The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.

Summary: Many people yearn for civility in politics and for rational compromise to rule. But we drove past the last exit to those outcomes. The middle is defeated, irrelevant. Look at the extremes to see America’s future. Imagine the brutal irrational conflict that will produce a winner.

“What’s past is prologue.”
— Antonio, in Act II Scene 1 of “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.

Registered sex offender busted reading in the Draq Queen Story Time. Also see Second Child Sex Offender Unmasked at Drag Queen Story Time.

Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of the New York Post, writes more about this at First Things.

“The only way is through – that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good. {David} French prefers a different Christian strategy …my complaint about his politeness wasn’t a wanton attack; it implicated deeper matters.

“Such talk – of politics as war and enmity – is thoroughly alien to French, I think, because he believes that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side. Even if the latter – that is, the libertine and the pagan – predominate in elite institutions, French figures, then at least the former, traditional Christians, should be granted spaces in which to practice and preach what they sincerely believe.

“Well, it doesn’t work out that way, and it hasn’t been working out that way for a long time – as French well knows, since he has spent a considerable part of his career admirably and passionately advocating for Christians coercively squeezed out of the public square. In that time, he – we – have won discrete victories, but the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us, and I think that French-ian model bears some of the blame. …

Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.”

Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote a rebuttal at National Review: “Civility Is an Essential, First-Tier Political Value.

“The Kavanaugh hearings, as it happened, had me more convinced than ever that civility and decency must be first-tier values in politics. The contempt in the air is something of a social madness. It’s our moral duty to insist on decency, by leading with something better. We all have our roles, but as Pulitzer Prize winner Peggy Noonan put it in her commencement address at Notre Dame this year: “The secret of successful politics: Be moved more by what you love than what you hate.” Life, too, as it happens. That doesn’t mean we don’t disagree, and deeply. But it also means we might find still find a meeting place in our common humanity in the middle of some of our most contentious and necessary debates.”

Available at Amazon.

She points to The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump by conservative Trump-hater Peter Wehner (2019) – “Any nation that elects Donald Trump to be its president has a remarkably low view of politics.” From the publisher …

“Frustrated and feeling betrayed, Americans have come to loathe politics with disastrous results, argues Peter Wehner. In this timely manifesto, the veteran of three Republican administrations and man of faith offers a reasoned and persuasive argument for restoring ‘politics’ as a worthy calling to a cynical and disillusioned generation of Americans.

“Wehner has long been one of the leading conservative critics of Donald Trump and his effect on the Republican Party. In this impassioned book, he makes clear that unless we overcome the despair that has caused citizens to abandon hope in the primary means for improving our world – the political process – we will not only fall victim to despots but hasten the decline of what has truly made America great. Drawing on history and experience, he reminds us of the hard lessons we have learned about how we rule ourselves – why we have checks and balances, why no one is above the law, why we defend the rights of even those we disagree with.

“Wehner believes we can turn the country around, but only if we abandon our hatred and learn to appreciate and honor the unique and noble American tradition of doing ‘politics.’ If we want the great American experiment to continue and to once again prosper, we must once more take up the responsibility each and every one of us as citizens share.”

Revolution

A different perspective: there is no room for Erasmus

Lopez and Wehner are wrong. Wehner shows one reason why. Trump has governed as a standard right-wing president and made few changes. He has continued most of the Bush-Obama era policies (especially our foreign wars and domestic security state). He has withdrawn from several treaties, but conservatives have always hated the treaties that kept us safe in the post-WWII era. He is a moderate compared to the GOP’s right-wing.

I believe the hysteria about Trump unexceptional actions (and his exciting Tweets) masks something far more important: the coming Right-Left clash. The Left has had several generations of success in their great project of wrecking our civilization and building a new one on its ruins. Conservatives are slowly realizing that they must act soon or face compete defeat. The Left owns the educational institutions (and many other key institutions), and is indoctrinating future Americans. Their speech suppression programs dominate college campuses, and are moving (with the help of the tech titans) across America. Open borders are coming with the Democrat’s next win, as immigration is already drastically reshaping America’s core values.

One side is winning, and sees no need to compromise. Time is their invincible ally. The other side must fight or go into history’s dustbin. There is no middle ground.

