The Atlantic

Calling the Trump Era by Its Proper Name

Four terms that may capture the moment, each implying a different danger
Source: Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address—which seems as if it happened back in the 19th century, but in reality is five days in the past—highlighted something that was implicit in his campaign and increasingly significant through his time in office: Trump virtually never praises or speaks about, and gives no evidence of respecting or even comprehending, the strengths of the United States as a system, or as an idea.

The United States occupies a particular (very favorable) geographic location, and it has a particular demographic mixture (which has continually changed through its history), and has other traits that make Americans identifiable as a people. For Americans who have lived overseas, one of the most obvious of these tribal traits is the impulse to gather on Thanksgiving Day, which for everyone else is just another Thursday. Another is the sporting festival that some 160 million people, mostly Americans, watched last night.

But from its Founders’ era onward, the country’s leaders have stressed that America the nation is also . This was an invented nation, in the late 1700s the first of its type the world had seen. And for all of its evident injustices and failings and “.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic2 min read
Free Solo Is Not a Life Lesson
Alex Honnold’s historic climb is too extraordinary to become a story of motivational-poster determination.
The Atlantic2 min read
The Hospital Is Too Damn Loud
When the musician Yoko Sen was hospitalized a few years ago, she could not help but hear the hospital’s many alarms as a musician. Consider a cardiac monitor that beeps in C, she says, along with a bed-fall alarm that emits a high-pitched whine. Toge
The Atlantic5 min read
The Real Meaning of Trump’s ‘She’s Not My Type’ Defense
The president, in attempting to downplay E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against him, isn’t talking about attraction. He’s talking about protection.