Editorial in The Point:
In May of this year, more than 450 American novelists, poets and literary critics signed an “Open Letter to the American People” opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. The letter, initially posted on the literary website Lit Hub, takes the form of a list:
Because we believe that any democracy worthy of the name rests on pluralism, welcomes principled disagreement, and achieves consensus through reasoned debate;
Because American history, despite periods of nativism and bigotry, has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another;
Because the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies;
Because neither wealth nor celebrity qualifies anyone to speak for the United States …
Following a few more bullet points, the letter concludes by stating that Trump “appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society,” and that his candidacy therefore demands an “immediate and forceful response” from each one of us. The letter is meant, presumably, to constitute such a response.
About a week after the letter was posted, the novelist Aleksandar Hemon published a response, also on Lit Hub, explaining why he had declined to sign, despite his opposition to Trump. He began by addressing the letter’s contradictory approach to the democratic process. The letter’s authors imply that Trump is trying to become president based on his “wealth” and “celebrity”; in fact, Hemon pointed out, if one believes in the legitimacy of our democratic system, then the only way Trump or anyone else can become president is to win the most votes. The letter’s authors are surely right that “the history of dictatorship is the history of manipulation and division, demagoguery and lies,” but, as Hemon put it, “Trump is presently abiding by the rules of democratic election … Horrifying as that may seem, that’s how the system works—the election is the job interview.”