American politics is becoming a blood sport, more like boxing than baseball. The goal is no longer just to defeat the opposition but to knock it out. Large segments of the American public, elites and media believe in one or more of the following propositions:
- The Democratic candidate for president in 2016 was a threat to the national security of the United States.
- The Republican candidate, now president, is guilty of treasonous negotiations with a foreign country.
- The election was stolen.
- The Republican campaign was spied on by the previous administration, which continued to do so after the election in the period before the inauguration.
- The US intelligence community is engaged in a concerted effort to undermine the new administration.
- The new administration is dedicated to undermining American democracy and all its institutions as well as dismantling the social safety net and civil rights.
Most of these claims have not been proven and may never be. But that’s not the point. The underpinnings of American society are under greater threat than at any time since before the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. In fact, there is talk of California seceding from the union, as if the Civil War had never happened.
For observers from the political center, the scene threatens the country’s future and by extension the rest of the world. The best of the Republican presidential candidates, Ohio governor John Kasich, never had a realistic chance of becoming the nominee. Donald Trump was widely considered to be an ignorant vulgarian whose campaign was a bad joke.
The Democrats had to choose between a representative of the extreme left – Bernie Sanders – and Hillary Clinton, believed by some to be not only a threat to national security but a “liar” and a “crook.”
Clinton, however, led the popular vote, recording 3,800,000 more votes than Trump. But a majority of the Electoral College ensured Trump’s victory.
Less than two months after the January 21 inauguration of Trump the new administration is under attack. One high-ranking official has been forced to resign and another has recused himself from involvement in an important policy matter.
The rest of the world is perplexed by all this, and future historians may be equally puzzled.
Reality has consequences, but so does the perception of reality, however delusional. Sometimes those consequences complement each other but more often they collide. Policies adopted and actions taken as a result of inaccurate perceptions produce at best ineffective results and frequently counterproductive and even catastrophic ones.
The left and the right in the US are acting on perceptions of reality that may prove wrong. In the meantime, the country will suffer and its future placed in jeopardy.
This is not happening in some global backwater. It is happening in the most powerful country on earth, armed with a huge nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction. Countering the apparent social upheaval is not an option, it is an imperative.
So, what can be done? The voices of reason in the US must forget partisan divisions. There is no future for either of the major parties if there is no democratic future for the country. The Kasichs and (Democratic Senator Chuck) Schumers must join together to confront the extremes. If that means the formation of a new political party, the party of reason, so to speak, so be it. The stakes are too high to dither. The time is now, before the current boxing morphs into bullfighting, where the penalty for losing is death.