Trump, the University of Chicago, and the Collapse of Public Language

Believing oneself to stand for inexpressible values of American greatness is not actually very different from believing oneself to stand for inexpressible values of American counterculture, or populism, or freedom. Trumpism is successful because it leverages a disconnect among language, meaning, and process that’s deep-set in our national life. He can say anything these days—because the rest of us can, too. ...

As a result, I’ve increasingly found myself a supporter of messy public process: the legislation pushed through government slowly, in curtailed form; the interminable, fruitless-seeming town-hall meeting; many of the government’s lumbering, error-prone efforts at regulation. These processes are cumbersome, often wasteful, and inevitably infuriating. But at their best they have the virtue of occurring in a common arena, the place where all parts of a population meet. They force us, if we hope to get anything done, to translate our values and thoughts into language that communicates broadly. The more I observe, the warier I grow of privatized efficiency: in time, it indulges clannish thought. Let’s drive our language out of private circles, back toward the public sphere.
— Nathan Heller