Where Do We Go From Here?

Welcome to 2017. This promises to be, for lack of a better word, an interesting year. We just ended one of the most contentious elections in American history, and a nervous nation awaits the inauguration of Donald Trump and the possible dismantling of a half century of progressive legislation.

Or maybe not. “The Donald” is unpredictable, so your guess is as good as mine until we receive his twitter edicts.

But the real question of the year is: how will we function as a nation when the divisions between left and right continue to widen?

Families aren’t speaking to each other. Some are boycotting businesses they have frequented for decades, solely because of politics. States are threatening to secede. Gun and ammunition sales are skyrocketing.

You’d think we are on the verge of civil war, as implausible as it sounds.

I’ve been covering politics as a cartoonist for the past thirty five years and witnessed first hand how the so-called Great Divide slowly simmered to the point where it threatens to boil over. Some would say that the divide has always been there, but the situation really accelerated in our era with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.

It began with the second Republican revolution, most notably when Rush Limbaugh and talk radio replaced the eastern establishment types like William Buckley and George Will as the voice of  disaffected conservatives. It was the year that Pat Buchanan mounted a serious challenge against George Bush the first. That, coupled with the independent Perot campaign, scuttled what was left of the Reagan revolution.

It was the moment when the right decided that compromise amounted to the boiled frog analogy, that their values and rights were slowly being cooked away by the progressive socialist agenda. Even though it would take another twenty-odd years, they began to weed out the moderate wing of the party, election by election.

Democrats, on the other hand, embraced compromise. They were still smarting from the trouncing they received  after the disastrous Carter presidency. (Yeah, I know hard core Democrats worship him now, but they overlook the Iranian hostage crisis, his inability to work with his own party leading to a 1980 challenge from Ted Kennedy, and the malaise economy with double-digit interest rates.) The smooth talking Clinton wanted to pull voters away from the Republicans by offering “the third way,” of a supposedly conservative approach to economics with a liberal social agenda.

It worked, for a short time anyway. Hillarycare, more taxes, the social stigma of political correctness and increasing environmental regulation scuttled his agenda and his congressional majority, but even with the Lewinsky affair Republicans couldn’t dislodge him from the White House.

The new century brought Bush II, 9/11, two wars that have yet to be resolved, and the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Americans overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama in the hope that the internal wounds could be healed. It might have been, except that Obama couldn’t identify with rural conservatives. Maybe if he had spent a week on a ranch on the border, or in a West Virginia coal town he might have been able to feel what they were feeling.

No, I’m not so naive to buy into that. Republicans made up their mind from the beginning that it was all or nothing. There would be no grand compromise on anything that originated from the White House or the Democratic congress.

By the beginning of 2015, conventional wisdom and most pundits agreed that Hillary Clinton would not only break the glass ceiling by becoming the first female to head a major party ticket, but she would mop the floor with a weak Republican field of candidates. This prediction would only be bolstered by the ascendancy of reality show real estate tycoon Donald Trump to the top of the Republican heap.

Almost everyone (including yours truly) didn’t see the Trump train coming. Anyone who publicly endorsed The Donald was publicly vilified, so most voters kept quiet until November 8. And only then did we see just how pronounced the divide had become.

The same church-going conservatives who were horrified by Bill Clinton’s oral office affair in 1998 voted in droves for a man who was on his third marriage ( to a foreigner no less ) and bragged about crotch-grabbing his female victims, a loud-mouthed bully who stiffed his creditors and sicced armies of lawyers on his detractors. Good God, he voted for Democrats!

Meanwhile, those Democrats were involved in their own inner identity crisis. For the first time since the 1940’s, many openly identified themselves as socialists and rejected the compromising Clintons in favor of Bernie Sanders. In the end, just enough of them stayed home on election day to turn the electoral tide to Trump.

And now, here we are. The same Democrats who complained that the opposition never gave Obama a chance have vowed to build a wall of their own to stymie any Trump initiative. The same Democrats who decried the slurs on Michelle are slut-shaming Melania with glee. The same Democrats who were shocked when Trump announced he might not accept the outcome of the election are refusing to accept the outcome of the election.

No matter what spews forth from the White House, I’m fairly certain that the Republicans in Congress and the statehouses will forge ahead with their own reactionary agenda. You have only to look at legislation coming from the red states to see that they will do what they can to restrict voting rights, overturn anything resembling gay rights, criminalize Islam, gut the social safety net, including Social Security and Medicare and generally ignore the democratic process. (See North Carolina) They can’t help themselves. They’re Republicans.

