February 24, 2006
The 60/40 NationBy Richard Berry
Much is made of the 'partisan divide' that plagues our national life these days. The bitter presidential contests of 2000 and 2004, the vitriolic tone of public discourse about the Iraq War, Supreme Court nominees, and much else have led to alarmed commentary about an irreconcilably deadlocked America, a country split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. That a sharp divide exists is beyond question, and astute observers agree that the nature of the divide is primarily ideological, perhaps more so than ever before.
Not so well explored are the reasons for the special virulence of the current climate, and the accuracy of the commonly given proportions of the populace on either side of the political chasm. Specifically, we need to assay the nature of the divide, ask why the divide is so pointedly ideological nowadays, and inquire whether the national split is truly 50/50.
The Culture War raging among Americans has swamped and effectively subsumed the merely political elements of our national disagreements. Disagreements among the two American camps have become cultural and pointedly ideological precisely because the American Left has, by its conduct and its rhetoric, insisted upon it. American liberalism, which began to be infected by radical Leftism in the 1960s, has now been largely taken over by that thoroughly alien ideology.
As a result Leftism itself is the issue.
The battle to embed Leftist assumptions and values in our institutions, versus the resistance against its cultural depredations, has become the central struggle of our politics. Activists on both sides are mobilized in the epic struggle over who we are and what we are to become.
The bitterness we're experiencing these days is easy to explain. We disagree about much bigger things now than at any time since at least the Civil War. Here are some of the truly Big Things that today are in dispute:
—the basis of national community and national loyalty;
—the natural complementarity of the two human sexes;
—the centrality of the traditional family unit to American civilization;
—the dignity of every human life;
—the reality of a flawed, never to be perfected human nature.
American liberalism, having embraced post—modern Leftism, put these issues in dispute. It has changed fundamentally during the past four decades. None of these questions was seriously at issue on a large scale until the 1960s.
In allying with the post—modern Left, American liberalism has broken the national compact. It has stepped outside the 230 year stream of American consensus. It rails shrilly against the American creed, civic and spiritual. It unreasoningly indicts the phenomenally successful American economic system. It heaps scorn upon idealistic American purposes in the world and, indeed, actually impedes as best it can every exercise of American self—defense.
While American liberalism has morphed into post—modern Euro—leftism, the rest of America remains American, which is to say, thoroughly and congenitally anti—Left.
The American mainstream upholds the American cultural tradition. The liberal—Left shills for multiculturalism.
The American mainstream takes pride in America's soaring historical achievements. The liberal—Left trashes that history and fabricates anti—historical propaganda.
The American mainstream has always been and remains believingly and tolerantly Christian. The liberal—Left is aggressively agnostic and demands the de—Christianization of every American reference point, all in the guise of a false tolerance.
The American mainstream is self—sacrificing and optimistic. The liberal—Left is almost comically narcissistic and devoured by bleak pessimism.
The American mainstream wants to preserve and protect America and take her triumphantly into the future. The liberal—Left wants to overthrow the historical and actually existing America and replace her with the sort of Euro—Lefty utopia presently self—destructing before our very eyes in Old Europe.
In fact, the ideology of the Left is so completely alien to the American essence that I personally doubt it could possibly command the allegiance of 50 percent of Americans. I believe that when it comes to the all important questions that now divide us, we are closer to a 60/40 nation, at worst, in favor of the conservative American mainstream. The Right/Left split on some important matters is actually even more unfavorable for the Left than that.
The reason such proportions have not been reflected in recent electoral results is that the Right has not been led boldly and uncompromisingly, by word and deed, on the fundamental cultural questions. Instead, the Bush Administration has tacked hard away from the battlefields of the Culture Wars. I imagine this aversion to cultural combat is because it thinks such a course is necessary to maintain the social peace against even higher volume assaults from the Left.
The Administration is absolutely right about the predilection of the Left for institutional and cultural destruction. The Left is indeed the destroyer of the social peace in this country. It the school yard bully of our youth, shoving and punching to get other kids' lunch money.
The Administration is wrong, however, to think that a conclusive fight with the Left over first principles can be indefinitely avoided. The battle must be waged. Success in the War on (radical Islamic) Terror depends on it. The long term health of the American economy requires it. Restoration of the judiciary to its proper role demands it.
Most of all, the ability and the great privilege of Americans to pass on to posterity the common culture, storied history and undying hope of their glorious country is at stake.