This is a common situation in history. The antebellum American regime crashed on the desire of slaveholders to expand into new States and abolitionists’ desire to end slavery. The moderate middle had to choose a side or sit on the sidelines (irrelevancy).

Further back. Erasmus (1466 – 1536) was one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance. He foresaw the horrific damage that would result from a split in Christendom, but a lifetime of brilliant work could not prevent it. He became an irrelevant footnote in the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-reformation. The middle could not hold.

Many of the people writing today about American politics are little Erasmuses (e.g., me). Mild intellectuals, marshaling facts and reason to chart a path to a better America. But the action is on the fringes. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not know much (much of what she knows is wrong), but she and those like her are the stars on the Left. The Right is responding with equally delusional and vivid figures. The middle looks drab and boring by comparison. To a people that want entertainment. the slippery slope to Hell looks appealing.

Meanwhile, our vital institutions are falling like dominoes into dysfunction. They are hollow because we no longer love them. We have forgotten that we are the crew of America, not passengers – and that America is ours to keep – or to lose.

I believe that we will face some difficult choices in the next generation. Or we can remain passive and apathetic, and let our betters fight among themselves for the right to rule us. Might makes right. It is always about choices and responsibility.

William Butler Yeats by George Charles Beresford
By George Charles Beresford.

Afterword

The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1921). This is us, today.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

For more information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Constitution, about reforming America: steps to political change, and especially these…

  1. Conservatives tell us not to worry about the Constitution’s death.
  2. Origins of what may become the 3rd American Republic (a plutocracy).
  3. “Lawfare” – using the law to undermine the Constitution (a powerful tool in the quiet coup now in progress).
  4. We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!
  5. Fear the rise of political violence in America. We can still stop it. – Written two years ago. Today I doubt we can.
  6. ImportantA new, dark picture of America’s future.
  7. America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. It’s worse.
  8. America’s foes reveal themselves. They are many & strong.

Let’s learn from other’s tragedies.

Dick Schumann: "Political Violence in the Weimar Republic 1918-1933: Battles for the Streets and Fears of Civil War"
Available at Amazon.

Political Violence in the Weimar Republic, 1918-1933:
Fight for the Streets and Fear of Civil War
.

By Dirk Schumann.

It can happen here. We cannot predict if the far Left or Right will win, any more than Germans in 1928 could know their future. From the publisher …

“The Prussian province of Saxony – where the Communist uprising of March 1921 took place and two Combat Leagues were founded – is widely recognized as a politically important region in this period of German history. Using a case study of this socially diverse province, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of political violence in Weimar Germany with particular emphasis on the political culture from which it emerged. It refutes both the claim that the Bolshevik revolution was the prime cause of violence, and the argument that the First World War’s all-encompassing “brutalization” doomed post-1918 German political life from the very beginning.

“The study thus contributes to a view of the Weimar Republic as a state in severe crisis but with alternatives to the Nazi takeover.”

22 thoughts on “The middle in American politics has died. Now extremists rule.

  1. Larry,

    It seems to me the middle is alive and well, hiding out in front of their TV sets and computer monitors, angry after working their asses off all day to pay bills and make ends meet.

    They ventured out one day in November of 2016 to reject CAGW, liberalism, and globalism, and voted in a conservative billionaire with bad hair and bad tweets. Deplorable to say the least.

    This talk of civil war/armed conflict is nonsense. We are already in it and will continue until that next November day in 2020. It’s just a war of words inflamed by talking head Trump haters on cable news and some mild intellectuals with successful internet blogs.

    No worries…I hope.

    1. Ron,

      I disagree on all points. Totally.

      “It seems to me the middle is alive and well, hiding out in front of their TV sets and computer monitors,”

      In politics, that is death. The world is made by those who dream and strive.

      “They ventured out one day in November of 2016 to reject CAGW, liberalism, and globalism”

      First, Trump’s voters were a minority and roughly the same people (but fewer) who elected Bush Jr.

      Second, if those were their goals (surveys are a weak tool to see such things, and they don’t agree about 2016) – they made a bad choice. Historians will work hard to see any substantive differences in policy between Bush Jr, Obama, and Trump. The big difference m/b a trade war followed by a recession – giving the Dems an opportunity to win in 2020.

