Andrew O'Hehir in Salon:
With the coming of the Enlightenment, the cobwebs of superstition and pseudo-reality were supposed to be swept out of human society by the real reality of Science and Reason and Democracy and other grand abstractions. Why did that happen only incompletely, or temporarily? That might be the central question of modern history — and perhaps of philosophy, psychology, political science and a whole bunch of literature as well. But even without a graduate degree, we can conclude that there was considerable hubris at work, and that the balance between competing narratives of meaning was more complicated than it looked in Rousseau or Jefferson’s time. One answer might be that human beings thrive on stories. We need myth. If you’re anything like me, when you get home from work you’ll flip on Hulu or Netflix to soak up some middlebrow moral parable aimed predominantly at people of your class and background. Another answer lies in Nietzsche’s central insight, which was more or less that all systems of thought are always power relations in disguise. That doesn’t mean that no such systems are better than others, or that there’s no such thing as objective reality. There are facts out there about how Kennedy was killed in 1963, and about how Trump was elected in 2016 — but we are never likely to know them for sure, or to agree about them.
Repeatedly hitting people over the head with a rolled-up newspaper, as if they were disobedient doggies, while telling them that Donald Trump is a liar and a fraud is pretty much the apex state of liberal self-parody. They know that. That’s why they like him. Trump is a prominent symbol of the degradation or destruction of reality, but he didn’t cause it. He would not conceivably be president today — an eventuality that will keep on seeming fictional, as long as it lasts — if all of us, not just Republicans or the proverbial white working class, hadn’t traveled pretty far down the road into the realm of the not-real. Reality just wasn’t working out that well. God is dead, or at least he moved really far away with no phone and no internet, and a lot of reassuring old-time notions of reality loaded in his van. The alternative for many Americans is dead-end service jobs, prescription painkillers and blatantly false promises that someday soon technology and entrepreneurship will make everything better.