The Divided States: Trump’s inauguration and how democracy has failed

Pankaj Mishra in The Guardian:

UntitledNever in human history have so many diverse peoples lived together as in our time. Nor has the appeal of democracy ever been so widespread. The promise of equal rights and citizenship held out by modern society has been universally embraced, especially keenly by people long deprived of them. But, as Donald Trump, the favoured candidate of white supremacists, becomes president of the United States, the quintessential multicultural democracy, the long arc of the moral universe, as Martin Luther King called it, does not seem to be bending to justice. Trump came into political prominence accusing the first black president of the United States of being foreign born; he rose to supreme power stigmatising Mexicans as rapists and Muslims as terrorists. His election victory was engineered by Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online site notorious for its antisemitism, racism, misogyny and xenophobia. The joint arrival of Trump and Bannon in the White House, where they will enjoy nearly unlimited power, completes a comprehensive recent rout of the founding principle of the modern world: that, as the revolutionary phrases of 1776 had it, “all men are created equal”, entitled to the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

…The African American thinker WEB Du Bois had diagnosed the built-in contradictions of democracy and liberalism as early as the 19th century. In his view slavery had violently coerced Africans into a world economic system, and then global capitalism, binding together more people of different social and historical backgrounds, had piled new economic inequalities on to older racial prejudices and discrimination. Both forms of degradation were vital to the making of prosperous democracies in the Atlantic west; and they made it arduous, if not impossible, for the degraded to realise the modern promise of freedom and equality. “The problem of the 20th century,” Du Bois predicted in 1903, would be “the problem of the colour-line.”

More here.