Unexceptional America

A. Jay Adler
4 min readJul 28, 2019

In the aftermath of the alarm-raising dud that were the Mueller congressional hearings, some observations are in order. We need to see clearly where the nation stands.

The first misfortune in post-election resistance to Trump was a GOP congress during the first two years. Unlike Watergate, the developing, synergistic drama of an ongoing special counsel investigation together with congressional hearings was thus impossible.

In place of that joint drama, news coverage, even with all the revelations that came, was ineffectual. Rather, the complex of crass pop entertainment and viral social & news media, with the capitalist consumption of them all for profit, continues American decline.

The historical significance of Trump is not Trump. He can happen anywhere and has. The significance is what has been revealed about American society. It can also happen here. It has happened here.

The same mean, narrow, ignorant impulses that have infected other populations, and supported all populist authoritarians, arose in the U.S. too. The same craven, unprincipled, careerist political class that served those tyrants emerged here as elsewhere. The United States is not exceptional.

Despite Trump’s gross, cruel, corrupt indecency, which daily reveals and surpasses itself, the demagogue’s support has varied within only a narrow range. Barring a dramatic surprise, 90–95 % of popular opinion is set. Few Trump supporters will change their minds.

A change of mind about Trump would require painful self-reflection, and a recognition of profound failure. For to support Trump represents a betrayal of every personal, civic, & religious virtue Americans have claimed to believe in and to guide the lives of their young by.

To support Trump is to betray every social ideal in which Americans have invested the myth of their exceptionalism.

Whether they were the lessons of elementary or Sunday school, of good books opened among the pews, or golden rules secularized as the wisdom of civilization’s advance, the virtues forsaken in the rise of Trump signal a loss of bearings too great not to be rationalized away.

That’s why, among the oxymoronic, but actual, Trump intelligentsia, it is conservative never-Trumpers who…



A. Jay Adler

Writer. Reader. Roper of stars and Professor of English. New York and Los Angeles. Essays, poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, memoir. ajayadler.com