      “This talk of civil war/armed conflict is nonsense. We are already in it and will continue until that next {election}.”

      Americans are war crazy. Everything is war. Wars on poverty, cancer, blah blah. Wars are violence. The civil war you describe is mostly peons whining on 21st century commo tech. Many don’t even vote, let alone work the political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders. When I advocate doing that in posts, the comments overflow with cries of helplessness and surrender.

      When they take to the streets we might (perhaps) be sliding into civil conflict – as that would be a first step to action.

      “It’s just a war of words”

      That’s a contradiction in terms. A phrase invented by English professors to glorify their arguments with each other.

      As I said in this post, the extremist minority – Left and Right – are will to dream and strive. They will decide who governs America – unless something wakes up America.

      1. Larry,

        “I disagree on all points. Totally.”

        I had no doubt.

        “First, Trump’s voters were a minority and roughly the same people (but fewer) who elected Bush Jr.”

        It doesn’t matter, Trump won by electoral college votes, he ran a better campaign.

        “Historians will work hard to see any substantive differences in policy between Bush Jr, Obama, and Trump.”

        Both Bush Jr. and Obama were bums. Trump’s legacy remains to be seen.

        “Americans are war crazy. Everything is war. Wars on poverty, cancer, blah blah. Wars are violence. The civil war you describe is mostly peons whining on 21st century commo tech. Many don’t even vote, let alone work the political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders. When I advocate doing that in posts, the comments overflow with cries of helplessness and surrender.”

        I agree.

        “When they take to the streets we might (perhaps) be sliding into civil conflict – as that would be a first step to action.”

        I disagree. Walking and carrying signs at most, this isn’t the good old days of Vietnam. Even Trump isn’t as stupid as Johnson was.

      2. Ron,

        You don’t appear to understand some of what I said.

        “Trump won by electoral college votes, he ran a better campaign.”

        I was not challenging the legitimacy of the result, but your statement that “They ventured out one day in November of 2016 …” “They” were a minority in two senses. First, in numbers (irrespective of the electoral college). Second, surveys are quite clear that only a minority reject “liberalism, and globalism” (and not the same minorities). Also, who ran the better campaign is irrelevant to what I said.

        “Both Bush Jr. and Obama were bums.”

        That is silly. Bush Jr’s accomplishments (whether you like them or not) were on a scale achieved by few presidents. To help you remember, see this post and this post. Calling Obama a “bum” is a schoolyard insult, too foolish to warrant reply.

        “Trump’s legacy remains to be seen.”

        Trump is in his third year of office. His policies differ little from those of his predecessors. That can be seen, even if you prefer not to. While he could change course, there is little precedent for that in US history. Among other reasons, that would require yet another purge of his appointees – throwing his administration into total chaos.

        “Walking and carrying signs at most, this isn’t the good old days of Vietnam.”

        Again you ignore what I said. First, whining on social media while sitting on butts isn’t “war” – no matter how you try to glorify it. Second, the Yellow Vests and America college mobs disprove you belief about the ineffectiveness of taking to the streets. Third, that was one example. There are many other forms of collective action. The people who act will shape America, even if their numbers are small – so long as the majority remains passive.

  2. Some binary issues in some nations come to dominate politics so much that the voters align on one or the other choice. All other matters become insignificant to voters.

    The parties that win in these cases are the ones that adopt a definite clear position on one side of such issues. The ones who insist on campaigning on other issues or on their traditional issues become irrelevant.

    There have been two cases in Britain in recent years, with dramatic effects on the politics. The first was Scottish independence. That became one of these defining issues. The Labour party, who had traditionally dominated Scottish politics, did not take a very clear position and tried to campaign on their traditional left platform and issues. They first vanished from the local elections to the Scottish Parliament, and recently were wiped out in the elections to the European Parliament.

    The second case has been Brexit. The European elections showed the Conservatives and Labour vanishing into irrelevance, replaced by the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats. One advocating immediate withdrawal, the other reversal of the decision to withdraw.

