Conflict is a Part of Life, Government and Politics- Get Used to It.

There’s a myth in American society that needs to die a speedy death- it’s the myth of unity. Yes, there are things we can agree on from time to time, but it’s important that we stop assuming we all want the same stuff- we don’t. It’s true in our every day lives, it’s true in our government and it’s definitely true in our politics.

Donald Trump brought me to this topic with his rant about Andrew Jackson and asking why we didn’t avoid the Civil War. As utterly stupid as his comments sound, I think he hits on a very common misconception that Americans have about a lot of political topics- that there is somehow a middle ground to be found, because in the end, we all want the same outcomes. We do, on some topics, but more often than not, we don’t. In the case of the Civil War, a lot of people assume that both sides really didn’t want to have the war, so it was avoidable- it wasn’t. The South liked their economic system, which included slavery, and wanted to keep it. The North did not like their economic system, in part because they felt disadvantaged, and so northern capitalists joined forces with true abolitionists to have this fight. The two sides wanted diametrically opposing outcomes, so the idea they could have got together and compromised is silly. It had been tried. It didn’t work.

The same basic political laws apply today- Republicans want to tax capital and wealth less and give less services to the rest of society, Democrats want to provide more services to all of society, in part by taxing wealth more. Democrats want a more diverse, open nation, Republicans want Euro-style nationalism and closed borders. Bernie Sanders wants a European-socialist model American-left, and isn’t willing to compromise on that. Donald Trump wants a nationalist right-wing, and isn’t willing to compromise on that. Talking to Trump voters about other things that they maybe agree with you on won’t stop them from caring first and foremost about the outcome they want. Conflict is inevitable.

There is not “80% support” solution to issues that the public actually understands. That’s the reality of our politics. It’s therefore the reality of our government as well. When Republicans actually don’t think health care is a human right and Democrats do, there’s not much room to compromise. When Republicans don’t think we should regulate environmental impact from industry, and Democrats think global climate change is going to do major damage to the planet, there’s not much to do there. Compromise is important and should be attempted- but no one should hold up the idea that both sides have the same ideal outcome on the big issues in our world, or that they necessarily should. Some of our government’s paralysis is necessary in a semi-informed society.

This is how we live- constantly trying to make the best reality that we can have, between people who have different goals altogether. It’s why marriages and friendships are so hard, and often end, and it’s why business partners often times end up breaking apart over time. Conflict is not something we can wish away, under the banner of some kind of common dream future. Our dreams and thoughts are individual, and so are our goals. The quicker we accept that in our politics and understand that absolute victory cannot be compromised between two opposing sides, the better off we will be.

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