Both sides are convinced that they will win it all, eventually, and that is where the real problem lies going forward. Do they really believe the opposition will fade away? I’ve been hearing that line for twenty years. It’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

Why is it so hard to live by the notion that we all have inalienable rights that the government has no business monkeying with? The libertarian in me still believes that as long as I don’t harm the rights of others, I have the right to live in the pursuit of happiness as I please. E Pluribus Unum.

As I asked in the beginning, how can we continue to function as a nation when we are so divided? Despite what some pacifists and isolationists might think, there are other countries and entities who would love to see our Grand Experiment fail. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. You might not like the alternative.






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9 Responses to Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. AMSawl says:

    Nice synopsis, Bob. I agree with you. I guess we just have to hold on tight for the ride.

  2. Bruce Levy says:

    Great article But the Democrats, as usual, will eventually latch onto what ever meme the right invents for them. And after awhile they will believe it and continue to self-flagellate themselves into obscurity. Nobody snatches defeat out of the jaws of victory like the self-loathing,low self esteem democrats. You have the sociopaths on the right and the willing victims on the left. It’s a symbiotic dance of self destruction, while the rest of the world stares in wonder and snickers at what douchenozzles the world’s greatest power has become..

  3. Kevin Vrieze,e says:

    Nicely put. Hopefully, enough people will remember history and get the lessons before they must learn them again in a harder fashion. The age of US ezcdptionalism is ending, let’s hope the transition is peaceful.

  4. Chris Peterson says:

    Break out the pegged pants, coat hangers, and ghetto guards; we’re on our way back to the fifties.

    I think we here in the states can live through this, (maybe not); what I’m concerned for is Putin and Trump saddling up the Four Horsemen. I don’t think the world is going to handle this as sheepishly as we will.

  5. gjrebane says:

    Nice interpretation Robert. Although I’m not sure how either “libertarian” or mid-road it is. Nonetheless, it has done its job in attracting approval from the Left; now let’s see what it elicits from the Right before concluding on what part of the road you painted this yellow stripe. Exciting times for all.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      George Rebane damns with faint praise once again. So predictable. BTW, I’ve been enjoying Paul Emery’s rope-a-dope on the RR website, let’s hope he has the stamina to keep it up through 2020. I agree 100% with his analysis, the Rumpsters are going to rue the day. So beautiful. Can’t wait.

      • rl crabb says:

        Yes, George, the exciting part will be watching you and your gang make excuses for the excessive behavior of President-erect Twattweaker as he spins out his twitter feed agenda. Not that the pouting Obama deserves any better. The waning days of his presidency will no doubt surpass even Bill Clinton’s in pettiness. As to my “libertarian” leanings, it mainly revolves around human rights. The right to have an oppressive government get off my fucking back. The GOP is just the mirror image of Democrats, and I have no doubt they will live up to P.J. O’Rourke’s observation that Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work. Then they get elected and prove it.

  6. Chris Peterson says:

    I always have, do, and probably will continue to, fail to recognize the logic, or validity, of conservatives. Our nations’ roots, this “grand experiment”, was as progressive an undertaking as the world had ever seen; a government based on the premise that every individual had an equal voice.

    And when the slaves were freed, it was a progressive move that cost a half million lives to hold. Same thing with women’s suffrage, the black vote, equal rights for LBGT, and abortion. Every step of the way, good people, who follow the ideals of liberty for all individuals, have had to fight the ever-constant whine of the conservative minds, who claim that somehow the original idea was NOT to allow such freedoms; that we should NOT move forward in a manner that seeks “a more perfect union”, but instead, we should repeal all those liberties that have been gained over the last few hundred years, and return to a state in which overlords rule our bodies, and churches own our souls.

    Limit the rights of women to decide their own course, they say; create lists of religious followers of other faiths than their own; and continue to build the already mightiest military on Earth to fight the very governments and factions who hail to the same authoritarian beliefs. It’s pure fucking insanity without a shred of logic behind it.

    So yeah, the overwhelming majority, who did not vote for these back-stepping actions, will be watching closely, together with all those who are now claiming, “I didn’t vote for that!”, (even though they damn sure did), or the large majority who claim they thought the Democrats could control them; and they, and the rest of the world, will not react favorably, should these political puritans go too far.

    Our liberties may end at the tip of our noses, but our defense of them can be down right invasive. Our liberties are unalienable, which means there’s not a law they can pass to change that.

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