Donald Trump

The 'Politics of Division' Is 'Who We Are as a Country'

Trying to minimize those divisions isn't very democratic.

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Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush gave a pair of unrelated but thematically linked speeches yesterday that were widely understood to be rebukes of Trumpism. Unfortunately, the speeches also trotted out some tired clichés about division in American politics, with Bush calling out Russia for taking advantage of those divisions.

"America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country's divisions," Bush said at a Bush Institute summit in New York City. "According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other."

Let's be clear: Americans are already and always turned against each other. In a democratic society we can be divided because we have agency. (There's a lot of political unity in places like Russia.) Free speech is messy by design, and what keeps our divisive politics from being destructive is the limits we've placed on government. The more powerful the government, the more dangerous those divisions actually become.

Obama played some of the same notes. "What we can't have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries," Obama said at a campaign rally for Phil Murphy, the former Goldman Sachs executive running for governor in New Jersey. "Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It's the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!"

Pixabay

At least Obama did not describe a mythical American past when politics was more cordial, as some advocates of less divisiveness in U.S. politics do.

Bush went further, deploring how American discourse had been "degraded by casual cruelty."

"It can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity," Bush said. "Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions."

This is true, but it's also unabashedly American. And while we can call on each other to do better, there are 320 million people in the United States; it's absurd to expect them to agree on much of anything, and it would be destructive to try to paper over all their differences.

It wasn't Russians who demanded Obama's birth certificate and it wasn't Russians who compared Bush to a chimpanzee. It wasn't Russians who said you were either with us or against us, nor was it Russians who compared Congressional Republicans to terrorists or warned black people Republicans would put them back in chains. "We" did that on our own.

The obsession with Russia's influence on American politics and the divisions in it could be a lot more damaging to our democratic norms than any Facebook ads some Russians might purchase.

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  1. Bush and Obama both want to do things to other people that those other people don’t want to have done to them.

    When the people to whom Bush and Obama want to do things vehemently protest against the things trying to be done t them, that’s considered “divisive.”

    In other words, the problem isn’t that a rapist is trying to rape you, the problem is that you are so loud and *impolite* in protesting the rape.

    1. Govt is the things we force the other half of the country to do together.

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    2. You’re on to a problem with the article. If government was limited to protecting us from others who’d harm us, instead of the increasingly zero sum game whereby many strive to use government force against others for their personal benefit, there really wouldn’t be much reason to be divisive.

      Taxes (at all levels combined) would be less than 10%, while today it’s at least 4X that. Paying the government 10% to provide courts, police and the military (to protect our borders) is not something many would fight about. It’d probably be even less.

  2. In a democratic society we can be divided because we have agency.

    We are divided because we as individuals have different interests and goals from other individuals and these interests and goals are sometimes in conflict such that an outcome needs to be negotiated.

    The attitude that politics is about “Right” and “Wrong” and “unifying the country around what’s Right” is partisan mumbo-jumbo.

    What has long distinguished government in the US from government in Europe is that the illusion of consensus is much stronger in Europe because there is a clearer distinction between the “Ruling Class” and everyone else and dissenting views are less tolerated. There is a governing class that knows what is “Right” and is tasked with enacting it. Dissension just gets in the way of doing what the Right people know is Right.

    1. I remember the first time I learned about Noblesse Oblige. I was so disgusted that I shot 10 guns and threw some sort of beverage into the ocean. Disgusting.

      1. You shot 10 guns. You didn’t throw any of them into the ocean, did you? If so I’m triggered.

      2. I first (and last) visited England in 2000 was shocked by how nakedly condescending the talking heads in the media and government were, and the “lower classes” just seemed to accept it as “that’s how those people are. Whatever.”

        Our media figures and politicians seem like positively humble and open-minded “People of the People” by comparison.

        1. They’re still the same way when I was last there five years ago. I was amazed at the blatant attitude you speak of. They are still very class conscious regardless of what they might say. And, incredibly, the “ruling class” is still seen by most as their betters.

          But that’s the story in most European countries I’ve visited. They are so accustomed to having a ruling class and a monarch, the people don’t see themselves as citizens, but as subjects.

