Adam Shatz, 19 November 2020
Although Trump failed to deliver on his promise to revive American industry, he gave his followers the illusion of power, something they felt they’d been denied under Obama. He spoke powerfully to red America’s understanding of what it calls ‘freedom’. This freedom is as old as the republic, as old as our other great freedom narrative: the emancipation of Black Americans in their struggles against slavery, Jim Crow, and, more recently, mass incarceration. It originated as a fantasy of untrammelled individual liberty, made possible by the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans. Today it means not having to take responsibility for other people or for the environment. Anti-taxation, deregulation, gun-ownership, ICE raids, Blue Lives Matter and environmental despoliation are its contemporary manifestations. The adherents of this ‘freedom’ don’t seek to build the country but to be left alone – even if it means dying of opioid addiction, or Covid-19.