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#AgainstTrump

NOTES FROM YEAR ONE


JEFFREY C. ISAAC

“In Jeffrey Isaac, Donald Trump, his movement, and his party have met the most lucid, eloquent adversary imaginable. He is both rousing and logical. He is blunt where bluntness is called for, where the alternative to bluntness is blindness. When he calls for modesty, he exhibits it, restoring to common sense its good name. When he thunders, he thunders with precision. His intellectual stamina is remarkable. He is not cowed from either right or left. He is a public intellectual who also engages his profession. But my enthusiasm for this superb book does not rest simply on its wisdom, clarity, and sobriety, though those qualities are abundantly in evidence. This collection deserves to endure as a model of intelligence rising to the awful occasion—and as an inspiration.” —Todd Gitlin, author of The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage and The Twilight of Common Dreams

“Written for our perilous moment, the incisive and informed commentary in #AgainstTrump offers determined support to defenders of liberal democracy. Isaac reveals a rare capacity to write with exceptional clarity and intellectual force.” —Ira I. Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University

“It is not easy to invoke dire urgency without hysteria, but Jeffrey C. Isaac succeeds. Isaac writes this book as a political thinker, an American patriot, and a teacher. His commitment is both epistemological and ethical: to understand the moment we are living through, and to resist tyranny; to first think—and then act, and not retreat into despair.” —Marci Shore, Associate Professor of History, Yale University

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About the Book

Few predicted the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the US presidency, a development with a huge impact on international relations, trade, environmental policy, and the very possibility of liberal democracy itself. Those of us committed to democratic values, truth, and human rights, feel compelled to resist. And yet the fight against Trump is hardly a united front.

In this collection of essays, Jeffrey C. Isaac argues that the threat posed to liberal democracy by illiberal forces today, from Trump and his authoritarian counterparts in France, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, warrants a strong democratic response, centered on both defending and extending the core commitments of liberal democracy. Isaac articulates a politics that bridges the gap between liberalism and leftism, pointing the way toward more productive disagreements and more meaningful, effective alliances.

To acknowledge the challenges of globalization, to confront fear of the foreign and the foreigner, and to defend truth and the deep meaning of words: that is to be for liberal democracy and #AgainstTrump.

Published with Public Seminar. Public Seminar is an online publishing project of The New School. PS publishes articles that provide useful, constructive, illuminating or thought-provoking contributions to the conversation of the times. Using the broad resources of social research, PS seeks to provoke critical and informed discussion by any means necessary in order to confront the fundamental problems of the human condition and pressing problems of the day.

380 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-187-3 • E-book 978-1-68219-191-0

About the Author

jeffrey isaac author photo

Photo © Jeffrey C. Isaac

Jeffrey C. Isaac is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of many books, including Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion, Democracy in Dark Times, and The Poverty of Progressivism, and is a Contributing Editor at Dissent and Public Seminar.

Read an Excerpt

From #AgainstTrump

. . . . The fact is that the Trump administration is a uniquely dangerous, authoritarian administration. It is headed by a small group of people, most of whom have no experience of public service, and who are hostile to all forms of proceduralism, institutionalism, and constitutionalism. In Bannon, they have an ideologue who has quite emphatically committed himself to disrupting the basic operations of the state. They are starting to make real headway in this agenda. And in response, there is an emerging resistance by public officials. Within the State Department, and the Justice Department, and the Department of Education, and the EPA, civil service employees and long-term appointees committed to the missions of their agencies are offering bureaucratic resistance to Trump’s most disturbing initiatives. Is this bad? Does it automatically become bad when it involves intelligence officials who are in possession of explosive information about serious wrongdoing and who confront a paranoid administration committed to public dis¬simulation and deceit?

We are in the midst of a serious political and constitutional crisis. No major social, economic, or political institution is untouched. The Trump administration is not the “cause” of the crisis. But it has brought this crisis to a head, and has promised and begun to enact one very frightening way of resolving the crisis—through the creation of a truly anti-liberal, xenophobic, and authoritarian regime.

To ignore the questionable circumstances under which it came to power, and even more to bracket out the very dangerous ways it has already begun to exercise its power, and to treat it as an expression of “democracy” and to treat intelligence whistleblowers as agents of “the deep state” or even enemies of democracy—this represents a serious lapse of good political judgment. That a similar rhetorical tack is being relentlessly pursued by Trump and his lackeys is something much worse—a form of pure cynicism.

The current clear and present danger to democracy is the man who won 306 Electoral College votes, Trump, the so-called president of the United States, who has already placed his administration on a collision course with liberal democracy and with reality.

The danger is not a “soft coup” by “the deep state.” The danger is a hard push to authoritarianism by an elected president committed to making war on science, public education, a free press, rational bureaucracy, the rule of law, and all forms of intelligence. The main work of resisting this danger falls to citizens acting autonomously. But we can only hope that there will continue to be conscientious journalists willing to relentlessly pursue leads, and conscientious public officials and civil servants willing to disclose publicly important information even when, and especially when, elected leaders do everything in their power to keep it secret.