Adam Serwer on the all-American politics of cruelty

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The phrase “The cruelty is the point” achieved mantra status during the Trump presidency. It was coined by Adam Serwer, a writer at the Atlantic and a sharp observer of race and American politics. Serwer recently released an anthology of his writings during the Trump era, including his now-famous essay on cruelty and Trumpism. The pieces in the collection span almost the entirety of American history and they touch on too many topics to summarize. But if there’s a unifying question, it’s this: What role does cruelty play in America? Serwer’s answer is complicated but worth pondering. For him, individual cruelty isn’t really the problem. Sure, people can be cruel, but people can be lots of things, and a healthy society is more than capable of channeling our vices. Serwer’s argument is that the structure of American politics itself is cruel. While Serwer recognizes that cruelty, over time, has been a bipartisan feature of American politics, he believes it’s now
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