    The latest polls suggest this split is increasing in force. One showed the Liberal Democrats leading in UK Parliament voting intentions. Extraordinary, these guys are the classic minority party, wrecked themselves by entering a coalition in the Cameron government, down to a handful of MPs. A second showed the Brexit party leading in general election intentions, with Labour and Conservatives in third and fourth place behind the Liberals.

    The moral is simple enough: when the population divides on an issue in this way, you have to have a clear position on it and orient your policies around it. Or they will vote for someone who does.

    In America the issues are more cultural and less defined policy choices, but the same kind of binary hardening seems to be happening. The difference from the UK is that the parties are aligning on the cultural issues already.

    Or, and it would be interesting to know what Larry thinks of this, is it that the parties were already culturally aligned and are driving the split in the voting public? Is it somewhat the reverse of the British example?

    1. henrik,

      “In America the issues are more cultural and less defined policy choices, but the same kind of binary hardening seems to be happening.”

      I believe you are conflating two different phenomena. First, where there is one issue dominating politics – on which there is little room for compromise. Slavery, Brexit, etc. This is, fortunately, rare.

      The second is where a one dimensional split occurs, dividing politics into two teams. By convention (for historical reasons) we usually call these “Left” and “Right.” That is a commonplace in the UK and US, although other societies have different patterns. There are good reasons for this, imo. This pattern has served us well, as such things go.

      Sometimes the nature of the teams shift – aka political realignment. The level of intensity of political intensity varies over time. During times of realignment, intensity is (for obvious reason) usually high. That’s clearly happening in the US. But there are other dynamics in motion, as well.

      1. Yes, you’re right, there is a clear difference between the two cases. In the UK cases there is a binary choice issue of such importance to the public that it overwhelms all other previous considerations.

        In the US case its rather that sets of attitudes seem to coalesce into sets, and then party allegiances get made up of people who assent to all or most of the attitudes in one set or the other.

        The thing that always puzzles me is the makeup of the sets. Why, for instance, should it be true that people who favor restrictions on abortion also generally be skeptical about global warming? And one could name lots of other examples where the attitudes and beliefs that coalesce seem to have nothing to do with each other, logically.

      2. Henrik,

        The dynamics of team formation are complex and somewhat random. But the example you give has a simple explanation: belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW, not just warming or climate change) and almost unrestricted abortion are part of the ruling Leftist establishment. Once people make a break with one aspect, skepticism of other aspects comes more easily.

        More broadly, “enemies of my enemy are my friend.” A hegemony, esp. a highly intolerant one like that ruling America today, tends to push its opponents “beyond the pale” – where they become allies.

  3. I may have missed it, but it appears that you predominantly spent most of the article critiquing Wehner, rather than Ahmari. Do you have a critique of his article?

    PS I read your post yesterday and posted a question about your take on Cathy young and her work, but I am unsure if you saw it.

    1. Isaac,

      The Drag Queen Reading Hour for children and Ahman’s response were representative of the two sides in the Left-Right struggle. I have an opinion on each side, but that’s not relevant to the post – which is about their clash.

      Thanks for the reminder about your question concerning Cathy Young. I’ll post an answer.

  4. It seems extremists have much more motivation to do what it takes to achieve their goals. Its no coincidence that far-left bolsheviks in russia was so relentless and had everyone even slight to the right of them or not completely with their program shot(red terror).

      1. I think because as the more ideologically committed it is their religion.

        Their very reason for being to bring upon a utopia of equality or whatever idea they fervently believe in. And nothing is going to stand in the way of them achieving what they have been unjustly denied as they believe. Combined with strong tribalism that. Centrists are less likely to have.

        But on the top of the rungs either an unquenchible thirst for power of which the ideology is a means to that end or that combined with their genuine belief in the ideology.

      2. info,

        History shows that people often fight very strongly to defend their society – as it is the future of their children and community.

        That people fight most strongly for their ideology or religion is a myth.

      3. “History shows that people often fight very strongly to defend their society – as it is the future of their children and community.

        That people fight most strongly for their ideology or religion is a myth.”

        You are certainly correct in the 1st statement. Although I would have to enquire of the 2nd statement.

        You think religions can’t serve to create a synthetic tribe? Like what happened with the LDS and Amish?

