Trump’s presidency is hardly the sole cause of America’s declining trust in our institutions, which has been going on for a long time. In some ways, his was the culmination of that decline.
But it’s hard to think of any person in my lifetime who so perfectly epitomizes the politics of distrust, or one who so aggressively promotes it. Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all.
He has detonated a bomb under the epistemological foundations of a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods, evidence and fantasy. He has instructed tens of millions of people to accept the commandment, That which you can get away with, is true.
Apologists for this president might rejoin that there are also examples of this form of politics on the other side of the aisle, notably in the person of Bill Clinton. That’s true. But it only causes one to wonder why so many of the same conservatives who vehemently objected to Clinton on moral grounds vehemently support Trump on the absence of moral grounds.