Every week on Monday morning, the Council and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture or daily living. This week’s question: Is America A House Divided Against Itself?
GrEaT sAtAn”S gIrLfRiEnD: When 16 gave his famous “House Divided” speech, Lincoln chose it because it was a biblical idea familiar to Americans. Quoting Jesus Christ: “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). A nice ending segue into “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all of the other.”
Surviving things like a Civil war, Beatlemania, fiery race riots, massive civil mayhem during the Viet Nam war era may make America seem invulnerable to divisions from the past, many that still afflict nation states today.
Bill Bishop’s book The Big Sort points out “Americans have sorted themselves geographically, economically, and politically into like-minded communities over the last three decades.” One of Mr B’s key findings was that the number of counties in which a presidential candidate of either party won the vote by a landslide nearly doubled between 1976 and 2004.
The maps depicting this shift offer visually compelling evidence of a dramatic decline in the competitive counties once prevalent in the American landscape. “People living in homogenous communities grow both more extreme and more certain in their beliefs” as a result “Congress has lost most of its moderate members and is mired in conflict.”
If “the clustering of like-minded America is tearing us apart,” will compromise bring us together? Not a laugh line, yet it’s nigh impossible to imagine a compromise on stuff like federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Either taxes finance it or they can start a go fund me site.
“X used the “house divided” metaphor (Mk 3:22-27) to counter the accusation that he cast out demons with the power of Satan. Satan cannot be divided against himself. He is an irreducible unity. One cannot compromise with Satan; one can only overpower Satan. Abraham Lincoln invoked the passage in a somewhat similar vein. The United States could have only one character: it must be a union, and that union must repudiate slavery. In any other condition it would not be the United States. The coexistence of irreconcilable opposites was impossible; one side had to prevail and to impose its vision of the country.”
Instead of reaching across the aisle or negotiation, prepare for victory or defeat.
Divisions au courrant are seemingly used by national leaders purposely set Americans against each other – often and specifically on things that simply cannot be changed (all apologies to Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King) like a persons race.
One potential contributing factor comes from a fascinating piece in National Affairs by Marc Dunkelman, who fears the winnowing out of so-called “middle-tier relationships” for the American citizen.
These relationships have long been, as Dunkelman puts it, “at the root of American community life,” and encompass such different-minded acquaintances as “bridge partners, brothers in the Elks club, fellow members of the PTA.” But these connections have withered in recent years, even as we stay close to those like-minded folks who inhabit our inner circles of friends and family, and are connected on an unprecedented scale by technology and social media to those farther away.
Without these vibrant, heterogeneous “middle-tier” relationships, Dunkelman argues, it may simply be much harder to build the sense of public trust and unity that allows people to stand up to big challenges together.
A good way to relieve the pressure on a divided polity is to keep government limited.
Bookworm Room: Yes, it is a house divided against itself because we’ve lost the center. Those Americans who vote in federal elections seem to have settled fairly implacably, and in fairly equal numbers, on either side of the political divide.
More significantly there is no common ground. In past years, when there was a problem, both sides saw the government as a vehicle to carry out change, although each side attributed a different role to the government and a different price tag. Of late, however, conservatives have come to realize that, thanks to a steady push to the Left for the last half century, government is the problem. Meanwhile, led by the Obam-ites, Progressives (or Leftists, if you will) see the government, not just as a facilitator towards the answer, but as the answer itself.
Obama broke this gridlock in 2008 by getting out black voters who traditionally sit out the election. (It’s the white Democrats who are hysterical about preserving the black right to vote.Blacks, if one judges by their participation levels in elections, not so much).
In 2012, Obama again broke the gridlock, this time by galvanizing a smaller portion of blacks, while at the same time weaponizing the IRS to shut down effective conservative opposition to his policies. (A weaponization, incidentally, that will only get worse for conservatives because Lynch’s DOJ declined to prosecute Lois Lerner, despite the fact that uncontradicted evidence shows that she violated federal laws and, in doing so, damaged the integrity of the election process.)
The one candidate who seems to be paying attention to these trends is Ted Cruz. Recognizing that Republicans can win only if they release on the polls a hitherto quiescent voter class, he’s trying to do the mirror image of what Obama did with blacks: Cruz is seeking out conservatives who have retired from the federal election process because they believe it’s a game rigged against them.
As for Trump, who seems to be sticking to the top of the polls, I continue to believe that he’ll flame out. There simply isn’t substance behind the populist, often demagogic, rhetoric. Then again, it was none other than P.T. Barnum (who was, in many ways, Trump’s predecessor) who noted that “there’s a sucker born every minute.” What’s preventing people from realizing what’s going on with Trump is that the media is propping him up, delighted that he’s sucking the oxygen out of other more realistic Republican candidates.
The Glittering Eye: Yes, it is and divided in a way we haven’t haven’t seen since the Civil War. I’m afraid it’s a bit late for a reconciliation and there may be a painful divorce ahead. There might be a strategy that could keep the Union together. Federalism and tolerance of differing points of view. So crazy an idea that it might work.
Laura Rambeau Lee, Right Reason: A nation is defined by it borders, cultures, and laws. Everywhere we look we see division in America. This division has been building for decades, being amplified and accelerated under the Obama administration.
The left knows in order to destroy America it must attack on many fronts. When I returned to college our American Studies professor told the class that “nationalism” was the biggest challenge to progressives (she meant socialists) achieving their goal of a better America. Our schools teach our youth to be ashamed of our history. The curriculum focuses on slavery and other sins against aggrieved peoples and the myth of The American Dream. This is a concerted effort to pit one group or class of people against other groups or classes.
The ease with which this indoctrination has been able to mold the developing minds of our youth is frightening, but those who wish to destroy our country have the blueprint. These methods have been successful in the past. One only has to look at Nazi Germany to realize how controlling the education of children is the primary tool in achieving a society’s destruction. Through public education an entire generation of millennials believes America is not an exceptional nation; no better than any other and in many instances worse. They have been taught to mock and ridicule the traditional values and mores that are the foundation upon which this country was established. They consider themselves victims and look to government to solve all of their problems.
People like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton appeal to this need to blame others and promise to help them out of whatever negative position they find themselves in, whether it be an inability to find employment or crushing student loan debt. In addition, we see too many self-proclaimed young conservatives leaning towards socialism or libertarianism, particularly when it comes to social issues. They take their cue from “moderate” Republicans like Jeb Bush who consider illegal aliens coming across our borders as committing “acts of love.” The rule of law that once provided certainty has been turned upside down and inside out depending on the situation and the whims of those in positions of power.
The Democrat Party has been infiltrated by socialists and communists, yet most voters fail to recognize it and when challenged Democrats simply deny it. We have a generation of young adults who do not understand the dangers of socialism who will be voting for president in 2016. Many believe they should vote for Hillary Clinton simply because it is time for the first woman to be president. They do not care about her positions on policy or her questionable character; to them it is all about “social justice.
Progressives understand the time involved in fundamentally transforming a society and the necessity of focusing on the youth and their education. Conservatives must understand it will take time to reverse the process. We need people of honor and conviction to speak out and educate the people about the American values we hold dear to counter the emotional appeals of the left. We need teachers who will educate our children and teach them how to think, not what to think. We must take back the control of our education system.
Well, there you have it.
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