Cultural conflict threatens to tear the US apart and the UK is not immune. A descent into tribalism could render us incapable of rebuilding after the pandemicby Tom Clark / October 8, 2020 / Leave a comment
When the question is the “culture wars,” as it so often is these days, the standard liberal homily mourns the passing of a shared public sphere and appeals to everybody to step outside the echo chamber. How often, however, do we really do it ourselves? That was nagging at me as we put to bed this issue about the “new American civil war.” Could it just be that the “war” framing is one that progressive Europeans apply precisely because we never engage with those from the cultural right, and the American right in particular? Is the whole notion, in other words, a creation of my own echo chamber?
With that in mind, I decided to take stock of the (so-called) “debate” in Ohio between Donald Trump and Joe Biden not with my usual go-to news sources, but instead with the help of American conservative podcasts. Within minutes of tuning in to Steve Deace’s post-match analysis, I had heard several phrases that seemed to belong not only to another tribe, but also an entirely different era—“the reds are taking off the masks.” One thing, however, was entirely familiar: analogies from military conflict flowed through the discussion. The shouting match had been, Deace suggested, much like it would have been “if Lincoln had debated Jefferson Davis,” leader of the old Confederate South. We heard, at different points, that a civil war would soon be coming—and also that one was already raging.
So if talk of the United States coming violently unstuck still strikes you as wild and over-heated, pause and consider the fact that such talk is now emanating from both sides of a great cultural divide. It is a divide whose potential to translate into street violence can only have been elevated by the President urging an obscure band of black shirted-wearing thugs to “stand by,” presumably for action after a contested election result. In a magisterial state of the Union survey, Sam Tanenhaus highlights the abject disdain with which Trump and his noisily patriotic tribe have come to regard vast tracts of their own country. A hard right sets itself up as defending a mythical American past even as it radically disrupts the American present.
The President’s self-serving destruction of America’s belief in the very possibility of a fair election, pursued in all the ways Dahlia Lithwick…