Live from the Dorchester: Ed Luce: The Painful Twilight of Barack Obama’s Presidency: "Call it the curse of high expectations...

...When Barack Obama took office, the world swooned, America exhaled and pundits declared an end to centuries of racial division.... Today America’s first non-white president is winding down at the nation’s tensest moment of racial polarisation in decades. Thanks to Donald Trump, the Ku Klux Klan is back in the headlines.... Nations, it seems, suffer from similar disorders to humans — what happens in their formative years shapes their character for evermore. Just as India sees foreign investors as potential colonisers, and Britain confuses Brussels with the papacy, so the US is enchained to its original sin of slavery....

Do not take my word for it. Listen to Mr Trump’s supporters. According to exit polls in South Carolina, which Mr Trump won handily last month, a fifth of those who voted for him thought that Abraham Lincoln was wrong to emancipate slaves. Just over a third wished the south had won the civil war. Ted Cruz, who looks like Mr Trump’s only viable rival, had similar numbers.... Though a minority of Mr Trump’s supporters are racist — and he may simply be posturing out of expediency — the dangers are very real....

Nine years ago [Obama] launched his campaign from... Springfield, Illinois... would usher in a new politics that transcended the gulf between red states and blue states. The subtext was that by electing an African-American, the US would also bridge a more ancient divide. The promise of both have been belied by Mr Trump’s rise. In fact, the latter’s popularity is icing on a cake that was already baked. Not since the era following the civil war has American politics been so gridlocked. Republicans have said they will not even meet whomever Mr Obama nominates for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death last month of Antonin Scalia — let alone hold hearings....

Last week Mr Romney said Mr Trump represented ‘a brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss’. He was right. However, it is an anger that his party has quietly stoked since the civil rights era. Mr McCain echoed Mr Romney’s views yet he took no responsibility for having chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. Ms Palin endorsed Mr Trump in January. She did as much as anyone to breed resentment against Mr Obama’s ‘hopey, changey stuff’.

For decades, key Republican strategists have used a dog-whistle to play on racial fears. It should come as no surprise that someone like Mr Trump would one day swap it for a megaphone.

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