A Test of Endurance

The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting confirmed what many feared: every public event in America will now be politicized.  The victims' families had scarcely registered the tragic facts before the blame game got under way at full steam divided almost exactly along ideological lines. The liberal narrative was predictable.  The NRA was a merchant of death; the benighted American was pathologically obsessed with military grade firearms, and it was time for the US to join the civilized world.  The conservative talking points were equally familiar.  They revolved around how liberals set up gun-free zones as kill boxes; how law enforcement acted with extreme incompetence and possible dereliction of duty.

Politics, which was ironically invented to make deals between competing factions possible has instead served to make the very simplest acts of governance impossible.  Many believe that governance has become zero-sum.  Mark Ellis for example argues the Russian collusion investigation has become a self-fulfilling prophecy creating the very effects it solemnly aims to prevent, destroying the village as it were, in order to save it.  In this charged atmosphere Ellis thinks the only path to national survival is to "make the Deep State pay" in the forthcoming midterm elections.

It is in the hands of the country’s voters now, Republicans, independents, and concerned, open-minded Democrats, to send an incontrovertible message about corruption and real collusion in the upcoming midterm election.

However those voters may feel about President Trump’s first year, an electoral alignment with the president is the best (if not only) way to show disgust about what has been orchestrated at the highest levels of the Deep State bureaucracy, the top-tiers of our federal law enforcement agencies, and by the Democrat Party apparatus.

But it's unlikely to end the fight.  While the victor of the 2018 midterm elections is anybody's guess, it's a safe bet a liberal defeat in the 2018 would enrage its base to an heightened  degree. An administration gain in the midterms would send a clear signal the liberal setback of 2016 was not a fluke. The hope the president was simply an outlier and that future elections could only deliver a regression toward the mean -- a return to business as usual -- would receive a cruel blow.  An administration loss on the other hand is likely to increase the sense of persecution and alienation Deplorables already feel.

Destroy the Deep State!  Impeach Trump! -- choose.

In either case  the conflict is likely to intensify, for reasons that will become clear, before it eventually subsides. Europeans are already beginning to suspect that Brexit was not a fluke.  Political developments Hungary, Austria, Poland and the slow decline of Angela Merkel are convincing evidence that the liberal establishment is facing more than a run of bad luck.  The race goes on.

While nothing definite can be said about what the 21st century political landscape will be, it is clear what it won't be: the ideologically liberal world of global institutions characteristic of the late 20th century. Yet though this question is doubtless interesting to academics, the more practical question facing the average person is whether or when militant liberalism and their equally militant antagonists will ever resolve their differences sufficiently to make America whole again.

The language of epidemiology can be used to predict the trajectory of the current political struggle in terms of a face-off between two competing viruses.  The evolutionary logic of viruses is they should be "virulent enough to produce many offspring (that are likely to be able to infect a new host if the opportunity arises) but not so virulent that they prevent the current host from presenting them with opportunities for transmission". When they are bad they grow.  But if they get too bad they die.

Political viruses are similar. The fundamental problem with militant liberalism was that it grew so virulent during the Obama years that it began to kill off the host before it could find new ones to feast on.  It expanded rapidly, but it expanded too aggressively for its own good. California, Detroit, Baltimore and the educational institutions are often cited as examples of this self-defeatism.

Militant conservatives don't have the same institutional hosts as liberals, so conservative viruses feed off something else; another nutrient besides money.  In this case they subsist on anti-liberal rage.  In that respect conservative activists resemble life forms that exhibit "increased virulence in the invasion vanguard".  They grow fastest at the points of contact with liberal activists.  It should not have escaped liberal strategists (yet maybe it has) that a cleanup crew of conservative pundits, speakers, activists follow in their wake; raking in support and donations from the very people they've antagonized.

In order for both viruses to regress to the mean they each have to run out of nutrients. Only when they subside can differences narrow sufficiently to make deal-making feasible again. In the case of liberal militants it means they must exhaust their institutional base.  In the case of the conservative militants it correspondingly means they must run out the rage and disaffection on which they currently thrive.  It is a contest to see who runs out of gas first.

The sad fact is that America is under viral attack because it has nutrients enough to support causes that would shrivel on poorer soil.  The unfortunate consequence of this circumstance is that the current political fires will rage until it runs out of money and anger to burn.

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Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, In this book, bestselling historian Max Boot chronicles the life of legendary CIA operative Edward Lansdale and reframes our understanding of the Vietnam War. Lansdale pioneered a "hearts and minds" diplomacy, first in the Philippines, then in Vietnam, a visionary policy that was ultimately crushed by America's giant military bureaucracy. With interviews and newly available documents, Boot rescues Lansdale from historical ignominy and suggests that Vietnam could have been different had we only listened.

The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus, Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, author Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts who are recognized authorities in their own fields. He challenges them with questions like, How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event? The book reads like a captivating, fast-paced novel but it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.

Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission, by Hampton Sides. On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected U.S. troops slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March 30 rugged miles to rescue 513 POWs languishing in a hellish camp, among them the last survivors of the infamous Bataan Death March. This book vividly re-creates this daring raid, offering a minute-by-minute narration that unfolds alongside intimate portraits of the prisoners and their lives in the camp.

The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook, by Niall Ferguson. The 21st century has been hailed as the Networked Age. But in this book, Ferguson argues that social networks are nothing new. From the printers and preachers who made the Reformation to the freemasons who led the American Revolution, it was the networkers who disrupted the old order of popes and kings. Far from being novel, our era is the Second Networked Age, with the computer in the role of the printing press. Once we understand this, both the past and the future start to look very different indeed. Ferguson offers a whole new way of imagining the world.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

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