        Therefore making them into a society with their own children and distinct communities?

      4. Going deeper into this topic. I think you will find this an interesting read: “BIOLOGICAL LENINISM” by Spandrell at Bloody Shovel 2 – “This is the first of three essays on the topic of Biological Leninism, the organizational principle of the contemporary left.”

        Its about the hypothesis of the use of naturally low status people and offering them high status. Therefore ensuing their undying loyalty since without the party they would be low status. In this way allowing those who use this method to gain power.

      5. info,

        Spandrell has fun with words. “Marxism”, “Leninism” – which I doubt Spandrell understands. Lots of making stuff up, like “inborn traits which lead to being rich.” The title is great, suggesting “don’t read this.”

      6. Okay. Now your point about religion. I cited the mormons and amish as examples of communities first bound by religion than by intermarriage and so forth. Thoughts?

  5. People of moderate temperament and outlook are fond of saying that we need to restore reason and civility to the public sphere. A wonderful idea, in principle, but for the reality that humans are not terribly rational creatures, generally speaking. Reasoning is hard; to be logical and orderly requires great effort; thinking clearly is a great deal of work. So much easier to get angry or passionate about something.

    No amount of logic, no quantity of verifiable facts, will prevail against a belief stubbornly and passionately held.
    The Left inculcates this passion in our young with a Narrative of oppression and injustice and victimization and existential crisis, repeated until it hurts. A great wrong has occurred that begs to be corrected.

    A principle difference between the Left and the Right, one which makes the Left inherently attractive, is the remarkably persistent belief in Utopia, which, when you think about it, is a lot like a Heaven that you don’t have to die to experience. The Right has no counterpart touchstone belief. It offers no vision of Salvation, no warm fuzzies. Just bitter medicine. Work hard, pay your taxes, toe the line, keep it zipped, control your impulses versus Kumbayah rainbows and free stuff for all. If you are a young and impressionable person, which model would you find more attractive?

    At this late date, logic and civility seem unlikely to save us. We are too dug in. The Left has to be beaten somehow, thoroughly and unambiguously, exact methods to be determined. That’s a really long game, uphill, with a strong headwind. But not impossible. Which, if I read you correctly, is more or less your point.

    Hard to be optimistic. I think a great fragmentation is in our future, absent some unforeseen dramatic, galvanizing event. A string of suitcase nukes in the waterfront districts of the Nation’s ports, or something similarly dramatic, might get our attention.

    1. Scott,

      All sad but true.

      “I think a great fragmentation is in our future, absent some unforeseen dramatic, galvanizing event.”

      The rule about these kinds of conflicts is that the end is unexpected.

      “A string of suitcase nukes in the waterfront districts of the Nation’s ports, or something similarly dramatic, might get our attention.”

      Every single discussion about social conflicts in American gets comments about the great blood-letting coming. We love love love war, and are blind to other outcomes. This is odd for a people whose major problems are caused by their passivity and apathy, rooted to their butts in front of their screens. My guess is that the rhetoric about rivers of blood is a compensation for our awareness that we are the problem.

      1. Reason is hard, but unity possibly even harder. I recognize a glint of bloodlust in my own take on the future, and the better part of me recoils from it. It’s imaginary score-settling.

        I suspect that a more likely outcome is a gradual, informal, dissolution punctuated by flashpoints. The creeping, apparently unstoppable rejection of Federal marijuana law might be the opening act.

      2. Scott,

        “I suspect that a more likely outcome is a gradual, informal, dissolution punctuated by flashpoints.”

        My guess (guess!) is that the conflict between Left and Right will increase in intensity. We already see this, with a slow increase in violence, an big increase in rhetoric justifying violence, and both sides resorting to lawfare to politically cripple their foes – or overturn elections. At some point I expect this to “cross the rubicon”, leading to regime collapse.

        Then we might see “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis” – the 18th century (not Hegel) belief of oscillation followed by merged or combo system (e.g., end of the War of the Roses and the English Civil War). That’s the kind of good outcome that built the Anglo-American political system, a pillar of our success. But the more common outcome in history is that one side will win. But neither side is interested in democracy.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.