Cold Civil War or Civil Cold War?

The Kavanaugh fight is just another indicator of our national divide.

In a NYT piece headlined “Bitter Tenor of Senate Reflects a Nation at Odds With Itself,” Alexander Burns observes,

To the right and left alike, Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination appears less like a final spasm of division — a sobering trauma, followed by calm resolution — than an event that deepens the national mood of turbulence. The country is gripped by a climate of division and distrust rivaled by few other moments in the recent past.

This time, historic grievances around race and gender are coming to a boil under the eye of a president who is dismissive of the concept of national unity. His political base passionately celebrates the combative way in which he has upended Washington, seeing it as a deserved rebuke of elite sensibilities. President Trump campaigned as a rough-speaking warrior against the political establishment and its consensus economic policies, and his supporters have mainly applauded him for governing the same way.

Beyond government, the country’s collective institutions — including the news media, the clergy and even professional sports and the entertainment industry — are in turmoil, with no obvious balm within reach. The Supreme Court, long a contested body, may now be viewed emphatically by one side as an institution under shadow.

Rather than calls for comity from political leaders like Mr. Grassley, a feeling of apprehension has pervaded the highest levels of American politics. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, warned in Rhode Island last weekend that something greater than even the legitimacy of the judicial branch was at stake, faulting Republicans for their “blind rage” in the Supreme Court battle.

“It threatens not only the Senate and the Supreme Court,” Mr. Biden said. “It threatens the basic faith the American people have in our institutions.”

Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of American history at Yale University, said that since the nation’s founding there had only been “a handful of other times that have been this ugly,” including the run-up to the Civil War.

“There are moments in American history where we get such extreme polarization that the government no longer functions the way it’s supposed to function,” Professor Freeman said, offering a grim diagnosis of the present: “It’s a virtually systemic abandonment of norms, to a degree that I find alarming.”

The great trend in American politics has been not toward muting political disagreements but rather toward confronting them — sometimes detonating them at deafening volume over social media. Mr. Trump, in turn, became president in large part by mastering the existing divisions at the heart of the country’s culture, exploiting fissures around identity, ethnicity, sex, religion and class to forge a ferociously loyal coalition that represents a minority of the country but votes with disproportionate power.

But those divisions have only grown since 2016, and Mr. Trump has continued to embrace and aggravate them, from his equivocal response to a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., to his mockery this week of the #MeToo movement and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Judge Kavanaugh attempted to rape her as a teenager. At a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday, the president flouted the pretense that support for the judge could coexist with authentic concern for victims of sexual assault.

Mr. Trump went far beyond questioning Dr. Blasey’s account or defending Judge Kavanaugh, instead ridiculing her and stoking the resentments between genders. He warned voters in Mississippi that lying women could come forward to falsely accuse their loved ones of sexual misconduct: “Think of your son,” he urged them. “Think of your husband.”‘

An accompanying polling graphic is rather stark:

What’s particularly interesting to me about this is that, despite the belief of my left-leaning social media circle, this is not mostly a gender divide. Indeed, the numbers for men and women in both parties and independents are extremely close. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents simply see the same set of facts quite distinctly. Presumably, this is partly because they’re consuming completely different media.

My Democratic-leaning Twitter feed (mostly national security and media elites) is overwhelmingly apoplectic about the way Senate Republicans treated the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. My Republican-leaning Facebook feed (mostly acquaintances from my high school and Army days, but also a lot of people I met in the early days of OTB, when it was much more Republican) are angry at the way Democrats handled the information and completely outraged that a good man’s reputation has been dragged through the mud to suit a partisan agenda.

I’ve tried to have conversations to bridge these gaps with no success. Logical arguments can’t penetrate the emotions at play here.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points to an even more depressing poll from the forthcoming book Prius Or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide:

I find several things interesting there. First, as intense as the abortion debate, Bork and Thomas hearings, and the Clinton years were, there was a relatively steady state during that whole period. Democrats hated Republicans more than vice versa but the numbers mostly stayed at or below 20 percent. The 2000 election controversy seems to be the main turning point, with Democratic hatred for Republicans skyrocketing. Despite the Fox Newsification of their electorate, Republicans actually remained well below the Democrats in partisan animosity until the 2008 election cycle. The Tea Party movement took this into a fever pitch but Democrats kept pace until the onset of the 2016 cycle.

The current climate has been described by many observers as a “civil cold war” or a “cold civil war.” But, of course, the two sides frame it differently.

An April 2017 essay by Angelo M. Codevilla for the Claremont Institute sees it thusly:

America is in the throes of revolution. The 2016 election and its aftermath reflect the distinction, difference, even enmity that has grown exponentially over the past quarter century between America’s ruling class and the rest of the country. During the Civil War, President Lincoln observed that all sides “pray[ed] to the same God.” They revered, though in clashing ways, the same founders and principles. None doubted that those on the other side were responsible human beings. Today, none of that holds. Our ruling class and their clients broadly view Biblical religion as the foundation of all that is wrong with the world. According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance.”

