E.J. Dionne: Don’t let Trump era politics dumb you down

Washington • In the era of President Trump, politics is reduced to a fatuous, debilitating spectacle. We screech, we weep, we laugh bitterly. We don’t seem to think much.

Yet there is an underground. I speak not of some political resistance movement but of quiet, intellectually serious debates taking place around the country that relate neither to Trump nor to our political parties. Although you can take a side in these discussions if you wish, their virtue is that they encourage us all toward nuanced views and genuine dialogue.

To make the case that we have not entirely lost our ability to use our minds, I offer the examples of three lively arguments that shed light on how we might move forward as a nation.

Local vs. National: As Washington politics becomes increasingly rancid, a disheartened nation turns toward the many good things happening at the grass roots. In cities and towns across the country, civic and political leaders are — honest and true! — solving problems and finding new missions for old places. Words like “rebuilding,” “reclaiming” and “renewing” are the stuff of local life.

This is a perspective that David Brooks has been advancing in his New York Times column, and it is reflected in James and Deborah Fallows’ engaging account of their journey across the United States, “Our Towns,” published earlier this year.

As Deborah Fallows told Slate’s Isaac Chotiner, the conversations she and her husband had during their travels were “heavily weighted toward in my neighborhood, at my schools, on our main street, what people need here, what people want from my town.

“I don’t know if people had just given up on the national scene,” she added, “or they didn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

It’s striking that those working to better their patch of ground are rarely ideological about whether to rely on government, businesses or not-for-profits. They know all three have to pull together to make a place work. You…

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