It’s all worked out pretty much as they said – three books that predicted the madness of American politics.
- Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, by Geoffrey Kabaservice
- The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, by Mike Lofgren
- It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collide With the Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein
It’s interesting to note how long these titles are, almost as if the subject matter is far too great and complex for a simple phrase. But what’s even more telling is when they were written. Though they adequately describe the turbulence of American politics today, they were, in fact, written just prior to Obama’s last term as president.
In other words, the political decline has been going on long before Donald Trump was elected, and in each of these works much of the blame has been partially placed on the media for failing to do its proper job.
All of this is now bubbling to the surface in Washington, to the point where some pundits question whether democracy itself can be reclaimed from the bedlam. Donald Trump isn’t sticking to the conservative Republican policies that helped get him elected. Republicans themselves have likewise become unmoored from their historic principles. And Democrats have been so focused on Trump and identity politics that they have lost sight of the full inclusiveness of all that they once maintained and fought for. With the Republicans so focused on getting re-elected and the Democrats fixated with Trump instead of enlightened policies to assist the average citizen, the democratic hole is only going to get deeper. American politics is remarkable versatile, but belief in its efficacy is now at all time lows.
Writing in New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan put down some profound thoughts on how tribalism is ruining politics. It’s something every citizen in every democratic nation must become aware of us … and avoid.
But then we don’t really have to wonder what it’s like to live in a tribal society anymore, do we? Because we already do. Over the past couple of decades in America, the enduring, complicated divides of ideology, geography, party, class, religion, and race have mutated into something deeper, simpler to map, and therefore much more ominous. I don’t just mean the rise of political polarization (although that’s how it often expresses itself), nor the rise of political violence (the domestic terrorism of the late 1960s and ’70s was far worse), nor even this country’s ancient black-white racial conflict (though its potency endures).
I mean a new and compounding combination of all these differences into two coherent tribes, eerily balanced in political power, fighting not just to advance their own side but to provoke, condemn, and defeat the other.
I mean two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own. I mean two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white; where one tribe lives on the coasts and in the cities and the other is scattered across a rural and exurban expanse; where one tribe holds on to traditional faith and the other is increasingly contemptuous of religion altogether; where one is viscerally nationalist and the other’s outlook is increasingly global; where each dominates a major political party; and, most dangerously, where both are growing in intensity as they move further apart.