American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.
Since I moved to Barcelona and started writing about Catalan independence three years ago, I’ve worried that Spain’s refusal to engage with the movement would radicalize it and hollow out the middle in Catalan politics.
Regular readers know I believe the two-party system in America is one of the root causes of the country’s many political problems: extreme partisanship (but weak parties), polarization, a politicization of the judiciary and an unwillingness by lawmakers to rein in presidents of their own party, to name the four most urgent.
Taking judicial appointments out of the hands of politicians (in most other democracies, judges appoint their own) could help depoliticize the judiciary and take the sting out of the culture war that keeps the two-party system in place.
Asked to judge such dirty tricks as spreading false information about an opponent or removing yard signs, both Democrats and Republicans in the United States are far more forgiving if their own party is to blame — and outraged if such misdeeds are perpetrated by the other side.
When he signed the PATRIOT Act and launched the Iraq War, reasonable left-wing Americans voiced reasonable objections. The far left reached for Hitler.
Republicans dismissed this as over the top, because it was. (And it made it easier for them to dismiss reasonable objections as well.) So when the real thing came along, and this time not only the far left but commentators on the center-right warned that Donald Trump had a lot in common with the worst leaders in European history, many Republican voters once again shrugged.
If anything, it made them support Trump more. As one voter told The Atlantic in 2016:
Give people the impression that you will hate them the same or nearly so for voting Jeb Bush as compared to voting for Trump and where is the motivation to be socially acceptable with Jeb?
Ronald Brownstein reports for CNN that the congressional elections in November are likely to deepen the divide between “blue” and “red” America:
Democrats seem likely to emerge … with a clear upper hand in highly urbanized House seats that are racially and religiously diverse, disproportionately white-collar and secular and connected to the globalized information economy. Republicans, in turn, could remain dominant in districts outside of urban centers that are preponderantly white, heavily blue-collar, more religiously traditional and reliant on manufacturing, agriculture and resource extraction.
Will Wilkinson has another excellent op-ed in The New York Times about the maldistribution of power in the United States between rural and urban areas.
Part of the problem is that America’s federal system gives sparsely populated parts of the country way more power than the cities. That wasn’t such a big problem until the rural-urban divide became partisan. Now the largely white countryside and small towns vote overwhelmingly Republican while multicultural cities elect mostly Democrats. American democracy has been thrown into a crisis of legitimacy and dysfunction as a result.
Our politics is cracking up over the density divide. Big cities and their distinctive interests are suffering a density penalty and need more visibility in our scheme of representation.