Clive ponders the seismic events of the last few days.
The fight for the mind, heart and soul of the American Dream has come out of the shadows of guerilla warfare onto the battlefield of a full-fledged culture war. As with all things American, this battle will be more dramatic and globally important than any political skirmish in Europe. It will make Brexit look like a playground scuffle.
What we are witnessing now is a culture war between the AOC/Bernie Sanders wing and core supporters of the Democrat Party and their GOP & Alt-right/Tea Party counterparts.
After 4 years of frustration trying to combat what they saw with some justification as ‘The Cult of Trump’, AKA MAGA; with Biden’s victory, Georgia in the bag and the scurrilous scenes in DC this week, the left smells blood. All is fair in love and war and from their perspective Trump was trying to undo all the progress they thought had been made toward equality and multiculturalism exemplified by President Obama.
Now the progressive protagonists won’t stop until they have destroyed the MAGA cohorts, condemning them to operate as an underground shadow group. The modern-day equivalent of The KKK is how they’ll position it.
Depending on your point of view that might be no bad thing. Yet at what price?
The Democrats’ power base does not care about the toxic partisan division we are seeing in communities across America. About the red and blue divide between metropolitan and rural areas. Just as the Republicans’ power base did not.
Their passion and determination to send the cultural right underground means that if a few predominately white men or people calling for reason and compromise get in the crossfire and suffer reputational or professional damage, then they are just collateral damage. Unfortunate, but a price worth paying. Even if they are friends or colleagues.
Facts will not matter. Just as they didn’t for Trump. What matters is setting a narrative propagated by many in the media that will use popular opinion and cancel culture to erase from the public square the 58 million voters (1) who believe the election was stolen; forcing them back into the evangelical churches and Tea Party groups whence they came.
In short, you are either with them or against them. Just as was the case with MAGA supporters. There can be no middle ground.
Today the ‘Left’ are winning. They will soon have The POTUS, Congress, Senate and nearly half of State Governors on their side. IPSOS and YouGov polls show that about 70% of Americans oppose “the storming of The Capitol Building”, and 59 percent of registered voters think the perpetrators should be viewed as “domestic terrorists.”(2) It is no surprise, although perhaps deeply unwise, that they are now pushing for Pence to bring them the metaphorical head of the MAGA movement. If not, they will cut it off themselves through impeachment.
For both sides, journalists and commentators that seek to use reason and the lessons of The Enlightenment to promote the reemergence of a ‘middle ground’ are in their cross hairs. Nor can there be room for compassion in this war for the heart and soul of America. Opponents are no longer their compatriots and neighbors. They are the enemy. Humanity is a victim of their ideology.
However, while the far right are wedded to the second ammendment and free militia, the far left have spotted what is perhaps a fatal weakness in their opponents. Free Speech. In the pursuit of a new collectivism, where individual rights are subjugated to the demands of a greater good, the left have weaponized free speech. Cancel culture is their nuclear button. If the war is to be won with stories not facts, then anyone whose narrative doesn’t suit the campaign must be silenced.
Putting aside that the other side have guns and active militia, this all sounds well and good if you believe ‘social justice’ is a genuine cultural problem at the heart of the matter. No reasonable person would argue that equality is a cornerstone of a truly democratic society.
However, if you believe that culture is a consequence of more elemental issues, then their dream could quickly become a nightmare.
What of Wealth inequality? The inevitable cycle of demographic change? The waxing and waning of civilizations seen in the rise of China, India and Africa? The threat of digital technology? Historic debt levels? Ignore these, and any movement that is prepared to curtail the rights of the individual in pursuit of a common goal, however laudable, will ultimately become as septic as the body it is trying to replace,
As JFK said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”.
Both protagonists now see this as a fight for the cultural future of the United States of America. One is trying to erase the past while the other trying to protect it, and let's not forget that America is a country where there is no such thing as a draw in their most popular sports!
Personally I believe that the past is something to learn from not aspire to. I also believe that unless the Leaders of both parties dial back the rhetoric, this won’t end well! It takes two sides to join battle. As Sun Tzu wrote, "There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged war". Closer to home one of the cultural icons of the cowboy way of life once wrote “You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”. The same poet went on to sing “If you don’t have dreams you have nightmares”.
America is not waking up from a nightmare. Despite its best intentions, it may be falling wide awake into one.
(1) Suffolk University, Boston.
(2) Morning Consult/Politico.