CNN’s David Gergen: Trump Appeals to America’s Dark Side

Everyone has a dark side, but the Trump administration has exposed the fear and anger that exists within the deepest recesses of the American psyche, former White House aide David Gergen said at a recent forum hosted by Santa Clara University.

“It’s not just our political life anymore. It has become more and more a question about our culture, whether we have a civil society,” the CNN analyst told the audience at the “Democracy in Turbulent Times” panel. “It’s a question of ethics and public morality—who will set the example for our kids and grandkids?”

America, in many ways, stands more divided now than ever, said. But, he added, the country’s political and moral fissures began even before Donald Trump moved into the White House; the forces driving Americans’ anger and anxiety run much deeper.

White Americans are becoming increasingly anxious about the growing multi-ethnic diversity, he pointed out. The Brookings Institution projects that the nation will become “minority white” by 2045, accounting for 49.7 percent of the population. Multiracial populations (non-hispanic), on the other hand, will grow 176 percent from 2018 to 2060.

“For those of us who have been privileged from the beginning or have joined the professional ranks, the growing diversity in the country is something you enjoy,” Gergen noted. “But life has been good to me. I’m not caught up living paycheck to paycheck, living on the edge.”

The income gap has widened 27 percent between American at the top and bottom of the income distribution from 1970 to 2016. White and non-college educated Americans are left behind as manufacturing industries that employ low skilled labor are disappearing.

“That causes a lot of anxiety and Trump is appealing to the fear, to the dark side and to people who feel like their kids will not grow up in the same way,” Gergen explained.

At the same time, Gergen said he believes that people cannot demonize Trump supporters, and generalize them as bigots and rednecks.

“That is not fair. There are a lot of good people in the midlands of the country,” Gergen said. “They are not racist. They are scared.”

Gergen talked about how he used to go rallies organized by the Tea Party to better understand the conservative political movement. He said he eventually realized that he went to high school with many of the attendees, many of whom were good people who simply didn’t like the way the country was being run. “We need to be more open to building bridges instead of blasting the hell out of each other,” he said.

Gergen believes that generational differences have also driven the political and civic divide in America. The Baby Boomers who govern political life experienced the Vietnam War, a war that put an axe down the middle of the generation. “We never recovered from that,” Gergen said.

On the other hand, many public officials from the 1970s were veterans who endured the crucible of World War II, an ordeal that united Americans. And their military service shaped their approach to public life—to face the ills of society in unity.

By way of example, Gergen talked about how a year after Richard Nixon was elected as a Republican congressman, the widely unpopular President Harry Truman proposed the Marshall Plan in 1947 to restore European economies that were devastated in WWII. Despite the unpopularity of the policy, Nixon and fellow Republicans supported it.

On the other side of the aisle stood another freshman from the Democratic Party—John F. Kennedy. “Nixon’s point was: when the ships are down, we all stand up together—that was what characterized the generation,” Gergen says. And that was one of Nixon’s proudest moments.

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.


    • Don’t conflate patriotism with white nationalism. Trump appeals to people like you… the worst society has to offer.

      • Would you judge everyone the same way? This makes me sad.
        I love America and Mexico (part of my family is from there and I went to school there). I don’t hate myself so I don’t think racism has anything to do with it.
        The rule of law is very important to me, since clearly for lack of it Mexico has become such a tough place for the law-abiding. Government complicity in law-breaking is especially revolting to me. I do not want America of tomorrow to be like Mexico of today, but all that starts by bending rules for certain groups when its politically expedient.
        So, do my beliefs also make me the worst of society?

  1. What these people are trying to keep under the rug is that one of the shooters was a proud supporter of Warren, the socialist and antisemites’ club, and a Satan’s follower. As I have stated before the extremists views of the right and the left are equality dangerous. They both preach dangerous propaganda and hate! #KamalaHarris2020 #ForThePeople all the people! We need an intelligent president who is compassionate to the needs and pain of others and is smart on crime. Someone who is not dictatorship’s apologist. That is California’s daughter Kamala Harris.

