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October 18, 2007

Cold Civil War

Mark Steyn comments on this phenomenon, but I think he fails to adequately address the underlying problem behind displays such as this.

Americans do not agree on the basic meaning of the last seven years. If you drive around an Ivy League college town -- home to the nation's best and brightest, allegedly -- you notice a wide range of bumper stickers, from the anticipatory ("01/20/09" -- the day of liberation from the Bush tyranny) to the profane ("Buck Fush") to the myopically self-indulgent ("Regime Change Begins At Home") to the exhibitionist paranoid ("9/11 Was An Inside Job"). Let's assume, as polls suggest, that next year's presidential election is pretty open: might be a Democrat, might be a Republican. Suppose it's another 50/50 election with a narrow GOP victory dependent on the electoral college votes of one closely divided state. It's not hard to foresee those stickered Dems concluding that the system has now been entirely delegitimized.

The problem, it seems, is not that the two sides are unwilling to talk. The problem is instead that one side has determined that any outcome other than one favoring them and their preferred policy outcomes is illegitimate. However, the American people have rejected those outcomes on a consistent basis in every presidential election since 1968. All but three of those races have been won by moderate-to-conservative Republicans and the three victories by Democrats have been won by individuals who ran as centrist Democrats. New Deal liberalism not to mention great Society liberalism has been rejected by the American people at every opportunity. And since the more extreme liberals have been rejected nationally at every opportunity, these same liberals insist that it must be chicanery and fraud that has been at the heart of the defeats. After all, they have embraced the Marxist paradigm that their desired ends are progress (hence the adoption of the term progressive).

But if the Left rejects the legitimacy of the Right and the success of its ideas and policies (if not always its candidates), where is there room for dialogue? Wherein is the ground for compromise and collaboration when the most vocal elements of that Left coalition insist that their opponents are not merely wrong, but actually are evil and must be crushed? How can we achieve consensus when the starting point of one side is that the other is no different than Hitler and that compromise is collaboration of the sort engaged in by Norways Quisling or the Vichy government in France?

If politics is, as has oft been said, the art of the possible, does the intransigence and denunciation of deviation from the ideologically pure platform demanded by the most vocal element of the Left constitute the death-knell of the politics of consensus-building in America? And if one side becomes so invested in its ideology that the defeat of the American military by a foreign foe is seen as a net positive or its agenda, does there remain any hope for the future of American politics as we once knew it?

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