The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal.

On the other side, some two thirds of regular Americans chafe at insults from on high and believe that “the system” is rigged against them and, hence, illegitimate—that elected and appointed officials, plus the courts, business leaders, and educators are leading the country in the wrong direction. The non-elites blame the elites for corruptly ruling us against our will, for impoverishing us, for getting us into wars and losing them. Many demand payback—with interest.

So many on all sides have withdrawn consent from one another, as well as from republicanism as defined by the Constitution and as it was practiced until the mid-20th century, that it is difficult to imagine how the trust and sympathy necessary for good government might ever return. Instead, we have a cold civil war. Statesmanship’s first task is to prevent it from turning hot. In today’s circumstances, fostering mutual forbearance may require loosening the Union in unfamiliar and unwelcome ways to accommodate differences that may otherwise become far worse.

A January 2017 essay by Elie Mystal for Above the Law sees it quite differently:

It might seem like Trump and his executive branch are conducting a war against immigrants, or against Islam. But that’s just the spin the Trump administration wants you to believe. They’re confident they’ll win a war against immigrants. They know that their bigoted base — people who are too cowardly to seek truth or nuance about our real threats — will support that war.

No, Trump’s real war is against us. His real battle is with American cosmopolitans. His targets are our sense of inclusiveness, our separation of powers, and our belief in the rule of law. Trump is fighting a civil war, and like the first one, the battle lines are regional. Once again, it’s urban versus rural. Once again, it’s people who think that discrimination against others is integral to “their way of life” versus elites who think America is better than that.

Trump has managed to flip the state’s rights v. federal authority issue on its head. But that was always an overblown casus belli for the original conflict: The South never believed in the rights of new states to choose slavery or freedom for themselves, the North never believed the feds could allow Southerners to bring their free laborers to the North. The question of whether the federal government can force you to treat people equally, or unequally, appears to be timeless.

Like America in the 1850s, right now many of us are still hoping that the lawyers will sort it out. It will remain a “cold” civil war, so long as we can continue to use courts instead of battlefields. If you are a lawyer and you are listening to this, you ARE the resistance. Lawyers are not allowed to have “no opinion” on Trump’s executive actions. Either you think they’re horrible and are doing what you can to fight, or you think legalized discrimination is or can be made constitutional. Even if your legal opinion matters only to your parents, IT MATTERS TO YOUR PARENTS. So either you are a part of the fight or a part of the problem, no matter how many splinters you’ve gotten in your ass from riding the fence.

Just because we’re fighting it out in the courts now, doesn’t mean anybody will accept their decisions. In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled, definitively, that black people were not citizens anywhere in the country, and that Congress had no right to restrict the growth of slavery. The Dred Scott decision was the Court’s attempt to stop the coming of war.

They wanted it to be one way, but it was the other way. The Dred Scott decision caused the war as much as one legal finding can do such a thing.

Abolitionists and other anti-slavery advocates simply refused to accept the Supreme Court’s rewrite of American values. It’s not hard to imagine the same thing happening again. It’s not hard to imagine the Supreme Court upholding the Muslim ban or some other atrocious Trump policy. It’s not hard to imagine the deciding vote coming from Trump’s hand-picked appointment to a seat that was brazenly stolen from the Obama administration by Senate Republicans. And it’s not hard to imagine progressiveness regarding such a decision as illegitimate on its face. Hell, I basically already have my post calling for the total disregard for stolen, pro-Trump SCOTUS decisions, written and just filed away like it’s a Gerald Ford obituary.

I’m a stranger in a strange land in this mess. An erstwhile Republican who is about to vote straight Democratic in a third straight election but yet not by any means a Democrat. A John McCain and Mitt Romney voter who supported the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court because he was a qualified, decent man and because Barack Obama was the duly elected President of the United States. A reluctant Hillary Clinton voter and #NeverTrumper who nonetheless supported the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the seat held open by shenanigans I opposed because, well, Trump won the election and Gorsuch was decent and qualified. And an early supporter of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and defender of him from unsupported allegations who came to believe confirming him would be bad for the country given the intensity of belief of so many American women that it would be tantamount to a declaration that the country doesn’t care about sexual assault. And then a fierce opponent of confirmation once he showed himself a partisan hack and a serial liar in his confirmation hearings who’ll nonetheless view his votes on future cases as legitimate because he was duly confirmed.

