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Outsiders vs. Insiders: America’s cultural split much deeper than clash between political tribes

For a multitude of reasons, politics is extremely important to (many of) us; some like the “sport” aspect of it where picking winners and losers doesn’t feel much apart from rooting for a local professional team; others have a larger stake – their jobs depend on it. Still others recognize politics is a means to an end to get what you want from government (or in the case of liberty lovers, to be left alone).

Sound government policy makes everyone’s life better. Yes, politics can literally be a matter of life and death in some cases (military commitments, travel ban etc.). If decisionmakers aren’t up to the job people could end up Democrats and Republicansin danger.

But there’s little doubt politics has taken on an oversized and dramatic role of its own in recent times. Largely through the extremes of the left, America’s now roughly divided in half with one side favoring the Republican Party and the other huddling with the increasingly socialistic and thought policing Democrats.

Politics has almost become like a religion to some – and that’s not good. Jonah Goldberg wrote at National Review, “Partisan identity is now stronger and more meaningful for many Americans than race, ethnicity, or religious denomination — and is viewed as a more legitimate justification for discrimination…

“When liberals cheer the mob to harass government officials and are encouraged by hacks such as Representative Maxine Waters, when businesses shun not just members of the Trump entourage but anyone who voted for him, when conservatives rationalize any wickedness on the grounds that it will ‘own the libs,’ I don’t see something new so much as the revival of something very old.

“Partisans are convinced that the answer to our woes lies in total victory over the other. This is disastrous, because the embrace of partisan identity exacerbates the problem, and because our government was never designed to fill the holes in our souls.”

Seems more like government creates the holes in our souls rather than fills them.

But the point is well taken. An adjective we hear a lot these days (and Goldberg himself uses) is “tribalism,” meaning conservatives and liberals split into their respective tribes – and political parties -- and there’s nothing but distrust and enmity towards the other belief system. Many a political commentator has warned the partisan and ideological split we’re experiencing is leading towards (or has already resulted in) a second civil war.

Events of recent times suggest they’re right. Perhaps beginning with the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late nineties (that resulted in the unsuccessful impeachment of President Bill Clinton), Republicans and conservatives and liberal Democrats have looked at each other with increased distrust and suspicion.

It’s gotten to the point where we don’t even need to wait for reaction from the other side whenever something big happens. If there’s another multiple-fatality shooting we instinctively understand what each tribe’s politicians are going to say; or when there’s an incident involving a black victim and a white police officer it’s a no-brainer to predict what’s going to happen – regardless of the facts liberals will shriek “racism!” and law-enforcement supporting conservatives are targeted for allowing prejudice to be institutionalized.

In this sense politics has replaced religion in the souls of many folks, but I disagree with Goldberg’s intimation that the disease affects each side equally. The increasingly secularized nature of America is almost exclusively a liberal problem. Democrats are the ones who booed God at their national convention (in 2012) and they’re fond of filing lawsuits and threatening believers whenever someone cites right of conscience in refusing to provide birth control for employees or baking cakes for same-sex weddings.

If conservatives have retreated to their “tribe” it’s more of a self-preservation instinct than a purposeful move to separate from greater society. One never knows where the next wacko will show up – and in most cases the unhinged violent perpetrator has no religion, no respect for humanity and identifies with the forces trying to breakdown civilization rather than build it up.

The “tribe” mentality shows itself in other ways as well. Kurt Schlichter wrote at Townhall, “Never have so many been so angry about so little bad news. With nothing real to complain about, they have to hype every silly little thing to the point where they are screeching ‘Nazi!’ at you while you are trying to gnaw on a Quarter Pounder.

“Their anger is a giveaway. In poker, it’s called a ‘tell.’ A tell is a little thing a player does that gives away the hand he’s holding. Liberals’ tell is how they constantly bemoan success, and what their tell tells us is that they are eager to trade our prosperity for their power.

“But what do they care about our prosperity anyway? They are actively against our prosperity! Proud, self-sufficient people don’t need or want them. The entire business model of the Democratic Party is to keep Democratic constituencies poor and then give them money looted from non-Democratic constituencies. If the Democratic constituencies stop needing handouts, uh oh. What would they need the Dems for anymore?”

Liberals would deny it but Schlichter is absolutely right. Objectively speaking, things are going very well in America today – the economy is growing faster than at any point this century, jobs are plentiful for everyone (including Democrat supporting ethnic groups), business optimism is extremely high, with 95% of manufacturers having a positive outlook for their companies (according to NAM), and, for the first time in a long time, there doesn’t appear to be any major international flare-ups to occupy the minds of people here at home.

Despite this wave of good feelings all the media reports is negativity. For example, there was a big hubbub made recently over motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson deciding (due to high tariffs) to move some of its production overseas, a beef completely blown out of proportion.  The media also got a good dig at Trump over General Motors claiming it might have to scale back production and cut jobs if trade policies don’t change.

