Here’s a stone cold fact: America’s differences are ideological not political. There’s a very real difference between those differences.
One thing no one can argue: America is teetering on a knife’s edge. Our storytellers of record – the news media – insist this is a fight between Democrats and Republicans, entirely political. From thirty thousand feet there is visible tribalism (Democrats minus two want one thing, the entire Republican Party wants the diametric opposite). But, America’s differences run deeper than politics. From height, one can see evidence of America’s tribal rift but one can’t see what’s causing it. Certainly not in real time.
While one can build bridges between the two sides, every time something moves deep beneath the surface, it will likely destroy everything at the surface – including all bridges. In the exact same way, conservatives and progressives will never end up standing on the same piece of metaphorical real estate together.
Step Up To The Plate
It really is like we stand on different tectonic plates.
One side in this argument wants to carry on being a democratic republic. The other side – having always been dubious about “one man, one vote” if the voters weren’t white and men – crave autocracy. A king, a dictator, a czar even – these Americans have always resented the rest of us for being here uninvited. This side didn’t resent Black people when they were slaves (and only three-fifths of a white man). Emancipation triggered this side’s worst instincts. Personally, I suspect it’s because white men fear they can’t compete with anyone else except other white men. That includes running a foot race, running a business and running for office.
If a democracy is going to work (never mind survive), the right to govern must flow directly from the People. When we vote, we grant the authority to govern us to a proxy – a politician. The idea is that if the majority of us vote one way, that is how it will be. If the majority of us vote for one candidate over another, then that person will have our authority to govern us.
Free And Fair
That assumes that all elections therefore are “free and fair”. Politically, both sides would agree – the only way to have elections (and a democracy) is via free and fair elections. Each side sets down its table in the political marketplace and hawks its ideas. The side that gets more takers of its ideas wins. That is, unless the losing side chooses to cheat.
Regardless who’s doing it, gerrymandering is an attempt to cheat the People of their true choice. Even a cursory glance at a gerrymandered voting district – like, say, Ohio sexual-assault-enabler and treason weasel Jim Jordan’s – hits you over the head with its blatant dishonesty.
At least voter suppression is a little more honest about its anti-democratic-ness.
Republicans And “White Hegemony”
If only the Republican Party had quit at just gerrymandering and Democratic voter vote suppression. As this blog has pointed out, there are clear signs that America’s right wing, its conservatives, saw demographic oblivion coming at them faster than expected. A rapidly diversifying America threatened white hegemony and white political power.
At least, that’s how they saw it. Having zero interest in sharing power with the rest of us, the right wing money (the Kochs, the Mercers) invested heavily in destroying America’s balance of power by seizing the judiciary. They tasked Mitch McConnell with doing whatever it took to make the Supreme Court a bastion of conservative horse shit.
As G. W. Bush woulda put it: “Mission Accomplished!”
What ARE Republicans Selling?
On air host Stephanie Ruhl pointed out on MSNBC this morning that the Republicans aren’t offering any alternatives to Democratic policies. Right, Steph – exactly! If America’s two parties were having an actual political argument, the Republicans would have political alternatives for sale. That’s how retail politics works! But the Republicans have zero policies on display.
They may throw down words like “inflation” or “recession” but those are ad words to Republicans. As Stephanie Ruhl correctly pointed out, the GOP isn’t presenting America with a better path forward. They aren’t presenting any path whatsoever.
And that’s the tell. Their hate for democracy stands on one tectonic plate. Our love for it stands on another. America’s differences are ideological not political.
Between Two Plates
There’s a very “cool” spot in Iceland (a great place to visit period!) where one can stand between the European plate and the North American plate. There’s even a bridge between the two plates.
I find something “deeply” compelling about standing between two tectonic plates. There’s incredible power all around you. Underneath your feet especially. In Iceland, our two plates could easily “pass in the night” and never have anything to do with each other again. That’s not how it is in America.
Here, our two plates have a subduction relationship with each other. The conservative one always wants to subduct the progressive one. The progressive one is just beginning to realize: that’s not good for our tectonic plate and it’s not good for America.
There won’t be any bridging these two plates. Not unless their relationship changes. Our world isn’t really ruled by politics. It’s ruled by something that transcends politics and even tribalism: thinking.
Politics, really, is the playing field on which ideologies clash. That’s why the politics can shift in response to circumstances. The politics are just the “how to”. It’s the ideology underneath that determines “where to”. It’s concrete: America’s differences are ideological not political.