My position on Kavanaugh and the nature of the hearings are much closer to that of my Twitter feed but I’m not completely unsympathetic to those on my Facebook feed. While I get frustrated with those posting ridiculous memes they found on right-wing sites, I wasn’t a fan of the 11th-hour leak of Ford’s allegation and don’t think making bedfellows with Michael Avenatti helped the anti-Kavanaugh cause. Further, while I think the notion that honorable men are now going to be the subject of a wave of unfounded allegations of rape and sexual assault is absurd, I do worry that #BelieveWomen seems to have reversed the presumption of innocence.

More importantly, though, I don’t think the people in my high school and Army circles are evil. They’re simply in a different cultural circle than me and haven’t processed the evolution of our national culture as quickly or in the same way that I have.

We seem to be at a point, though, where we can’t have a civil discourse about any of this. The longstanding presumption that those who disagree with us politically are fundamentally decent human beings who also love their country has gone by the wayside. If the other side is simply evil, they can’t be reasoned with; they must be destroyed. And we may be getting to the point where we take that literally.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Ben Wolf says:

    There are three groups in the country, not two. The 62 million who support Trump, the 65 million who support Democrats, and the 100 million who think both groups are full of shit.

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  2. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    “We seem to be at a point, though, where we can’t have a civil discourse about any of this. The longstanding presumption that those who disagree with us politically are fundamentally decent human beings who also love their country has gone by the wayside. ”

    From my point of view, Republicans have been at that point for at least 2 decades. That was what Gingrich’s rhetoric, as focused tested by Frank Luntz, boiled down to. It was what popular Republicans opinion makers like Limbaugh and Coulter were saying in so many words. It was what Fox broadcasted 24-7-365. It was the Republicans’ message that Clinton and Obama were illegitimate Presidents who needed to be opposed by any means necessary, including shutting down the government. It was denigrating the patriotism and military service of people like Max Cleland and John Kerry.

    So, while I am sorry that it took Democrats fighting every bit as down and dirty as Republicans for you to notice it, it has been there for a long time.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    So, while I am sorry that it took Democrats fighting every bit as down and dirty as Republicans for you to notice it, it has been there for a long time.

    Except that, as the polling cited in the post demonstrates, it hasn’t. The divide didn’t get to anything like what it is now until after the 2000 election and was essentially one-sided: Democrats hating Republicans. It became mutual after the 2008 election and the Republicans seem to have moved ahead with the 2016 cycle.

    I don’t deny the part of Gingrich and company in all this. But the trend line doesn’t really diverge until after Gingrich was gone.

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  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is still, to this day, a fight over abortion and civil rights. In other words, Democrats still believe there’s work to be done allowing women to achieve complete equality and work to be done on allowing a black man to drive a car down the street. Republicans have not made peace with either racial equality or gender equality. Does that make them evil?

    Yes.

    Because what they positively favor is a series of regressive policies the effect of which has been to terrorize immigrants, denigrate women and grind minorities down. They are attempting to use the power of government to maintain a white patriarchy in near-absolute power, depriving American citizens of liberty. The Republican party’s agenda is unmistakably racist, misogynist and bigoted against gays and others. The Republican party’s agenda is clearly, unmistakably, pro white evangelical church, with every other iteration of faith treated as lesser.

    So yes, that’s evil. It’s evil and it’s destructive of the United States.

    It has already severely weakened us in the world while strengthening our enemies, among them a nation that sends spies into the heart of our closest ally to murder people, while our president is rendered incapable of criticizing the murderer by virtue of his own treason against the country he pretends to lead.

    We Democrats, and a growing number of Independents, will not compromise the freedom or the equality of women, gays, racial and religious minorities. So as long as the oppression of anyone not white, male and Christian continues, no, we will not be able to make peace.

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  5. Guarneri says:

    Heh. Keeping it to the topic at hand, perhaps, MB you could cite for me the justices Republicans have accused of forcing women into back allies, returning us to Jim Crow, planting pubic hairs on coke cans or being gang rapist pimps. Perhaps you would like to cite the confirmation totals for Dem vs zrepub nominees.

    Methinks you are completely blinded by partisanship.

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  6. Guarneri says:

    I reallY don’t think it’s about abortion, Michael. It’s about legislating through the courts. Abortion is just a rallying cry for another Balkanized interest group.

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  7. Mikey says:

    @Guarneri:

    Abortion is just a rallying cry for another Balkanized interest group.

    You’re absolutely right…just not for the reason you think you are.

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  8. steve says:

    “Heh. Keeping it to the topic at hand, perhaps, MB you could cite for me the justices Republicans have accused of forcing women into back allies, returning us to Jim Crow, planting pubic hairs on coke cans or being gang rapist pimps.”

