(NEW YORK MAGAZINE)

By Andrew Sullivan

The gnawingly persistent question in the Trump years so far is a relatively simple one: Is this reparable? By which I mean: Can Trump’s admixture of malevolence, corruption, and incompetence be survived without permanent damage? Is this a minor heart attack from which this democracy and the world can soon recover … or is it a major one whose consequences are, in some respects, permanent?

The truth is: We don’t yet know (although Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is beyond depressing). Can we at some point reconstruct a common set of facts after such a shameless torrent of lies and fantasies from the very top? Can some minimal level of decency and dignity be returned to the White House and to our public discourse? Is there any viable synthesis to be struck between the two Americas divided by a widening gyre of mutual incomprehension? The long run suggests all of this is possible, if currently hard to envision. Time heals. America survived the 1860s and the 1960s. But there’s one thing about today’s political darkness that will be close to impossible to undo.

And that’s the very concept of a united, democratic West. It emerged out of the ashes of the Second World War, bringing similar democracies together across the Atlantic in opposition to totalitarianism in all its forms. At its center was Germany as a free, democratic, peaceful, and unified country. It was a triumph primarily of the United States, cemented in place in due course by NATO and the European Union. This Euro-American axis kept the peace, created unparalleled prosperity for both continents, and defeated the Soviet Union peacefully before it kept post-Soviet Russia’s great power meddling in check. How often in history has a conquering power turned around and rebuilt and defended and protected the country it defeated and occupied? How often has it then sustained that core assurance for decades?

And in a few months, Trump has all but trashed it.

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