Americans awoke today to a nation every bit as divided, maybe more so, than before a Tuesday national election billed as monumental.
The “basket of deplorables” – as failed, 2016 Democrat candidate Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton called them in 2016 – this evening remain confident their man will win re-election.
Not so their intellectual betters carrying the banner of the Progressives who 100 years ago delivered the nation Prohibition to save their fellow citizens from demon rum.
The latter appear assured they have purged the nation of one Donald J. Trump, the carnival-barker businessman who seemingly ran for the nation’s highest office as a publicity stunt in 2016 only to shock the pollsters (and possibly himself) by winning.
Then came the “resistance” and the accusations Trump was an agent of the Russian government.
What else could he be given that the political and journalistic glitterati on the nation’s coasts were unable to figure out any other way a man with bad hair and an inability to properly pronounce the word “huge” could have bested the candidate chosen to become the country’s first woman president in the wake of the election and re-election of the nation’s first black president?
And from there the nation began a descent into the bowels of an ever more bitter and divisive culture war fueled in significant part by the angry man in the White House whose feeble, early effort to make peace with his critics failed.
With Russiagate subsequently gathering steam, Trump dragged the social weapon of mass destruction – Twitter – out of his arsenal, picked up the “Don’t retreat, reload” banner of fallen polebrity Sarah Palin, and charged onto a battlefield that soon stretched coast to coast.
Possibly the best description of what ensued was written not by a journalist but by an endocrinologist two years ago.
“The temperature of the electorate has officially reached a boiling point on both sides of the aisle,” observed Dr. Robert Lustig at Medpage Today. “Biological relatives can’t even make it through Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July without exhibiting some level of vitriol related to politics.
“In an essay titled “This is Your Brain on Trump,” he went on to describe what was already being called “Trump Derangement Syndrome” as a bonafide physiologic phenomenon driven by the hormones that fuel fear and greed.
Many have remarked that Trump operates out of his “lizard brain,” Lustig wrote. “I would argue that Trump has turned our brains reptilian.”
“…Many of us have now become Trump,” he warned. “The more dopamine and cortisol, the more we lose our ability to discern truth from post-truth, the more irritable we become, and the more we abandon our cognitive control and with little regard for the consequences.”
The 2020 election shows no indication that it will cure this reptilian thinking no matter who wins.
Democrat candidate Joe Biden has shown himself as volatile as Trump as witnessed by the keep-Joe-out-of-sight campaign waged after he told the African-American host of a radio show that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
It would now appear that a significant number of African-American males may qualify as “ain’t black.” NBC News today reported polls showing that a sizable minority of black men shifted their vote to Trump.
“Over half of black men (52 percent) who identified as ideologically conservative cast their vote for the president, and one in three black men living in the Midwest also voted for him,” the network reported.
That so many of them were living in the Midwest should come as no surprise to anyone looking at the red versus blue maps of the country. A country that couldn’t settle its differences over the crime of slavery and found itself regionally divided as it stumbled toward the bloodiest war in American history in the 1800s, now finds itself badly divided along regional lines once again.
A closer look would reveal there is more to it than that, however, as Oregon well illustrates. The state went strongly for Biden, but the detailed election results show his support focused tightly around the Portland and Eugene urban areas.
The rural hinterlands east of Bend are painted red in Politico’s election map, and from there all the way across the country is pretty much red outside of other major urban areas.
What the country has today is a problem with which Alaskans are long familiar – a good, ole, rural-urban divide.
The people who live in the country and work with their hands by and large voted for Trump. The people who work in the cities and ride desks, or depend for their income on providing services for those who ride desks, went heavily for Biden.
Nowhere was this more obvious than in the nation’s capital. Ninety-three-point-four percent of the voters in Washington, D.C., cast a ballot against the man who arrived there proclaiming his intent to “drain the swamp.”
Trump’s drain-the-swamp pitch obviously didn’t play well in the District or in the District’s bedroom states – Maryland and Virginia. Virginia heavily favored Biden, Maryland overwhelmingly so.
It was the opposite in rural America, and the country’s mainstream media on the coasts is already pondering what to do about these hicks from the sticks who failed to get with the program.
Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham was smart enough to recognize that “we aren’t really one America, but two” before observing that “about half of the voters in this country lived through these last four ugly, miserable, destructive years and said, ‘Yes please, give me more of that.'”
Whether anyone at the Globe recognized the irony between the headline and column is impossible to know. But “we” don’t fix “this” by declaring nearly half the voters in the country voted for Trump for no other reason than they wanted another “four ugly, miserable, destructive years.”
Right and wrong
Politics in this country has over the past decade turned a field of gray all too black and white as if there is a right and wrong to everything Americans do. This pigeonholing of values driven by those on both left and right has fallen to the point where the arguments sometimes actually obscure rights and wrongs on which all Americans should agree.
If you followed much social media in the leadup to this election, you likely saw people arguing over stolen political yard signs in Anchorage with Biden backers sometimes suggesting they could understand the theft of Trump signs and Trump supporters doing the opposite.
One woman commenting on the Nextdoor site admitted to thinking about stealing a sign, but added that she didn’t because it would be the wrong thing to do. Instead of being thanked for her good judgment, she was lambasted for supporting the opposing candidate.
Trump supporters then proceeded to accuse Biden supporters of stealing Trump signs while Biden supporters accused Trump supporters of stealing Biden signs instead of everyone agreeing on that which all Americans should agree:
It’s wrong to steal shit out of your neighbor’s yard.
Trump and his Twitter account are certainly responsible for some of this partisan craziness. As the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, one would hope for him to show at least a little self-restraint.
But he is not the only rat living in the sewer that is Twitter. There are a lot of others in there including a lot of former journalists who seem to revel in the smell of sewage.
