Instead of honest soul-searching about how and why so many voters in the upper Midwest took a chance on Trump and rejected Hillary Clinton (after many of them had voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012), far too many Democrats began espousing wildly exaggerated tales of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including outlandish (and now debunked) stories of active collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence services. Blaming nefarious foreign influences was so much more psychologically consoling, and so much better for ratings and voter mobilization, than asking hard questions about the party’s declining appeal among working-class voters. So that’s what far too many influential Democrats did…

As Damir Marusic has recently argued in an important essay, U.S. political culture is suffering from a self-perpetuating “disease of delegitimization,” in which each side indulges in conspiracies that portray itself as an innocent victim of injustice and the other side as its almost omnipotent perpetrator. “But the other side started it!” say people on both sides, and they can all point to evidence to back up the allegation. Though as Marusic points out, casting blame accomplishes little besides making each side feel even more justified in its grievances. The result is that roughly half the country ends up considering the other half irredeemable — and begins to think of the democratic political system itself as compromised and complicit in the injustice for permitting the other side to win and wield power at all.