Why America failed

CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

The only comfort anyone can feel tonight is that the human brain lacks the capacity to process true enormity. We will not understand what this election means. Take solace in that numbness.

Donald Trump is the president-elect. If he follows through on his promises, millions of immigrants now face deportation. Millions more could lose their health insurance. Thousands will die because they can no longer afford care. The world is more likely to lose its fight against global warming. And all of us have to go to bed tonight knowing that we live in a country that chose an overt racist as its leader.

There will be a lot of finger pointing in the coming days. But the truth is that this happened because of systemic failure of every institution that should have prevented such an outcome. We are the victims of a tsunami of incompetence, bad judgment, ideology, constitutional failure, and hate, with each component building on each other until it crested into disaster.

It’s probably impossible to list all the elements of this tsunami, or even to identify them. But here is my best attempt to do so.

So there’s a short, incomplete list. There are no doubt other reasons. And there are other possible factors that will no doubt be controversial. America may have failed because the Democrats nominated Clinton instead of Sanders. It may have failed because of her position on trade. Or because Democrats gave up on white working class voters. Or because the party moved too far to the right. Or because it moved too far to the left.

And then, of course, there’s that whole thing with the Russians.

But let’s not point our fingers at any one person or any one group in assigning blame. America failed because the institutions that maintain liberal democracy are fragile, and we allowed them to collectively fall into decay.