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How Partisan Drift Crippled America
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How Partisan Drift Crippled America

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The great legal theorist Carl Schmitt once said, “tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are”[i]. In short, the political is always at essence the art of identifying an enemy. Politically cohesive states are those in which the enemy is defined as existing outside of the state rather than within. Taken to an extreme absurdity, we might consider George Orwell’s 1984, and the monstrously totalitarian (yet monstrously cohesive) society it depicts, where hatred is ritually vented in a ‘two minute hate’, which consists of the society yelling epithets at a flickering image of a possibly fabricated rebel leader, Emmanuel Goldstein. If such an enemy is not without, then it can only be within, and must therefore be driven out, into the category of an insurgent network, operating clandestinely through underground channels of subversion, and likely collaborating with rival states. A real life example of this can be found in the Soviet Union’s treatment of White emigres in its media, these enemies of the revolution who schemed with the Germans and the Japanese to destroy Russia (or so the propaganda would have had you believe).

A cohesive state need not be a totalitarian system, nor even necessarily a particularly authoritarian one. It can be given to the quiet boredom of longstanding national consensus, for example in Sweden before the turn of the millennium. And yet in every case, cohesion is found where the internal differences of a state, if they do exist, become entirely superficial in the face of an outside threat. States begin to slide into ruin when this no longer holds.

In the era of mass politics, the United States has often avoided democratic mistakes such as those made by European liberal democracies in the interwar era, deliberately constructing a system which shuts out extremist parties, and essentially turns political thought and action into a duopoly between the centrist right and left, which have always been loose coalitions of the willing, prone to adaptation and evolution over time. The Democratic and Republican parties have always disagreed about superficialities: taxes, war, spending, the meaning of the constitution, economic doctrine, but politics has remained civil, and has been left at the backdoor when both sides felt the need to form a common front, such as in wartime. Contra certain conspiracies, both parties opposed the Soviet Union and communist agents in America. Both parties supported the various wars which the United States fought both against communism and the global Jihad. Opportunistically, members of each may have tactically dissented at the time or in retrospect, but broadly, the duopoly has shown a remarkable ability to become an iron-clad monopoly when it felt this was necessary. Thus, both parties agreed that those who opposed George W. Bush during his height were “with them”, or were conspiracy fantasists. And again, both parties agreed that those who opposed Barack Obama during his height were “wacko birds” or racists. Senators Barbara Boxer and Ted Cruz represented fringe elements of their respective parties.

Bush and Obama’s tenures in the White House are notable however not in the ways they continued the status quo, but instead for how they broke from it. During these two administrations, voters themselves began to break from their representatives to indulge in ever-more negative characterisations of their opponents. More than half of Democrat voters believed George Bush had forewarning of the 9/11 terrorist attacks[ii]. More than half of Republicans became convinced that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim[iii] (something they found deeply sinister). All of this has come to a head in the Trump administration in which, with the pendulum now in the red, the blue team are in an unprecedented state of rabid hysteria. The latest episode of this is the controversy over routine procedures in the deporting of illegal migrants, which the media have gleefully jumped on. Democrats have compared Trump to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler before, but this time they are deadly serious. Trump and his supporters in the Republican party, so the story goes, are maniacally separating Hispanic families, torturing their children in cages like zoo animals. The jackboots and tanks are already rolling down 5th Avenue, The Man in the High Castle has become reality. The hysteria even interfered with the vision of actor Ron Perlman, who briefly saw Nazi imagery in an ICE agent’s military tattoo[iv].

What happens when a partisan divide comes to define what is good and evil within a society? What happens when the friend/enemy distinctions doesn’t cut across borders, as for example in USA/North Korea or USA/China, but cuts across front lawns? This is when a state is heading for a descent into political violence, civil war, or revolution. And of course, a strong sign of this is the identification of leaders with nefarious rivals abroad. Obama as a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood is very akin to Trump as a secret agent of the FSB. The 1930s have much to teach us about what happens to states where this occurs. In Austria, the radical right were the “agents of Berlin”, while Red Vienna’s residents were “agents of Moscow”. In Spain, Franco was an “agent of Hitler” while Azaña was an “agent of Stalin”. Austria ceased to exist after a short time, and Spain was consumed in a bloody civil conflict.

The United States has not yet reached this stage, and we should note its infrastructure is much stronger than that which existed in the aforementioned countries. Surprisingly, America’s law enforcement agencies, including ICE, remain decidedly non-partisan, even to the public imagination. While Democrats contend that police officers indiscriminately shoot minorities, they do not yet claim that the police have some hidden all-encompassing allegiance to the Republican Party. However, this will come. The media is already, somewhat correctly, pigeonholed as a Democrat Party institution. When other institutions are given a partisan coat of paint, real or imagined, then the last levies will be torn down and the entire country will be given over to a political anarchy.

But what is political anarchy? It is merely the struggle for who gets to make the friend/enemy distinction, and thus who gets to define what it means to be American, and what it means to be un-American. Partisan conflict will shape what was supposed to be the ‘American century’. This has become unavoidable. The ‘cages’ currently housing illegal minors, will find a new use in this dystopia. It’s only a question of whether blue or red faces are the ones staring through the bars.


[i]Schmitt C. Theory Of The Partisan. New York: Telos Press Publishing; 2008:85.

[ii]Smith B. More Than Half of Democrats Believed Bush Knew. Politico. 2011. Available at: https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2011/04/more-than-half-of-democrats-believed-bush-knew-035224.

[iii]Fisher M. Poll: 54% of Republicans Say That, "Deep Down," Obama is a Muslim. Vox. 2015. Available at: https://www.vox.com/2015/2/25/8108005/obama-muslim-poll. Accessed June 19, 2018.

[iv]D. S. 'You're an A**'! Ron Perlman owes this veteran and ICE analyst a REAL apology for pushing 'Nazi' smear. twitchy.com. 2018. Available at: https://twitchy.com/sarahd-313035/2018/06/18/youre-an-a-ron-perlman-owes-this-veteran-and-ice-analyst-a-real-apology-for-pushing-nazi-smear/.

Author: K. E. Benois