COVID-19 is yesterdays news. The number 200,000 is too large, it becomes abstract: those aren’t people, they’re just a number – a statistic rather than a tragedy. Now we can enjoy the bread and circuses of (national) politics while the tent collapses around us: the election is less than 6 weeks away and a liberal judge inconveniently died. Amidst the politically-motivated hagiography being heaped onto the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump has put forth his own candidate: Amy Coney Barrett. For many, this is beyond the pale.
I tend, for the most part, to do my best to stay away from news-of-the-day stories. I like to make posts that are something that someone might still find interesting a year or five from when I wrote it. The outrage-of-the-week is an ephemeral drama that will be enthusiastically displaced by next week’s new, more pressing outrage, only for the cycle to be repeated. I think there are a few reasons why I am breaking my own precedent here: the political situation in the U.S. is historically partisan as we draw nearer the 2020 election. No matter who wins this election, there will be a significant portion of the population who will not see the president as legitimate. Those on the losing side will likely not simply slink away from their candidate-savior and accept their fate for the next four years. Both sides view this election as a decision for the very soul of the republic. Our opponents are not just wrong or misguided, but in fact sinister and conniving. Unfortunately, in many ways, both sides may be justified in believing this, but that is only the case because they believe this. The left and the right have both become real monsters in order to slay the monster they perceived the other side to be.
“One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.”
― The Origins of Totalitarianism
As it stands, the Republican party has a hold on political authority. The ascension of Amy Coney Barrett into the Supreme Court, along with Trump’s large number of judges in lower courts, will give the right a permanent place in one of the three (ostensibly) co-equal branches of government: the judiciary. And, as should be obvious from the one-eighty turn that the Republican party did concerning Trump back in the 2015-2016 election season – going from detesting him to loving him – the Republican party is now the party of Trump. This was a politically canny move for the Republican party to take. Teflon Don’s invulnerability to any scandalous words or deeds, both past and present, demonstrated that the Republican constituency wanted what Trump symbolized. He became the troll-in-chief, a hypostasis of right-wing nihilism that didn’t care about their own victory as much as they cared about their enemy’s defeat.
While not laudable, or even acceptable, this is understandable. Despite right-wing political power – both in the advantage they receive from the electoral college and in the Senate due to the 17th amendment, and in their more savvy politics – the left has held sway over cultural institutions for even longer. Universities, newsrooms, and Hollywood have generally leaned leftward since at least the late 1960’s, and in the past decade or so (and now joined by large corporations and sports teams), have leaned so far to the left that they’re falling over themselves to prove how woke they are in an orgy of virtue signaling and ministration for the extravagances of their most radical elements.
The Democratic constituency has gone to the edge of reality and turned left. This is a counter-backlash on the left to the original backlash on the right (personified by Trump). And thus polarization wins the day. The panic on the left over Trump’s supreme court nominee is at a fever pitch, with people like John Oliver and Bill Maher (among numerous others) elevating this to a crisis to which no countermeasures are off the table. This can only lead to further polarization.
I agree with both the left and the right that the American Republic cum Empire is at a crisis moment. Whether the political (and, for the most part, military) institutions that favor the right or the cultural institutions that favor the left will win out is what hangs in the balance: the former has the monopoly on force, but the latter has an overwhelming influence on information. One thing I will be happy about after the upcoming election, at least, is not having to see the nonstop parade of political advertisements for a while. Whoever said I’m not an optimist?