And Never the Two Shall Meet
If you missed it last week, Daniel Henninger’s Thursday column makes some interesting points:
It has been argued in this column before that the origins of our European-like polarization can be found in the Florida legal contest at the end of the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential campaign. That was a mini civil war. With the popular vote split 50-50, we spent weeks in a tragicomic pitched battle over contested votes in a few Florida counties. The American political system, by historical tradition flexible and accommodative, was unable to turn off the lawyers and forced nine unelected judges to settle it. So they did, splitting 5-4. In retrospect, a more judicious Supreme Court minority would have seen the danger in that vote (as Nixon did in 1960) and made the inevitable result unanimous to avoid recrimination. A pacto. Instead, we got recrimination.
From that day, American politics has been a pitched battle, waged mainly by Democrats against the “illegitimate” Republican presidency. Some Democrats might say the origins of this polarization traces to the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton. After that the goal was payback. To lose as the Democrats did in 2000 was, and remains, unendurable (as likely it would have for Republicans if they’d lost 5 to 4).
Politics of its nature is about polar competition. Opposed ideas should compete for public support. Withdraw all possibility of contact or crossover, however, and “politics” becomes just a word that euphemizes national alienation. That, effectively, is what we have now.