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America: a political hydra that denies its nature

Interesting and astute article by Kevin D. Williamson in NR Online on the Chicken Littles among us, both comparing 2016 to 1968 in terms of our national division and doing a remarkable job of explaining who the Trump people are and why they are not conservatives or really Republicans.

He even points out that George Wallace would have been  garden-variety Democrat if he'd come from anywhere but Alabama, and that a large percentage of Bernie Sanders' older supporters have positions on immigration remarkably like Donald Trump's.

Our divisions are a great deal more complicated than most of us recognize, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum. I've said repeatedly that America needs a multi-party system in which political philosophies are sorted out in such a way that we can have an actual, coherent debate on policy issues every four years while also being sure that everybody has a voice. Hard-Right Republicans felt disenfranchised in 2008 and 2012; real conservatives of any kind are disenfranchised this year. Moderate Democrats have been pretty much disenfranchised since 1972 unless you count the Clinton years as a brief interval of inclusion for them (I don't). Really hard-core Lefties are feeling left out this year just like conservatives are, since Hillary isn't radical enough for them.

No political bloc the size of these should ever be disenfranchised. The national dialog is impoverished when it happens, the campaign is fought on less than honest or useful grounds, and the result is guaranteed to alienate more people than it pleases.

Arguably the grievances of hard-core conservatives go all the way back to FDR and the takeover of the party by what is now dismissively called "the Establishment." There were intervals when the hard Right  (not by any means to be confused with the Wallace or Trump people who, as Williamson makes clear, are an entirely different animal) broke through to temporarily take over the party, in 1964 and 1980.  Realistically, neither party generally can win unless the "Establishment" and ideological wings are united behind a nominee; this year will be an exception since his seems unlikely to happen in either party.

In fact, it fails to happen in one or the other so often that one wonders about the wisdom of a system which in essence depends on it happening. A dialog on equal footing by all viewpoints- Sandersonian, Clintonian, Cruzista, Bushophile, Rubioso, and Trumpist/Wallacite alike- would yield a cleaner and more satisfying result, encourage the various camps to work together rather than in opposition to one another, and avoid the trap of a large percentage of the electorate feeling excluded and alienated year after year.

But first, it's necessary to identify the heads of this political hydra that is America and figure out who plays on what team. While this may not have been Williamson's primary purpose in writing the article, I think he makes a good start at doing that. Conservatives are generally not curmudgeonly old white male religious fanatics, liberals are not all either hippies or self-regarding celebrities and wealthy eccentrics, and followers of Trump and Wallace are more complicated than they're generally given credit for.


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