John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture, has some serious issues with my use of the hashtag #AgeofTrump and he let me know about it in no uncertain terms during a few twitter conversations this week. You can read the entire exchange at my Storify site. It also includes tweets from some other very smart tweeters.
I should note that when I use the #AgeofTrump hashtag I am not suggesting that we are living in a new historical era–like the “Middle Ages” or the “Age of Jackson.” That would be irresponsible for a historian. Although future historians, with the benefit of distance, may just conclude that this is a unique era of some type. I will leave that to them.
I am also not suggesting that the things we are seeing in the United States since the emergence of Trump–disunity, fear, racism, lack of evidence-based arguments, the lack of concern with character, and especially fake news–do not have precedents in American history.
But I do think that Trump is unique in a lot of ways and I will continue to point those out using the hashtag #AgeofTrump. (If you can think of a better hashtag to describe the Trump phenomenon/campaign/presidency let me know). There ARE some things happening right now that are unique. And the last time I checked historians are in the business of chronicling both continuity with the past and change over time.
On one level, Wilson is correct. Not every stupid or offensive thing that someone does is connected to Trump. Neither is Trump to blame for every piece of fake news. Sometimes we have a smoking gun that directly connects the stupidity to Trump Tower or a Trump surrogate and sometimes we do not. But Trump’s campaign has sent a clear message to the American people that facts, evidence, and character, among other things, do not seem to matter to him.
Historians are in the business of chronicling the past. I have done that in at least three of my five books and multiple published articles and book chapters and I will continue to do it. (Stay tuned). But, as I have said multiple times on this blog, historians also offer a way of thinking about the world that has always been useful and is especially useful in times likes these.
Read the tweets and let me know what you think.