Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Here's the biggest problem...

...facing America, in a nutshell.

On Charlie Rose this week (air date 1/10/2016), Republican strategist Frank Luntz had this to say about President Obama (with about 44 minutes remaining):

You have to look at where he could have been. If you go back to 2008, 2009, he could have ushered in a period of post-partisanship. And he chose not to. He could have brought in Republicans and not allowed Nancy Pelosi to basically say, "It's our way or the highway." He had that brief opportunity to do it, and he chose not to. And by the way, I don't blame him; I actually blame former Speaker Pelosi for that. And so I saw an opportunity -- one brief moment -- when he could have changed the entire political system, and he chose not to. And so that was a missed opportunity. And, second, yes, the Congress has been absolutely opposed to him because in the end his signature legislation, health care, only 38 percent supported it on the day that it was passed. You had a clear majority who was against it. So here he is trying to promote legislation that the American people said, "Please, Mr. President, don't." He was right to focus on the issue, but his approach was wrong. And the legislation was wrong. And, still, a majority of Americans opposed it.

Now, there's a lot to "unpack" here -- sheesh! -- and I could refute it point by point. But I won't, because the purpose of this post is to point out how Americans on the right and left live in different universes.

(By the way, I don't for a minute think Mr. Luntz actually believes any of that nonsense -- he's too smart. But a lot of Americans do, in part because people like him keep saying stuff like that.)

It's not enough, really, to say that Americans are more polarized than ever, that we disagree on policy. No, the truth is, we can't even agree on the facts. We have a different view of reality. And what does that mean? It means we're in the midst of a modern-day religious war. But unlike religious wars, in which Protestants and Catholics, say, ultimately agreed to disagree and attend the church of their choice on Sundays, Americans of the right and left must coexist under the same government.

So how does this thing resolve itself? As I once heard George Will say, by elections.

Just as one side eventually wins a civil war, so will the vision of the right or the left prevail. Which one will it be? Aside from having the facts on their side (which we can't agree on anyway), the Democrats have demographics working in their favor. The country is just getting less white, less Christian and less rural. And their worldview is just plain dying out.

(If you want a look at the future of America, come to my neighborhood and check out the students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It might look a little different from State U. back in the 1950s.)

Another example is California. It wasn't too long ago that the Golden State was positively paralyzed by political polarization (no alliteration intended). But, through sheer demographics, California is now under one-party control and prospering again. I expect that to happen in the rest of the country as well. It may take a while, but it's coming.

In the meantime, when you have to listen to your crazy uncle at the Thanksgiving table (or my sister), do yourself a favor and just nod silently. It does no good to argue with someone who lives in a parallel reality. Instead, as the president said in the video at the top of this post, "Don't boo -- vote!"

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

There really is an extreme amount of "soft" racism, and the outright protecting and defending of "white privilege" that goes on in America (and with my relatives). "THOSE People", "Lazy", "Freeloaders", "Handouts" and other terms are thrown about. And as the President said, there are many on the right that have their own "facts" ( about global warming, etc ) - even when we can all agree on the facts, we live under different assumptions and mindsets. I believe the mindset on the right to be very hierarchical ( white men on top) , and a very narrow scope ( I've got mine, family centered ), while on the left is it a lot more egalitarian with a wider scope - ( we're in this together, and we all have to live in a society ).