    Please cite for us the Republicans whom Democrats have denigrated as unpatriotic and America haters despite losing limbs in combat, or getting wounded while risking their lives. How long have Democrats not been “real Americans”. Yup, an entitled frat boy, the most openly partisan nominee in recent history, almost didn’t get to become a Supreme Court justice, but this has been going on for a long time and you can’t claim innocence. This is really what talk radio is all about. Constant faux outrage and convincing people that the other side hates America. Do yourself a favor. Find some excuse to drive to Gainesville or Jacksonville, preferably at night. Turn on the AM radio and look for the local talk radio shows. Listen to them.

    Steve

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  9. Teve says:

    The Religious Right initially coalesced in the 50’s and 60’s to oppose desegregation. Only when that was clearly a losing battle and they hated Carter did they switch to being Anti-Abortion in the mid-to-late 70’s.

    Bob Jones University prohibited interracial dating until the year 2000. These are not smart people with good values.

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  10. Teve says:

    Find some excuse to drive to Gainesville or Jacksonville, preferably at night. Turn on the AM radio and look for the local talk radio shows. Listen to them.

    @steve: Dude I live in Lake City, somewhat between the two. I can’t even bear to listen to the talk radio here. It’s Sean Hannity minus even more IQ points.

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  11. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    The divide didn’t get to anything like what it is now until after the 2000 election and was essentially one-sided: Democrats hating Republicans. It became mutual after the 2008 election and the Republicans seem to have moved ahead with the 2016 cycle.

    This timeline rings true to me.

    A large part of my hate for the GOP originated in their extremely visible disdain for truth and reality, as very openly exhibited by the first G.W. Bush admin. For instance, about global warming, WMDs in Iraq, etc., etc.

    Also this:

    The [G.W. Bush admin] aide [probably Rove] said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” […]

    “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    It marked the moment that dialogue became impossible. What’s left to debate if one side tells you that reality doesn’t matter anymore?

    Perhaps even more importantly, they came after truth – something I care very deeply about.

    By contrast, Republicans didn’t truly get their hate on until a black man came to occupy the White House.

    This should tell you something, I suspect, about the fundamental difference between the average Democrat and the average Republican.

    ETA: Also, look at how the GOP faithful are “debating” in the OTB comment section. These people are basically either dishonest or nuts. Truth, honesty, or even intellectual consistency, are obviously not concerns to them.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We Democrats, and a growing number of Independents, will not compromise the freedom or the equality of women, gays, racial and religious minorities.

    And yet, this uncompromising, superficial pose (which has been getting increasingly obnoxious, by the way) has lead to….Trump’s election, a Republican majority in Congress that can only be pecked at, and a 5-4 right-wing partisan court.

    Seems to me that, despite the proclamations to the contrary, “the freedom or the equality of women, gays, racial and religious minorities” has already been compromised. Perhaps this utterly superficial, and counter-productive, approach needs to be chucked into the nearest bin.

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  13. Moosebreath says:

    @Guarneri:

    ” MB you could cite for me the justices Republicans have accused of forcing women into back allies, returning us to Jim Crow”

    Bork did believe in both of those things up until his death, and it is the policy preferences of his successors in the Federalist movement (and Republicans are well into succeeding on the second point following Shelby County). Accurately describing the other side’s policies is what debate should be about.

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  14. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think we are talking about 2 different things. Whether Republicans leaders were making the case against the proposition “that those who disagree with us politically are fundamentally decent human beings who also love their country” can be very different from what shows up in polling of the rank and file.

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  15. george says:

    It interesting that in the first graph the number of “Don’t Know” is pretty much the same for all categories – about a third. Which is probably the number of people looking at it rationally – its simply is impossible to know on the available information, which was always the reason for a longer, more thorough investigation.

    An interesting question would be “did Kavanaugh have the temperament to be a supreme court judge?”. I suspect like me, a lot of “Don’t Knows” about the accusation would be “Definitely not’s” wrt to his temperament after the hearing.

    The second graph is interesting, I assumed the divide started under Gingrich but it appears it started because of the Iraq War. I assume the same appeared during the Vietnam War; I wonder how long that divide took to tone down – I wonder if the data is available for periods before the 80’s. Perhaps the main difference now is the Internet; I suspect the majority of the growing partisanship is based on Internet forums, rather than actual interactions between people with different opinions at work and other parts of day to day life.

    Civil wars that are based on strongly held beliefs among people living in close proximity tend to be especially horrible – the Internet posters calling for a shooting civil war (though I hope most are trolls) are thinking of computer games, not reality.

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  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    You have no core beliefs. Of course you don’t understand that we have no choice but to defend them.

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  17. becca says:

    The seas are rising, the fires keep burning, rivers overflow, and the droughts never end. It’s enough to make one a bit anxious.

    It’s rarely a topic here, but climate change is affecting us in ways we are not even aware. The world is vibrating with political and environmental upheaval and the two are intimately intertwined. You don’t think all this nationalism popped up out of thin air, do you? They want to pull up the drawbridge before the hordes arrive.

