US politics and the death of the centre ground

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US politics and the death of the centre ground

Peter Divey argues the divide in American politics is only growing larger. As the chasm deepens, so too does the burden placed upon those undecideds. 

The divide in US politics is expanding and an unbridgeable chasm is forming. The centre ground is no longer an option. You are with us or you are against us. The time and chance for reasoned debate is narrowing fast. No one seems to have an indifferent opinion of President Trump and the few who were ambivalent are being forced off the fence as they are targeted by either side. They do not always pick the side that is anticipated. The floating voter must be harvested, it is a political emergency.

The Democrats expect a Blue Wave to wrest control of Congress away from President Trump in the November midterms. Hatred of Trump and a motivated and passionate electorate will do the trick and rhetoric, not policy, will fuel the fires of victory. But there is a problem, the wick is already turned up close to maximum even as more effort is urged.

The decision by the Supreme Court to uphold President Trump’s travel ban has shocked many. A narrow 5-4 vote along entirely political lines only exacerbated the pain of the losers. They were told it was an unconstitutional Muslim ban and they were confident of victory. The highest Court in the land has legitimised President Trump’s political instincts and the very burning issue that had thus far defined his Presidency. Time to play dirty and strike hard for The Wall may yet rise and a replacement for Justice Kennedy is pending. High stakes.

Some on both sides are seeking to tamp things down knowing full well that civil disobedience can all too easily stray into riot or tragedy. This path will not help the Democrats in the long run because it will energise Republican voters. Insult them and they will come, and that is a chunk of your advantage gone. The shaming and blaming of all Republicans and Trump voters for allowing children to be separated from parents who crossed the border illegally has pressured President Trump. But mostly it has encouraged a fringe element on either side. The increased anti-migrant sentiment butting up against the expanding open-border cry. Only the extremist benefits as the hyperbole ramps up with statements and actions that are meant to be taken very seriously indeed.

Crossing the Rubicon. It has already happened for more than a few and they have no wish to turn back. The battles are spilling out, not just political but moral and cultural. Common ground has gone and there is only no-man’s land. To debate is no longer enough, you must be seen to resist actively. An intern who verbally abuses the President as he walks by is an exemplar. Guerrilla warfare, It shows your passion and virtue. You are a warrior who belongs. Left v Right, Red v Blue, Patriot v Liberal, Populist v Globalist, labels hardly matter anymore. There is only winning or losing. And right or wrong. God is on our side declare both, confident in ultimate victory. The only loser in this battle is the ordinary voter.

President Trump is not the cause of this strife but he is the main symptom of it.  A focus and easy scapegoat certainly. The Supreme Court minority made some remarkable dissents against the travel ban, stating that any other President could have passed this order unimpeded. Just not Donald Trump. The conclusion…he is not their President, he is not legitimate. No matter the Law, he must be resisted, a deliberate fanning the flames. American politics has just jumped the shark and cool heads are in desperately short supply. Slowly but surely President Trump is gaining traction and many feel desperate measures are needed and warranted. Blue Wave or Red Tide may well depend upon discipline as votes are likely to be drawn to the side that shows less of its ugly underbelly. The passionate and committed have already chosen sides and will not be swayed by increasing vitriol and clamour. The invisible middle-ground, the irregular voter, the undecided, the silent voter, they will do the job. The Republicans have a good economy, Democrats counter with feelings and emotions. It is not obvious who holds the winning hand and there will be trouble ahead.

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  • Peter Divey
    Peter Divey
    Peter Divey's dormant interest in British and American politics has been reawakened by last year's Brexit referendum result and Trump's ascendency to the White House. In his spare time he enjoys playing chess and has a growing collection of vintage wrist watches.
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