The inability to agree on the most basic of facts is the direct product of an across-the-board assault on democratic institutions—in the US, in Britain, and throughout the world. And this is where the democracies are headed for real trouble. In the US, there has in fact been real institutional decay, whereby powerful interest groups have been able to protect themselves through a system of unlimited campaign finance. The primary locus of this decay is Congress, and the bad behavior is for the most part as legal as it is widespread. So ordinary people are right to be upset.
And yet, the election campaign has shifted the ground to a general belief that everything has been rigged or politicized, and that outright bribery is rampant. If the election authorities certify that your favored candidate is not the victor, or if the other candidate seemed to do better in the debate, it must be the result of an elaborate conspiracy by the other side to corrupt the outcome. The belief in the corruptibility of all institutions leads to a dead end of universal distrust. American democracy, all democracy, will not survive a lack of belief in the possibility of impartial institutions; instead, partisan political combat will come to pervade every aspect of life.
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