With Steve Bannon out of Donald Trump’s inner circle, liberals are rejoicing like they won a washing machine from Bob Barker, when in all reality, there was no grand prize behind political door No. 2, not even a toaster.
Bannon no longer has to play coy about Breitbart. He’s resumed his place atop Skull Island, and now he’s armed with West Wing intel. While the left welcomes any loss to the Trump army, let’s keep something in perspective: This isn’t a major victory. It’s a hollow win.
While some would call getting canned six months into the job a loss, in this context, it plays perfectly into our current us versus them conversation: I have the ability to wound my enemy. I have the power of information, and I have writers who’ll sensationalize fringe theories and sell them to a group of people clinging to identity politics.
This fight, these fights, the front-page dramas are symptomatic of the greater disease: today’s America, which the Republican Party constructed with loving care. This fractured America was their baby, their pet project to gerrymander, to create division, and to get middle America to despise anything Obama, progressive or liberal. And boy howdy, it worked.
Once the GOP planted the seed of Obama being the Sharia Law-loving, gun-stealing, Kenyan-born Muslim, the damage was done. The path to Trump was cleared. Republicans played a brilliant game of blocking everything Obama wanted, even if self-beneficial. They knew the middle and lower classes would suffer, hopefully drawing on his failures to strengthen their base.
These disagreements such as who pees where and abortion, some people see them as an attack on an American value system. Because of tired rhetoric, gun sense means you’re not a proud patriot, or that Russia gets a pass, despite the fact that the lord and savior, Ronald Reagan, kind of hated them. Statues of a lost Civil War, erected to spite the north are used as a horcrux of ideology, despite no one but shting pigeons caring about them for a century.
Now, kids who were 13 when Obama was elected are voters. They grew up in an environment where hearing about how terrible an actual good president was has skewed any chance at weighing a literal right from wrong. Instead, everything viewed through “progressive” lens is toxic, a threat to America’s principles. What principles?
There’s a wrestler in West Virginia, The Progressive Liberal. He’s considered a heel. He repeats the Sanders platform. Despite zero action from Trump on coal, minus an Environmental Protection Agency roll back, a liberal stance on energy is a sin, instead of confronting the reality of the coal industry: It was declining during George W. Bush’s presidency.
As the grains of political sands fell into the hourglass, folks questioned their neighbor's yard signs, or avoided a family member at a party. Today, that guy you avoided at the party wants to fight because of a Facebook comment about black lives mattering.
Republicans think Liberals are snowflake psies and want to destroy a glorified vision of America that’s never existed. Liberals think Republicans are knuckle-dragging macho men who can’t grasp cultural evolution. Oroboros, anyone?
For the last decade, the two parties have been huffing their fumes, and social media makes the conflicts between the two polarized. The reality is carved in stone: America ain’t changing. In today’s social climate, we need to accept that there are two Americas.
That Trump sign or Bernie sticker says a lot about you. You’re branded. This is now life. Minus a catastrophic event like a city getting nuked or major terrorist attack, we’re stuck in a cycle that won’t change until a section of the population turns over.
The hope would be that a candidate rises through the ash of Trump’s scorched earth and challenges what we know about the two-party system. Trump isn’t the only problem, though. There’s an inglorious apotheosis of underhandedness alive and well in Congress. That too needs a cultural bloodletting.
Chances are if neighbors talked about common sense topics, they’d see eye to eye. People are pretty basic when it comes to the big picture. Lately, though, it feels like we’re caught in a never-ending cycle of story fragments, of headlines meant to anger or enthrall.
The question is: We’ve already dug in our heels, so how hard are we willing to keep our stance? Can we evolve? That’s a hard roll, but one that sounds better than a bare-knuckle street fight over what Alex Jones has on his mind.
Robert Dean is a writer, journalist and cynic. He is finishing a New Orleans-based crime thriller called “A Hard Roll.” He lives in Austin, and likes ice cream and koalas.