    Which brings me to my sincerely held belief that the GOP sold their souls to polluters decades ago and that is beyond deplorable.

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  18. Todd says:

    The mantra of kids sports that some take to heart and some mock: “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” can be applied to our politics as well …

    Republicans (or more specifically the people who today call themselves “conservatives”) have over the years become more and more open and obvious about how much they believe that winning is literally the only thing that matters. One of the reasons they’ve been so successful in achieving so many of their goals in recent years is because most Democrats (and the media) still also care about how the game is played.

    Once we reach a tipping point where enough of the left also embraces the “winning is all that matters, even if you have to lie, steal and cheat” attitude, then the spark which has already been lit will pose a real danger of burning the whole house down.

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  19. Teve says:

    A right-wing group just got caught trying to make a fake ad where an impersonator of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani endorses Beto O’Rourke.

    Trump’s not the anomaly. Republicans with principles are. Both of them.

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  20. it is in this atmosphere that Corey Stewart can open his Virginia Senate campaign by promising that it will be “ruthless and vicious.”

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  21. Teve says:

    OT: Natalia Veselnitskaya’s handler just died in a helicopter crash outside of Moscow.

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  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @the unoriginal herb:
    That’s OK, we’re ready for the usual unprincipled GOP campaigns. I think we’re all done playing nice. We’ve already raised three million for a candidate to oppose Susan Collins. That’s more than was spent by all three candidates in the last senatorial election in Maine. By the time Susan Rice declares she won’t have to fundraise. In fact we should have enough money to help whoever primaries Collins from the right – and someone will.

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  23. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Crikey.

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  24. Liberal Capitalist says:
  25. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You have no core beliefs.

    Oh, I do, and when they find me opposed to the prevailing winds of contemporary progressivism, what’s the only thing I see and hear? A pointy finger, and a chorus of “You, you, you!”

    My core beliefs are, in fact, stronger than whatever is compelling all these self-destructive impulses on the left. I saw a tweet from AOC talking (approvingly) about how Fox News was “censured” in the UK, and all I could think was, “Well, I definitely don’t want the government censuring (or censoring) any kind of unfriendly media outlet,” but looking over my shoulder, what do I see?

    A bunch of so-called liberals going, “Yeah…but it’s Fox News.” Core principles? What core principles?

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  26. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We’ve already raised three million for a candidate to oppose Susan Collins.

    Yeah, but Maine…will you move there?

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    The second paragraph of the quoted Codevilla piece is nonsense, but typical conservative nonsense. It’s supporting the Republican sleight of hand by which “elite” no longer means the wealthy and powerful, but anyone you disapprove of culturally.

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  28. Ratufa says:

    @James Joyner:

    It makes sense that dislike of the other party increases the most when the other party is in power. As to what happened in 2000 to turbocharge this process for both parties, this factoid may provide a clue:

    In the 2000 presidential election, Fox News, which was available in 56 million homes nationwide, saw a staggering 440% increase in viewers, the biggest gain among the three cable news television networks.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Fox_News

    This is not to blame Fox News for everything. But, it is an indication that polarized media, increased viewing of party-specific echo chambers, and the overall availability of viewpoint-specific “news” have been factors.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve worked with and known a lot of people who are now Trump supporters. I don’t hate them. They’re mostly good people. I’d loan most of them a hundred on their word without hesitation. But they aren’t very well educated in matters of politics, economics, history, etc. and they have been badly misled.

    The founders, as I recall, feared “the mob”, not that the mob would spontaneously rise on it’s own, but that corrupt elites would play on the sentiments of “the mob” for their own ends. Which is exactly what we have.

    We need to make a distinction between Republican voters and Republican “professionals”, the politicians, staffs, media, funders, lobbyists, etc. There are a lot of Republican voters who truly are deplorable, there are a lot who are just greedy, ignorant country club Republicans, but there are a lot who are good people, who do want what’s best for the country. I note that Haidt’s chart is labeled hatred of party. I respect a lot of Republican voters, but I have contempt for the professional Republicans who are lying to them to further the interests of themselves and our real elites, the Kochs, Adelson, Freiss, and the rest of the billionaire boys club.

    My parents were Democrats because Republican bankers tried to take their parents’ farms during the depression and Democratic politicians helped save them. I can’t see that anything has changed since.

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  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    As it happens I lived in Maine for just under two years. I was the restaurant reviewer for the local newspaper.

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  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:

    We need to make a distinction between Republican voters and Republican “professionals”

    I disagree. If you vote for a misogynist, white supremacist party you are a misogynist and white supremacist. Any voter still in doubt as to whether the GOP is both of those things is either living in a cave, a moron, or an active misogynist and white supremacist.

