Will the center hold as elections descend to a war between gut grievances vs. real-world reason?

While Trumpian individualism now equates with rank criminality, social activism fosters greater collective prosperity, opportunities and growth for all.

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The real doomsday: when battlefield elections set faith alone (with few payoffs) against reality-based logic (with demonstrable deliverables)

What functional democracy prospers without marginal majority consensus on goals, values, law enforcement and the moral character of leaders? Will the center hold against calculated, gun-toting fragmentation, if not abandonment of our clear educated legacy that favors measurable proof, respect for expertise, rejection of controlling religious fanaticism, awareness of history and Constitutional legality. Further, the rejection of globalism by the top world power ends up with an absurd, unworkable isolationism. 

In contrast to the democratic need for formal votes, instead today one criminal candidate can spitefully nix even House votes, on FISA funding, Ukraine support, or a fully bipartisan immigration reform. Not voting on big issues means nothing gets done and we don’t know where politicians stand. Worse still, consider blows to necessary consensus when a nitwit, Trump-endorsed, purple-state governorship candidate (Mark Robinson, North Carolina) mocks reason and precedence, if not over half the electorate. Not only does he headline grab with WWII Holocaust denial (!) and slander against the overtly anti-Communist M. L. King as a “communist” (!!), he spouts the outrage that women never deserved to vote (!!!). Irrational, know-nothing history to a tee.

So, not only should women/breeders be relegated to the kitchen, they should now forgo a hard-won human right that advanced enlightened child labor laws, civil, women’s, housing, job and disability rights. If not defiantly irrational (male, anti-Semitic, misogynist) folly, then what else explains a worse-than-Trump candidate? And the latest NC polling puts Robinson ONLY eight points behind, exposing a gut grievance base mad about nominating a multi-disgraced convicted criminal “too poor” to make bail. 

Want more idiotic, unhinged rightwing candidates going off the rails? Likely GOP opponent against WI Dem Senator Baldwin, Eric Hovde implied that nursing home oldsters shouldn’t vote – an echo of Trump’s insane election fraud illogic. “Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have five, six months life expectancy,” he blustered, “Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote.?” Right, first ax all women voters then senior citizens likely smarter than this dumbo (who then made instant, disingenuous retractions). Oh, one more bit of lunacy – the AZ court decision not only banned abortion but dragged out a territorial 1864 law. Yikes. Why not 1764 when we were still a colony? Not even Puritans went that far. 

Divisiveness as Hail Mary mayhem

In the larger context, what democracy survives the schismatic impact of arguably ten constituencies? Right now, we have three divisions on the left, from centrist/right (Biden) to progressive (Sanders/Warren) to hard left (Hedges, third parties). On the right, here we go with 1) anything goes, power-mad Trumpery, 2) tax- and regulation-hating billionaires, 3) conservative Constitutionalists (L. Cheney), 4) residual GOPers, 5) fierce libertarians, 6) anti-abortion evangelicals, and 7) militant white supremacists/fascists/disruptors. And what about active players like Putin, North Korea, China and other foreign online scammers. We don’t have a good multi-party system, but a spate of corrosive, rightwing interest groups, many based on grievance-driven or anti-democratic power agendas, values, and hollow targets. 

And yet, despite this messy divisiveness, the 2024 election comes down to a noxious, dualistic brew (anti-democratic violence, anointing Trump as authoritarian overlord, faith-alone fixations on abortion, hatred of Biden/Dems, defiance of secularism, and addiction to the Big Lie/“peaceful” Jan. 6 uprising) vs. center and left Dems who celebrate real-world deliverables (not just to rich people), diversity, immigration, justice, election legitimacy, science, expertise, consensual truth and democratic integrity). Easy as pie to see a rightwing that focuses on the irrational: the outrage-driven gut instinct (falsely victimized by “woke” culture), blind-faith abortion ban demands, no-fraud, anti-election mayhem, and a contradictory repugnance to support allies against lawless invasions (no to Ukraine, but not Israeli excesses).

Except for tax-hating billionaires, much richer thanks to Trump, what clearly unifies rightwing hysteria is the irrational slavishness to the world’s greatest liar, making it all up as he fights to stay out of jail. No white, male, rural Christians are battered by the Democratic majority, abortion fixations lack all Biblical justification (as well as being a very modern mania), and the total, whining rejection of elections the right loses while hypocritically accepting exactly the same election tabulation laws when it wins. 

More clearly than ever, MAGA support for Trump is hardly based on life-improvements, oblivious to economic, job training, environmental, or health and retirement safety nets. How many xenophobic Trumpers are directly impacted by immigrants (other than benefiting from less attractive jobs done, hotels cleaned, or food harvested) or injured when other parents freely choose different, once legal procreational options. Who anywhere stops one “pro-life” mom from going full term (unless her life is at risk)? What measurable gains accrue to ordinary folks from ruining their kids’ educations, banning books, rewriting child labor laws, opposing student debt relief, or litigating against SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid extensions? 

For a wider perspective, consider that once upon a time American history made sense by contrasting major trends pushing high self-reliant freedom vs. collective activism driven by moral values. No doubt Trumpery panders to myths of go-it-alone, radical individualism, but that in fact barely existed across pioneer sod-busting, cattle ranching (and rustling), fur harvesting, robber baron monopolies, even playing the lottery or gambling away the farm. It always took (and still takes) community partnerships to get big stuff done. 

Uber-individualism undermines solutions

Our history pays great homage to aberrant individualism, whether ruthlessly accumulating wealth and profits by exploiting workers, natural resources, or monopolizing markets. In contrast, we can equally boast how even more advances came from collectively expanding civil, voting, racial, children’s and gender rights, pushing to abolish slavery, honoring inclusivity and diversity, handcuffing predatory corporations, and securing health care and retirement blessings. Not to mention, providing help with housing, food and medical supplies for needy families. While Trumpian individualism now equates with criminality, social activism fosters greater (lawful) collective prosperity, opportunities and growth for all. 

So, while this dualism is not new, what stands out today is that super-individualism driven by anger, selfishness and uninformed gut instinct inhibits how much reliable information even sees the light of day. For how long can any modern state endure unhinged self-righteousness that trumps understanding evidence, complexity and outcomes? Collectivism, especially by well-informed, adult, logical thinking, is the only check we have against the worship of the predatory, insatiable self, even of late mad-cap presumptions that a fixated minority should rule everything important. 

It’s no compliment to our democracy to frame the next election as a conflict between unprincipled, faith-alone irrationality vs. an evidence-respecting, reality-celebrating majority capable of understanding its best interests and that of the whole. Trumpism stumbles and regresses at least to 1864; only a rational, temperate, tolerant and diverse electorate can take on today’s challenges, imagine what 2064 looks like, then shift vectors towards enlightenment, not medieval fixations. 

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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.

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