Divided we stand, in four divisions

Various conservative websites have been excerpting (to put it mildly) CNN contributor Fareed Zakaria and his new book, Why Trump Won.

Specifically, this excerpt:

The Trump vote is in large part an act of class rebellion, a working class revolt against know-it-all elites who run the country. These voters will stick with Donald Trump even as he flails, rather than vindicate the elite, urban view of him.

Here is what Zakaria wrote on CNN.com:

The real question of the 2016 presidential election isn’t so much why did Donald Trump win, as why did he even get close?

After all, Trump was a totally unconventional candidate who broke all the rules and did things that would have destroyed anyone else running for president. So why did he break through?

Here’s the answer: America is now divided along four lines, each one reinforcing the others. Call them the four Cs.

The first is capitalism. There was a time when the American economy moved in tandem with its middle class. As the economy grew, so did middle class employment and wages. But over the last few decades that link has been broken. The economy has been humming along, but it now enriches mostly those with education, training, and capital. The other Americans have been left behind.

The second divide is about culture. In recent decades, we’ve seen large scale immigration; African-Americans and Hispanics rising to a more central place in society; and gays being accorded equal rights. All of this has meant new cultures and narratives have received national attention. And it’s worried a segment of the older, white population, which fears that the national culture they grew up with is fading. One comprehensive study found that after party loyalty, the second strongest predictor of a Trump voter was “fears of cultural displacement.”

The third divide in America today is about class. The Trump vote is in large part an act of class rebellion, a working class revolt against know-it-all elites who run the country. These voters will stick with Donald Trump even as he flails, rather than vindicate the elite, urban view of him.

The final C in this story is communication. We have gone from an America where people watched three networks that provided a uniform view of the world to one where everyone can pick their own channel, message, and now even their own facts.

All these forces have been at work for decades, but in recent years, the Republican Party has been better able to exploit them and identify with those Americans who feel frustrated, anxious, angry — even desperate about the direction that the country is headed in. Donald Trump capitalized on these trends even more thoroughly, speaking openly to people’s economic anxieties, cultural fears, and class rebellion. He promised simple solutions, mostly aimed at others — Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese people and, of course, the elites and the media.

It worked. He won. Whether his solutions are even enacted is another matter. But the real victory will come for this country when someone looks at these deep forces that are dividing it and tries to construct a politics that will bridge them. Rather than accept that America must remain a country split between two tribes — each uncomprehending of the other, both bitter and hostile — he or she would speak in a language that unites them.

That kind of leadership would win not just elections — but a place of honor in American history.

This is how you can tell Zakaria is not a native American. (Not that he needs to be.) During my lifetime, which began in the midst of the Vietnam War, I am hard pressed to recall a president who wasn’t hated by his opponents.

Remember the line from the movie “Forre3st Gump,” in which Jenny’s boyfriend apologizes, sort of, for being abusive toward Jenny by saying “It’s just this war and that lying son of a bitch Johnson!” That would be Lyndon Johnson, hero of liberals except for that Vietnam thing. Democratic contempt for Richard Nixon needs not be repeated here. Gerald Ford was a wishy-washy klutz. Jimmy Carter was a wimp. Ronald “Ronnie Raygun” Reagan was an amiable dunce who was nonetheless going to destroy the world. Ditto George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton was a serial womanizer and liar. George W. Bush combined the worst qualities of his father and Reagan. Conservatives hated Obama as much as Obama hated them. Donald Trump … need I spell that out?

Politics is, remember, a zero-sum game. Whatever one side wins, the other side loses. So I’d love to hear Zakaria explain how any president, or any politician, unifies this divided mess of a country we live in.

 

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