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  32. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Pulling on threads in the comments from you and Todd, plus James’ OP, I think there is an important differentiation that needs to be made. This differentiation, to my mind, suggests a potential way out. Because it goes to motives.

    James states in his OP that his Republican-leaning Facebook feed is a cultural circle that hasn’t “processed the evolution of the national culture as quickly or in the same way (he has).” I think this gets at it. The same adjectives you’ve used – misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, bigoted – apply, but these characteristics are motivated by fear and lack of understanding rather than malice. They aren’t evil as much as they are unevolved.

    Unevolved strikes me as a more meaningful and useful designation. Evolution is unidirectional and relentless – there’s no stopping it or reversing it – so the idea of it fits well with an unwillingness to compromise the freedom and equality of women, gays, racial minorities, and religious minorities. But, as Dr. Joyner himself has acknowledged of himself, it is possible to learn one’s way out of an unevolved state.

    The Republican Party, however, IS evil. GOP politicians, activists, think tanks, and media mouthpieces are at least somewhat aware of the national cultural evolution, yet they’ve chosen to exploit the fearful and unsophisticated in a win at all costs, lie, steal, and cheat power grab.

    So, today’s Republican Party needs to be destroyed as it is an unalloyed evil force in our democracy. But, there are those in the base who are gettable who need to be cultivated and brought more rapidly along the culture’s evolutionary path. (The un-gettable in the base will eventually die off.) There are some (and it won’t take many to tip the balance of power in the US) who can be made to accept, and perhaps embrace, the cultural and demographic changes that are inevitably coming – remember evolution is relentless.

    The key will be separating the two cohorts, so they can’t feed off each other.

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  33. Teve says:

    I disagree. If you vote for a misogynist, white supremacist party you are a misogynist and white supremacist. Any voter still in doubt as to whether the GOP is both of those things is either living in a cave, a moron, or an active misogynist and white supremacist.

    My boss is a trumper. But not because he’s a bad person–he’s one of the most generous and kind people you’ll ever meet. But he runs his own business 80 hrs per week and reads less about politics in a year than I did this morning. Hillary’s formulation was right: a big chunk of Trumpers are deplorable people, and a big chunk aren’t. Those of us who can actually answer basic questions about current events in politics, judicial confirmations, senate procedure, historical information about what shaped the parties’ platforms, etc, are weirdos. Most people choose to live differently than we do.

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  34. wr says:

    @James Pearce: Shorter Pearce: “When the going gets tough, the tough give up!”

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  35. Yank says:

    And yet, this uncompromising, superficial pose (which has been getting increasingly obnoxious, by the way) has lead to….Trump’s election, a Republican majority in Congress that can only be pecked at, and a 5-4 right-wing partisan court.

    Republicans and useless centrists say this nonsense to absolve themselves from taking responsibility for their own actions. The country has reached this point because the right has become nothing more then a group tribalistic clowns, who are more concerned about sticking it to groups they don’t like, then actually governing.

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  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Scott F.:
    ‘Un-evolved’ doesn’t cover it in my opinion. And I don’t agree that their motives lack malice. They know that the GOP has, as a matter of deliberate policy, caged children as a way to intimidate asylum-seekers. They know that the KKK and various white supremacist groups have a home in the GOP. There’s a great deal more, but if you continue to associate with that party you have no excuse.

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  37. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    To use an admittedly over-the-top example, when we bombed Berlin we no doubt killed a whole bunch of Nazis who were kind to their friends and family and never kicked dogs. Lots of Klansmen are pillars of their community. 99% of bad people don’t cackle and twirl their mustaches like comic villains, 99% of bad people are good 99% of the time. But if you spend that 1% punching down, crapping n the weak and vulnerable, you’re an evil person doing evil things.

    They have zero problem calling us evil. I fail to see why we have to play this game from a position of weakness when we have the raw numbers.

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  38. MBunge says:

    They’re simply in a different cultural circle than me and haven’t processed the evolution of our national culture as quickly or in the same way that I have.

    Oh, those poor dears! They just don’t comprehend! They just aren’t as EVOLVED as James Joyner!

    If there’s a state of civil war brewing in this country, it’s not due to partisanship or politics or even the biased media bubbles in which we live. It’s the blind, unjustified, arrogant condescension embodied in that statement of James Joyner. And the worst and most poisonous element is the unjustified part of it. Hey, James! What’s the track record of your Twitter feed? How have they and people like them done at running the country? Donald Trump didn’t get us into Iraq. Your Twitter feed did. Donald Trump didn’t break our immigration system and let it fester for 30 years. Your Twitter feed did. How about jobs or economic growth or China or nukes in North Korea or Syria or Libya or the federal deficit or…well, you get the point. Or at least you would get it if you could be honest with yourself.

