America’s House Divided: Who’s to Blame?

By John Zmirak Published on October 25, 2018

If I wanted to sound sophisticated, this essay would be much easier. Were my main concern what the reader thought of me, I’d change my thesis completely. If I were preening as some ultra-spiritual seer, with a vision of Ultimate Things that elevated me above mere political calculus, these lines would write themselves. I could cherrypick the Bible and selected Famous Quotations. (Call that the “Cherrypick Option.”) Then blather for 800 words on the theme: “A Plague on Both Your Houses.” I might even bend over backwards to blame the political right for today’s bitter divisiveness. I could use this as a clip to wave around to some leftist editor, “You see how even-handed I have been?”

The sheer rage and hysteria that pervades most leftist politics today is at once a charade to deflect its guilt, and a threat meant to win our compliance.

Blah, blah, blah. We’re way past that now. And actually I’m grateful. I’m glad on some level that events have removed the temptation to publish sophistries.

A Deadly Splitting Point

Politics in America have reached a dangerous, deadly splitting point. And it would be comforting if I could say that the blame falls equally to the left and the right. Certainly, publishing that would make me feel much more at home in venues like Manhattan, the Academy, and the Acela Quiet Car.

Too bad it isn’t true. It is in fact the case that the common ground in American public life on which civility long depended has largely fallen away. That political opponents more and more seem like enemies. That bipartisanship seems as distant a dream as global Esperanto or the 1919 League of Nations. Often, when such a thing happens, the guilt falls almost equally across the political spectrum. The left keeps moving leftward, the right goes marches rightward, and the center cannot hold.

Remember 1860?

You might say that’s what happened in the build-up to the American Civil War. Slaveowners wouldn’t settle for keeping their “property” unmolested. They insisted on grabbing more slave states, and dreamt of southern conquests, to spread a “slave empire” through Cuba, Mexico, and even Central America. Conversely, abolitionists wouldn’t settle for keeping slavery contained in its first tainted states. They insisted its moral evil be someday wiped from the face of the earth.

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There really is no compromise, at last, between those positions. And Abraham Lincoln saw that. He said so in a famous speech, “A House Divided.” As a then mere candidate for Senate, he boldly declared:

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

The same is true for America today, and for most of the West. We now see a political spectrum where the common presuppositions have largely been torn away. Almost all by one party in the bargain. I can’t indulge the pose of apportioning guilt equally.

No, the left is to blame.

The Left Has Stormed Off in a Tantrum

Unlike the national split in antebellum America, in our time the movement has all been on one side of the spectrum, which has charged with relentless energy away from the common ground we once shared. It has done so with ever-increasing momentum and haughty moralism. And now it looks back at us from the Brave New World it has occupied, and hoots at us with catcalls and violent threats for not marching in lockstep. The sheer rage and hysteria that pervades most leftist politics today is at once a charade to deflect its guilt, and a threat meant to win our compliance.

Don’t let them gaslight you. As of, say, 1996, both left and right in America could agree on most of the following propositions:

  • American borders are sovereign, and those who enter illegally have no right to stay, or gain government benefits. It is our right to vote democratically on how many people enter, and what qualifications they have. And then to enforce that decision using officers of the law.
  • Americans have fundamental Constitutional gun rights under the Second Amendment. It’s the job of lawmakers to determine reasonable limits on the exercise of that right, but it may not be repealed.
  • The Supreme Court is meant to interpret the Constitution as written. That document is sacred, the foundation of civic order in our nation.
  • Men and women are equal, but really different. Each sex exists as part of a natural order written in our biological nature.
  • Abortion is at least regrettable and tragic, and even if we can’t agree whether or it should be legal, we all think it should be “rare.” It is not an act of “empowerment.”
  • Marriage is between one man and one woman, and ideally, for life.
  • Religious freedom is fundamental, and the government may not abridge it except for threats to public safety. 
  • Political speech should be free, even when some find it “offensive,” except for threats of violence and calls for the overthrow of the government.
  • Academia should seek the objective truth, and allow the maximum free expression of different opinions to help us find it.

