Donald Trump and I

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By admin

While the 45e President of the United States is leaving office and heading to his residence in Mar-A-Lago, I thought I would candidly share with you my first thoughts after these four years which have no equivalent in American history.

This presidency will not only have been a challenge for the teacher or political commentator that I am, but also a personal awareness. Whether it is by explaining events of the past in a history class or by commenting on the news of a country which is not mine, rarely have I forced myself so much into a regular and necessary introspection.

Like many of you, I imagine, I have no illusions about the issue of objectivity in processing information. Whether it is to gain a better understanding of history or to analyze the events unfolding before our eyes, I constantly rely on the same tools and the same transparency, without renouncing my values ​​and my principles.

Where this presidency changes the situation, it is that for many it has contributed to shifting the limits of what is acceptable. What we sometimes talked about theoretically without really believing in it, at least in my case, has become reality.

I was looking for words to express what I am feeling and found them in a book called To take part1. Authors David Robichaud and Patrick Turmel formulate very well what I have in mind when explaining the Overton window.

Robichaud and Turmel are interested in the influence of political extremism (which is moreover not the prerogative of Trump) and they stress that extreme tendencies help to shift the limits of social acceptability. With the Overton Window being the window for political opinions seen as socially acceptable, extreme positions like Trump’s have helped broaden it.

As Donald Trump cedes the reins of power to Joe Biden, I realize more than ever that I have refused this “widening of the window”. I refuse to accept that what the American president has been saying or doing for the past four years is the new norm or even that it is socially acceptable.

If you read me regularly, you will remember that I have said on several occasions that the Founding Fathers never envisaged that such a man could accede to the presidency. I often added that no other president had deserved to be dismissed so much.

If on a personal level the 45e president defends values ​​and symbols diametrically to what we try to instill in our young people, the political analyst rather focuses on the damage he still inflicts on democracy and its foundations.

Less than two thousand kilometers away we have a glaring example of the fragility of democracy. Trump could be an isolated autocrat if he were not supported by large segments of the American population. That the assault on Capitol Hill could be seen as justified, or even desirable, should be enough to frighten. This time, part of the population is complicit in the erosion of democratic values ​​and institutions.

Democracy is a demanding regime, as much for politicians as for citizens. Not only must we exercise our right to vote, but we must inform ourselves and monitor the work of our elected officials, whether through the work of the oppositions, that of the media or through personal involvement.

More important, perhaps, it is necessary to forget its personal interests to privilege the common good. In my opinion, it is here that slippages occur most often, if only because it is difficult to forget oneself or to define what this common good consists of. The need for discussion and compromise sometimes overwhelms the patience of many of us.

After four years of fast-paced coverage in a particularly chaotic climate, I can only hope that we will learn from the American example. We would be wrong to believe that the United States has a monopoly on this radicalization. We find it, unfortunately, everywhere in Western democracies, so here.

During these four years, I tried to put aside notions of left or right or progressivism and conservatism to limit my observations to what is permissible and / or acceptable in a democracy, finding on numerous occasions that my perception of our political system differs from that of many of our readers and fellow citizens.

This is the last thought I suggest to you here: what is your definition of democracy? In my opinion, this definition is evolving, but essentially retaining the enhancement of the participation of the greatest number and the ideal of the common good.

And then, what are the other options? Are you ready to sacrifice your freedom? Not me.

1 David Robichaud and Patrick Turmel. To take part. Considerations on Democracy and Its Ends. Montreal, Atelier 10, 2020. 103 pages.

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