Centrist Liberalism and the Myths of the American Past

Whether the Obamas, the Clintons, or the Bushes, the scions of centrist liberalism have not provided a genuine repudiation of Trumpism. Even as hundreds of thousands of immigrants face eminent deportation schemes; even as the pharmaceutical industrial complex profits from the addiction of the white working classes; even as American Indians fight to repel centuries of resource exploitation, former president Obama retains his “Audacity of Hope,” telling the poor, the working classes, and the disaffected that if they had to choose a time in which to be born, “Now is the greatest time to be alive.”

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Historical Amnesia and the Burden of the Euro-American Past in the Age of Trump

President Trump’s administration has unleashed a powerful nativist movement anchored on racist and xenophobic sentiments. Yet, the “Muslim Ban” notwithstanding, conventional wisdom, especially in liberal circles, would still have us believe the gospel of American exceptionalism as a home for refugees, the tired masses, and the poor. This narrative of America’s enlightened benevolence posits Trump as an aberration of American humanitarian norms and values. As a result, it disavows the past to explain the rise of Donald Trump as an enigma.

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The Racial Fault Lines of American History in Trump’s America

The story of American freedom and racism is, in this sense, a twinned legacy of a dual consciousness: on one side is the story of Euro-America, of building the proverbial city on a hill, one that cast its light throughout the land of dispossessed Native Americans and towards a manifested destiny, looking towards the darker people of the Pacific. On the other side are African-Americans, who were often the casualty of Manifest Destiny, not its beneficiaries.

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