    And Brett Kavanaugh is a “partisan hack?” So what do we call a guy who votes for and lives through the Presidency of George W. Bush, one of the worst and most destructive in our nation’s history, and keeps voting Republican?

    Hundreds of thousands dead in a war for no good reason? That’s not enough to put James Joyner off the GOP.

    Spying on people without warrants? That’s not enough to put James Joyner off the GOP.

    Torturing prisoners? That’s not enough to put James Joyner off the GOP.

    The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? That’s not enough to put James Joyner off the GOP,

    The blatant race-baiting that went on under Barack Obama? That’s not enough to put James Joyner off the GOP.

    But Donald Trump? Oh, that’s too much for James Joyner. And having left the reservation, he feels comfortable calling a man defending himself against being branded a gang rapist a “partisan hack.”

    Here’s some advice that I need to follow myself, James. If you really want to understand what’s going on in the world, stop pretending it’s the fault of other people and start looking at what problematic things YOU are doing.

    Mike

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  39. MBunge says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I fail to see why we have to play this game from a position of weakness when we have the raw numbers.

    Old man, don’t stir up something that young people will have to do the dying for.

    And how’s that money-laundering delusion working out for you?

    Mike

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  40. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That’s the difference–I don’t think they do know these basic things. Sure, the deplorables do, and they like it, because they’re shitty people, but there are a lot of people who just have essentially no comprehension of politics.

    I quit arguing with my creationist relatives when I realized that I had no way to get through to them because they literally had zero scientific knowledge or ability to think carefully. It’s not that they were incorrectly analyzing phylogeny data and missing some precise point. That, I could correct. It was that they knew nothing about chemistry, nothing about biology, nothing about statistics, couldn’t tell you the difference between a gene and an atom, their knowledge of evolutionary theory was the sentence “scientists guess that monkeys turned into humans” etc. There was such a lack of basic scientific understanding that it was hopeless. I think there are millions of people who are essentially the same w/r/t politics. Watch that Jay Leno bit where he asks people basic shit, like people come out of the movie Saving Private Ryan and he asks them “What war was this movie about?” and people say, “Uh…The Civil War?” “Uh…Vietnam?” Lots of people just don’t know jack shit.

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  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Todd: And in contrast, there is the famous aphorism (attributable to Vince Lombari IIRC)

    Winning is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing.

    Alas, how you play the game doesn’t matter for fuk anymore.

    And again I apologize; we shoulda let Angela and Huey burn the sucka down when we had the chance, but we blinked and hoped for better instead.

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  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Shot down by the Russian Air Force or a shoulder-launched grenade?

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  43. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As it happens I lived in Maine for just under two years.

    It’s actually funny to me that you responded with this. Obviously you misunderstand the criticism…

    “I once lived in a state with Republican senators, but then I moved to California and now I don’t have to…suckas.”

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  44. @Michael Reynolds: It’s not ok with me. It is just ugly and disqualifying.

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  45. Modulo Myself says:

    @Teve:

    Creationism was once considered to be true, and it represented an attempt to understand the world. Trump is just a common criminal. He was dumb trash 200 years ago and he’s trash now. Clinging to ignorance and denying the obvious is pathetic. He’s a sexual predator. And he’s infecting everything, and for the weak he acts as license to get away with whatever they want. There were several people who put their names on the record and said they were certain hearing about Kavanaugh exposing himself to Deborah Ramirez. The conservative response to the New Yorker was idiotic mockery, as if this somehow strengthened Kavanaugh’s case. The party is now all about bullying, cruelty, and stupidity, and there’s no defense in ignorantly going on along what’s objectively terrible.

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  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Doesn’t have to. Money= Speech now. The Supremes said so–Citizens something/something v something/something else.

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  47. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Teve:
    Ignorance is an excuse only up to a point. Polls of Republicans don’t show that they are ignorant of GOP policies, it shows them in strong agreement. They support tearing children away from their parents and caging them. They support a president who is manifestly racist and misogynist and I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that significant numbers of Republicans are unaware of Trump’s statements.

    They know, and they are guilty of callous indifference at best. At very best.

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  48. TM01 says:

    Pro Tip: If a trial isn’t going well for you, accuse the judge of gang rape. If he gets mad, you can then get a mistrial for bad judicial temperament.

    Copied from Twitter, but pure genius.

    Mostly that’s advice for Doug who still irrationally blames Kavanaugh for having any external reaction to being dragged thru the mud and called a rapist.

    Doug,the “Republican” who will voting for the party that brought you violating court orders and using the IRS to go after political opponents.

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    And how’s that money-laundering delusion working out for you?

    Ask Paul Manafort. I’m sure he’s allowed mail in prison.

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  50. James Pearce says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Doesn’t have to. Money= Speech now.

