tragically wrong they were. We also know that the situation for Jews in Germany developed over years, springing from existing anti-Semitism, the failures of post-Kaiser democratic government facing economic woes and the 1930 election—legal if marred by violence—which put 107 Nazi party members in the Reichstag. In 1933, Hitler was legally named Chancellor—years before the death camps opened.
The United States can never take for granted that its bona fides guarantee the nation’s perpetual flourishing. Complacency risks a “Great Coup of ’24”—or 2028 or 2032—unless we thoroughly examine our recent, as well as extended, past and correct our faults.
Sadly, no one can provide assurance that we’ll chart a wiser course than the one that has left us so disoriented.
My opinion piece “Genocide? Words Matter,” appears in the June 11 print issue of J—The Jewish News of Northern California and online.
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