A few years back a radical candidate, brand new to his party, swept in and introduced uncouth and jarring language to our political discourse. He openly called for a political revolution. His disciples openly advocated for a second alteration to our constitutional system, a de jure or de facto shift of the United States from a democratic republic to a mutually exclusive form of government referred to as social democracy. Politicians in our national Congress claimed allegiance to that explicitly different form of government, and late-night hosts provided friendly explainer videos introducing Americans to it. Bernie’s legacy is complete, he was never to be the president-supreme that he envisioned, he was just the messenger.
One of America’s two political parties has a street arm, and we need to understand that they operate not within our politics but in an attempt to shape them via malign influence and bullying. They are rising and thriving off of legitimate grievance, and are much better prepared than they were in 2016. Ask yourself: what does it mean to live in a country in which a non-minor portion of its citizens espouse support for a different form of government? What does it mean when one of the two major political parties in your country provide a legitimizing vehicle for that support? It means your political union is at stake.
Our bloody Sunday hereby serves notice that the phrase partisan divide shall be retired. Partisan implies, in common usage, individuals jockeying within the same system. What America is heading towards is a confrontation, between those who support the sustenance of our institutions and those who would not improve but instead replace them. This phrase seems almost simplistically obvious and rueful now, because they are telling you the same thing and because meaningful reform is still a needed and narrow possibility, but it will be easy to take our eye off the ball and realize that’s the operative phrase of our era.
A few months back and political eons ago, as Bernie appeared ascendant in the election, there was chatter about how to beat back socialism, and it even garnered a mention in the State of the Union address. What we have still not yet realized, what we’re still catching up to, is that the challenge now is not just to withstand this surge of unrest without further erosion to our political union - a serious risk - but whether those espousing this particular ethos of social justice are even willing to remain in the existing one.
America faces a set of overlapping governing crises that it has failed to acknowledge, let alone address, for years – the type that would shake any democracy. Let’s explore an example here via another domestic policy issue away from the current flashpoint: immigration. When thinking about immigration, do you bemoan something called gridlock, or do you understand that our very demos is contested, that our sovereignty is contested, physically at times, and that states and localities comprising a not-insignificant portion of American territory reject federal primacy over immigration policy?
Those are not just partisan disagreements. Shake yourselves free of the notion that we have the strength in our mediating institutions to navigate differences of that magnitude smoothly any longer, and start to think about how to move forward in the long hot summer ahead and an election just five months away as Americans step over broken glass on their way to the polls into the coming legitimacy crisis.