I am writing this on the second anniversary of my beginning this column. I still have a lot to say, and the world keeps giving me more every week, but I thought this would be an appropriate time to reflect on the past two years. I wrote that first column just a few weeks after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and that day was very much on my mind. I titled my first installment “History is the key to Everything.” I explained why I thought that was true, and then compared Jan. 6 with Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 (a charismatic populist leader born to wealth and privilege stirring up the working poor to attack the capitol). I noted that in the final months of Trump’s presidency he had been “trying to forbid all of America from honestly looking at its past. This came as no surprise since he daily tried to forbid the world from honestly looking at the present (or anything else).” I concluded that “In my opinion, it is my job as a historian to help people face the past even when they don’t want to, even when it is uncomfortable, in order to better understand the present and to make a better future. Come to think of it, maybe that’s everybody’s job. Let’s start doing it, together.”
I was worried about a lot of things two years ago. I worried that Trump losing the election, while a very good thing, would only further inflame the passions of his most hardcore supporters and potentially lead to even more violence, fueled by a misguided feeling of persecution on their part (because neither they nor he could accept that he lost). I worried that a wave of hardcore Trump politicians would get elected in to swing state legislatures or as state attorneys general and be in a position to decide which votes “counted” in the next election. I worried that Trump’s base would be more mobilized, in 2024, and that he would once more win the Republican nomination and potentially get back into the White House where he could wreak way more havoc than even before. I also worried that some other politician - more canny, more competent, and less mentally unbalanced than Trump - would use Trump’s methods more effectively and continue to poke at the exposed nerve of aggrieved Trump supporters and thereby be in a position to become, in some ways, more dangerous than Trump himself.
In short, I was worried about the future of our democracy.
Where are we now, two years later?
Trump’s star seems to have waned somewhat with conservatives. In the last month or two, in fact, I have seen the Trump flags - which once seemed to be everywhere around the county - slowly, day-by-day, start to come down. I still would not dream of counting him out, though. Meanwhile, his legacy continues in several ways. Multiple states have passed laws - allegedly as a response to practically nonexistent “voter fraud” - restricting voting opportunities, thus excluding many constituents who would normally vote Democratic. Multiple states have passed draconian laws about how race and gender issues and history can be addressed in the classroom (which is, hardly at all). Roe vs. Wade was overturned, thanks to Trump-appointed justices. Now states are passing laws against drag shows. I guarantee you that many more children have been sexually abused by pastors, scoutmasters, and teachers than by drag queens, but no one is trying to ban those groups from being near children (well, except maybe for teachers). Meanwhile, racist hate groups have proliferated and hate crimes have increased.
Ron DeSantis is right in the middle of it all, presenting himself as a more palatable, watered-down version of Trump; George Santos, at the other extreme, is like the ultimate post-modern interpretation of Trump, for whom “fact” does not even exist as a concept.
And I still have plenty to write about.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
1 comment on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here
Every week you sit down to brow beat the right. It doesn’t matter what is happening in this country, you find a way to blame the right, the right leaning left, anyone that doesn’t absolutely believe the exact same way you do. You say you’re a historian. You’re a professor at Tech. Why not just teach down the center and stop telling the young adults your opinions about how the right screwed this country up. As long as some are determined to keep the hate going, there will never be any peace.
Friday, March 3 Report this