    Send all your money to Maine then, see what that gets you.

    King and Collins canceled each other out. It was the senators from West Virginia who put Kavanaugh over the top.

    @Michael Reynolds: What does Paul Manafort have to do with “core beliefs?”

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  51. Kari Q says:

    The chart of feelings toward the other party struck me as odd. I don’t see any attribution, so I don’t know who did the poll or their history. I did find a Pew poll about opinions of the other party which suggests that antipathy toward the other party has risen in essentially lock step.

    It’s not the exact same wording, but close enough. Scroll down to the chart showing cold/negative feelings toward for other party since 1964.

    @James Pearce:

    It was the senators from West Virginia who put Kavanaugh over the top.

    That’s ridiculous. Kavanaugh was always going to be confirmed because the Republicans were always going to vote yes. Manichin’s vote made no difference. the only surprise was Murkowski.

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  52. David M says:

    This is all playing out during a time of increasing minority rule by the GOP, something that will become increasingly intolerable.

    One of the best things the Democrats could do for the country is working to make our institutions more representative and democratic. The alternative does not bode well for the long term health of our country.

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  53. An Interested Party says:

    @Mbunge: It’s fascinating that you seem to decry so many things carried out by a previous Republican Administration but don’t have a problem when it’s done by your crush…

    Torturing prisoners?

    Your crush did even worse than that and tortured illegal immigrants by taking their children away from them…

    The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression?

    The economy recovered under Obama, and your crush is taking credit for something he didn’t do, unless you really believe that tax cuts for the rich will keep the economy humming…hmm, you probably are stupid enough to believe that…

    The blatant race-baiting that went on under Barack Obama?

    Ha! Your crush was a big part of that! When are you going to denounce him for that?

    Once again, your slavish devotion to a hideous gasbag only makes you and any argument you make look ridiculously pathetic…

    King and Collins canceled each other out. It was the senators from West Virginia who put Kavanaugh over the top.

    Come now, are you really that stupid? Manchin came out saying he would vote yes only after Collins announced that she would…he was never going to be the deciding vote putting Kavanaugh over the top…

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  54. James Pearce says:

    @Kari Q:

    Kavanaugh was always going to be confirmed because the Republicans were always going to vote yes. Manichin’s vote made no difference. the only surprise was Murkowski.

    Murkowski didn’t vote yes.

    Manchin did.

    @An Interested Party:

    Come now, are you really that stupid? Manchin came out saying he would vote yes only after Collins announced that she would…he was never going to be the deciding vote putting Kavanaugh over the top…

    And yet, he was. It was a party line vote, and he was the only senator that crossed the aisle to vote with the other party.

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  55. JKB says:

    The Tea Party movement took this into a fever pitch but Democrats kept pace until the onset of the 2016 cycle.

    No, it wasn’t the Tea Party movement, but rather very aggressive reaction to the people showing up to rally. They were slandered, libeled, denigrated and whole demonstrated that reasonableness was not an option with the DC denizens of either party, nor most of the news media and pundits.

    Amusingly, Kavanaugh is the ultimate Inside the Beltway DC denizen and see how he was treated. Right now, DC Society is recalibrating.

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  56. Eric Florack says:

    As I said in another thread…

    For the last 40 years every GOP judicial candidate has gone through a certain amount of democrat crazy, the level of which has been going up steadily over those years.

    I have been saying for well over a year now that the Democrats and their reaction to Trump have precisely zero to do with Trump himself, but rather a protest against the roadblock to Democrat politics.

    Similarly, this last month or so had nothing to do with Brett Kavanaugh, per se’ …Rather, it was about an originalist ascending to the highest court in the country thereby blocking Democrat political goals.

    On the basis of those observations I submit that if you want to see something even crazier, wait until the next u.s. Supreme Court nomination comes along from this President, as it will within the next year.

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  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: On politics, I left the casino ages ago. My money currently goes to paying tuition and moving expenses for Korean young people who’ve aged out of orphanages and similar quests. I only watch politics for the crashes and sick bumps.

    @Kari Q: Murkowski’s vote was about providing cover if someone needed it. Had her vote been needed, I’m confident that it was “yea.”

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  58. Kari Q says:

    @James Pearce:

    Murkowski didn’t vote yes.

    Manchin did.

    I know that perfectly well, what I said wasn’t that hard to understand: The only surprise was Murkowski voting no. Manchin’s vote made no difference because Kavanaugh was going to be confirmed regardless of how he voted. He didn’t make any difference.

    This isn’t complicated so stop pretending you don’t get it:

    The Republicans had 50 “yes” votes. With Pence as tiebreaker, that meant Kavanaugh’s confirmation was assured. Manchin’s vote made no difference.

    This is basic math, surely you get that 50 is more than 49, don’t you?

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