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Bryan Griffin: The Disunited Tribes Of America

“Remember,” said John Adams, our second President, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

This chilling warning was given in several different ways by our founding fathers.

America is a Republic, if we can keep it, warned Benjamin Franklin. Avoid factionalization at all costs, pleaded Washington.

Just how delicate is our nation?

Our nation is polarized. Our communities are divided. Our national dialogue is more of a shouting match. Missing from our national ethos is any sort of desire for consensus. Our country is factionalized. It’s tribal.

To solve this problem, we need to be intellectually honest about where it stems from.

Consider the following three headlines from just this past July:

Why President Trump’s Divisive Strategy May Not Work, NPR

Trump’s Dark and Divisive Rhetoric Energizes Base but Risks Losing Moderate Voters, ABC News

Trump’s Divisive Instincts Raise the Stakes of Protests, Time Magazine

The messaging is clear. The narrative is trying hard to pin the divisiveness squarely on Trump. A step further, Trump’s divisiveness is an “energizer” of his base, as if conservatives and Republicans feed off conflict and desire it as an outcome.

Yet conservatives are not on the offensive. It’s opportunists who are on the attack with a left-wing agenda. This is hard to deny if you profess to Marxist or socialist thought, wherein division is the path to political revolution.

Just read the slogans scrawled on the signs interspersed in any protest or autonomous zone. “Topple,” “eat,” “destroy.” They’re on the offensive and out to destroy. Self-acclaimed targets of the agenda include the free-market, the nuclear family, the founding fathers, the police, and the very idea of America.

A decade ago, that last statement would likely sound like a cartoony exaggeration. Today, these are self-acclaimed platform points for groups and candidates vying for support, legitimacy, and power from the American public.

The nation came together in outrage over the death of George Floyd. Yet quickly and somehow seamlessly the lines were blurred between marching against racism and rioting for a political agenda.

The coronavirus was new to all of us. Trump began imposing travel restrictions before Nancy Pelosi had time to get home from her political stunts downplaying the virus. Yet now there is no missed opportunity to try to pin coronavirus casualties on Trump as if he unleashed the virus on mankind himself.

This is to say that even issues that could easily have mass public consensus have been warped into a two-sided battlefield.

What’s driving this? An extremist agenda.

The overthrow of the free-market, the destruction of the nuclear family, the toppling of the founding fathers, the defunding of the police, and the vilification of America. For those who may doubt that list of objectives, I urge you to consider what line or what principle stands between wherever mainstream consensus currently lies and those objectives. What supports the bulwark dividing mainstream from radical these days? Nuance? Objective science? Clearly defined objectives short of the end of those things? I haven’t seen any of this.

Have you? And have you seen it enough to rely upon it?

This radicalization isn’t a fringe constituency with no power. Members of Congress ascribe to these objectives, too. These very attacks have been written on paper and submitted in Congress as legislation in the form of bills like the Green New Deal and the ‘Breathe’ Act.

These goals, the defeat of the items I have listed before, are not goals upon which consensus can be made. Instead, they represent the extreme and a desire to dominate those who disagree, not negotiate with them. These objectives would be forced onto people. As Andrew Michta notes in the Wall Street Journal, “Today’s elites as a rule do not believe they have any obligation to serve the public, only to rule it.” These objectives of destruction by their very nature are the seeds of the division that we see today.

We’re being asked to pick a side on these foundational elements of our lives. To reject them wholesale or defend them to the death:

‘Will you stand or kneel for the anthem?’

‘Are you a racist or a leftist?’

‘Do you hate the poor or are you a socialist?’

Reject these false binaries. There’s another way. It starts with acknowledging what we have: the inherent goodness of the free-market and America… the good police officers who serve and the power of the family to fix the ills of society… the noble goals of the founding fathers to form a more perfect union. From here, we can acknowledge and address faults and problems.

Seek a better society through the unique freedoms of this country. Seek solutions in consensus. 

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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