        2. I’m reminded of the 2012 election, where Ann Romney was talking about tax returns?, and said “We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life […]” (emphasis mine).

          So it’s not like the attitude doesn’t exist here, we just don’t have the fancy titles.
          ________
          ?Oh, what a simpler time. When only releasing two years of tax returns was considered scandalous.
          ?Broadly speaking, the ability for your “social/economic class” to be different from that of your parents.

          1. Except that the ‘you people’ she was referring to were the media busybodies who were hounding the Romneys at the time.

            Not the ‘lower’ classes.

    2. We’re divided because some people are sane and some people have had their brains pickled by FOX News.

      We’ve always had disagreements but we’ve never had different factual universes. And if you want to say liberals are responsible for that, then you are pickled too.

      1. I really do think people like you and people like John really do have different universes then the rest of us. But I guess that plays into the sane/insane dynamic you spoke of previously.

      2. I remember back in the good ol’ days when we all had the same factual universes.

        You know: The JFK assassination, and the Vietnam War.

      3. We’re divided because some people are sane and some people have had their brains pickled by FOX News.

        Spoken like someone over whose head the point did highly soar.

    3. individuals have different interests and goals from other individuals and these interests and goals are sometimes in conflict such that an outcome needs to be negotiated.

      One of the difficulties here is that “negotiation” is often a show of force- either the left or right moving towards increasing their grasp so they can push their respective agendas unopposed (in contrast to those teeth clenched agreements that while aren’t good, are better than the alternatives). This sets up an endless cycle of brinkmanship that ends in a stalemate (effectively no governance) or potentially tragic consequences (Trump).

      We are divided because we are individuals, but we are also united as we all have to get along.

      In essence, “Right” then becomes acting like the adults in the room, not necessarily sacrificing all principles, but understanding some sacrifice will likely happen to serve a larger goal.

      People often forget political exchanges are also markets, and as such competition is good.

    4. “We are divided because we as individuals have different interests and goals from other individuals and these interests and goals are sometimes in conflict such that an outcome needs to be negotiated.”

      I disagree. There’s no conflict provided you don’t take my money, property or liberty to achieve your goals, or try to get government to do it for you. So no conflict, and no negotiations are necessary.

      Regardless of how worthy your goals are, using government to achieve them, makes them unworthy because of the harm it first does to others. Involving government, creates conflicts, because all government does, is use force against individuals (and other than to collect taxes, hopefully it uses force only against criminals who’ve harmed others).

  3. I don’t know what you’re talking about here Ed. Political unity has a great track record throughout human history. I would definitely trust any politician who preaches unity

    1. Stalin always got elected with 99.2% of the vote. And God help that .8%

      1. That’s true. Some politicians have an amazing talent for achieving unity. Guys like stalin and mao and castro were great at it. Allende and pol pot and Hussein and hitler and even assad can teach us all something about coming together.

        Or else…..

        1. The difference of course is that Allende got elected.

          1. With a whopping 36% of the vote, barely edging out the guy who got 35%

            Democracy in action

          2. “The difference of course is that Allende got elected.”

            So did Chavez, and what wonderful things he did for a country swimming in oil!

  4. “Mr. Obama, aren’t you speaking here tonite to urge people to separate into two groups: those who like Mr. Murphy and those who like his opponent who takes her orders directly from Chris Christy and Donald Trump?” Aren’t elections all about dividing the voters into two (or more) groups?

    1. Aren’t elections all about dividing the voters into two (or more) groups?

      In the US, exactly two. No more, no less.

  5. Being united through politics is an idiotic non-starter. The people who are the strongest backers of “unity” are the most divisive.

    Being united through non-political activities is realistic. Sports, civic institutions, hobbies social clubs. These things bring people together. The trend of politics invading these areas is dangerous. Or if “dangerous” is too far, at least it’s bad.

    We root for the same team, we’re on the same side. Now it’s political and we’re not on the same side. We’re at the same party or event, we have something in common – we have a conversation, we make jokes, we become friends. Now everyone has to talk about politics, so we’re not friendly. This harms the general quality of life.

    1. Fuck that!

    2. The people who are the strongest backers of “unity” are the most divisive.

      Well, we have to unite against the dividers, don’t we?

