Red And Blue, Right And Left: Why America Should Become Two Different Countries
The truth is America is a deeply divided nation, perhaps two different nations forced to live in the same space.
The mob violence by Donald Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill two days ago (6 January), which left four people dead, clearly establishes Trump’s utter unsuitability to be head of the world’s oldest democracy.
If, in the first three years of his presidency, Trump made politically incorrect comments on various issues, in the last one year he has crossed every line of decency and behaved irresponsibly. This, more than anything else, cost him the presidency, which he repeatedly claims was a “stolen” election. Sure, it was stolen, but it was mostly because of his failure to provide leadership during the Covid crisis, which is worsening by the day even now.
On Wednesday, when Congress was meeting to confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the 3 November presidential election, Trump and some of his hardcore advisers like Rudy Giuliani were egging their supporters to march to Capitol Hill even as Congress was in session.
What was only expected to be a raucous protest outside the premises turned out to be much more aggressive, as the police were unable to prevent the mob from pushing into the house. As senators and Congresspersons were moved to safety, the mob took selfies inside and vandalised the chamber. It was only when the crowd was cleared, and Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed Biden as the next president in the wee hours of Thursday morning, that this unseemly chapter in American history was closed.
Trump gets a big zero for not only failing to tell the crowds to behave, but for not even apologising for the havoc caused. He did concede, though, that he will ensure an orderly transition.
Never before was the world’s No 1 superpower, and a self-proclaimed beacon of democracy, humbled by its own people and its own chief executive.
However, even though Pence’s decision to respect the Constitution and the general good sense of America’s lawmakers saved the day, there is little doubt that the Trump constituency exists. It is not going away anytime soon. One can loosely call this constituency a coalition of fearful losers – those who believe that they have lost out, or are about to lose out, due to the way the Left-liberal elite marginalised and caricatured them.
This motely crowd includes gun-toters, Bible-thumpers, White supremacists, and a broader base of the less-educated, less-skilled working class who have lost out to globalisation and technology. Trump’s constituency stayed intact despite their leader’s poor personal qualities primarily because their fears remain unaddressed by the liberal elite – and they continue to be caricatured and talked down to. This is not how democracies behave with the disgruntled.
Anyone who doubts this should have listened to how CNN – the anti-Trump media house along with The New York Times – was reporting about the events on Capitol Hill. A channel that often refers to genuine terrorists as unnamed or masked gunmen, was repeatedly talking about “domestic terrorists” (when these were actually violent mobs) who were carrying out an “insurrection”, with Biden himself talking of the violence as something close to “disorder” and “sedition”, not “dissent”.
None of these words were used in the #BlackLivesMatter and Antifa mob violence across American cities after the death of an Afro-American George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Floyd died when he was being pressed down by a White policeman and died of suffocation.
The #BLM mobs were not only violent, but damaged and stole from small businesses in many cities. On one occasion, a violent anti-Trump mob gathered outside the White House, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at barricades. The Secret Service had to shift Trump to the White House bunker for safety.
In fact, just as the Trump supporters refused to accept the verdict in the recent presidential elections, his own surprise election in 2016 triggered widespread protests across America, with protesters marching under the banner of #NotMyPresident.
Soon after the Trump inauguration on 20 January 2017, singer Madonna addressed women protesters claiming that she had entertained thoughts of “burning the White House” down, but adding that that may not achieve anything. Earlier, during the election campaign, Hillary Clinton talked of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.”
The point of mentioning all these incidents from the past is not to whitewash what Trump’s rabid followers did this week on Capitol Hill, but to emphasise that his opponents are not necessarily reasonable dissenters either. It takes two unreasonable groups to create polarisation, and the anti-Trump Left-liberal elite cannot be absolved of the blame.
Also, it is a bit rich to think that the gate-crashing of Capitol Hill would have changed anything in the election, or forced Congress and the Senate from declaring Biden the winner ultimately. At best, it should be seen as a noisy and violent ruckus that would have been ruled out of order by the courts or Congress itself.
The truth is America is a deeply divided nation, perhaps two different nations forced to live in the same space. Just as India had to accept a partition based on Muslim intransigence before 1947, maybe – just maybe – the US should become two or three different states, or a confederation where Red and Blue (Republican and Democrat) states can go their different ways even while remaining in the same trading bloc.
Maybe, again maybe, America would have been better off had it allowed the confederate south to secede in the civil war, instead of forcibly trying to unite two irreconcilable forces into one unhappy union. Contrary to what liberals would like to believe, the only thing that would have changed was the pace of abolition of slavery in the south, not its final elimination. Being conservative does not mean no reform, just a more evolutionary approach to it.
Today, America is at the crossroads again, and separation of the conservative parts of the country from the liberal parts would allow both to find their own paths to change and reform. There is nothing wrong in being a conservative or a liberal, just that both need to allow for safe places for the “other” to evolve at their own pace. It’s called pluralism.
India, with its 5,000-year-old civilisational continuity, is far better placed to accept pluralism as its guiding principle than Abrahamic America (my way or the highway). Maybe, it is time to change the Abrahamic binary and accept difference as acceptable in a democracy. This is the only idea that can prevent dissent from becoming disunity and disorder.
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