Will the Center Hold?

Republished with permission of Jim Nowlan, former State Rep. from farther back than I, Governor Richard Ogilvie’s Lt. Gov. candidate in 1972, university professor, Illinois Department Director, etc.:

Will the center hold? It must

I am hearing a worried buzz about our republic not holding together, something I have never in my long life encountered before.

Some (many?) on the “left” worry about President Trump calling the election invalid and holding onto power

From the “right” comes concerns that those leading and supporting groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter hope to build their protests into insurrection.

Over a beer recently after tennis, I could not help but overhear most of a conversation in the booth next to ours.

An intense Trump supporter was loudly expressing such fears of insurrection from the far left.

As if to clinch it, he added: “Bill Gates and George Soros are trying to take over the world, you know.”

He was serious.

A lively, though civil, verbal brawl ensued in the booth.

“How can you believe that?” another asked.

After a while, the Trump loyalist sighed: “You know we should stop this kind of talk. I won’t convince you, and you won’t convince me.”

He added: “You and I just aren’t reading the same things.” And that might have been the best insight of the evening.

Another perspective came recently from an old friend, an Ivy League PhD in political science.

He called from his home in D.C., where he is a retired foundation president.

PhD friend expressed alarm about Trump sending federal officials into cities.

“It reminds me of Mussolini in Italy, who engineered a violent, fascist coup in that country and ruled for 20 years.”

All of this sounds far-fetched, to me anyway.

Maybe it’s because I think I’m from the generally less passionate center of the political spectrum, where all we want is order, harmony, and prosperity.

I read mainstream fare like the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, and Scientific American.

Little call for insurrection on those pages.

The body politic was stretched and strained half a century ago, sparked by the Vietnam War and movements for civil and women’s rights.

Since then, social observers have frequently recalled the famous World War I era poem by Yeats, with lines that include:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Here is my take as to why political passions may be reaching a fever pitch:

Trump appeals in part to older, white males who feel they are losing or have lost their footing on the side of the hill of life, which most of us try to ascend, in some fashion.

These white males, often inadequately educated for jobs in the information age, are scared by the rise of women, the aggressiveness of minorities, and the sense of being played for chumps by the well-educated elites of finance, technology and science.

These folks are generally not well-versed in the niceties of the democratic processes and the rule of law.

On the left, we have many people of color (plus urban, white liberal sympathizers) who feel the deck has forever been stacked against them.

They thought things were maybe getting better, as a result of policies initiated in the 1960s during the Great Society of LBJ.

But the recent, gruesome George Floyd neck-hold death, and similar homicides of Laquon McDonald in Chicago, those in Ferguson, Missouri, and others, have jolted them into thinking, alas, that nothing has really changed.

And they are royally pissed, to use an expression I hear in my rural confines.

A look at history shows that master propagandists Goebbels and Mussolini on the right and Robespierre and Lenin on the left all led passionate minorities to takeovers of democratic societies.

They were able to do so — and here we need better historians than am I — because indifferent, less passionate majorities, preoccupied with making livings and rearing families, failed to take heed and shout them down early.

The present is different from the past, I think, because of the apparent deep impact of the internet and social media.

Digital communications appear to seduce people into sites with like-minded folks, echo chambers that feed and intensify one another’s biases.

All political systems are flawed, because they cannot satisfy the demands of all in diverse societies. Yet the American constitutional republic that became a democracy has lasted longer, and successfully so, than that of any major nation.

The American Center must and can hold. It need be vigilant, ready to rise up as necessary to protect our institutions, democratic processes and the rule of law.


Comments

Will the Center Hold? — 20 Comments

  1. Re: “Some (many?) on the “left” worry about President Trump calling the election invalid and holding onto power”

    Trump was probably alluding to the unknown reliability of using the post offices as the intermediary to collect and forward ballots. CBS did an experiment to determine how reliable is the post office process and the outcome was not very good. See below.

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-vote-by-mail-ballot-counted-election/

    With 3 months to go until the election, can every State along with the US Postal Service set up a safe and reliable process to process ballots? Can all postal workers be trusted to handle the ballots in the envelopes? Will every single postal worker who could possibly touch a ballot envelope be somehow bonded? Are postal workers neutral or are some biased?

    There is too much at stake in this coming election to willy nilly have ballots by mail without a very comprehensive analysis of the current mail system process to determine its reliability, timeliness, etc.

  2. Re:

    “Another perspective came recently from an old friend, an Ivy League PhD in political science.