Worse yet, they have followers who seem to feast on it, who seem sometimes dangerously obsessed by it. I have friends (actually more acquaintances; journalists who truly do the job journalists do don’t acquire many real friends) whose blood almost boils at the mention of Trump’s name.
You can sometimes actually watch their faces go red as the blood percolates up.
And I admit to no fondness for the sitting president. As someone who grew up in a family of modest means, if not borderline poor, I never had any love for spoiled rich boys, and I was raised to detest liars.
Trump lied his way to success as some successful businessmen do. Biden, on the other hand, weaseled his way to success the way some politicians do. They are in this way far more alike than different.
The evidence would indicate Trump built his family fortune on questionable business deals. The evidence would also suggest Biden lifted his family fortunes through legalized corruption.
Tweedle-dee meet Tweedle-dum.
The pair of them make me glad I don’t vote. I don’t think journalists should. The psychological studies make it clear that once people pick a candidate, they pull on blinders. Journalists who think they are above this are only fooling themselves.
There were a lot of those folks backing Biden. Many were so deeply invested in the idea that Trump-must-go that they were willing to overlook the indications that Biden might have peddled influence with foreign nations to benefit the family fortune as journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders of The Intercept pointed out.
Hopefully if Biden ends up the man elected president this will change because for all the things on which Trump has wrong, he has been right on China. It is an existential threat to the U.S. and to global democracy.
As the Europeans have increasingly come to recognize, China views business as a tool to extend its global power. Economics are to the country just another weapon to be used to spread its world view, which is definitely not an American world view.
“For years, many European countries, and above all Germany, did their best for commercial reasons to look the other way as China violated human rights, took advantage of Europe’s open markets and bullied some of its Asian neighbors,” Andreas Kluth wrote at Bloomberg Opinion in September. “Those times appear to be over.”
Say what you will about Trump, he was one of the first leaders of a democratic nation to stand up to China’s theft of intellectual property and flooding of open markets with cheap goods.
“While few Trump critics would agree with his March 2018 tweet that ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win,’ many are willing to give him credit for moving the needle on China, including forcing electoral opponent Joe Biden to adopt similar economic decoupling policies,” the Hong Kong-based, South China Morning Post observed in October.
Many in the nation’s heartland – despite sometimes suffering because of the economic wounds inflicted on agriculture by the U.S.-China trade war – seemed to understand this better than some Americans on the coast mainly interested in maintaining the supply of cheap goods from China.
It is thus possible these red-state voters went to the polls thinking about more than another “four ugly, miserable, destructive years.”
Or maybe they were just bitter and still clinging, as President Barack Obama once said, “to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Obama was roundly criticized for that remark, but it was true enough. Hunting has a rich tradition in the Midwest and the West, and the people there do cling to their guns. There are many who are religious, as well.
I’m most decidedly not, but I can understand the people who turn to God for help. In the midst of a global pandemic, I can understand it more than ever. There is nothing wrong with clinging to the best elements of religion.
But that’s all sort of irrelevant because in the arguments that followed Obama’s observation on guns, religion and antipathy everyone pretty much overlooked the most important word: frustration.
Trump didn’t get elected in 2016 because of the Russians. He got elected because the people in the Heartland were frustrated. You could feel it in the air in Michigan in December 2015.
A state that twice supported Obama swung red for Republicans the next November. The Michigan vote is now projected as a victory for Biden, but there is a lot of that frustration left in The Great Lakes State and elsewhere in the Heartland.
It’s not going to magically disappear. The ruling elites on the coasts are going to have to deal with it sensibly and fairly or a Biden victory will mean little more than another “four ugly, miserable, destructive years.”
The issue then was simple:
“Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction,” Lincoln said, “or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”
Fortunately, the right-minded prevailed. Slavery was a black and white issue. Slavery was a fundamentally evil practice that had gone on around the world for thousands of years.
That white Americans rose up to unshackle black Americans is one of the highlights of this country’s history.
If only the issue were so simple today. It’s not.
The country is split between economic winners and economic losers, riven by conflicts over social values, troubled by arguments over just how one defines equality, and struggling with how and how much governments should intervene when differing definitions of equality collide.
Trump did nothing to close the divide. Joe – “I’m not working for you” – Biden isn’t showing any indications of proving much better as a “uniter, not a divider” as Texas Gov. George W. Bush once defined his political philosophy.
U.S. Today might argue that Biden’s comment to the Detroit auto worker the candidate considered a “horse’s ass” was “missing context,” but many of the measures suggested in “The Biden Plan to End Our Gun Violence Epidemic” are out of touch with the views of many of those in areas of the Midwest and West where guns are still considered tools, not weapons.
Biden’s plan for “incentives to set up gun licensing programs” in the states, requirements “that 100 percent of firearms sold in the U.S. are smart guns,” mandates that “firearm owners…store weapons safely in their homes,” and more are sure to do nothing but generate huge amounts of controversy in many red states if he becomes president.
Not everyone can justify the expense of a gun safe, and they aren’t always necessary or sensible. And there are a host of reliability problems surrounding so-called “smart guns” that seek to ensure they can be fired only by their owner or someone wearing the device that unlocks the gun.
Just imagine what might have happened if the hunting partner of Senate candidate Dr. Al Gross had been forced to find the secret decoder ring to unlock the trigger on his rifle while the good doctor was being charged by a grizzly bear.
One can hope that whoever wins here recognizes the value of compromise and doesn’t get preoccupied with onerous gun control or finishing the job of getting that border “wall” built, but given the way things have been going, it would appear foolish to truly expect that.
It’s possible the ugliness, the misery and the destruction will just keep coming although for the true believers of tomorrow it likely won’t be ugliness, misery or destruction any more than it was for the true believers of yesterday.