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Acclaimed journalist Carl Bernstein says US democracy ‘ceased to be working well’ before Trump was elected

The investigative journalist Carl Bernstein.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

  • The journalist Carl Bernstein said US democracy faced challenges before Trump’s election.
  • In a talk with The Guardian, Bernstein said that the US had been in “a cold civil war” for decades.
  • Bernstein said that Trump’s electoral base is more than just a narrow subset of the population.

The acclaimed investigative journalist Carl Bernstein said in a recent interview that American democracy faced enormous challenges before Donald Trump assumed office in 2017, but argued the former president “ignited” a “cold civil war” in the country.

Bernstein, who recently released his memoir, “Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom,” told The Guardian that the United States had not been functioning smoothly for several decades. He said it would take an extraordinary event in the coming years to unify the country.

“Our democracy, before Trump, had ceased to be working well and for 25, 30, 35 years we were in what I’ve called ‘a cold civil war’ in this country,” he told the news outlet. “Trump ignited it and we’re not going to go back from this place unless there’s some great event that somehow unites this country.”

He continued: “We make mistakes as reporters to look at the country just in terms of politics and of media. This is a cultural shift of huge dimension. Whatever you say about Trump, 45, damn near 50% of the people who vote voted for him and – you look at the surveys – some 35% of people who voted for Trump believe Christianity is being taken away from them.”

Bernstein, who became a household name in the 1970s for his Watergate investigative reporting alongside fellow journalist Bob Woodward, noted that Trump’s base — despite often being portrayed as a smaller demographic in an increasingly-polarized country — is actually more expansive than many of the popular depictions.

“The idea that the Trump base is some narrow group of white men with guns? Bullshit. This is a huge movement including misogynistic women, including racists of every kind, but also including all kinds of educated people in cities and suburbs,” he expressed to The Guardian.

He continued: “It’s also a movement against liberalism, against what the Democratic party in their view has come to represent. It’s about race, all kinds of forces, people’s idea of what the United States ought to be. This movement embraces autocracy, authoritarianism, a peculiarly American neo-fascism which Trump represents.”

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump defeated Clinton in the Electoral College, but Clinton edged him out in the popular vote, securing nearly 2.9 million more votes than the Republican.

Four years later, now-President Joe Biden won both the Electoral College and the popular vote in what was a high-turnout, high-stakes election. While Biden received over 81 million votes, Trump earned more than 74 million votes.

Biden and many leading Democrats have warned of the perils of Trump and his in-your-face style of politics — pointing to his continued dominance of the Republican Party apparatus — even after the January 6 insurrection, which saw many of the former president’s supporters rally against the certification of Biden’s win and subsequently storm the US Capitol.

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