Finding Common Ground: Can a Third Way Save Us? | Opinion
Our two-party system is not working and is quickly collapsing beyond repair. Most importantly, our people are beyond polarized dislike and headed for a possibly violent ‘debrief’ that is being built over the past 30 years.
How did we get to this low point? How did we gut what was left of American exceptionalism, leaving an empty shell of who we once were? How did parties come to field so few candidates to rational moderate voters? How did so many adults become radicalized violent enemies of the opposition?
At the head of a party is a 78-year-old, sometimes coherent and mentally inept Liberal Democrat, a political hacker with 50 years of experience in the federal government who has apparently retained little knowledge or useful skills in governance. . He is assisted by a progressive “awakened” vice president with all the charm, consideration and warmth of the California Condor.
The other side is under the thumb of a 75-year-old amoral ignorant and malicious narcissist who spits hatred and encourages violence. Those who support him because they “like a lot of his policies” remind me of those who supported or tolerated fascism before WWII for bringing pride back to Germany and restoring some semblance of order. Trump’s evil runs deep among his 40 million voting supporters and others. He is an existential threat to the Constitution, American democracy, and world peace. To deny this is to drink your one-sided bossy Kool Aid. He ignores reality. Agreements made with the devil or a cruel tyrant end up in disaster. Ask the German people.
Clinton was a pragmatic centrist who followed Bush 41, another moderate who fell into the broad middle where most Americans were comfortable after World War II. Nixon was also a centrist, able to negotiate, confer, and compromise with Democrats and even Communist China. Today, either party has little interest in communicating honestly and seeking compromise. Doing so invites you to be treated as a traitor and to see your life threatened. Before Clinton, there were fundamental polarizing dynamics that play a big part in the great decoupling we are seeing today. Among them: the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK – 1963 and 1968; assassination attempts against Reagan and Ford – 1975 and 1981; Johnson’s Big Society Programs – 1963 – 1968; The Vietnam War, revolutionary left-wing violence – mid-1960s – 1975; the civil rights movement – mainly the 1960s; Nixon’s Silent Majority – 1968; Roe vs. Wade – 1973; Urban riots in dozens of cities – mainly from 1964 to 1968; Falwell and Robertson found the Christian Coalition – 1977; Affirmative action and other leveling programs – started in 1969.
New religious, class, racial and political movements have paved the way for an explosive growth of extremist ideologies and adherents. With Clinton came impeachment and the generation of multiple conspiracy theories linking the Clintons to murders, drug trafficking and criminal cover-ups. Clinton has been called an illegitimate president, allowing his extremist opposition to define him and his fellow Democrats as immoral usurpers of power, anti-freedom socialists and baby killers. The opposition turned into hatred and moral condemnation.
At the center of this new form of vehement morally sanctioned opposition was Rush Limbaugh and the blueprint he provided for right-wing talk radio to thrive and broadcast new forms of ideological warfare, disinformation, and infotainment. At its peak, Limbaugh reached 15.5 million weekly listeners. It was a gospel of unfettered capitalism, of the moral superiority of a forgotten America “hovered over”, the condemnation of an overambitious federal government, the personal responsibility of the poor, and the superiority of traditional Christian “Western values”. The subtext was conspiracy theories mixed with ridicule for minority concerns and a bit of proven American racism. The silent majority found redemption and the assertion that they were the elect and began to become a hostile, vengeful force. The internet and social media have expanded this echo chamber into gathering places for resentful and feeble-minded travel companions. Confirmation bias was now everywhere and exploited by all media.
In the years that followed, new dynamics and movements eroded the community and consensus required by democracy. Factors of left polarization include: affirmative action moving first towards “equality”, then “fairness” and rejection of meritocracy; calls for redress for past racial injustices; play the endless “racism card” recklessly and intentionally to seize power; mock the religious and cultural values of Central America; extremely conflicting academic ideas and fantasies; push identity politics in a way that encourages any “minority”, regardless of size, to randomly accuse the majority of a hateful “ism” or to threaten the safe space it needs to function; suppress freedom of speech, especially conservative speeches, ideas and discussions in colleges and universities; allow each “victim” of the “oppressive majority” a preponderant place at the table and the presumption that their status as victim should not be called into question; ANTIFA and other violent socialist and anarchist organizations; many more examples of progressive extremism.
Examples of growing right-wing extremism include: paramilitary militias, Sovereign Citizens’ movement, neo-Nazis, white nationalism, anti-Semitism, skinheads, all engaged in violent resolution of disagreements and to varying degrees overthrowing the government federal; the paranoia of the Second Amendment; Qanon and other groups focused on conspiracy beliefs; Cultist, unconditional support for Trump throughout the Republican Party; Christian political action groups and ministries that fund a far-right agenda based on their moral superiority over the immoral left that want to cancel Christmas while savoring their freedom to choose infanticide as part of the right to choose a woman’s ; most members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives; Evangelical Christianity which often includes a mixture of racism, earthly thought, tribalism, intolerance, apocalyptic fixations and encouragement of righteous violence when applied to wicked sinners, primarily Democrats; a refusal to accept that many Americans have historically been hurt or worse by the white Christian majority; in search of a theocracy which integrates Church and State.
I see little hope. A viable third-party movement would take a decade or more to develop, and financial interests will not easily let go of the status quo. We are where we are because of who we are. Our polarized elected officials represent and reflect us to a large extent. Today there are fewer and fewer places for the moderate, reasonable and thoughtful citizen. We exist but if we don’t find a third option in search of common ground, we are on the verge of collapse. I am a Republican on hold. Wait for the party to completely reject Trumpism. Good luck with that.
In the meantime, never forget that Trumpism is a force of evil and seeks to destroy democracy. Uncle Joe may procrastinate, babble, live in a liberal fantasy world, and advance policies you hate, but any real damage he can do is tiny and easily reversible from what a rampaging vindictive tyrant with no respect for the democracy or decency will do if he returns to power. Just ask the German people.
Trump is so dangerous that he is only an option for authoritarian, undemocratic, cult-loving Americans. Do not let his pathology spread.