Yves here. Lambert and I have been discussing that the Democratic Party’s persistent efforts to undermine the orderly transfer of power (which as Lambert described long form, was a major concern of our nation’s founders) look uncomfortably like a threat to the constitutional order. Similarly, ongoing marches and rallies appear to be simply against the Republicans taking power, as opposed to traditional issue-driven protests, like equal rights for blacks, opposing the war in Iraq, preserving net neutrality, and more recently, Black Lives Matter and NoDAPL, which had clear messages and aims.
As a result, the protests against Trump and the Republicans look unlikely to succeed since it’s the same coalition, people from upper middle income groups and/or people living in blue cities, that already managed to lose a winnable election to traditional Republicans and the Trump base. And this loss came despite the presidential campaign sucking resources and dollars out of down-ticket races, with the results that the Democrats continued to bleed losses at all levels of government.
Worse, much of the messaging is all about stirring up hatred, too often on dubious claims, with Russia scaremongering one of the biggest, while underplaying serious, legitimate causes for concern, like the rise of oligarchy and the threat to gut regulations on a widespread basis. But the Dems are chary about talking about any economic issues since they have their pet oligarchs but keep them under wraps a bit better.
The Dems and the press seem intent on continually intensifying fear and hatred of Trump and his Rust Belt supporters. Lambert and I find it hard to see a logical endpoint of this effort to delegitimize not merely the person of the President, but his voters and their States, other than civil war (they “will rule or ruin in all events”). And this makes no sense, strategically, given that the Democrats are heavily concentrated in cities that do not make up a contiguous land area and are not even remotely capable of supporting themselves physically, and that most of the people in this country who carry guns as part of their job voted Republican. Yet were these protests to jell into something effective, it’s hard to see any other end game.
In June, 1858, in one of the great speeches in the history of our country and our politics, Lincoln declared, quoting the New Testament, and in the teeth of the undeniable and unresolvable antagonism between pro and anti-slavery citizens, that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Lincoln’s hope was that this country would not “dissolve”. But at the same time he foresaw the inevitably of civil war as the only realistic albeit tragic way in which an America divided on grounds as fundamental as slavery for some versus (political) freedom for all, could resolve its “crisis” and “cease to be divided”.
For Lincoln there was no other alternative. There are many times when inhabitants of the “house” disagree. Such is to be expected and disagreements are normally resolved sooner or later. The house endures. But there are those other (rare) times when “agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented”. A “crisis” is reached, and eventually the nation “will become all one thing or all the other.” Civil war cruelly declares a victor and a loser.
There was no way to compromise. The deepest narratives by which each side, pro-slavery and pro-“freedom” (Lincoln’s word), understood the meaning of the American Republic, the great Enlightenment-inspired experiment in representative democratic government, and ultimately what it means to live in community, organize ourselves politically, socially, economically, and what counts to being a human person, were mutually exclusive. How do you “negotiate” away this conflict? How do you dialectically transcend it? Either the laborer in our cotton fields and plantation households is a human person or not. When the organization of society depends on how we answer explicitly in argument and slogan or implicitly in our unquestioned assumptions, questions about the origins and purposes of life itself, war could only appear to Lincoln as inevitable, even if he refused at this point (1858) to come right out and say it.
A question for us to think about: When, since the time of Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War, has America been as fundamentally divided as it is now, today, 2017? When have the basic stories that we tell ourselves and that we have assimilated into our habits of head and heart, been more deeply and irreconcilably opposed? Where and what is the dialectical resolution between coastal cosmopolitans chasing a “good life” understood as an ever expanding, protected, and affirmed “market” for individual choice and self- inventing “lifestyles”, and the flyover country provincials living in communities devastated by the corrosive solvency of aggressive finance capital on the make, weakened by disappearing communities, impotent traditions, mocked religion, broken families, and constant anxiety about providing the daily bread? And when have the imaginations of those so opposed been less able to conceive workable solutions that embrace both sides? Are there solutions that are able to embrace both sides?
Can the institution of representative democracy, arguably a product of the Age of Reason with its belief in “nature and nature’s God” and the “inalienable natural rights” that can be discovered by the enlightened human intellect, survive in post-Enlightenment post-modernism with its hermeneutics of suspicion in which there are no admitted “facts”, no unifying “truths”, and “right” is a function of “might”, the Will to Power.