miércoles, 27 de junio de 2018
Guerra civil suave
Arrecia el clima de hostigamiento mutuo entre trumpistas y liberales en el corazón del Imperio. Por el momento la cosa no pasa a mayores, pero algunos ya han comenzado a hacer sonar las alarmas. Acá van algunas. La primera de las dos notas que siguen es de Francis Willkinson para Bloomberg:
Título: What Democratic Rage Would Look Like
Subtítulo: “I think we’re at the beginning of a soft civil war.”
Texto: It seems, maybe, that President Donald Trump has abandoned his policy of separating children from their immigrant parents and warehousing them in detention facilities. But the conflict over the policy has been, among other things, starkly clarifying.
The cruelty, accompanied by the lies deployed to excuse it, further inflamed political passions and sharpened the divide between Republicans, who support the president, and Democrats, who detest him.
It feels as though another political Rubicon was crossed.
"I think we're at the beginning of a soft civil war," political scientist Thomas Schaller said in a telephone interview. "I don't know if the country gets out of it whole."
The heightened conflict of recent weeks led to more ominous rhetoric — anyone else notice the abundance of Nazi references from sane people? — and more definitive, unequivocal acts. Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt renounced his party of 29 years this week and pledged to vote for Democrats until decency returns to the GOP.
Law professor and blogger Orin Kerr, perhaps sensing the ugly turn in the air, tweeted: "Few things are more corrosive in politics than the conviction that you have been wronged so much that you're justified in breaking all the rules to get even."
For years, Republicans have led the way in breaking rules — from taking the national debt hostage to usurping a Supreme Court seat. In a 2016 poll, almost three-quarters of Trump supporters, a group marked by grievances, agreed that the country needed a leader who would "break some rules," as did 57 percent of Republicans overall. Only 41 percent of Democrats agreed.
But Democrats can tire of rules, too. Lots of rules, after all, don't do Democrats any favors. The past two Republican presidencies were a product of the Electoral College, that useless appendix of American politics, overriding the popular vote. The Senate favors rural states over representative democracy. (Los Angeles County has a larger population than 42 states, each of which has two more senators than LA County has.) Seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned in such a lopsided way — due both to geography and gerrymandering — that Democrats must win far more than 50 percent of the collective vote to win a majority of the House.
Perhaps Democrats will nonetheless win control of the House in November, oversight of the Trump administration will commence and law-enforcement investigations will be unimpeded. The political system will snap back, partly at least, to where it was.
But partisan conflict, even under that scenario, will be intense, bordering on vicious. Trump has a large and committed propaganda apparatus to assist him. That apparatus has enormous influence with conservative voters, many of whom already feel they are waging a racial and religious war with their backs against a demographic wall.
And what if Democrats fall short in November? Especially if Democratic candidates get more votes than Republicans but fail to gain control of at least one side of Congress?
Here's an easy prediction. Democrats will then experience rage — at Tea-Party levels or worse.
Speaking of the GOP, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum said, "When highly committed parties strongly believe things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don't give up on their beliefs — they give up on democracy."
Democrats won't give up on democracy. It's too central to their identity, and their commitment to democratic norms and processes is also their point of greatest contrast with Trumpism.
Instead, Democrats will give up on conservatives. They will give up on Alabama and Mississippi, on Kansas and Nebraska. They will explore ways to divorce their culture, politics and economy from Trumpism and from their fellow Americans who support it.
I don't know exactly what that would look like. But liberals have a great deal of cultural, academic and economic heft, stretching from Hollywood to Harvard. Just this week, some Hollywood powerhouses flirted with leveraging their clout against the Trumpist Fox News. There are endless variations on such a power play. If Democrats opt to use their power more aggressively — breaking rules —Schaller's soft civil war hardly seems unlikely.
Por su parte, la siguiente nota de Glenn Harlan Reynolds, que hace referencia a la anterior, salió publicada estos días en USA Today:
Título: Is America headed toward a civil war? Sanders, Nielsen incidents show it has already begun
Texto: Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kirstjen Nielsen experiences at restaurants suggest a 'soft' civil war is well underway. It will get worse unless we learn to stop hating each other.
The other day, author Tom Ricks asked whether we’re heading toward a civil war. "I don’t believe we’re to Kansas of the 1850s yet. But we seem to be lurching ... in that direction,” he wrote.
Ricks was commenting on “What Democratic rage would look like,” a Bloomberg opinion column that quotes political scientist Thomas Schaller as saying, "I think we're at the beginning of a soft civil war. ... I don't know if the country gets out of it whole."
That sounds pretty serious. The column by Francis Wilkinson presents a catalog of things Democrats are mad about — from the existence of the electoral college to Trump’s “propaganda apparatus” — and predicts that if Democrats lose the midterm elections, there will be hell to pay. (And Republicans, you know, could make a similar list of their own complaints.)
“I don't know exactly what that would look like," Wilkinson writes. "But liberals have a great deal of cultural, academic and economic heft, stretching from Hollywood to Harvard. Just this week, someHollywood powerhouses flirted with leveraging their clout against the Trumpist Fox News. There are endless variations on such a power play. If Democrats opt to use their power more aggressively — breaking rules — Schaller's soft civil war hardly seems unlikely.”
The civil war is already starting
Well, actually this sort of thing seems to be well underway. Hollywood has basically turned its products, and its award shows, into showcases for "the resistance." Americans are already sorting themselves into communities that are predominantly red or blue. And in heavily blue Washington, D.C., Trump staffers find that a lot of people don’t want to date them because of their politics.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was even kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because the owner and employees disliked her politics. This seems like a small thing, but it would have been largely unthinkable a generation ago.
And, in a somewhat less “soft” manifestation, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was bullied out of a restaurant by an angry anti-Trump mob, and a similar mob also showed up outside of her home.
Will it get worse? Probably. To have a civil war, soft or otherwise, takes two sides. But as pseudonymous tweeter Thomas H. Crown notes, it’s childishly easy in these days to identify people in mobs, and then to dispatch similar mobs to their homes and workplaces. Eventually, he notes, it becomes “protesters all the way down, and if we haven't yet figured out that can lead to political violence, we're dumb.”
Apparently, some of us are dumb or else want violence. As Crown warns, “We carefully erected civil peace to avoid this sort of devolution-to-a-mob. It is a great civilizational achievement and it is intensely fragile.” Yes, it is indeed fragile, and many people will miss it when it’s entirely gone.
Political contempt is the problem
Marriage counselors say that when a couple view one another with contempt, it’s a top indicator that the relationship is likely to fail. Americans, who used to know how to disagree with one another without being mutually contemptuous, seem to be forgetting this. And the news media, which promote shrieking outrage in pursuit of ratings and page views, are making the problem worse.
What would make things better? It would be nice if people felt social ties that transcend politics. Americans’ lives used to involve a lot more intermediating institutions — churches, fraternal organizations, neighborhoods — that crossed political lines. Those have shrunk and decayed, and in fact, for many people politics seems to have become a substitute for religion or fraternal organizations. If you find your identity in your politics, you’re not going to identify with people who don’t share them.
The rules of bourgeois civility also helped keep things in check, but of course those rules have been shredded for years. We may come to miss them.
America had one disastrous civil war, and those who fought it did a surprisingly good job of coming together afterward, realizing how awful it was to have a political divide that set brother against brother. Let us hope that we will not have to learn that lesson again in a similar fashion.