‘The Center Is Vanishing’: Two Americas Form As Political Chasm Grows

‘The Center Is Vanishing’: Two Americas Form As Political Chasm Grows

We don’t need a seer to foretell that the United States is facing, for years to come, a perilous mix of political stalemate, cultural conflict and economic hard times.  

The results of this month’s midterm elections confirm that the differences between Republican and Democratic areas are calcifying, and in disputed territory — Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia — the chasm that separates red and blue candidates and voters is growing. A diminishing proportion of independent voters is often decisive. How did this happen and what does it portend?

A principal reason that the United States has survived and prospered for 246 years through times of instability and crisis has been our robust national immune system, based upon a collection of cherished credos: individual rights and responsibility; discipline and hard work as chiefly determinative of one’s destiny; respect for law founded upon the Constitution; and federalism, which provides a safety valve by allowing people to self-sort by living in states best reflecting their values.

The rugged good health of our country has also resulted from the central role played by small, nearby civic society, primarily traditional religion honored by weekly observance, but also local professional, vocational and fraternal organizations, athletic leagues, and other groups that foster filial connections with fellow citizens.

At the margin, elements of Leftist hostility to these unifying ideas and institutions had long existed because they forge bonds across racial, religious and class lines and because they modulate and stabilize the pace of societal change, allowing it to occur organically. But in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, this marginal hostility began to spread and achieve mainstream acceptance. Traditional American liberals were unable to process that their ideal President had been murdered not by a white segregationist hostile to Kennedy’s civil rights reforms (as his widow Jackie Kennedy had assumed), but by a Leftist — an unstable pro-Castro agitator who had defected to the Soviet Union.

Instead of focusing on the crime and its lone perpetrator, these traditional liberals began to succumb to the seductive excuse offered by the Left that it wasn’t actually Lee Harvey Oswald who was responsible for this tragedy but American society itself. Such a horrifying event, the Left told the liberals, showed that the United States was sick and needed change. Needed to be changed. Fundamentally changed.  By them. 

The JFK assassination induced well-intentioned liberals to insert their own grievances about the US — whether it be civil rights, environmental issues, economic inequality, women’s rights, the unpopular war in Southeast Asia — into this paradigm of the US writ large needing fundamental transformation. Some of these issues — especially civil rights for African-Americans, women’s rights and the Vietnam War — urgently needed to be recognized and remedied. Unfortunately however, the outsized influence of the Left mainstreamed the attitude that all protest in itself had merit and deserved the moral high ground, and condemned American society as elementally defective.

In order to correct these defects, all respectable, sophisticated people needed to ‘get with the times,’ namely to adjust their default settings to defer to and support all protest provided it attacked established American traditions and values. Especially among the affluent and educated, a flabby habit accrued of reflexively assuming that the side protesting, agitating, criticizing or demanding was superior to the side defending the status quo or customary views. 

This lazy practice of always supporting any protest, for fear of being shamed or shunned, was propagated and rewarded not only by celebrities and entertainment executives, but by primary and secondary school teachers, and the college and university professors who had indoctrinated them, by clergy and non-profit figures, and by media and journalistic mandarins. And this weird sanctification of protest and fear to criticize it occurred in the 1960s-70s during which there was vastly increased geographic and social mobility and urbanization; the omnipresence of TV, radio, movies and other pop culture influences urging self-indulgence; skyrocketing divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates; and the abundant availability of legal and illegal narcotics. All of this functioned to weaken Americans’ bonds to one another and the norms and pillars of traditional life.

In more recent decades, cable TV, the internet and social media (especially Twitter and Facebook) have cemented these fractures by ‘immediatizing’ and nationalizing every news story, and done so as much as possible to serve the Left’s narrative. Until Elon Musk took over, Twitter had layers of in-house censors to shape the conversation and to mute and cancel cultural or political opposition. And it still has mobs of leftist Twitter vigilantes to heap insults, accusations, ridicule and not so veiled threats of doxing on anyone who dares to take a contrary or independent view (such as the Lincoln Project Tweet about President Trump’s attorneys after posting their names and personal information: ‘Make them famous’). 

