We are in a new era in American politics.
It’s impossible to nail down when it started, but we can identify a few steps, and each involved the devolution of a non-partisan media, an increased ferocity on the American progressive Left and a heightening response from the Right.
Let’s start with the early 1990s. During the Clinton administration, the American media launched into actively covering up scandals for an American president because of worldview affiliation. To put it bluntly, the American media had become dominantly liberal at every level and across platforms by the 90s and the election of a Democrat after 12 years of Republicans in the White House displayed this.
The media looked the other way during maybe the most tawdry actions by an American president simply because they agreed with his policies. The Clinton scandals finally became known because of alternative media, specifically the rise of the Drudge Report, bypassing the media gatekeepers. At the same time, the left — including staunch feminists — simply looked the other way when “their” man was sexually dominating women under him. The divide was growing.
During the Bush administration, we saw the emergence of Bush Derangement Syndrome, in which much of the American Left displayed astonishing animosity on a personal level for a truly decent man. There were certainly plenty of policy differences that underlied the opposition, which is right and normal. But opposition was made very personal with Bush and a surprising number of Americans on the Left dripped hatred for him as a man.
Obama’s new level of division
But the Obama years brought a dramatic rise in vitriol and division among Americans — led by Obama but practiced by both sides of the political divide. Obama divided Americans by black and white and Hispanic; by men and women and the newly evolving list of “others”; by gay and straight; by rich and poor; by urban or rural; by favored industry and unfavored industry and so on.
Many of these divisions were well established in the Democratic Party and part of the strategy for winning elections. But Obama, as the first black President, had the unique opportunity to take a large step toward healing national race relations. Instead he made them much worse, and that is true on virtually every front of the divisions he employed. On the other side, some traditionalist Americans found him so arrogant and off-putting (mostly aside from race) that they developed a personal hatred for him, also.
So the poison of dividing Americans by every category possible to pit them against each other for political gain was coursing through the nation’s veins going into the 2016 election.
At the same time, hard-working Americans were sick of the game where everyone pitted against everyone else and policies seemed designed to make America weaker as a nation. And to be fair, that is essentially what Obama wrote in his book. He genuinely thought, and presumably still thinks, the world would be better if America was not so dominant. His policies worked to make that happen.
In this election, however, instead of the Democrats going for the demographic marker of the first black President, they were going for the demographic marker of the first female president. Both were pitched as important boundaries to cross because of the history of much ballyhooed and detested white patriarchal supremacy.
But the Left’s hopes were pinned on a truly terrible and corrupt candidate in Hillary Clinton. And instead of the first woman came an outsider who captured the deep frustration of working, middle America that the progressive and divisive agenda of the Democrats had abandoned. He captured their hearts’ desire with “Make America Great Again” because they instinctively understood that the past many years were diminishing the nation.
They were ready for change, but not the superficial change based on gender, rather a change in the substance of policy and direction. And Donald Trump was offering that in a way they bought.
Trump’s win exploded American politics
But the American Left had expected a continuation of the progressive and divisive policies of the first black president to flow to the first woman president, and probably win the Senate and maybe even the House in the process. When all of that was crushed by a rich, white, real estate developer and reality star — so much of what the Left had been successfully castigating — the Bush Derangement gene mutated into a virulent new, destructive strain.
There is a certain understandability to all this.
The American Left has been fed a distorted view of America for a long time now, through the media, academia and Hollywood. They buy into the grievance culture of every sub group that feels aggrieved by a different group. This all needs correcting, and they have been taught that government — of all institutions! — is the one to do it. They’ve been taught that Christianity, capitalism and whites are the bane of America and many who are in those categories still tend to buy it through a dose of guilt.
Further, President Trump is as off-putting as Obama, in his own way. It is surely not hard to see how people who are disappointed and frustrated with losing what they fully expected to win react even worse by the way Trump handles himself slinging around personal insults. This certainly adds to the vitriol and division.
But it in no way accounts for the myriad of marches against Trump and Republicans, starting the day after inauguration, but planned starting the day after the election. The ensuing temper tantrum by the left is inexcusable, even if their frustration is understandable. Riots in multiple cities, violence against Trump supporters and top-trending hashtags such as #notmypresident were a deeply un-American response.
The Trump-Russian collusion story was promoted while Obama was still in office. His White House disseminated as much potentially embarrassing information on the new President as possible, which has been leaked for months at a rate seven times more than the leaks averaged under Bush and Obama. This also is unprecedented. And it is disturbing.
The media is now an unmasked arm of the Democratic Party, actively working to undermine the duly elected President and destroying itself in the process.
Tectonic changes are long-term
The lead up to this moment demonstrates that the changes in the political and media landscape are not a temporary blip. They’re not simply Trump-driven.
This is likely the new norm.
Think how demonized decent men like Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney were. McCain was a bonafide war hero and Romney was as squeaky clean Boy Scout as they get, and yet the Left and the media made every attempt to turn them into monsters, the worst of men. And now Trump is worse than a monster. He’s a traitor! A clown! Off with his head!
This unprecedented action by the American Left, including the active involvement by a former President, is setting a new normal for the losing side of a presidential election. Democrats should not think for a moment that when they next win the White House, things will return to the old traditional ways. That will not happen.
What can be expected is that each newly elected President will face a ferocious backlash and well organized efforts to undermine the legitimacy of any actions taken. The Right does not protest and riot like the Left does, but things could change.
This new tradition created by the Left will greatly weaken the country, regardless of who is president.