Jonathon V. Last in The Bulwark takes a shot at how we got to our polarized place.
There are two theories about how we got to the political moment we’re in.
The first theory is deteministic. It goes something like this:
Over the last 40 years America has undergone rapid demographic change. This shift, combined with the societal dislocations caused by an immense technological revolution and various other economic pressures—i.e. globalization and income inequality—created a political powder keg that lead inexorably to a period of mass polarization, resulting in the rise of a demogogic authoritarian.
The second theory is that we are where we are because of a series of choices made by political leaders which, bit by bit, created dangerous political conditions.
- Bill Clinton’s perjury and refusal to resign his office and instead, force and impeachment fight.
- Al Gore’s decision to litigate the 2000 election rather than concede.
- George W. Bush’s decision not to form more of a national unity government in the aftermath of 9/11 and run-up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- The smearing of John Kerry in the 2004 election.
- The ramming through of Obamacare in the face of massive public resistance.
- The implementation of the nuclear option in the Senate.
- The effort on behalf of some Democrats to promote Donald Trump on the assumption that he could not win.
- The effort on behalf of some Republicans to promote Donald Trump on the assumption that he could not win.
This is a partial list, of course, and there’s more than enough blame to go around for everyone. [Scriber doesn’t agree with all these but the general point remains.]
Some of these choices seemed like a big deal at the time. Some did not. One of the decision points which I never fully appreciated was Mitch McConnell’s decision to not hold a vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
What I thought was, at the time, simply very hard-ball politics turns out to have been a deep wound to the polity. Neil Gorsuch’s politics are closer to my own than Merrick Garland’s. But whatever the benefit, it wasn’t worth the cost.
It was a mistake on McConnell’s part. A mistake that hurt America.
And now he’s doing it again. Over the weekend, Bill Kristol and Jeff Tulis wrote a long piece going over, bit by bit, the ways that McConnell is damaging the constitutional order in an unprecedented manner.
It’s fine to think that the Senate should not vote to remove President Trump. I disagree, but it’s a perfectly valid view.
But how they get to that decision matters. If they arrive at that outcome by corrupting the process, the McConnell will once again have wounded our country in pursuit of a short-sighted political objective.
There is a great deal of red in this man’s ledger.
As I said before, I’m in a different political place than the guys responsible for content at The Bulwark. For example, Last and Scriber are polar opposites in their evaluation of Garland and Gorsuch. But somewhat surprisingly, we are agreed on some important issues. One is that McConnell grievously wounded America by holding Merrick Garland’s SCOTUS nomination. Another is that McConnell is doing it again.