Forget the Tender Feelings of a Pernicious Faction

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert writes about the political divide in For voters in this purple part of Wisconsin [Richland Center], the impeachment fight is a symbol of broken politics. The story establishes a false equivalence between those who support impeachment and those who oppose it, as though the conflict between these views were an irresolvable dispute over flavors or colors.

Gilbert writes that “[f]or voters on both sides, the impeachment fight is kind of an all-purpose symbol of broken politics, whether it’s the polarization of the electorate, the partisanship of the political class or the legislative impasse in Congress.”

In Gilbert’s telling, everyone’s upset, they’re all frustrated, and the conflict is all one big sad point of contention.

The views of these two sides – one seeking impeachment as a defense of accountability under the rule of law, the other pushing conspiracy theories to defend a bigoted autocrat – are nothing alike. These tired ‘we’re all divided’ stories imply an equivalence between the sides, and leave the cause of the division unspoken.

Consider: should the supposed concerns of Know Nothings, Confederates, Copperheads, Klan, and Bund be weighed as heavily as those who sought to defend a liberal democratic order?

(Prof. Jay Rosen of NYU is right: “My current rule is that all discussions and news stories framed as, “Why are we so divided? America can’t even agree on common facts…” should be framed instead as: how did the Republican Party arrive at this place?”)

A reasonable person committed to democracy under the rule of law need not – and should not – give equal weight to the views and feelings of those who peddle lies and autocracy. On the contrary, a reasonable person committed to democracy under the rule of law should consider such people his or her political adversaries, to be defeated as our forefathers defeated the Know Nothings, Confederates, Copperheads, Klan, and Bund.

Concern for the tender feelings of adherents to those vile movements scarcely mattered; it was most important that they were defeated. (After the Civil War, they should have been kept in a century-long period of Reconstruction to render them innocuous to others’ rights and well-being.)

The main focus of opposition is best kept on Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders and that includes Trumpism Down to the Local Level.  

(Admittedly and sadly, the local boosterism of the pre-Trump years is now in retrospect worse than one might have initially believed: “across America boosters who peddled false descriptions & junk solutions during the economic hardship of the Great Recession contributed, knowingly or unknowingly, to the erosion of reason and honesty. They were at first forgettable for their absurdities, later annoying for them, and how having contributed to our present degradation they are politically unforgivable.”)

This national conflict will one day end, but it will only end when the foundations of this republic are again secure.

An unmerited sympathy for liberal democracy’s adversaries only prolongs the arrival of that better day.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

This nicely sets out most of your Trump themes in a single spot.Opposition to Trump, placement of Trump in a historical framework with the view that dumbed down local politics contributed to his rise. Every past movement you list was racist so it makes sense you’d see no value in compromise. I do not disagree with you on Trump’s historical antecedents (Know Nothings especially). Many who are opposed to Trump would say the same.
A link between boosterism and Trumpism is more unique to your outlook, however. It’s not that I disagree. It’s that I/most people don’t feel it so strongly/directly. However, it is true that SOMETHING led to Trump. Acceptance of snake oil claims may have played a role. (Anyone who has followed your blog would know how much you despise local boosterism. I think you’ve even referred to it as a sin of pride if I am not mistaken.)
As I said, nice summary. No one will doubt where you stand.

3 years ago

so you won’t compromise with people who don’t deserve compromises. i like it. me either.