But what about all the positive things taking place at American businesses due to the long-needed tax reform Republicans passed last December and was signed by President Trump? While it’s true steel and aluminum tariffs adversely impact certain businesses, these companies also benefit from new tax policies allowing them to keep more of their profits instead of automatically turning them over to the government.

Schlichter is correct about liberals – never has there been so much unhappiness without good reason. Democrats choose to be unhappy rather than look for ways to cooperate with conservatives to set sound policy. When Senator Ted Cruz introduced a bill to keep families together at the border Democrats automatically rejected the proposal, probably without even reading it. If there’s “tribalism” in politics today it’s because Democrats retreated to their teepees and refuse to reemerge until Trump is impeached and every Republican caves to their demands.

Not only that, Democrats seek to physically disarm the other tribe too.

Last week’s retirement announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy brought more needless howls of protest from people deathly afraid his replacement will actually interpret the Constitution rather than rewrite it based on his or her own notions of prudence.

Kyle Smith wrote at National Review, “The actual Constitution is a source of frustration and vexation to progressives because it does not mandate the things they want to require, while it does grant clear and unmistakable protection to things they actively hate (guns) or desire strongly to restrict (speech).

“Their solution, going back decades, is simply to promulgate an Imaginary Constitution more to their liking. When Senator Kamala Harris says, as she did on MSNBC, that should President Trump appoint another originalist to replace Justice Kennedy, ‘we’re looking at a destruction of the Constitution of the United States,’ it makes sense only if you understand that she’s not talking about the actual Constitution. She’s talking about the Imaginary Constitution…

“The Constitution is brief — 7,500 words, about the same length as the Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions agreement you ignore, and much more readable — hence it leaves most questions up to the people. The Germans call their constitution das grundgesetz — the basic law. Many of the mystical qualities that have attached to the Constitution would be stripped away if Americans thought of it as merely the basic law, upon which any number of new stories can be built.”

Well put. Or, as Richard Viguerie and Mark J. Fitzgibbons wrote a few years back, the Constitution is the Law That Governs Government. The Constitution isn’t just a collection of words ascribed to a faded piece of parchment residing at the National Archives – it’s a framework from which government operates and is restrained. There’s little suspense on who’s in charge, too -- the preamble’s first three words, “We the People,” make it plain that government is our servant, not the master.

The Constitution isn’t “living” as the liberals claim, either. Just like the Ten Commandments aren’t the “ten suggestions,” the Constitution (through the Bill of Rights) is very plain as to what government can’t do and much more ambiguous as to what it can do. The modernly overlooked Tenth Amendment reserves rights for the states and/or the people. A simple reading of the document is all that’s required to decipher much if not most of its meaning.

Politicians and judges are the ones making it complicated. One “tribe” seeks to use the Constitution as a bludgeon to keep the other pacified. It wasn’t meant to be this way; government was never intended to supplant religion in the hearts of the population. Partisan loyalties sprung up over differences of opinion as to the interpretation of government’s powers. If Americans truly want to rediscover common ground we’d do well to agree on the extent to which government should be allowed to control people’s lives and thought processes. 

By all appearances the left doesn’t plan to cooperate. There’re even rumors swirling of a Court packing plan if/when Democrats regain power. Peter Hasson of the Daily Caller reported, “Liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are 85 and 79-years-old, respectively, so it’s not unforeseeable that Trump could get to fill two more seats before he leaves the White House, potentially guaranteeing a conservative majority on the court for decades to come.

“Now some liberals argue Democrats should simply expand the number of court seats — and then immediately fill the new ones with left-wing jurists — as soon as they take back control of Congress and the White House.

“The Constitution doesn’t require a set number of seats on the court and leaves that power to Congress, which hasn’t altered the size of the Supreme Court since last setting it at nine in 1869.”

Of course FDR devised the most famous court-packing scheme in the thirties when he threatened to appoint additional administration-friendly Supreme Court justices if the Court didn’t stop invalidating his New Deal programs. Justice Owen Roberts apparently got the message as he literally turned on a dime (“a switch in time saves nine” in the case of West Coast Hotel v. Parrish) to find it within the Constitution to allow government to control markets and prices, etc…

That type of remarkable (and unwarranted) metamorphosis isn’t likely to happen in the twenty-first century, however, so look for Democrats and liberals to become increasingly unhinged and desperate – especially if/when Trump replaces a liberal rubber-stamp on the Court with an originalist in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Should that person be religious and/or a minority and/or female, watch out.

Politics is not religion and there’s no such thing as partisan “tribes” unless people choose to create them in their own minds. America isn’t experiencing political sport and it's more serious than theater – we could be in the beginning stages of a civil war with no signs of a ceasefire.

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