    • Your right Felix,
      Kamala would never apologize for being a socialist dictator, and she would be a socialist dictator.
      As all successful socialist are.

      • Gun, you are confusing Kamala with Tulsi Gabbard. She is the Assad’s apologist and dictators’ supporter. She has had private meetings with at least three of those!

        • Tulsi nailed Kamala to the wall, Nasty Pelosi is the Assad apologist. Your the product of government schools run by socialist trained useful idiots.

          Kamala is a hater of Men, White Men, and White People, and Police of any color.
          Racisms comes in every color, and the Democrat Socialist are leading the anti American-Antifa way to anarchy and civil uprising.

          • Ok, you irrational thinking tells me you are in another crisis mode day. I get it! Tulsi Gabbard is a loser trying to use Kamala’s fame to qualify for next debate. She is an antisemite, anti LGBTQ, and pro Islamic and other dictators! She is basically asking people to leave these dictators alone. She is also saying Trump supports Al Qaeda. Hey I dislike Trump a lot, but that Trump supporting Al Qaeda claim from Tulsi is just non-sense. For once I agree with Trump on something when he described Tulsi’s Al Qaeda claim as ridiculous. We know the one in support of Al Qaeda is Ilhan Omar. Those supporting Warren, Sanders, Omar, AOC, Tlaib, Pressley, and IfNotNow also support Tulsi. This b!tch uses her soldier status to disguise her true views. Her history is online: she is member of the antisemites and hatred club. Hey, Khanna is co-chair for Bernie Sanders and the co-founder of IfNotNow works for Warren. AOC chief of staff just left his position because of his pro-Nazi and other views that even most democrats rejected! Omar and Tulsi are working close together in pro Islamic States matters. Omar became a very negative figure even within the Democratic Party. For this, Tulsi is their new darling for the extreme left; she is a pro at disguising her true intention and meeting in secrecy with brutal dictators. Do you support Trump or Tulsi? I am confused. They are at the extremes of the right and left political arena. If you support Tulsi, is that a support for Omar and AOC?

    • Warren would never condone this terrorist behavior. Too bad you claim to be a centrist democrat, while spewing hatred for a candidate who has actual plans which btw, aren’t radical at all. Learn more about warren before you speak.

      • Hiring staff that proudly states they will be friends with Hamas and promote a radical group such as IfNotNow speak louder than words. Both Sanders and Warren have staff that have proudly used antisemitism propaganda and support for Hamas. Do research on this is all over the internet, Belen and Max… If my option is Warren or Sanders, I would stay home on Election Day. I rather vote for Marianne Williamson than Warren or Sanders. The so called SOCIALISTS are proud ANTISEMITES! The guru at least has a heart full of love!

        • Complete bs. Define democratic socialism! You can’t. Many developed countries have married capitalism with socialist ideologies. This isn’t new, and it works. You are parroting Republican Party rhetoric. You are here to divide. If you want more trump, and you think he’s been successful ( lmao), then stay home , and you will see more chaos. My way or the highway is the trump way.

          • No Trump and no Bernie I am for #KamalaHarris #ForThePeople This is why extreme left and right hate #kamala she is a centric and will grab right and left support. That is what you need to turn red States blue a centric force that balances all! Democrats, Kamala is your only choice to win the White House. If not, you will have four more years of Trump. Which you will deserve if you choose Warren or Bernie.

  2. > CNN’s David Gergen: Trump Appeals to America’s Dark Side


    Trump appeals to Kanye West and Candace Owens.

    What is the pasty-faced white privileged Gergen trying to say?

    Sounds rayciss to me.

  3. CNN? That network has fewer viewers than San Jose Inside.

    They’ll ‘say anything’ to try and get better numbers, but nothing works.

    Why is SJI giving CNN oxygen? They’re in a tailspin, leave ’em be!