I'm sure many readers have seen the alarm expressed by commentators on both sides of the political divide about our present political situation. Both the far left and the far right of US politics appear to have been seized by extremists, who are promoting views that can only lead to a headlong clash with each other. Those in the center, wishing to keep America united and work out our differences in a rational, reasonable, civilized manner, are increasingly being either radicalized or marginalized.
What's worse, many of the screeds offered by both sides are so partisan, so biased, that even when they refer to facts, they are no longer accurate. To cite just one example, Dana Millbank wrote an article in the Washington Post late last month that is mendacious in its duplicity. You can read the whole thing at the link. I'd merely like to look at a few citations from it.
- "The Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] ... had the support of a plurality of the public" - like hell it did! Investigators have consistently confirmed that Obamacare never had the support of the majority of Americans.
- "Republicans ... lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. Electoral college models show Republicans could plausibly continue to win the White House without popular majorities." - So what? America is not a "pure" democracy. It's a constitutional republic. There is a difference. The winner of any US presidential election must do so in terms of those constitutional requirements. Winning the "popular vote" is not one of them.
- "The Supreme Court’s conservative majority ... gave the presidency to George W. Bush." - No, it didn't. It merely called a halt to endless attempts to recount the votes in Florida, again and again, until such time as the result there could be reversed. Subsequent investigations by news organizations proved that Florida voters did, indeed, elect George W. Bush to the presidency. That is no longer in dispute.
- "Control of the judiciary, and the resulting protection of minority rule, has been the prize for Republicans" - This is nonsense! No party "controls" the judiciary, as both sides have found out to their cost when judges they nominated and/or approved have failed to support their partisan positions in their rulings. Furthermore, the judiciary does not protect minority rule. To suggest that it does is to say that the US judiciary is not impartial. What about all the rulings overturning aspects of the current Administration's policies? Are those judges "supporting minority rule"? President Trump's anger about them suggests precisely the opposite.
Nevertheless, there is at least some truth in Mr. Millbank's conclusion:
The backlash is coming ... It will explode, God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.
You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.
I agree with him that the backlash is coming - but it's not only from aggrieved liberals or progressives. Elements on the right have seen the falsehoods endemic in Mr. Millbank's article, and know that they're lies. They're responding to left-wing violence from groups such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter and others by gearing up for their own counter-violence. The "will of the people" as cited by Mr. Millbank is the will of the left; and the will of the right is contrary to it. If that clash of interests can't be settled at the ballot box, it will very likely be settled in the streets, as we saw most recently in Portland last weekend.
Rasmussen Reports recently reported:
31% of Likely U.S. Voters say it’s likely that the United States will experience a second civil war sometime in the next five years, with 11% who say it’s Very Likely. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 59% consider a second civil war unlikely, but that includes only 29% who say it’s Not At All Likely.
Democrats (37%) are more fearful than Republicans (32%) and voters not affiliated with either major party (26%) that a second civil war is at hand.
But 59% of all voters are concerned that those opposed to President Trump’s policies will resort to violence, with 33% who are Very Concerned.
There's more at the link.
After the Paris terror attacks in November 2015, I wrote:
When one simply can't tell whether or not an individual Muslim is also a terrorist fundamentalist, the only safety lies in treating all of them as if they presented that danger. That's what the French people are going to do now. That's what ordinary people all across Europe are going to do now, irrespective of whatever their politicians tell them. Their politicians are protected in secure premises by armed guards. They aren't. Their survival is of more immediate concern; so they're doing to do whatever they have to do to improve the odds in their favor. If that means ostracizing Muslims, ghettoizing them, even using preemptive violence against them to force them off the streets . . . they're going to do it.
I've written before about how blaming all Muslims for the actions of a few is disingenuous and inexcusable. I still believe that . . . but events have overtaken rationality. People are going to start relating to 'Muslims' rather than to 'human beings', just as the extremists label all non-Muslims as 'kaffirs' or 'kufars' - unbelievers - rather than as human beings. For the average man in a European street, a Muslim will no longer be a 'person'. He's simply a Muslim, a label, a 'thing'. He's no longer French, or American, or British, no matter what his passport says. He's an 'other'. He's 'one of them' . . . and because of that, he's no longer 'one of us'. He's automatically defined - no, let's rather say (because it's easier to blame him) that he's defined himself - as a potential threat, merely by the religion he espouses. He may have been born into it, and raised in a family and society and culture so saturated with it as to make it literally impossible, inconceivable, for him to be anything else . . . but that doesn't matter. It's his choice to be Muslim, therefore he must take the consequences. We're going to treat him with the same suspicion and exaggerated caution that we would a live, possibly armed hand-grenade. He's asked for it, so we're going to give it to him.
That's the bitter fruit that extremism always produces. It's done so throughout history. There are innumerable examples of how enemies have become 'things'. It's Crusaders versus Saracens, Cavaliers versus Roundheads, Yankees versus Rebels, doughboys versus Krauts . . . us versus them, for varying values of 'us' and 'them'.
. . .
And in the end, the bodies lying in the ruins, and the blood dripping onto our streets, and the weeping of those who've lost loved ones . . . they'll all be the same. History is full of them. When it comes to the crunch, there are no labels that can disguise human anguish. People will suffer in every land, in every community, in every faith . . . and they'll turn to what they believe in to make sense of their suffering . . . and most of them will raise up the next generation to hate those whom they identify as the cause of their suffering . . . and the cycle will go on, for ever and ever, until the world ends.
Again, more at the link.
If you replace the word "Muslims" in the above excerpt with your epithet of choice - "reactionaries", "racists", "Nazis", "fascists", "liberals", "progressives", "left-wing", "radicals", whatever - the effect, and the result, are precisely the same. As soon as we start seeing, and relating to, those of different political persuasions as "the other", rather than our fellow citizens with whom we have a greater or lesser disagreement, then we're setting the stage for violence and potential revolution. In our history, that has already led to one catastrophic conflagration, from 1861-1865. I hope and pray we don't have another one . . . but it's not impossible.
May calmer heads prevail; but, in case they don't, keep your eyes open for that sort of trouble in your community, and be prepared to defend your loved ones against it if necessary, because mob violence does not discriminate between the guilty and the innocent.