Opinion | America still has hope in the face of the coronavirus and racial injustice


In fact, it looks more like the 1930s. Roosevelt was (initially) blocked by the Supreme Court and fervently denounced by Father Charles Coughlin on the right and Senator Huey Long on the left. The FDR was regularly accused of being a “warmonger” and a “fascist dictator”, or of having brought America on the path of communism. He didn’t even have the full support of his wife, Eleanor (history has justified him on most of their disagreements, such as the anti-lynching legislation she supported and the internment of Japanese-Americans against whom she opposed).

Skeptics fear that Trump has permanently damaged American institutions and standards, so as to hamper future progress. Perhaps. But Nixon also challenged institutions, standards and the rule of law, and the result was that Americans came to appreciate them more. One result was the Democratic tidal wave of 1974.

Like Trump, Nixon hired reporters – his vice president, Spiro Agnew, criticized the critics as “moguls for negativity” – but ultimately Agnew was found guilty of a crime, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein inspired a generation of children to become journalists. Me included.

I often hear Americans say that our country has never been so divided. This does not ring true. Much more than today, the households of the 1960s were torn apart by the civil war, the children denouncing the parents as murderers for having supported the Vietnam war and the parents despairing of their offspring as immoral, good for nothing immoral who lived in sin, smoked pot and threatened the future of the nation. If we survived the chasms of the 60s, we can get through this.

“I know we will see a better future,” President Jimmy Carter told me recently. “We have gone through many painful crises, some spanning several years, but we have always recovered. Sometimes there must be a calculation and a course correction. “

I reached out to Carter because his administration in the late 1970s pretty much marked the end of the post-war cycle of inclusive capitalism. At 95, he is still optimistic and cautious, as is Walter Mondale, his vice-president, a classic liberal who at 92 – “not too many years, and I will grow old,” he told me – says he feels “a lot of hope. ”


The story does not unfold smoothly; policies do not evolve gradually. Rather, they develop, like animal species, through what evolutionary biologists call “punctuated equilibrium” – long periods of stasis and short periods of intense variation. Change is often caused by trauma, such as the American Revolution or the Great Depression.


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