The other day I read an article which analyzes the prospect of mass, armed violence on America’s near horizon.
I began thinking about it in the context of my recent post where I talked about the sense that people on the left witness an entirely different reality than that of people on the right. I have several times thought to share the above article with her, asking how she would interpret its analysis. To me I think the conclusions sound spot on. She has also expressed concerns that the downward spiral of America’s discourse is irreversible. But does she seem the same causes as I do? Doubtful. Would she agree with the “solutions” presented in this article? Even more doubtful.
I have yet to share this article anywhere but with you, my readers. The problem is, it is a fairly substantial article, much of which talks about the failed policies of America’s progressives.
There is a quote that I am unable to find. I thought it was from this article, but search as I might, I can’t locate it. It may have been in a referencing link to this article, or taken from another context about the same situation. The point, essentially, is that once we descend into violence, the question of who is at fault, who started it, will be of little concern to the participants. Historians may write about the roots of America’s Second Civil War and try to attach some blame, although even then it is more likely they will just bolster the righteousness of the ultimate victors.
It seems apparent that we are already, today, beyond the point where there is an identifiable perpetrator and victim. The reactionary forces within our body politic are prepared to retaliate against the latest attack, regardless of what lead up to it. In this sense, the long discussion of how and why the acts of progressives have become intolerable is mostly irrelevant. Can a liberal reader see through what is essentially an assault on their identity into the analysis that, I would say, makes for the meat of this article?
And what is that?
The author proposes that the 2018 and 2020 elections will be the next catalyst that will propel this country forward into its “new equilibrium.” By that, he means a new stable state that comes after the highly volatile situation we find ourselves in today. That state may take any number of forms but I think it’s impossible that we stay in the current political environment for much longer. Just as the author states that he does not predict the outcome of the elections, only what the results of the various outcomes will be, I also think dwelling on the righteousness of the winners and losers is a distraction from the analysis that he presents.
From hours after the results of the presidential election of 2016 became apparent, the left has focused their efforts on the election of 2018. In that, you may feel they are on the side of the angels, or you may disagree their near-maniacal anti-Trump focus. In any case, I think we can all agree that a plan and the intent to bring it to fruition indeed exists. Should the left “win” the election in a week or so, every tactic they have employed to get to that end will be, to them, justified. We also know that 2018 is merely preparatory for 2020. The goal of a 2018 victory will be to impeach, or at a minimum obstruct, Donald Trump.
I put “win” in quotes as this is subjective. What is a win for the Democrats? Gaining a majority in the House and Senate? Just the House? Is merely picking up a certain number of “red” seats sufficient? How about for the Republicans. Is merely holding on to the Senate sufficient to be a victory? All this is important because what happens next is less dependent on the political makeup of the resulting government and more upon the various sides’ perception of what happened.
I’ll also take a moment for a bit of an aside. The author uses the terms “the left” and “the ruling class” to be mostly interchangeable. To a progressive activist like my friend, however, these are opposites. I think it is important to consider that a progressive could (and, now that I think about it, probably has) written a very similar article talking about the sinister power grabs of the ruling class and how the reactionary right hands the means to do that. To the right, Donald Trump is the corporate outsider, hacking away at the alligators as he attempts to drain the swamp. To the left, he is the perfect example of a corporate overlord, a member of the elitist class that endlessly brushes aside any attempts to constrain, through democracy, attempts to curb their destructive behaviors.
He makes (roughly speaking) a four-branch tree of outcomes, based on Republican versus Democrat victories over the next two elections. Essentially, he predicts all but one will end in warfare. The Democratic takeover of the Presidency he gives as a kind of a default outcome, in that it follows in more-or-less a straight line the path that we are on. He foresees that party and the ruling class, having dispensed with the niceties of civil discourse, now in possession of the full power of State apparatus. They face off against a group, now completely cut off from power, that has learned a hard set of lessons from the “resistance” that put them there.
The article speaks about the fact that self-restraint, the inner control which prevents us from entering into violence against our fellow citizens, has already left the building. From my personal experience, his description of those on the right is accurate. He writes, “The conservatives, among whom the zealot’s taste for taking the speck out of the neighbor’s eye is not widespread, revere self-restraint in principle, but are learning to transgress against it in practice.” In this he contrasts them with liberals, for whom he says restraint is “anathema in principle as well as in practice.”
I think he simplifies a more nuanced situation. I note he uses the word “restraint,” and that is important. Conservatives are apt to talk a good game. Violence in defense of home and family, or even honor, is often talked about and even considered justified. It is but rarely invoked. Liberals often mistake the sentiment that “so and so deserves a good ass-kicking” to imply a propensity to do just that. Yet, it is exceedingly rare because whatever the conservative might think could be done, their sense of higher purpose restrains them.
Progressives on the other hand, I think, define violence a little differently. Screaming in someone’s face or denying a Trump supporter’s humanity is, whatever it may be, not violent. Nobody is shot and nobody is stabbed, so no “restraint” is required. Indeed, screaming a political figure and his family out of a restaurant may feel less inappropriate then the idle comment post-incident that “They better not try that on me, I’m armed.”
Point being, just as the author sees the progressive left as having pushed conservatives over the edge into violence, no doubt progressives themselves see the reverse as true, and the truth of it just as obvious. I make that point, perhaps, to help liberal reader get through the accusatory parts of the linked text. I also think it is why the current downward spiral is unrecoverable – in our minds, we are already reacting to actual violence perpetrated upon us by the other.
Back to those four outcomes. The author proposes that the only chance of peace in our time is a double Republican victory.
A loss in November will cause the left to question their emphasis on “resistance” and the tactics they used against Kavanaugh. Indeed they may temper their approach. In contrast, success in November tells them they are on the right track and need to ramp up their efforts further. His one downside for a Republican victory is that he figures it will lock-in Trump as the standard bearer for 2020 which, in his words, “would add its own level of uncertainty to the outcome.”
Two losses in a row would send a clear message to the left that this country is on the wrong track and put the ball of reconciliation into their court. Having failed to run Trump out on a rail and faced with eight straight years of Republican rule (plus decades of a conservative majority on the Supreme court), they would have every reason to seek a fair compromise. Such a compromise, he suggests, might be found in allowing States to go their own way.
So how would the other side view these conclusions?
Of course, if you are on the right, your only solution is a solid string of victories and every other way leads to disaster. Similarly, I’m sure the left sees the only way to peace via winning in November, impeaching Trump, and then putting Hillary into the White House in 2020. What, though, comes of their consideration of the author’s prediction about the results of that outcome? Do they intend to “crush” the “alt-right,” but see them as such a fringe minority that they don’t matter? Or do they figure conservatives, unlike themselves, will accept reversals at the polls with quiet dignity (and when did they start viewing conservatives so generously)?
These things I would like to know.