They have become political cliches, promises to be "a uniter and not a divider," pledges to be a "representative of all the people," etc., etc. You know them all because you've heard them a thousand or more times. It comes from the left, it comes from the right and it comes from the squishy middle. But is there any substance to it? Is there any there, there? Just what is the glue that unites us as a country?
Fractionalization is not new by any stretch of the imagination. This country was born into it. Aristocratic Tories, New England rabble-rousers and Southern slave owners overcame greater odds to create a new nation than a more generous God would have allowed. Still, those divisions would become so heavy it would take a bloody civil war to bridge the chasm.
Now consider this: Those that stood on the decks of the USS Arizona on the evening of December 6, 1941 thought of the Civil War as their grandfather's war. They were just 76 years removed from Lee's surrender at Appomattox. For all of the divisions that remained in a segregated America, the wounds of that civil war still bound us as a nation. Had you taken a hardcore Democrat and a hardcore Republican from that day and locked them in a room and told them they weren't allowed to leave until they substantively agreed on five things they both truly believed in, how long do you think the discussion would have lasted? Maybe an hour tops?
Today, we are almost as far removed from the day we entered WWII as those men on the Arizona were to events of 1865. But are we as close as a nation? Are there really any true uniting principles we can agree on as a people? If any of us were locked in a room with a liberal Democrat, could we find that much common ground?
We probably could agree on problems, but I seriously doubt we could agree on solutions. And it's going to get worse.
Last year, the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans on their "culture confidence," that which we used to refer to as American Exceptionalism. While 80% said they believed in the concept, when pressed for more specifics the numbers tumbled, especially with this last generation that has received the full flower of a progressive education and the parentage of the "free love" crowd.
The younger you are and the more educated, or should I say "indoctrinated," the less likely you are to actually believe in America.
Consequently, words that used to have a cultural commonality now mean totally different things to each side. On one side, freedom is seen as being left alone to do as one pleases with minimal contact from government. On the other side, freedom means being cared for by the state so as to be "free" to pursue the lifestyle of extended adolescence, where sex has no consequence and all the responsibilities of adulthood can be avoided.
To the right, it makes no difference if one is rich or poor, powerful or ordinary; the law is to be applied in equal measure to all. This equality before the law is the lynchpin to the American concept of justice.
But to the left, equality and justice are not legal arguments, they are economic ones. "Social justice" demands wealth transfers from the productive class to anyone that can state a convincing case of grievances. Justice, therefore, must shed her blindfold and scales. The rule of law becomes the rule of men, where all laws and regulations are subject to waiver.
How long can this tear at the national fabric before the breach becomes too wide to repair? And is it even repairable now that one side has determined that their differences with their fellow countrymen can only be described in terms of mental illness? On the left it has become increasingly acceptable to dismiss the concerns of their opponents as psychiatric "phobias." Every disagreement is now attributed to an irrational fear, be it racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, or whatevergetsmewhatIwantaphobia. How long before it becomes acceptable to seek a "cure?"
Conservatives hold on to the belief that their fellow countrymen can be persuaded to maintain the pursuit of the American dream through sunny optimism, rational argument and the acts of the Happy Warrior. I fear there's not enough "United" in these United States to make that case.