January 17, 2019

January 17, 2019

“All Right Then, We Are Two Nations.” That’s what John Dos Passos wrote in his great USA trilogy, recounting the divisions in the country at the time of the 1927 execution of Sacco and Vanzetti—another season when nativism was running high and Italians were viewed by many “older stock” Americans as an inherently dangerous population.

Plus ca change:  In a survey released yesterday by the Pew Research Center, Americans opposed expanding what we have in the way of a border wall by a 58 percent to 40 percent margin, but that 58 and that 40 couldn’t be more entrenched. Not surprisingly, given the centrality of nativism, racism and Trumpism to the modern GOP, “Republican support for the wall,” Pew reports, “is at a record high, while Democratic support has reached a new low.” Moreover, Pew continues:

Nearly nine-in-ten (88 percent) opponents of expanding the border wall say it would not be acceptable to pass a bill that includes President Trump’s request for wall funding, if that is the only way to end the shutdown. Among the smaller group of wall supporters, 72 percent say a bill to end the shutdown would be unacceptable if it does not include Trump’s funding request.

I take these numbers to fairly represent what has become an unbridgeable divide between our two nations. I take them as an indication that those who are seeking the “center” in American politics will fail to find one. Neither side has any significant political incentive to plant a flag in midfield; neither side believes in the other side’s facts, epistemology, or sense of right and wrong. For the sentient American majority, the only long-term solution is to mobilize and enlarge our ranks to overcome the anti-majoritarianism of both the Republicans and the Constitution, and thereby win the political power that would strip from Republicans their capacity to inflict their bigotry on their fellow Americans.