Why We're Divided
Senator Schumer has rejected the President's request for funding a border wall, even withdrawing an earlier offer of $1.6 billion. As I write, Congress is working on a stop-gap measure to avoid a shutdown but with no funding for the wall. This action doesn't bode well for congressional relations in 2019. It reflects the underlying truth that America is more divided than at any point in modern history.
It's not just the border wall. Sen. Schumer's response is the Bronx cheer to anything the President proposes. Nancy Pelosi follows up with her sniveling whine about how "he hasn't got the votes." What about discussion? It's hard to discuss issues with someone who begins and ends the conversation with derision and contempt for the other, and that's the default position of the Democrat Party today. Democrats are so reflexively partisan that compromise is impossible. Then they proceed to accuse conservatives of causing the division. And that accusation is the basis for more division.
Conservatives operate from the assumption that politics is a civil discussion of ideas leading to proper decisions. There is a problem at our southern border, and it's getting worse. The Left rejects even this obvious truth. They support open borders and elimination of ICE, a policy that would invite vast caravans of millions of illegal immigrants along with criminals and terrorists in their midst.
The latest Rasmussen poll showed Americans evenly divided about significantly expanding the border wall though among the President's base there remains overwhelming support. Politicians are divided, but that division reflects a fundamental truth: Americans themselves are so strongly divided that compromise seems impossible.
Unlike President Trump, who simply wants to preserve a safe and orderly system of immigration, the Left is playing politics with the issue. They're courting the Hispanic vote in border states like Arizona in advance of the 2020 presidential election. That is a risky tactic. Half of Americans are deeply upset by their support for open borders. For conservatives it makes no sense to open our southern border to millions of unvetted illegal immigrants.
To progressives, however, it does make sense, because progressives are pursuing a politics of disruption and division with the intent of overturning society. That politics is modeled on the tactics of Lenin, not on the constitutional foundation of our country. The Left's goal is to trash the conception of America as it has existed for 242 years and to replace it with a socialist state thought up by a deeply alienated European intellectual named Karl Marx.
Marx is the model not just for the Left's thinking but also for its political tactics, and so for the division that we experience today. Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals is merely an "Idiot's Guide" to Marx's day-to-day politics of division and disruption. Time after time, at one party congress after another, Marx outmaneuvered his opponents by proposing extreme positions and refusing to compromise even on small points of doctrine. Like those who followed in his footsteps, including today's Democrats, Marx was skilled at making threats and shifting blame to others—a model for the Democrats' perennial threat to shut down government and blame it on the opposition.
Marx's fanaticism was grounded in his ridiculous belief that his ideas would sweep away an unjust class system and create a stateless utopia controlled by the workers themselves, though only after a long period (years, decades, centuries?) of cruel totalitarian rule by the "vanguard of the proletariat." The French political elite has always seen itself as a similar vanguard governing in the interests of ordinary citizens and without their consent. That perverse view of reality is now being rejected in France, as it has been rejected with the election of President Trump in America and with the passage of Brexit in Britain.
At least half of Americans are disgusted with the political elite in Washington, though a sizable coalition of Leftists, minorities, and intellectuals seem not to have gotten the message. Over time the rebellion against the Left will gain force, however. It is not in the interests of Hispanics, blacks, women or any other group of Americans to support a leftwing political elite that insists on governing without their consent.
That kind of governance always ends with the impoverishment of ordinary workers and the creation of lavish conditions for the elite. Mao lived a sybaritic lifestyle while 45 million Chinese starved or were executed, and he seems to have enjoyed it, claiming as he did that it was "necessary" for millions to starve. According to the latest polling, 60% of American millennials would prefer to live in a communist or fascist state. An authentic division based on ignorance on one side cannot be resolved by facile talk of "civility," though it may eventually be resolved as some on the Left gain maturity, become educated with regard to the truth about communism, and gain first-hand experience of the consequences of socialism.
Unlike those on the Left, who have always proceeded from Marxist assumptions but who are now unashamedly Marxist, conservatives support commonsense positions like working for what you get and respecting the rights of private property. Today's Democrats have thrown those principles to the winds. Corey Booker supports the idea of a "guaranteed job," which is to say an income for nothing, since no one can "guarantee" a job for those who refuse to work. Like Bernie Sanders and others, Booker also supports "Medicare for All." Behind that innocuous-sounding proposal is a devilish prescription for wealth transfer and bad healthcare. The cost of Medicare for All is estimated at $33 trillion over a decade, none of which would be paid for by those added to the rolls. By definition, the proposal would have to be funded either by the middle or upper class. Taxing the top 10% alone would not produce enough revenue. So, the cost would fall on the backs of the middle class.
The middle class would also bear the brunt of lower quality health care. They would be thrown in with those who now crowd the emergency rooms and charity wards. This is not the type of healthcare I want for myself or my family.
The division in our country is not just a matter of slight differences in policy. What leftists like Booker and Sanders are proposing is the destruction of the American middle class and the institution of government control over all sectors of the economy. It is an avowedly socialist agenda, which is nothing less than communism.
As a Fulbright scholar I lived in communist countries for several years, and I saw the empty shelves, lack of services, fear of speaking, and utter demoralization that result when a political elite gain control of society. The institution of socialism in America would have the same consequences as it did in Eastern Europe. The division we see in America today is, in effect, a referendum concerning the future of the country. Do we wish to become another authoritarian socialist state or remain the free capitalist nation we have been for 242 years?
No wonder we are divided. The division is real. As Marx stated in the Communist Manifesto, the middle class must be "swept away," and today's Marxists intend to carry out this threat. Though there are plenty of soccer moms in the suburbs who don't realize it, the middle class is fighting for its life. Once healthcare, education, retirement, and the workplace have been thoroughly socialized, opportunity and freedom will cease to exist.
Unfortunately, this is no time for civility. Civility assumes that both sides are composed of ladies and gentlemen who are willing to compromise. At this point the Left consists of sixties-style fanatics who will stop at nothing, as in the fight over the Kavanaugh appointment or the present calls for impeachment. Many conservatives wish to return to the days of civility but increasingly find themselves thrown into the ring with those who lack all sense of shame. When that's the case, one must play hardball.
Ultimately, America will return to its path as a constitutional democracy and will restore the liberty that such a republic implies. Unfortunately, with Democrats running around in Che Guevara T-shirts demanding fundamental change, that future is a long way off. For now, we must employ every legal and non-violent means to preserve our constitutional democracy. As long as Democrats wish to destroy our freedoms and all that we have worked for, the nation must and should remain divided.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).