Is President Trump merely the latest in a long line of conservative ideologues, perhaps representing the last gasp of a party well on its way to electoral collapse? Or is he something radically new — a right-wing populist stirring up long-buried atavistic hatreds and tapping into a latter-day longing for authoritarian rule? Is his presidency the first step toward outright fascism? Or maybe a prelude to a leftward lurch of the electorate toward democratic socialism?

Is the U.S. in steep decline? Or will the country be righted as soon as the Democrats take over in the winter of 2021? And what about the rest of the world? Is Trump sui generis — an outgrowth of distinctly American pathologies (the racism and white supremacist ideology that have permeated the country from before its official founding in the late 18th century)? Or is he just the American analogue to a much broader international movement against neoliberalism? And is that movement a sign of hope for the future? Or the leading edge of anti-democratic impulses that could extinguish freedom throughout the West?

There is at least one very smart and informed person, and usually dozens of them, firmly committed to each of these (and many other) interpretations and defending their positions intelligently with a range of evidence and argument.