In a book written exactly 20 years ago, Richard Rorty described the fractures that split American society even then and their political consequences, with the precision of the philosopher and the confidence of a prophet.
“Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported,” he wrote in Achieving Our Country. “Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
“At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. … For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen.”
At 12 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, Donald Trump arrived. He was elected by a minority of the country, based on his impossible promises, truculent threats and obvious falsehoods. The American workers, victims of 40 years of wage stagnation, have decided that nothing could be worse than the fate brought by Clinton, Bush and Obama, and they decided to try their luck with the outsider. With the real estate speculator who promises to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and to build a wall on the Mexican border. At the same time, he promised to cut taxes for millionaires and leave 18 million people without health care, of course.