We Are What We Were

All those things sat on our common table, when Bill Clinton was president. On not one of those issues has the right moved further “right.” Our principles are the same. The GOP hasn’t given in to zealots of racist, theocratic, or even anarcho-libertarian extremes. We stand where Reagan stood. But the left has walked away. Even worse, it has stormed away from that table, and marched off into the night, shouting blame and threats.

The GOP hasn’t given in to extremists of racist, theocratic, or even anarcho-libertarian extremes. We stand where Reagan stood. But the left has walked away.

It’s not for us to follow them out into the parking lot, and apologize for nothing. Now all we share with the left is what Hobbes thought each citizen lived by: the desire to avoid violence, simply from fear of suffering by it. 

They thought that Obama’s election in 2008 indeed “fundamentally transformed” America. That the election in 2016 was a mere formality, like some vote in old East Germany.

They were wrong. Now they’re throwing a tantrum.

We just need to keep our cool. And vote on November 6. And stand our ground. With right on our side, we must by lawful means defeat them. Comprehensively and utterly, without compromise or apology. As Sherman defeated the slave states. 

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  • Conservator

    Thank you Dr. Zmirak, you have revealed the problem we face succinctly. My thoughts exactly. I have been observing the radicalization of the Democrat party for years wondering what is wrong with people that they can support such insanity. I’ve not changed my world view since I came of age and began paying attention to politics in the mid 1970’s but am now a deplorable, radical alt-right, chauvinistic, homophobic white privileged, toxic male. Guess I’ve always been that way and just didn’t realize it!

    Just one question – what is an Acela quiet car?

    • Zmirak

      It’s the car on the Acela train linking NYC with DC where you’re not supposed to use cell phones or speak above a whisper. I use it as an icon of the Northeastern elite–though to be honest, when I have to make that trip, I DO use that car!

  • Paul

    “And it would be comforting if I could say that the blame falls equally to the left and the right. Certainly, publishing that would make me feel much more at home in venues like Manhattan, the Academy, and the Acela Quiet Car.”

    That didn’t work out so good for Trump following Charlottesville. His political opponents and the media lined up to condemn his accurate analysis that both sides were to blame for the violence.

  • handydan

    Of course, Satan is behind all of this disruption, confusion and hatred. It has always been so. The further the people move away from God, the worse our problems become. The solution? That is obvious, but I am afraid that the vast minority (and growing larger) of people who do not believe in God are too far gone to come back. I try to be a good Catholic, but it is difficult to feel any love or sympathy for my fellow man when they are so smitten by demonic forces and ideas. Peace and God bless.

    • Athena771

      so you think yourself more righteous then anyone else? that is exactly what you are saying by your statement.

      If you are really Catholic you will know that ‘NO ONE IS RIGHTEOUS not one.

      • More righteous than someone who kills kids and ss iced their blood to the devil? That’s not hard.

  • swiftboat

    . “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord'” (John 1:23).Think about it.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    I used to think that much of what the left promoted in the “age of Trump “ was merely a charade. A deliberate effort to appear righteously indignant at anything that threatened their grasp on power.
    Perhaps there is some of that in play when the mobs for hire show up . Yet the more this stuff plays out the more apparent it becomes that this is something other than just “performance art”. It is a self delusion reminiscent of frenetic fascists foaming at the mouth.
    Hey, not everyone can succeed at doing the works of darkness so religiously …..

  • Karen

    Thank you for finally admitting that conservatives think women are to exist only as support staff for men. Please drop the rest of the pretense and state that women are inferior to men. You crap about ‘equalindignitybutdifferentinrole’ is transparently a lie, because the women’s role will never have any money or power or prestige. I think my half of the human race should be able to use our minds and skills and receive rewards from that; you don’t.

    • Bryan

      Either your commenting on a different article you read or you need to provide a reference from this article that shows “that conservatives think women are to exist only as a support staff for men”.

