I debate with myself about whether “progress” is a real phenomenon or an illusion. As much as our culture may seem to progress, it is at least partly nailed down by human nature, which is genetic and does not change, except at the much slower pace of evolution. The competing forces of cultural progress and human nature do not move in a linear fashion. Rather, they are marked by a series of events that both reflect and shape the state of culture. Some of those events fall on the side of human nature, and some on the side of forward progress, and they tend to happen in clusters, each event influencing the next. Thus, the aggregate whole of culture tends to move forward at some times and backward at other times.
The past several years has been dominated by much backwardness, perhaps launched by the progress before it. Trump, the anti-intellectual movement that is Trumpism, the Muslim travel ban, the Mexico border wall, massive disinformation, the politically motivated disregard of the COVID-19 pandemic, violent clashes of white supremacy, and threats of civil war, culminating in the armed insurrection of January 6, 2021. It was an overwhelming time for progressives, and thank God it’s over.
It wasn’t immediately clear that it would be over. Trump was defeated in the 2020 election, but the insurrection occurred after that. And what could Biden do to turn around the mood and the behavior of the population? Consequences are still happening, including the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Much of Trumpism was predicated on disregarding reality and ignoring the law. This seemed to be a very powerful tactic. Conservatives could do anything if there wasn’t a direct physical force stopping them. It went on for years, mostly unchallenged.
Fortunately, “unchallenged” was only an illusion. It takes time to build a case and take it through the courts. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening. It means the effects were delayed.
Delayed till now.
Real prison sentences are being handed out to participants in the insurrection. Voters in Kansas, a red state, have soundly defeated a proposed abortion ban. Alex Jones is about to receive severe punishment for his disinformation.
Perhaps more important is what is still to come. Multiple criminal prosecutions are proceeding against the former President. The fact that he has not yet been formally charged should not be mistaken for a sign that he will not be. He almost certainly will in at least one of the cases being built against him. What remains to be seen is whether he will be convicted, and whether that conviction will be in time to affect the 2024 election.