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What Trump Showed Us About America

Michael Glennon reflects on how quickly social norms can be hacked away, in a written panel for POLITICO Magazine.

The world has spent the past four years obsessing over President Donald Trump: his biography, his ideology, his speech, his tweets, his moods, his health, his hair. But what did the Trump era teach us about ourselves, and the country he was elected to lead?


For a lawyer, the stunning discovery has probably been the extent to which our “rock-solid” government has always rested not on laws or judicial opinions or even the Constitution but on unwritten social norms—and how quickly those social norms can be hacked away. John Adams was wrong: It’s not at all a “government of laws not men.” From the start, it’s been a government of people—people who imagined this grand, majestic juridical edifice we call law. Those imagined norms were built up over many decades, and it’s unlikely they can be resparked swiftly, which is why freedom is hard to get and easy to lose.

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