The Left, supported by legacy media, social media, big tech and the federal and many state and local governments, now wants to replace equality of opportunity with equality of outcomes (‘equity’),  to force acceptance of racial determinism of oppressor/victim status (‘critical race theory’), and to normalize the recognized psychiatric illnesses of gender identity disorder/gender dysphoria — identified in the professional psychiatric guide for diagnosis the DSM-IV and its successor the DSM-V (but now celebrated as ‘gender fluidity’).

Thus, we now have the terrifying policy in many states and many hospitals to allow young adolescents to make life-changing surgical decisions without parental oversight or consent. None of these views is supported by anything close to a majority of Americans, but they are all enthusiastically supported by the highly educated, often overconfident and out-of-touch managerial class moralizers analyzed by Matthew Stewart in his anthropological masterpiece The 9.9 Percent.”

We are separating into two Americas based on whether the guiding principle is to preserve and strengthen (red America) or to corrode and eliminate (blue America) the barriers that separate men and women, the citizen and the non-citizen, the law-abiding and the criminal, the healthy and the deviant. We are also separating based on whether we believe traditional values deserve our respect or our contempt, and whether rights accrue to the individual and need to be protected from governmental intrusion or — irreconcilably — rights are to be allocated by a government-administered racialist spoils system where the individual will see her liberty constrained and her property confiscated by an unaccountable elite exercising its Manifest Destiny to reign over the rest of us.

Over the last 50 years, it is difficult to identify any issue upon which conservatives in America have moved further to the right. But on virtually every issue where there used to be agreement between both sides — basic acceptance of American capitalism, belief in the sanctity of the Constitution and American Exceptionalism, and support for the nuclear family and traditional gender roles — liberals have moved far to the left and invented new issues no one could have imagined decades ago. Donald Trump’s policy positions would have been considered mainstream for a conservative president in 1972. But even in the era of George McGovern, the present positions of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would have been wildly to the left of anything that the Democrats would have accepted.

Last week, Massachusetts and New York elected the most radical Leftist governors in their history, both of whom are ice-cold apathetic about the misery their policies will cause. Massachusetts voters approved their state legislature’s decision to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, joining a growing number of states doing so. The Governor of New York Kathy Hochul stated that she needed to look at the data on subway crime before changing the no-cash bail law — but did anyone need to look at any data of police interactions with African-Americans before hysterical anti-police policies were rushed through after George Floyd’s death? New York City voters supported all four progressive ballot questions, the most troubling of which establishes a racial equity office at the heart of city government with wide-ranging powers that will, once exercised, directly conflict with the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment and the takings clause of the 5th Amendment.

What if, in these divided times, the US confronts a challenge by a foreign adversary? Do we any longer have the national will, wealth, sense of common purpose and trust to react appropriately? These resources used to repose in the attitudinal center of America, which overlapped both the left and the right and where they both could meet when necessary, as after September 11. No longer: the center is vanishing, like a Venn Diagram where the circles no longer intersect. Last week Chairman Xi Jinping of China, promoted recently to what amounts to a lifetime term as his country’s leader, ominously told his military to “focus all its energy on fighting” in preparation for war, while our military focuses on appropriate pronouns (see the US Air Force Pacific Command’s guidance on avoiding gendered pronouns). 

Our prospects are grim unless we change course immediately. Our weakened country has split apart and the principal fault lies with those who contrive divisive issues to serve their own political ambition.

Julie Hartman is a broadcast host based in Los Angeles for the Salem Media Group. She co-hosts a show with Dennis Prager, “Dennis & Julie,” and in the next week, her YouTube live and Salem News Channel show, “Timeless with Julie Hartman,” will launch. Julie also serves as a standing guest host for Salem’s nationally syndicated talk radio shows.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 

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