In the recent HBO series Landscapers, one of the two protagonists accused of killing her parents is repeatedly described as “fragile.” And, she, played by Olivia Coleman, is. You’ll have to watch the four-episode mini-series if you wish to find out how she is fragile and why that matters.
Today, the United States is fragile—in a position to be broken. Why?
According to data quoted on Meet the Press on January 2, 2022, it’s really as much about the waning dominance of the white establishment in the country for that is what characterized the home counties of the insurrectionists who stormed Capitol Hill a year ago. But it’s more than race that is tearing us apart.
The two political parties have contributed mightily to the rip in the fabric of America.
The Republicans have gotten behind a prevaricating demagogue in Donald Trump who is willing to undermine the basic tenets of democracy to maintain power. He and his allies came within a hair’s breadth of doing just that on January 6 and currently are in a far better position to seize election victory from Electoral College defeat if newly Trump-controlled state legislatures, secretaries of state and judiciaries overturn the will of the voting public in 2024 and send ballots of hand-chosen electors to Washington to vote on December 14, 2024.
The Democrats are no better. Joe Biden squeaked into office with his victory taking 72 hours to secure. Mr. Biden did not take office with some sort of mandate to uproot capitalism and build a new social safety net paid with tax payer money. The Democrats are also doing this in an equally autocratic fashion to the Republican attack on democracy by creating the huge Build Back Better Bill and trying to ram it through the Senate on a fifty-vote reconciliation basis. The country did not vote for this liberal agenda any more than it voted for Donald Trump. Both Biden and Trump are misrepresenting the truth and both need not run again in 2024. It would be best for the country if they stepped aside and gave the people a chance to choose the two candidates through democratic means rather than force people to choose between them as the only games in town.
Yes, I think both the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership have failed the American people by giving comfort to the extreme wings of their parties. The Trump wing of the GOP is driven by the lust for power and a clear populist message that feeds off of white supremacy and Red State anger. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has a misguided notion that what the people of New York City and Los Angeles and San Francisco view as politics as usual is what the rest of the country wants. It’s not. When you combine the political extremism on both sides with the angst of the corona virus crisis and the general mistrust of institutions like the CDC, the NIH, the FDA and for that matter Congress itself, you have the tinder for a national fire that has not been seen since the lead-up to the Civil War. When combined with the extreme polarity between the haves and the have-nots in this market-driven economy, you have the makings of a very fragile democracy.
So, what to do to shore up the fragility?
First, the cooler heads in both parties need to take over leadership. Both the AOC contingent of the Democratic Party and the Jim Jordans of the right need to shut up and allow the adults in the room a chance to speak.
Second, the January 6 Committee needs to hurry up and get its report out and name names. Who abetted the attack on the Capitol and what was the former President’s role in the lead-up to January 6 (as Chuck Todd outlined on Meet the Press on January 2, 2022)?
Third, Mr. Biden ought to declare that he is not a candidate for re-election and thus open the nominating process to all who wish to compete. Mr. Trump ought to do the same, but that would take a miracle.
On so many levels, the country is not out of the woods on the issues that faced us a year ago—covid, the economy, racial strife and the assault on democracy from both sides. It is time for the real leaders of the parties to step up and they will be found in the states, not in Congress. We need for little-known governors and state legislators to take the leap to the large stage and articulate a way forward that would crowd out the Trumpian nonsense and the liberal socialism that has crept into our politics. Let’s hope that Yeats was wrong and the center will hold. We need that center, run by adults, more than ever.