Ideas

The Enright Files: The state of American democracy in the age of Trump

The U.S. midterm elections have been billed as a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump. And many think the elections will chart the future course of American democracy at a time when anger, xenophobia, chaos and bitter partisanship and polarization have led people to despair for the future of liberal democracy. On this month's edition of The Enright Files, conversations with journalists about the state of American democracy in the age of Trump.
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Almost 200 years ago, a young Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville journeyed through the young republic of the United States and produced a study of one of the world's great political experiments — American democracy.

Tocqueville's two-volume work Democracy in America, became a classic of political anthropology. He saw American democracy as rough-hewn, boisterous, idealistic, dynamic and altogether novel. Whatever America's flaws — slavery, for instance — it was clear to Tocqueville that Europe's aristocracies were in their twilight, and the future belonged to American democracy.

One can only imagine what a latter-day Tocqueville would make of democracy in the United States right now, two years after Donald Trump was elected president. The current political climate in the United States is defined in large part by anger, xenophobia, bitter partisanship and polarization, chaos and wildly diverging ideas of what's true and what's false. It might lead one to conclude that America's democratic experiment has been left heating on the bunsen burner too long and is about to explode.

Tomorrow the U.S. midterm elections take place — every seat in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the Senate and dozens of state governorships will be decided.

The elections have been billed as a referendum on Donald Trump and the most important midterms in U.S. history —elections that will chart the future course of American democracy.

On this month's edition of The Enright Files, conversations with journalists about the state of America's democracy in the age of Trump.

Guests in this episode:

  • Adam Gopnik is one of today's most penetrating observers of American political culture. Like Alexis de Tocqueville, he brings something of an outsider's perspective to the United States. He grew up in Montreal, where he attended McGill University. He moved to New York in the 1980s and has been a staff writer at The New Yorker for three decades. Adam Gopnik was Michael Enright's guest on The Sunday Edition last January, just days before the first anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president. 
     
  • Kurt Andersen is a journalist, best-selling author and the host of the award-winning public radio program, Studio 360. Michael Enright interviewed Kurt Andersen for The Sunday Edition in October, 2017, shortly after the publication of his latest book —​ Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.
     
  • Marty Baron has found himself in the middle of a lot of big stories throughout his career, most notably during his tenure as executive editor of The Boston Globe. The Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for the reporting depicted in the Academy Award-winning film, Spotlight — an investigation into the systemic sexual abuse of young people by Roman Catholic clergy in the Boston archdiocese — and the cover-up by church officials.  He's executive editor at The Washington Post, just in time for the most controversial presidency since Richard Nixon's. Under Baron's watch, the Post has become one of President Trump's chief antagonists, breaking countless stories about alleged links between Trump's inner circle and Russian tampering in the 2016 election, about turmoil and dissension within White House staff, and about Trump's finances, intemperate behavior and various alleged misdeeds. Michael spoke to Marty Baron in March 2018.
     
  • Ali Velshi is a Canadian journalist andhas been a correspondent and host on CNN and Al Jazeera. He's currently the host of two shows on MSNBC. Michael Enright spoke to Ali Velshi in May 2018.



**The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou.

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