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