POLITICS OF THE UNITED STATES | 2020 ELECTION | A DIVIDED AMERICA
America’s “Long National Nightmare” Continues Unabated. Only the Night Terrors of the Trump Presidency Are Coming to an End
In his Medium article “America’s Long National Nightmare Is Coming to an End,” Jay Sizemore advances the twin propositions that:
(1) America’s “long national nightmare” is coming to an end and
(2 ) “the people” have spoken and elected Biden.
I find these disconcerting. Each is representative of a kind of unsupported, generalized overstatement that may have value as a rally-round-the-cause battle cry or as propaganda-speak, but little benefits sober public discourse. They give the wrong impression. They misstate reality. They invite the gullible and the non-discerning to settle upon a simple, feel-good postulate rather than recognize and treat with the more troublesome actuality.
Not “the people,” but barely more than one-third of the voting people elected Biden.
It is simply untrue that “the people” elected Biden. As of 7 November, the popular vote stood at
075,404,182 (051.54%) Democrats
070,903,094 (048.46%) Republicans
146,307,276 (100.00%) Total
A paper-thin majority of the voting electorate elected Biden, not The People. Moreover, the voting electorate is not the total voting-eligible population. As of 8 November, the voter turnout was projected at 66.3% of the voting-eligible population. Fully one-third of voting-eligible people chose not to show up.
146,307,276 (066.30% of voting-eligible)
074,367,348 (033.70% of voting-eligible)
220,674,624 (100.00% of voting-eligible)
Putting the numbers in gross perspective, one sees that, in 2020, slightly more than one-third Democratic voters, slightly less than one-third Republican voters, and just about one-third we-don’t-give-a-damn non-voters comprised The People.
Mr. Sizemore characterizes the election result as a “mandate proving that America recognizes it made a huge mistake, and wants to take it back.”
To state that “the people have spoken and they have elected Joe Biden” and to portray the vote as a mandate misstates reality. It wholly fails to recognize the much more troublesome actuality.
It is the Trump presidency that is coming to an end, not our “long national nightmare.”
Trump and his administration were never America’s long national nightmare. They were but its most recent manifestation, albeit the most appallingly destructive one. To elevate Trump to the level of the totality of the nightmare is to equate the most recent bit of flotsam to have floated to the cesspool’s surface with the entirety of the cesspool itself. The two do not equate.
Our long national nightmare did not begin with Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. The nightmare was not his presidency. The continuing, deep partisan divide that has the American voting electorate split virtually 50/50 between two divergent worldviews is the nightmare.
The nightmare has been the nearly three-quarter-century-long process of converting the reasonable, public-policy-based, Republican political ideology of the 1950s into the irrational, fear-based, weaponized Republican worldview of 2020. The nightmare has been that process that perverted a Republican Party standing on a platform of objective, reasonable, public-policy choices and reduced it down to Trump Republicanism standing on no platform at all but rather chasing the subjective, irrational, fear-based, private pursuit of personal gain and partisan power.
That process was the “authoritarian takeover of the GOP” (Prius or Pickup, Verdict | Justia, 22 Oct 2018, accessed 2020.11.11), culminating in Trump’s presidency. Now, we must deal with what this new reality means for the rest of us.
In Prius or Pickup, political scientists Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler affirm that in place of the GOP’s former objective, principled political ideology, there is now a subjective, worldview-based Republican partisanship. They use the terms “fluid” and “fixed” to categorize today’s differing, polarized Democratic and Republican worldviews.
Fixed was meant to connote people who want to keep old norms and traditions fixed in place. Fluid was meant to connote people who are more open to changing them.
Fixed and fluid [connote] the substantive underpinnings of people’s worldviews
Prius or Pickup, supra.
Republicans today have a
more fixed mindset; [their] primary concerns revolve around stability, security, predictability, and definite standards.
[Democrats] have a more fluid worldview, where [they] prioritize progress and are willing to navigate complexity and embrace nuance.
Please Take the ‘Prius or Pickup?’ Quiz, Inside Higher Ed — 22 Oct. 2018, accessed 2020.11.11.
What characterizes politics today is the
distinctive feature of … the convergence of worldview and partisanship. That’s been decades in the making, the product of the particular issues that the major parties have come to emphasize (race, gender equality, sexual orientation, immigration, etc.). This is polarizing because people reason about these issues more in their guts than in their heads. When the parties were divided by [political ideology,] understanding what side you were on required a lot of thinking. And the two sides could always compromise on [ideological points]. Now that the parties are divided by worldview, understanding what side you are on happens on the gut level. People’s party attachments are, as a consequence, more visceral.
Prius or Pickup, supra.
The GOP leadership orchestrated this 70-year-convergence. That is America’s long national nightmare.
When ideology informed partisanship in the 1950s, reasoned, intellectual considerations were the foundations of party choice. But that no longer obtains. The convergence of Republican partisanship with the current Republican fixed-worldview leaves intellectual reflections ragged and torn on the ground.
The two parties
cannot see each other’s humanity, because the toxic nature of partisanship today means that if you are on the other side, you are less than fully human.
Prius or Pickup, supra.
The authoritarian takeover of the GOP, the long national nightmare, has been the 70-year process culminating in today’s Republican Party’s slavish subjugation of principled political ideology to a weaponized, fixed-worldview-driven partisanship.
The convergence of a fear-based, fixed-world-view with Republican partisanship was not spontaneous. GOP leadership drove it. In 2016, when the Republican political leaders abandoned principle-driven, ideological politics for please-don’t-kick-me-off-the-band-wagon sycophancy, Trump’s corrosive brand of authoritarianism forced the convergence of party choice with worldview. That was the nightmare in culmination.
The nightmare is not over, only the night terrors.
With Trumps’ presidency, the nightmare morphed into night terrors. Divesting ourselves of the terrors may provide some relief. Still, we must remain cognizant of the fact that the nightmare itself continues to afflict the national psyche so long as the 50/50 divide between fixed and fluid worldviews remains at the center of American politics.
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