What will it take to break the fever?

Posted in Politics and Justice by EloiSVM42 on August 16, 2018

Forget about achieving bipartisanship. What will it take to end the febrile animosity between the parties enough to get something, anything, constructive, logical, and reasonably farsighted done?

I’m not even sure where all this began, but I have a theory. Some say it began with the Vietnam War; some say the murders of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr.; and some point to Nixon and the Watergate scandal, all of which damaged our trust in our institutions, and they should have.

The Roe v Wade decision in 1973 certainly animated religious conservatives.

“Women’s lib” unsettled a lot of misogynistic, self-satisfied males. Then there’s income inequality, which began up-ticking circa 1980, when President Reagan told us greed is good, and many were stupid enough to believe him.

Some think it’s the dawning on us of the realities of (inevitable) globalization. President Clinton’s alpha male indiscretions off put many, even though he was a popular, successful president, and somehow this offense was transferred over to his wife, who has suffered for it.

And, of course, the flashpoint today is fear of the increase of Hispanics in the country and their influence on our culture.

But we’ve had all of these issues before – turmoil over wars, poor presidents, economic disruption and scandal (remember the Gilded Age?) and immigration fears – without such fever for so long.

The answer seems to me that these events were as kindling piled one piece on another over time, which were ignited by the election of Barak Obama. A black man in the white house was the last straw for some people.

The resulting revulsion put an egregiously unqualified man in the white house instead, one deplored by the majority but adored by a base of very angry people. A big chuck of this base, demographically, are white, uneducated males and their mates and, to put mildly and politely, religious conservatives (read wingnuts). In other words, the base got one of its own, or at least someone who talked and acted like one.

It is clear to me that I am a part of the problem. I do not respect these people. I don’t like ignorance, particularly determined ignorance; or bigotry, or misogyny, or xenophobia. I just don’t like people who think like that – in fact, I loathe and despise them – and I look down on them, which they obviously sense and resent from people like me.

That said, there is no doubt that both major political parties have failed these fellow citizens. But they have also failed themselves, particularly in regard to education.

Most civil wars – for that is what this vicious polarization has become – end from exhaustion. Both sides just wear themselves out fighting to the death over every little issue, however trivial, until things just melt down. (Frankly, I’m pretty sure that most people don’t really want this nonsense to continue any longer, already.)

Maybe that will happen here, but I’m skeptical it will happen soon. I anticipate a reaction to the antics of the current administration in November, but if that occurs, it won’t make Trump’s base any less angry. Channeling Punxsutawney Phil, it will just forecast six more years of contention.

But by then, I think something else will occur to alter our distasteful stalemate: the demographic shift that is already well underway, inexorable, and irreversible, will begin to swamp the current reactionary thrust. Politicians will recognize it and react to it or perish, just as they did when blacks became a dominant voting population in the south.

The Trump administration and its minions, especially Fox News, conflate immigration and “illegal” immigration to stoke xenophobic impulses. So called “illegal” immigrants can’t vote. They are no threat to politicians, only a convenient target. Immigrant citizens, on the other hand, are a growing, necessary fact, and I do not think they – legal, voting immigrants – will forget how they are being characterized by Republicans today, for a long time. (Likewise, I think Republican black voters will be counted on the fingers of one hand forever after Trump. Ditto, Asians.)

We need immigrants. We need skilled immigrants and unskilled one, and we sure as hell aren’t going to attract them from Norway. First, there aren’t enough Norwegian immigrants to meet our demand (though there were many in the 1800s). And second, who in his right mind would migrate here from Norway in this political environment? On the other hand, I would move there in a heartbeat myself if it weren’t so damn cold.

When we were in college together, a dear friend opined that he would be glad when we are all the same shade of brown. He has forgotten that observation, but I remember it vividly, and I understand and agree with his sentiment, which was to see an end to racial turmoil.  But I don’t want us all to be the same shade. It’s too monotonous, not to mention monotone. I welcome the diversity, now more than ever, and I think that, in the long term, it will ultimately break the fever.

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