It’s bad enough that our politics have now become so polarized that there seems to be no way to escape either a split or an apocalypse. Left and Right no longer huddle near a squishy but relatively amicable middle, the nation’s rudder tilted slightly to the left and the ship of state steadily drifting to port. The postwar consensus, which by and large accepted the Roosevelt-Truman domestic agenda in the interest of winning the war, is now breaking up as a result of the conservative reaction (1980-present) against it. Even the brief interregnum of Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton/Barack Obama only served to heighten the distinctions between the two sides, while the Trump counterrevolution has effectively ended all thoughts of a reversion to the mean.
For his part, President Trump took the high road Wednesday. “Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective,” he said. “The language of moral condemnation . . . these are arguments and disagreements that have to stop. No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains. It’s got to stop. We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property.”
“There is one way to settle our disagreements: It’s called peacefully, at the ballot box,” he said.
That’s quite right. Conflicts need be neither violent nor bloody. The Cold War was fought between the Soviets and the Americans without a clash of armies or an exchange of nuclear weapons. Similarly, the Cold Civil War (as I termed the current struggle back in 2010) has been largely nonviolent, however heated. But with the reports Wednesday of explosive devices and suspicious packages mailed to prominent figures on the Left—coming on top of some startling attacks against the Right (Steve Scalise and Rand Paul), we find ourselves moving into terra incognita, politically speaking.
It’s true that America has seen domestic violence before—the wave of anarchism and labor unrest around the turn of the century, the Mad Bomber in New York, the “Days of Rage” in the late 1960s—some of it politically motivated. But not since the Civil War—which was essentially a conflict between the Southern Democrats and the Northern Republicans (if you don’t believe me, read Grant’s Memoirs)—have the two main parties edged this close to direct action against each other.
That’s bad enough. Making it worse, however, is that they’re deliberately being egged on by the mainstream media, which in its eternal quest for a narrative has chosen to report the coming Second Civil War as the flip side of the first one: a contest of good (the “progressive” Democrats) versus evil (the “nationalist” Republicans). In the editorial offices of the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC and CNN, nearly every story must somehow be shoehorned into a political framework; every metaphor and simile must include a slighting reference to the president or “Trump’s America.” Thus, on the front page of the digital edition of the Times as I write, the lead story about the bombs includes this teaser: “Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama, Mr. Soros, and CNN are all favorite targets of conservatives, with some of the attacks led by President Trump.” The coverage also includes an op-ed by Alexander Soros, son of George, who opines:
My family is no stranger to the hostilities of those who reject our philosophy, our politics and our very identity. My father grew up in the shadow of the Nazi regime in Hungary…. His biggest philanthropic endeavor, the Open Society Foundations, played a leading role in supporting the transition from Communism to more democratic societies in parts of the former Soviet Union and then expanded to protect democratic practices in existing democracies. My father acknowledges that his philanthropic work, while nonpartisan, is “political” in a broad sense: It seeks to support those who promote societies where everyone has a voice.
There is a long list of people who find that proposition unacceptable, and my father has faced plenty of attacks along the way, many dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism. But something changed in 2016. Before that, the vitriol he faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy.
But with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, things got worse. White supremacists and anti-Semites like David Duke endorsed his campaign. Mr. Trump’s final TV ad famously featured my father; Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs—all of them Jewish—amid dog-whistle language about “special interests” and “global special interests.” A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in, and it wasn’t confined to the United States.
We must find our way to a new political discourse that shuns the demonization of all political opponents. A first step would be to cast our ballots to reject those politicians cynically responsible for undermining the institutions of our democracy. And we must do it now, before it is too late.
Well, as the failing, soon-to-be-former mayor of Chicago once said, never let a crisis go to waste. Just the other day, Hillary Clinton declared that civility could not be restored to our public discourse until the Democrats retake the government. And now here is the heir apparent to George Soros, the man who tried to destroy the Bank of England and the Left’s biggest benefactor, basically saying the same thing by casting his family’s activities in the most heroic light possible.
But calls for civility are hypocritical, coming from whom they do. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Wednesday that could be a case study in hypocrisy and sheer lack of self-awareness. “Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: expressing support for the congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protesters, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people.”
Nothing about Antifa thugs. Nothing about “When they go low, we kick them.” Nothing about “no peace, no sleep.” Nothing about chants of “not my president.” Nothing about the New York Times publishing assassination fantasies the very day these supposed bombs appeared. It was not conservatives who rejected the results of the 2016 election, launched #TheResistance against the Trump Administration, and seem determined to carry on their war against the American electoral system, where their targets now include not only the Electoral College but also the makeup of the Senate and the Supreme Court. Sore losers don’t get much sorer than that. Pelosi and Schumer haven’t a word to say about that.
Left to their own devices, they’d be howling in the wilderness. But the media endorses and amplifies what otherwise would be their inchoate rage by constantly reinforcing, in ways both subtle and blatant, the narrative that the country has been illegitimately seized by reactionary forces who prevented Merrick Garland from cementing a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, then deprived the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua from her rightfully ordained rest in the Lincoln Bedroom, and now are rolling back social-justice gains that should have been legislated for all eternity. As I wrote in this space last week: they’re losing, and they know they’re losing.
Before jumping to conclusions, all journalists might want to read the Sherlock Holmes short story, “Silver Blaze,” or study the various theories of the Reichstag Fire. But no, like the Times, they would prefer the lazy out of smearing the president and conservatives even before the police and other authorities have investigated the matter thoroughly. The dog in the nighttime may not have barked, but that is just one more proof of a conspiracy so vast that the only recourse against Trump is to destroy our form of government in order to save it, and make sure it never happens again.
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