      • Ken Abbott

        Apparently we lack the correct interpretative spectacles.

    • What is the worth of “money or power or prestige?”

      What does that serve motherhood?

      • Karen

        The people who have money and power make all the decisions and those without them suffer the consequences. “The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.” Mothers are always weak and powerless.

        • So you feel your neitzcheanism justifies your satanism?

          How do you explain motherhood? One cannot do that without understanding Love. Do you know what Love is?

          you clearly do not, and that explains your idiotic fixation on power

    • Andrew Mason

      So because you define the conservative role for women as lacking in money, power or prestige women must be inferior? What if conservative women don’t view it that way? What if they see it as co-equal control of money, of having the power to mold the next generation, and holding the prestige of being wives and mothers for instance? What if the problem isn’t that women are inferior, only that you view conservative women as such?

      • Athena771

        It is in the eye of the beholder, each woman has to decide that for themselves. It is not a one size fits all.

        Some women may feel inferior by being housewives, others may not. Some women prefer having careers and working, some do not.

  • Athena771

    I have one statement to say about this article.

    “NO one is righteous not one”

    especially those that think themselves better or above others.

    • Ken Abbott

      What if one really is morally or ethically better than another? Scripture has categories for the righteous and the wicked, after all. May we not favorably compare a conscientious social worker who dedicates her days to the betterment of others to, say, Ted Bundy?

      • Athena771

        “What if one really is morally or ethically better than another? Scripture has categories for the righteous and the wicked, after all. ”

        ok then that must mean that we are saved because of our righteousness and not by grace?

        or is the bible contradicting itself by stating that “none are righeous”

        So which one is it

        That is the thing about religion and the bible, it is not clear on the criteria of who is really righteous?

        • Ken Abbott

          No, it does not mean that at all. There are at least two measures of righteousness that we find in Scripture. The first, the one to which you refer by quoting the Psalms and Romans 3, is the righteousness of God himself. By that standard, no human being has any righteousness of his own–all have sinned and fall (far) short of the glory of God. An appreciation of the great gulf between our moral standing and God’s standard drives us to despair and our realization of the need for a savior (as Paul teaches in Galatians). The second measure of righteousness is between humans–how we stack up against each other. Here Scripture is clear that there are some who do have a heart for the things of God and strive to be obedient to his commands and precepts, while others look only to themselves and care only for their own wants and desires. God commends the former and condemns the latter. None of this is a basis for salvation–all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags. So there is no contradiction, but a distinction in categories.

          The best measure of righteousness given to us in Scripture is Jesus Christ, who is himself the exact representation of the character of God.

          • Athena771

            “by the way, Athena, you haven’t addressed the distinction I drew between a
            person who selflessly cares for others and a serial killer. Are such
            distinctions not real?

            Yes the distinction is real between the two, but their is a spectrum. You present two extremes, serial killers are psychopaths that are born that way. Serial killers do not have the ability to feel empathy for their victims, that has been proven to be a defect in the brain. They are born basically with no conscience.

            What about normal people that are in between the social worker and the serial killer?

            Human beings are complex creatures, we really don’t know why some people’s sins appear more apparent or why some people are more selfish then others, alot of it has to do with childhood experiences, parenting, environment.

            So their is no easy answer to your question, it appears we are all born fallen, but the degree of sinfulness seems to be on a spectrum.

            I am afraid scripture does not address all of the complexities of human beings.

          • So you deny free will. By saying the serial killer is immutably a killer, you claim he does nothing wrong.

            This is what denying sin does to someone. Scripture and the Church does answer everything about mankind, it is just that you refuse to care or listen because you are personally guilty of the worst sin of all.

          • Athena771

            i also want to add that in the buddhist philosophy describes that each person has the capacity to do evil and good, human beings all have a dark side.

            Most people live on a spectrum of doing both good and bad

            Nobody is able to satisfy God’s standard of holiness for in God their is no darkness.