    3. Bronson, my measuring stick for bullsh*t is politics. once something becomes political, I know right away it is bullsh*t

      Global warming – bs
      SJW and black lives matter – BS
      kneeling and stupid arguments about kneeling and a god damn song – BS
      tranny bathrooms – BS
      gay bakers – bs

      everything that is bandied about on the news and talk radio ad infinitum. – BS

      All of this crap is designed to distract from the real graft going on in Washington. The debt, never ending wars,the FED antics, entitlements, spending, the police state, our growing departure from capitalism are the only things worthy of our attention and the sheep don’t care. DC is winning all of the time.

      1. You got that right, timbo !

        And everything imaginable is politicized because we are governed by the absolute worst bunch of people who are not intellectually able to govern in any other way.

        This was Obama’s tool for eight long years. If he didn’t like a thing then it was racist. He tried his best to wreck the nation, and he damned near did.

  6. Let’s organize sports based on the culture war. Instead of a National League and an American League in baseball, let’s have a Progressive League and a Conservative League.

    1. I like the idea. More along lines of a “progressive” and “conservative” country. They can have much of the Northeast and the West Coast and Illinois for their flyover bumpkins.

      1. If the libertarians and conservatives that I like played a massive game of football against the progs and Marxists, it would be the most lopsided victory of all time.

        Even though most of the minority population(by that obviously we are all thinking black athletes) would be on the prog team, almost all leftists are total pussies so I would take those odds all day long.

        One of the easiest pussy gages out there is hatred for capitalism. Wimps who cry and complain about rich people are pussies.

        1. Well of course they are; as a rule they want to be on some kind of tit for the duration of their parasitic lives.

        2. People who cry about people kneeling during the national anthem are fucking pussies.

          1. People who need bakers to bake them whatever fucking cake they want or they’re going to go crying to daddy are the bravest people of all!

            1. Just not enough of the latter, and way too many of the former.

              You are innumerate.

              1. When I think about it that just makes sense !

              2. “You are innumerate.”

                While you are an ignoramus.

        3. It probably woudn’t be so lopsided, because white leftists would have black pro football players doing all the actual playing for them. Of course, they’d probably have Kaepernick as quarterback, so that would likely cost them the game.

          1. Nope. Kaepernick wouldn’t even be on the sidelines. The most victimy of the victims would be QB and they’d never make it out of the locker room from their ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety.’ Then team left would immediately declare themselves winners because they ‘need’ the proceeds of the event for all of their victimy hoard.

  7. Trying to minimize those divisions isn’t very democratic.

    So, Ed, you’d be ok if communists came to your Republican Party meeting and started telling you how Trump is a piece of shit, right? Good for you. Robby and the commentariat were having a fucking meltdown over that this morning.

    Jesus Christ, libertarians have thin skins, but I take ?? from you, Ed. You’re one of the good ones!

    1. Roach Pierre is back.

    2. Communists have the thickest skins of all.

      You just don’t know how hard it is for a communist to live in the modern, western world of capitalism, which is totally against his own values, when he could be living in Commutopia.

      It’s a shame that they never get what they rightfully deserve!

      1. “Communists have the thickest skins of all.”

        Is there some leathering/petrifying effect I’m not aware of taking place in all of those massive graves around the world?

        1. That’s not real Communism. You can tell because real Communism always works!

  8. Wrong : the politics of multiplication is who we are as a country.

    1. How about the politics of calculus – we keep approaching the limits of stupidity but never reaching the limit.

  9. These two donkey dicks are the reason everything is so f*cked up right now.

    They are both absolute moron puppets. Why would anyone with a brain listen to them?

    “We have to abandon free markets to save them”

    “If you have a business, you didn’t build that”

    Dumber than my dogs.

    1. That makes you what? A Drumpfista with dogs.

      1. “A Drumpfista”

        Oh, oh! Look!
        Lefty asshole tries to make a funny!!

  10. “It can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity,” Bush said. “Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.

