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American politics is being pushed to the brink by Donald Trump's persistently unpresidential behavior and the hysterical reaction to that behavior (and to his presidency in general) on the part of the "resistance."

We are suffering grievously from "Trump fatigue"--the accumulating effects of the steady stream of vulgarity, megalomania, and gratuitous offense coming from the current occupant of the Oval Office. As Jim Geraghty nicely puts it, "The Trump Administration has its own time-displacement effect, where the pace of breaking news and shocking events and new controversies makes recent events feel long ago."

But we are also suffering from "outrage fatigue" as well, defined as the tendency of the media and political left to fly into hysteria over everything Trump does, however trivial or ordinary (and yes, even Trump occasionally does ordinary, even good things).

A certain pattern of behavior is thus established, in which Trump does or says (or, more precisely, tweets) something inflammatory and his opponents immediately flip the switch into high dudgeon and proclaim that the end is nigh; then Trump does something controversial again the next day and ...

The actual end of civilization doesn't arrive, of course, but with Trump there is no shortage of opportunities to predict it and be proven wrong. The Trump presidency is not "normal," but not everything associated with even an abnormal presidency calls for battening down the hatches and going into crisis mode day after day after day.

Along these lines, one would think that the Democratic Party would be sure to benefit electorally from opposing a Republican president whose approval ratings have been underwater by double digits since his inauguration and that many see as deranged and thoroughly unfit for the office, but that assumption only holds so long as the Democrats themselves aren't perceived as equally deranged and unfit, if not more so.

Trump's peculiar brand of craziness has thus driven the Democrats increasingly down their own crazy rabbit holes, with the end result that most Americans are caught in the middle, alienated and demoralized by what they see happening to their nation's politics. They recoil from Trump's defiling of the office of the presidency, but also sense that a Democratic Party lurching at high speed to the radical left is no longer interested in representing ordinary people like themselves.

To remind once again, roughly half of our nation's eligible voters either didn't vote (44.3 percent) in November 2016 or voted for someone other than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (third-party candidates received 5 percent). And the hunch is that most of those who voted for Trump did so only because the alternative was Clinton and that the majority who voted for Clinton did so only because the alternative was Trump. Never before in American politics were so many noses pinched so tight when casting ballots on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Things have only gotten worse since then, as Trump's hard-core base, for which he really could commit mass murder in broad daylight in downtown New York City and not lose any support, does daily battle with a frothing-at-the-mouth resistance for which everything Trump does, however trivial, is nothing short of a threat to the survival of the republic.

The left claims that its implacable resistance is justified by Trump's sexism, racism and appeals to white nationalism. Many on the right claim that Trump is a necessary response to the left's immersion in political correctness and toxic identity politics.

Each thus justifies itself by reference to the extremism of the other and embraces whatever tactics necessary to prevail in a Manichean death struggle.

As Trump and the resistance provoke and feed off each other, the rest of us, the vast majority of the nation's citizenry, have no choice but to look on with increasing nausea, repulsed by the spectacle and more wed than ever to "none of the above" as an option.

But the hyperpartisans won't let it be--you either have to denounce everything Trump does, even the things he does which might make sense, because he represents fascism finally come to America, or support everything he does, regardless of how vulgar and disturbing, because the crazy left is banging on the door and he is the only one keeping it out.

But there is, within this, scenario, also an opportunity--as Trump purges and ultimately takes over the GOP and the radical left purges and ultimately takes over the Democratic Party, the sane "center," defined as the traditional right to the traditional left, acquires a powerful interest in staking out turf apart from both.

A Republican Party dominated by Trump doesn't effectively represent traditional Reagan conservatives; a Democratic party dominated by Black Lives Matter and radical MeToo feminists doesn't effectively represent Bill Clinton Democrats.

Out of this a genuine political realignment is lurking, one in which each of the two parties that have dominated our politics for more than a century and a half finally splinter.

When neither of the nation's parties effectively represents the nation's voters, the voters look for new parties.

And political entrepreneurs acquire incentives to create them in a competitive political marketplace.


Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 02/19/2018

Print Headline: The party crack-up

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  • RBear
    February 19, 2018 at 5:55 a.m.

    ROTFL @ Gitz. And you look at this spectacle as if you're NOT a part of it? Give me a break. I'll admit I'm in the partisan camp AGAINST Trump, but your view from the sidelines is laughable. Just admit you're as much a part of the Trump camp as I'm a part of what you call "the resistance."

  • notbot
    February 19, 2018 at 8:01 a.m.

    Handle today’s online chatter. It’s different than your Dad’s day Gitz and people organize and speak freely. What’s on the ground is a whole different story. More to your liking. From an independent; if organizing groups that highlight cop brutality and assault of women and seek to stop it is your idea of crazy liberals you need more real world experience. I notice this movement is grounded in police report and police video publicly available to draw your own conclusion. Your conclusion is so judgmental, it makes the column funny unintentionally. I think parties are changing without you. Yes, they will stay GOP and Dem.
    They are all electing to change a bit and you are the one hysterical.

  • hah406
    February 19, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.

    Agreed RBear. Gitz, I will provide you with two quotes from this weekend that should tell you how 2018 and 2020 will go. First, from Ted Cruz, who I am paraphrasing: 'Trump's behavior will have anyone who has even leaned democrat crawling over broken glass to vote against him.' Second, from David Gergen, who has served in the White House under five different presidents from both parties: "This reminds me of the last days of the Nixon White House." The end may in fact be near.

  • RBear
    February 19, 2018 at 8:15 a.m.

    And just to take of a this ahead of time, Delta123 - Good column Dr. Gitz. You nailed it.

  • Delta123
    February 19, 2018 at 8:41 a.m.

    Good column Dr. Gitz. You nailed it. Again.

  • Packman
    February 19, 2018 at 8:55 a.m.

    A reality check for bedwetting libs:
    You cannot have my guns including my AR-15.
    Illegals are illegal.
    Americans are very happy about Trump's tax cuts.
    There was no collusion.
    Hillary lost, Trump won.

  • Jfish
    February 19, 2018 at 8:58 a.m.

    Pretty good column Bradley, not likely but it would be great to see another party emerge and shed the far right and far left.

  • RBear
    February 19, 2018 at 9:29 a.m.

    Pack what poll suggests Americans are very happy with the tax cuts? Your right wing beer drinking poll?

  • mrcharles
    February 19, 2018 at 9:53 a.m.

    them nazi are bad, but the commies are g-dless and worse.

    as usual, even when PG or the ADG chastise Trump, some dig somewhere is made against others.

    Parties made up of talking mammals of course have their down moments and individuals do exceed the normal stupid limits from time to time, but there is a big difference handling a rattlesnake like the gop and a king snake like the democrats.

    There are more knives than guns, what is the total knife death count yearly.

    Some say you cant kill with a AR-15 if you dont have one.

    gitz and Sir Kelly channel long dead prophets who saw visions , read your ancient books and see how many prophesies actually happened.

  • hah406
    February 19, 2018 at 10:37 a.m.

    Packman, no one asked for your AR-15, but if it were banned, I am pretty sure it would be removed from you by whatever force is necessary, being that illegal means illegal. As for illegal aliens, yes they are illegal, but I want them to stay, which is why I want congress to fix it. They are vital to the economy in Arkansas. I am happy about the tax cut. I just want the GOP to explain to me if deficits matter or not. And it remains to be seen if there was collusion / conspiracy or not. Trump is awfully paranoid for a man who proclaims to be innocent. I will let Muller and the grand jury have the final word on that. And it is clear that Russia interfered with the election, making it possible, but unknowable, that Trump won with the direct help of that interference.