Our president-elect appears to enjoy the rococo, too, but it is the wrong kind of rococo: not delicate craftsmanship as a blow to misogyny, but the gilding of every conceivable surface, the flaunting of a wealth he has used to hurt others, as a boastful public spectacle. Trump represents the end of liberalism, the end of self-restraint and public kindness delivered through flawed, long-lived institutions, at least on a national scale. The social contract of Paul Wellstone and Richard Rorty, of A. Phillip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt, and for that matter of Barack Obama, seems all torn up.
It is possible to imagine human progress—to imagine that we can make things better—and it is possible to imagine historical continuity—a future along the same lines as the recent past—but it is no longer possible for me to hold in mind both things at once. Nor is it possible for me to imagine that our institutions, long held up by tacit norms of professionalism and ethics, are likely to heal themselves. “Most of the American public,” writes international relations scholar Dan Drezner, “either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the norms that Trump is breaching,” no more than they care what a sonnet can be.
By Stephen Burt; more at Boston Review