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Preventing “Trump 2024”

Republicans and Democrats shouldn't agree on everything, but they should be operating from a shared reality. Only then can they devise policies in good faith, find broadly beneficial compromises, and protect US democracy from would-be authoritarians eager to exploit Americans' cognitive divide.

NEW HAVEN – In his victory speech in November, US President-elect Joe Biden promised to reach across the aisle, work with Republicans, and unite the country. Two months later, outgoing President Donald Trump still has not conceded, and some of his loyalists reportedly plan to vote against the counting of Electoral College votes this week. The effort won’t prevent Biden from being inaugurated this month, but it does demonstrate just how polarized the United States is – and the threat this poses to America’s democracy.

To be sure, the US Constitution has proved hardy over the last four years. Since the presidential election two months ago, Trump and his Republican allies have filed more than 50 lawsuits challenging the results. They have lost all of them, with even the Supreme Court – which Trump has packed with right-wing justices – ruling against them.

Nonetheless, the lengths to which Trump loyalists have been willing to go to for him, together with the support he still enjoys among voters, raise serious questions about the state of American society. After all, polarization in America today is not fueled by disagreement over, say, which tax policies would do the most good for Americans and their economy. Such debates are the lifeblood of democratic politics. But they seem to have been abandoned in favor of disputes over reality itself – with deadly consequences.

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