    You can say that again, lying war criminal. I responded to an article this morning about how I really didn’t care if protesters showed up at a meeting and made College Republicans feel bad and counted 3 responses where people said people of my political persuasion should be “eliminated” or “eradicated”

    1. Well generally people of your political persuasion occupy the lowest rungs of the intelligence ladder so you tend to thin your herd on your own.

  11. RE: The ‘Politics of Division’ Is ‘Who We Are as a Country’
    Trying to minimize those divisions isn’t very democratic.

    Gee, just think if we could all unite as one people with one idea of governance, then we would all be living in a true proletarian paradise like North Korea or Cuba.
    We can only hope and pray.

  12. Stop talking about Russia’s attack on the US, it’s too divisive!

    1. “attack.”

      weak troll is weak

      1. Imagine they did it to favor Hillary, then get back to me with your opinion on what it should be called.

        1. Uraniumgate?

    2. “Stop talking about Russia’s attack on the US…”

      These poor, sad losers.
      A YEAR, for Pete’s sake and they are still trying to come up with some lie or other in the hopes that she isn’t really the most miserable excuse for humanity that ever wore a pants-suit, and they are the most pathetic whiners ever to stamp their feet!
      Fuck off, Tony. Just fuck off.

    3. “Attack”
      Information is violence!

      And you imagine you’re different from the neurotic campus lefties.

  13. I really don’t see why this whole democracy thing has to be so divisive.

    OK now, minorities: shut the fuck up and get in line.

    1. Democracy is only divisive when the majority wants to tell the rich minority something.

      With their votes.

      Then it becomes a matter of morality. Like, taxation is theft. Taxing the rich more is theft times infinity. Because suddenly democracy becomes the tyranny of the majority.

      1. Word!

  14. I COULD NOT be happier that both POTUS Bush and POTUS Obama gave speeches this week decrying the “politics of division”!!! That now means that we will NEVER hear another statement from EITHER of those two WEAK and FECKLESS former Presidents, as they BOTH were the best at perpetuating the very politics they so forcefully decried!!!!

  15. I COULD NOT be happier that both POTUS Bush and POTUS Obama gave speeches this week decrying the “politics of division”!!! That now means that we will NEVER hear another statement from EITHER of those two WEAK and FECKLESS former Presidents, as they BOTH were the best at perpetuating the very politics they so forcefully decried!!!!

    1. Damn, just say it. You really wanted to just blame Obama, but Bush got in the way.

      1. Damn, what an imbecile.
        “Trump unleashes $4 trillion in stock market gains since election, says Wilbur Ross”
        https://www.cnbc.com/2017 /06/19/wilbur-ross-trum p-has-driven-the-stock-ma rket-to-4-trillion-in-gains.html
        Fuck off, lefty loser.

  16. “It wasn’t Russians who demanded Obama’s birth certificate …”

    Nor was it the Russians who demanded to see John McCain’s birth certificate long before anyone asked about Obama’s NONEXISTENT AND TOTALLY FORGED BIRTH CERTIFICATES.

    It’s not a “Conspiracy theory” when there’s a mountain (higher than Everest) of irrefutable concrete evidence proving that Obama was not born in the US and that he committed felony identity fraud to get himself elected as President.

    1. “…there’s a mountain (higher than Everest) of irrefutable concrete evidence proving that Obama was not born in the US…”

      So
      .
      .
      .
      what?

      1. You don’t have any issues with a foreign born person being elected to the highest office in the land? Outside of the fact that it’s illegal and clearly stated in the US Constitution?

        1. Natural born citizen means that they must be a citizen at birth, not that they must be present in America. Otherwise, McCain would not have been elegible in the very same election. He was born in Panama, and doesn’t dispute that.

  17. It wasn’t Russians who demanded Obama’s birth certificate

    As a matter of course, candidates for the Presidency should be required to establish they satisfy the constitutional requirements to be the President.

  18. It wasn’t Russians who said you were either with us or against us

    Ed is getting sloppy.

    Bush actually said:

    Every nation, in every region, now has a
    decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From
    this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded
    by the United States as a hostile regime.

    “Us” was actually the US as a nation. The “you” that may or may not be with us were other nations, not Americans. Using this as an example of attempting to divide Americans is just sloppy.

