How did we get here?
How did the country become so divided?
It’s not just the media and the Democrats who are asking how Donald Trump became president, and how the nation became so divided. Many establishment Republicans and pundits are asking the same question. Men like George Will and Bill Kristol believe that Donald Trump is an affront to the conservative movement.
The reason for this is that they do not see Donald Trump as the refined, civilized, gentlemanly presence as perhaps George Herbert Walker Bush, Calvin Coolidge, Arthur Balfour or others throughout the last 200 years or so.
Balfour in particular was the head of the conservative party in England in the early 1900s. He is, I believe’ a model for many of the “civilized conservatives”. Balfour was very intelligent. He ascended to the leadership however through a touch of nepotism. Balfour was the nephew of Salisbury, the previous Prime Minister. He was wealthy through inheritance, a lifelong bachelor and quite cultured. Coolidge came from a more middle-class family and his quiet demeanor lent him an air of civilized grace.
Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, George W. Bush to a lesser extent, Paul Ryan and many other modern day conservative leaders have this same civility among them.
The problem is, especially with Balfour, these men were largely ineffective. Balfour was 0 for 3 in elections. Romney and Dole both lost presidential elections. Paul Ryan, much like his predecessor John Boehner and others get very little accomplished. The budget and debt rise. School choice doesn’t get passed but Obamacare does.
Universities in the United States are still heavily left leaning and yet the taxpayer dollars still flow to them. The list goes on and on.
So the leaders of the establishment conservative movement make a fundamental mistake. They forget that the conservative movement, like all political movements, is made up of the millions of supporters.
Those millions of supporters have decided that the refined conservatism of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and all the others was not going to work anymore.
This is not the fault of the millions of “stupid” conservative supporters who voted for Trump. It was the logical choice. Kasich in particular seems intelligent at first glance. But he is never able to put any of his ideas into historical context. He simply can’t craft the rhetoric to change someone’s mind. So how did he get so far in the first place? He was dragged along by the political genius, and fighting warrior Newt Gingrich.
Thus when the smoke had settled, Donald Trump was the only one left standing who looked like he was willing to fight for the conservative cause. Trump also understood clearly that immigration was an economic issue. He never fell for the nonsense that to be opposed to immigration one must be a racist.
Every time a Republican tries to push against immigration a Democrat yells’ “Racist”. The Republican then backtracks and tries to make the economic case for immigration. Paul Ryan did this. He thought that the more immigrants we had the more people could buy cars, houses and washing machines.
The problem is of course supply and demand. The more workers you have, the less the wage. So it becomes a bit harder to afford that car, house or washing machine.
The “civilized” conservative then suggests that yes, wages will fall, but prices will fall faster. So everything will balance out.
Of course the obvious problem here is that we have a vast welfare system. It’s not just food and housing, you are also going to get to see a doctor in an emergency room whether or not you have insurance or a job. Now those workers, who make less money because of supply and demand have less money to pay taxes to support those new immigrants who aren’t working.
Now we have another issue. The disutility of labor equation is changed. Disutility of labor is defined as,
“Does this job pay me enough to actually do it? Or should I just stay where I am and collect a check for the government or live off of the fruits of my parents?”
Immigration, coupled with a welfare system, changes that equation. And so you get less people working. Well, this should increase the wage right? Yes. Unless you just bring in more workers who are willing to work at the wage.
And yet the Republicans who ran against Trump failed to understand this obvious logic.
This is not complicated stuff. If the George Wills and Bill Kristols of the world don’t get that Balfour was largely a failure, they sure aren’t going to understand the historical nuances of immigration. The idea of a conservative who maintains the status quo, and is civil about it only works when things are going well. If those leaders fail to produce results, and cannot articulate a position effectively, we get a Donald Trump. A man who we know can get things done.
And he has! This is what is so troubling for many of the never Trumpers. They actually believed that John Kasich or Jeb Bush would be a better president. But they were basing this belief on a myth. The myth of the civil, quiet super conservative. That man was not available. And if he was, he didn’t have the “super” part down where he could use logic, reason and historical context to make his point.
So this explains how we got Donald Trump. The conservative base knew that the quiet man wasn’t getting the job done. So they picked someone a bit bolder.
But it’s only part of what has happened. The divide goes beyond Donald Trump. Recall that we were “clinging to our guns and bibles” according to President Obama. We are “deplorable” according to Hillary Clinton and we are racist bigots according to just about every Democrat with a microphone.
The division has been building for years. The biggest problem in this nation isn’t health care costs. It’s a huge problem, but it isn’t the biggest. The biggest problem isn’t immigration, the debt, spending, media bias or even the division itself.
The biggest problem and the reason for the big divide is that we never talk intellectually about any of these issues. When is the last time you saw an hour debate on national TV about immigration or health care?
Why is there no intellectual discourse? Well the answer is pretty simple. Consider Hillary Clinton’s comment that the left shouldn’t even be civil to Republicans. She didn’t lower the tone by a bar, she lowered it by two bars. Not only does she not want to engage intellectually she doesn’t even want to be civil!
And when she said this what was the reaction of the media? What was the reaction of her fellow Democrats? A few voices in the wilderness, but mostly Eric Holder type responses of doubling down!
There was not outrage from the left or the media. If you are still reading and believe that I am making the case that intellectual discourse will be the thing to fix the problem, you are wrong. It’s not going to happen. If we are arguing whether or not we need to be civil, intellectual isn’t even on the radar. You can’t solve a problem that you can’t discuss.
So how did we get here?
We got here because the main stream media became a weird and anti-intellectual combination of Buzzfeed and Twitter. The divide was festering, and no one bothered to address it. And nothing should lead you to believe it is going to get better. I am all but 100 percent certain it’s going to get worse. CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS or even Fox News are not going to pick up the phone and call me and say,
“Hey Gurr! You’re right. We need an hour or two a week of intellectual debate about these issues! You can come host the show!”
We got here because we don’t debate or even discuss intellectually or civilly. Things will get worse because I’m not sure the media see this as a problem. They are as partisan as the politicians. They think they are right. So why talk about it? Why risk some of your supporters being talked out of your tribe?
The election of Donald Trump didn’t start this. And I don’t believe it made it worse over the long haul. What it did is make it worse now. .But there was absolutely no indication it was ever going to get better. The Huffington Post compared John McCain to Hitler. The entirety of the left bashed George W. Bush at every opportunity. Trump was just the first to fight back. He exposed the myth and he forced the conversation, at least outside the mainstream.
Until the corporations that own these media outlets realize the damage they are doing, things aren’t going to change. Right now there is no chance for honest debate. The big media players are working to find a Democrat who can beat Donald Trump in 2020. Everything you see in the news will drive this until after the election.
Then it may get better. But probably not. How do the Democrats pivot from their key issue, immigration? Over the last few years the Democrats went from voting for a border wall, to actively opposing any kind of border security or immigration reform at all. What’s the path to pivot? How do they say, “We were wrong? Immigration isn’t a moral issue, it is an economic issue?”
The long term outlook for our nation and healing the division isn’t good. In fact, it’s hard to see a path at all.