          • People are fallen and have sin. buddhists believe in nothingness and suicide, and have no answer for anything they see.

            It is trying to get out of answering simple questions about humanity.

        • Try the Church for clarity, your support of satanic blood sacrifice would automatically excommunicate you.

      • Athena771

        Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector
        9 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer[a]: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

        13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

        • Ken Abbott

          The key is the description “had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else.” Throughout the gospels, Jesus consistently observed that the Pharisees were greatly concerned about the matter of righteousness, which in itself is a commendable thing. He told his disciples that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees they would not see the kingdom of God. But the problem the Pharisees had (and that we are also prone to) is that they saw the basis for their righteousness being in their own efforts and misplaced their confidence before God in their own ability, under their own power, to please God. In reality, they had a mistaken concept of their own sinfulness, and arguably underestimated the holiness of God. Not so the tax collector. He knew deep within himself the great spiritual distance between himself and God, and rather than come to God with a prideful spirit came in humility and sorrowful repentance.

        • yet you worship the devil and regularly advocate for the blood sacrifice of children for power.

    • This projection of yours gets tiring, no?

  • tz1

    The problem is more profound.

    Before, even if you did disagree on any of those points, the proper way was to argue for your points, convince politicians and voters, and peacefully accept the result of the current election cycle and work toward the next one.

    The toxicity was caused by and an effect of a packed court when it became weaponized. A simple example are the propositions in California, first to deny public aid to Illegal Aliens, then to reject gay marriage. In both cases they passed democratically and overwhelmingly. Then were overturned by activist judges.

    With that the left forgot how to have a debate, or even argue a point coherently to the demos. They took their lawyers into the courts and still do. Because they lacked the virtues of patience and fortitude, and thought themselves morally right and superior, the now falsely named democrats rejected democracy itself, except to stuff the country with dependents that would vote for them.

    When Obama won – twice! – the right simply regrouped, and the Tea Party came to exist after Obamacare, and got more angry to put Trump in after Romney beat Paul and the rest, and the Congress shadow-boxed but gave Obama everything he wanted in the Omnibuses and Continuing Resolutions. The Deplorables never even did easily removed chalked messages on the GOP headquarters. We played by the electoral rules, even as SCOTUS shoved gay marriage down our throats and a federal judge jailed Kim Davis (KY county clerk).

    When Trump was elected over Hillary, well the YouTubes are legendary, then there was the pink – to use the updated term, “front hole lobotomy” – knit wit hats where filthy, nasty women talked about blowing up the white house, and the inaugural riots and vandalism, or you can go to the College tours of Milo and Shapiro. Smash and burn! And it continues. The right never said #NotMyPresident. The right never called on electors to put McCain or Romney in.

    And Trump is doing the most horrendous things possible – keeping his promises on administration, foreign policy, and (un)packing the courts. The latter is most upsetting because it was the only way the Left was able to impose its nasty and nutty agenda, and they won’t have that now, and it will be worse after the octogenarians leave SCOTUS and possibly more.

    (Side note with current events, note how RBS, Kagan, Breyer, and Sotomayor haven’t got any of those FakeBombs sent to the FakeNews)

  • Dave

    This guy’s more interested in who to blame than how to remedy it. Sad.

    • Karen

      And he will always blame his opponents and exhonerate his own side, without any examination of the facts at all. Zmirak is the purest from of reactionary: everything new is bad and everything his Leaders tell him, he believes.

      • so you are projecting your faults onto your enemies again?

    • Zmirak

      We fix it the way we fixed the Cold War. We win, they lose.

    • Andrew Mason

      It’s not about who but what. If the Right continue to hold their values, but the Left regressed, then the problem is where the Left has moved to. The solution is for the Left to return to sanity. The question is how to achieve that?

    • But you marxists are to blame. If it was anyone else, you would be attacking them rather than trying to distract away from you.

  • Paul

    I thought everything was Bush’s fault

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