    He called from his home in D.C., where he is a retired foundation president.
    PhD friend expressed alarm about Trump sending federal officials into cities.”

    Ivy League PhD in political science expressing “alarm” about Trump sending “officials” into cities?

    Not a very smart PhD.

    He should have been more worried as have been ordinary non-PhD people – truck drivers, carpenters, engineers, etc – about the reckless and moronic Democrat mayor of Portland Oregon and the equally moronic Democrat Governor of Oregon for allowing anarchy, insurrection and violence to continue for over 8 weeks without using sufficient police assets to put it down.

    Perhaps Trump waited TOO LONG in sending the feds into Portland to do what the mayor and governor had failed to do.

  3. What I take away from this article is that both sides are very far apart, and very much have dug in to what they believe.

    “The present is different from the past, I think, because of the apparent deep impact of the internet and social media.

    Digital communications appear to seduce people into sites with like-minded folks, echo chambers that feed and intensify one another’s biases.”

    I also wish the author would have gone into this more.

    This is probably the biggest reason for the drastic polarization that has happened.

    I also don’t see how the author thinks that that the center can hold.

    No evidence backing that point has been presented.

    Unfortunately, I don’t agree that the center can hold.

    We have two points of view that are opposite and contradict each other.

    It is impossible for that to continue indefinitely

    How can you even have a center in this situation?

    In order to be in the center you would have to agree with some of each side.

    In order to do that, you would have to believe that two opposite things are true.

    That’s called doublethink last I checked.

    You might be able to hold the center for a time, but it would just be delaying the resolution.

  4. PhD friend expressed alarm about Trump sending federal officials into cities.

    They are not ‘federal officials’

  5. Also, the prez gutted the postal service.

    Look it up.

    Really dumb move, he should be ashamed.

  6. “A look at history shows that master propagandists Goebbels and Mussolini on the right and Robespierre and Lenin on the left all led passionate minorities to takeovers of democratic societies”

    Who has run Illinois, for decades?

  7. Nowlan is full of BS, and always was a libtard.

    I’m sick of the antiWhite mantra he pronounces.

  8. Neal, plus they would have to have some political outlet to express that centrism (whatever that looks like). A centrist can vote for one of the two major parties likely to win, or a third party with no chance, or not vote at all, but one of the major party candidates is going to be elected.

    Also, the polarization is going to get worse; there is no reason to think that trend is going to magically reverse because people write letters about civil discourse. One party is for one side, the other party is for the other side. The bases are getting more extreme, louder, and angrier. Political violence is becoming normalized — look at what’s happening all over the country.

    Without a strong, well financed, and explicitly centrist party, which would require election law reform in the first place that neither party wants to do because they have a vested interest in not doing so, you would need to elect moderates in primaries, but primaries do not always produce “moderate” candidates, especially in places that are safe R or safe D gerrymandered districts, or in places with closed primaries or caucuses, but it’s increasingly everywhere.

    There is no political incentive to be moderate and there’s arguably a disincentive. If you’re moderate, the next time you are up for election your base (the ones who are likeliest to knock doors and give money) will play political hara kiri, stay home, and then a candidate even further away from that side’s base and likely further away from the will of the people in that district will win. What a great system…

    Jim is in for a rude wake up call if he hasn’t already figured out what is going on. Back in January, a poll indicated that 28 percent of Democrats, 38 percent of Independents, and 40 percent of Republicans thought a civil war was likely within the next five years, and this poll was taken in January when things were much better.

  9. Civil war is coming. A good thing. Things will get cleaned out real fast. People like Kenneally, Pritzk and Clapper are ‘things of the past”.

  10. The covid crisis actually hits the division right on the head.

    Answer this question to yourself. Is the decision of what to do about covid-19 a political question or a scientific question?

    If you say science you are on the left, political is the right.

    The main difference is whether you think politics is a science.

    The left does.

    If it’s a science, there has to be a correct solution we are progressing towards, a perfect utopia.

  11. Short answer: no, it won’t hold.

    Civil War II coming up.

    Maybe after this one, Lincoln’s plan for repatriation back to Africa will be implemented.

  12. George Floyd, LaQuan McDonald and Michael Brown weren’t innocent, church dudes.

    Brown had a dad and step mom, along with a mom and step dad.

    He should have been doubly well behaved, not doubly evil. 😠👿☠️

  13. Michael Brown was a criminal who was rightfully shot by police after attacking a police officer.

    This has now been proven by three separate investigations, including the Obama justice department and just recently a local da who ran on the promise of reopening the case.

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