A coming 'Great Divorce?'

It seems like an eternity ago that Bill Kristol raised the name of columnist David French for the role Evan McMullin eventually occupied: a conservative independent alternative candidate to the radically unacceptable Donald Trump. Since then, French and the National Review have maintained their integrity as regards Mr. Trump, but have often been more sympathetic toward him than I have been.

Still, it's hard to disagree with this column by French,  in which he points out that while the civil war metaphor is a bit overblown, it is not even slightly unrealistic to say that we as a nation are drifting toward our ideological schism becoming a political one. "Blue" and "Red" America differ from each other so radically in basic values, in fundamental assumptions about life and the universe, and most of all in how they see themselves and the other that I don't think it's at all an exaggeration to see us as drifting toward the very cataclysm the Civil War avoided- disunion, but more or less peacefully and by mutual, disgusted consent.

It's certainly possible to overstate the case. Like French, I think Dennis Prager- with whom I disagree profoundly about Trump but for whom I have a great deal of respect- overstates it when he claims that we are even now in the midst of an unbloody but real civil war. I am not willing to go so far. I believe that we still have enough that unites us that it's possible to pull back from the abyss of that radical a condition.

But our national schism is nevertheless profound. It touches everything from our spiritual lives to our attitude toward the family to our understanding of the function of law and government. I remain bemused by the existence of a kind of island in the sea of red called "libertarianism," which seems to me in many respects more like Blue America than Red, especially as regards social attitudes; I'm not sure where libertarians would end up in the "divorce" French foresees.  But unless something dramatic happens, I don't think it's at all impossible that somewhere down the line we might decide that we have too little in common and too much separating us to remain a single society.

I would like to have us avoid that. And if we're going to avoid it, this is a time in which we need to be building bridges. Instead, we're burning them. Each side blames the other for all of America's problems while accepting none of the blame itself. Each side demonizes and misrepresents the other, seeing them less as mistaken than as evil, not as people to be convinced so much as objects of disdain fit only for destruction.

That's why Stand Up Republic and the McMullin movement are so important. That's why The Centrist Project is so important. That's why the most compelling necessity we face in American politics is rebuilding the Center and starting to rebuild those bridges. The day still seems far off when our political differences become so pronounced that we can no longer share the same polity. But for the first time in my life, and probably for the first time since the Civil War, it is no longer unimaginable.


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