    I assume the mistake was made because Ed was trying to play the “pox on both your houses” game that Reason likes so well, making false equivalencies between the Left and the Right, when clearly the Left has been sowing the fear, hatred, and resentment of identity politics, *relentlessly* pitting Americans against each other along race and sex, while the Right, and particularly Trump, treats Americans as the in group for “us”.

    I agree with the larger point that getting all wound up about Russians attempting to divide us is just stupid. They have been doing that for a century. That’s what Marxists do.

    1. But now that the Left has gone entirely post modern Marxist, that’s what *they* do as well, relentlessly, so that a false equivalency between what they are doing and what the Right, and particularly Trump, is doing is simply hogwash.

      Ed left out the most obvious and egregious single example in recent history: Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”, who are everything evil in the world, and particularly *out to get* everyone else based on their identity group, so that the Left can, like Adam Sutler, “make them remember why they need us”.

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  20. I COULD NOT be happier that both POTUS Bush and POTUS Obama gave speeches this week decrying the “politics of division”!!! That now means that we will NEVER hear another statement from EITHER of those two WEAK and FECKLESS former Presidents, as they BOTH were the best at perpetuating the very politics they so forcefully decried!!!!

  21. Respectfully disagree with article…

    There are philosophically based arguments that are important to have and by and large the philosophy that supports libertarianism is enjoyable to me. The problem with libertarianism, however, is libertarians almost 100% of the time take this philosophy too far. This argument for instance.

    It is absolutely baloney that division is a strength. Competition and differences within a shared set of rules is a strength but it is often looking more and more like we cannot even agree on the same set of rules in America. That is a weakness, there is no way to spin that. Saying we are stronger when people are politically at each others throats, when it is more and more apparent that our government appears nonfunctional, people are fighting incessantly over race, when people appear to be embracing a strongman, when fascism and communism both have ceased to be the boogeyman they were in the 40s, that is a weakness.

    Let us not pretend that just because Bush and Obama are despicable messengers that they are not correct. America needs to figure this out or we will be in trouble.

    1. We are figuring it out. One bunch of would be Aristocrats – people who want to tell us Peasants how to live – is losing its grip on the country. What the next bunch will look like – and there WILL be a next bunch – is not yet clear. So, for a while, we have squabbling and acid indigestion all around. When the Progressives have joined the Social Darwinists and the Planter Aristocracy on the ash heap of history, and the next bunch of would-be Social Betters engulf the institutions things will calm down. For a while.

      *spit*

  22. My argument against federalism is usually somethng like “why do people in California have to live exactly the same way as people in Vermont?”, but, for all their talk, that’s what democrats (even democrats who call who call themselves republicans) really want. I guess once you’ve figured out the one true path, and if you care about other people, you’re kinda obligated to proselytise. People usually just ignore that question.

  23. Eh… the problem with “division”, “unity” and so-on, is that it’s all a matter of degrees.

    Let’s look at the presidency. With one notable exception, regardless of who wins or loses, both sides accept it and move on. Even when folks feel the election was “stolen”, they don’t riot or rebel or anything, they just complain an awful lot and make snide comments and start conspiracy theories.

    Compare to nations that are really divided (including America in 1864), and have armed conflicts over matters of secession, and yeah, our “divisions” are kind of small.

    Then look at congress. Look back sixty, seventy years, and you see a lot of voting across party lines, and a lot fewer party-line votes. Now most votes are either unanimous (or nearly so) or party-line, with not much in-between. That’s a definite sign that the divisions are growing.

    So sure. America has always been divided. But there’s degrees. We’re still on a downhill slide that’s been going on for decades. With our history of how low we can go, I’m not sure it’s inappropriate to argue that we should maybe change that trend line.

  24. Our divides are artificial and created by the entrenched political aristocracy who only seeks to maintain the status quo. They no longer seek to govern for the good of the country, but only for the good of those who keep them in power. We have people who have been in public office for decades and yet have become multi-millionaires on salaries that should make that impossible considering the other costs of Federal office. How does one maintain two residences and manage all the other costs to live in DC and their home state, honestly? You can’t. All the majority of Congress worries about is winning the next election to maintain their personal gravy train.

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