Originally Published: February 21, 2018 5:59 a.m.
Those of us who find the current political situation to be crazy might hope that it’s just a momentary lapse of reason. That it will get our attention, and we will shortly return to normal. It’s a wish that reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives can cherish. Unfortunately, reality declares otherwise.
We might get a partial handle on this craziness and reduce its effect, but it’s not just a passing storm that will move along or return us to easy days as before.
Trump is running a blind, clumsy blitzkrieg on all normal standards of adult ways of operating, and the GOP leadership are actively participating. “The media” had been primarily the sources that were reasonably professional and mostly accurate, but now we are subject to whatever crazy “news” links Facebook foists on us, many of which are either fake news from Russia or from white supremacists or other extremists, judging by the nature of them. Neo-Nazis and racists and accused molesters are running for office and drawing a lot of support. Congress, far from rising above the craziness, seems especially susceptible to it.
But a momentary lapse? No. It is the tribe of the fearful, afraid of anything that’s not like them, and the tribe of the self-centered, like the supremacists, who only want their kind favored and the rest suppressed. You can prove to a group, who seem like they might simply be gullible followers, that some news item is fake or that some candidate is a bigot or a molester, and it doesn’t matter. They’ve chosen to make something else more important. If it’s a story that makes their group look good, if the candidate says he’d favor their tribe, that’s all that matters.
We can force reason to regain control by, among other things, getting reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives elected, people who will disagree but compromise, who will push their view but refuse to tolerate unprofessional behavior, but like the store owner who is a bigot and so only sells to everyone because the law compels them. That’s not the progress we would want, merely an act of keeping the ugliness under control.
If we’re lucky, we can achieve that, but the situation will be similar to the period after the Civil War, not in terms of lives lost, but in terms of a slight majority enforcing principles that have made their way into law while a large number go along only because they have to. That’s the group who is convinced the rest hate them or are secretly out to destroy America or some such plot. That population will hang onto that view until they die and will pass it on to some of the next generation, and those ideas will find new takers every few years.
Look at Europe. Both we and they thought they’d gotten past Nazism after WWII, yet here they are struggling against it again. These are struggles that never end. Battles that can be turned, but never concluded.
The country is split. In some ways it will not be healed. All that can be done is for the rational to take firm control while the rest grumble but have to go along.
Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.