Fringe political candidates are now the norm and gaining in power, and each win evaporates the center. Here’s how we got here and why it matters…
President Trump will soon nominate his second Supreme Court justice. The first, Neil Gorsuch, has so perfectly replaced the late Antonin Scalia that it’s safe to assume retiring justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor will be in the same mold – which is to say formidable and unapologetically conservative. The result will be a solid conservative majority that’s more definite and less flexible on the issues where Kennedy was a swing vote.
And that’s if Notorious RBG manages to hang on through the Trump era. If she goes (and at 85 she’s likely to go soon one way or another) Trump will be one of those extremely rare presidents who gets to name THREE justices, thus extending his influence from four years to an entire generation.
Among the possible results of such a conservative judicial super-majority are the reversal of rulings that made abortion and gay marriage the laws of the land, making both state-level issues once again, where they’ll further polarize already-divided electorates.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are lurching waaayyy left. The implosion of the moderate Clinton wing of the party began during the past presidential election, when huge parts of the left openly supported socialist Bernie Sanders. This group now sees Elizabeth Warren – Bernie Sanders with a penchant for verbal street fighting – as the ideal candidate next time around. And despite a fairly consequential set of primary elections last Tuesday, pretty much all anyone is talking about is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a latina “democratic socialist” who unseated a previously entrenched moderate incumbent and is now a lock to win a Bronx congressional seat in November – on a Sanders-esque platform of free everything for everyone and wide-open borders.
Each side is, as a result, finding it really easy to dehumanize the other. After Trump’s press secretary and family are evicted from a restaurant because the owner opposes Trump’s immigration policy, Democrat Senator Maxine Waters encourages liberals to make this a pattern by confronting White House officials in public whenever possible. Waters then gets death threats and responds “If you shoot at me, you better shoot straight.”
But wait, there’s more. This past Saturday:
They came from all over, took planes and buses from 47 states, slept at friends’ homes or in churches and prepared to be arrested Thursday in Washington, D.C. Most of the participants were white women, stumbling over the syllables of Spanish-language chants. Many had never faced arrest before. But here they were.
Capitol Police said 575 protesters were arrested and escorted out of the Hart Senate Office Building in a mass demonstration that called for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and an end to migrant family detentions and the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
They were charged with unlawfully demonstrating, a misdemeanor.
“I have two kids, and as a white mother, there is almost no circumstance that they would be taken away from me – ever,” said Victoria Farris, who slept Wednesday night in All Souls Church after participating in civil disobedience training. “I was awake one night because I couldn’t sleep thinking about all those [immigrant] mothers and terrified children. I realized I had to do something more than protest, more than make a sign and march.”
Just after 3 p.m., protesters were rounded up in groups of a dozen or more and led out of the building.
“Abolish ICE,” they shouted as more were moved out. “Shut it down.”
A riot was declared in downtown Portland, Oregon on Saturday evening as the city exploded into its worst protest violence of the Trump era.
More than 150 supporters of the far-right Patriot Prayer group fought pitched street battles with scores of anti-fascist protesters. In total, nine people were arrested.
The far-right march had started near Schrunk Plaza in the city centre, where the rightwing group had held a rally, led by the Patriot Prayer founder and Republican US Senate candidate Joey Gibson.
As soon as the group left the plaza, they clashed with anti-fascists who had been waiting across a heavily barricaded street nearby.
As the two groups came to blows, Department of Homeland Security officers fired non-lethal ammunition towards the counter-protest.
What does all this late-1960s-esque turbulence mean and how does it tie into the populist wave that’s sweeping the rest of the world? The simple answer is that when a society borrows too much money it loses the ability to keep its people happy. The big systems stop working as pension plans and local governments run out of money, inequality becomes a chasm as the people with assets get richer while the people with debts sink into poverty, and disaffected voters lose faith in the establishment to address their needs. And they come to hate the people on the other side of major issues — even though those people are frequently also victims of the elites’ predation.
Each election becomes an adventure in which formerly fringe candidates do progressively better until they end up taking power. At which point the discredited center evaporates and everyone chooses one extreme or the other, losing any remaining shred of empathy for their political opponents.
And media accounts like this become the conventional wisdom:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was even kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because the owner and employees disliked her politics. This seems like a small thing, but it would have been largely unthinkable a generation ago.
And, in a somewhat less “soft” manifestation, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was bullied out of a restaurant by an angry anti-Trump mob, and a similar mob also showed up outside of her home.
Will it get worse? Probably. To have a civil war, soft or otherwise, takes two sides. But as pseudonymous tweeter Thomas H. Crown notes, it’s childishly easy in these days to identify people in mobs, and then to dispatch similar mobs to their homes and workplaces. Eventually, he notes, it becomes “protesters all the way down, and if we haven’t yet figured out that can lead to political violence, we’re dumb.”
Political contempt is the problem
Marriage counselors say that when a couple view one another with contempt, it’s a top indicator that the relationship is likely to fail. Americans, who used to know how to disagree with one another without being mutually contemptuous, seem to be forgetting this. And the news media, which promote shrieking outrage in pursuit of ratings and page views, are making the problem worse.