The republican primary this election season has been highly educational.
What we have been watching is a consistent second-place candidate, by all accounts a competent man, endure extremist after unelectable extremist taking the front-runner position because the conservative base in this country is nervous about his religion. This confuses me. I am not a Republican, I am not religious, but if I was I would think a Mormon would be the least of my worries. Any real Republicans watching this circus must be saddened – the chances of finding a man capable of defeating their sworn enemy seem low.
But as I said, I am not a Republican, nor a conservative of any kind, and so the lesson I have taken from this is entirely different.
Romney stated matter-of-factly that corporations are people, as if the notion was obvious.
Santorum claimed that environmentalism is a phony ideal.
Gingrich said that if given the presidency he would commit the nation’s resources to colonizing the moon.
I could find more appalling statements made by each of these men, but these will serve to make my point.
Aside from the fact that we were born in the same UN-recognized political entity and we share a native language, I have nothing in common with these people. Not one of my ideals is shared by them. I disagree with every leading Republican candidate on every possible issue. I am offended by most of the statements they make that are intended to win support and am even more offended by their opinion of what is worth making statements about. In no conceivable way are these my countrymen.
Yet these men control a large portion of the government of my country, and come next year, one of them may occupy the highest executive office. I could not find the prospect more terrifying if a Saudi prince, a Somalian warlord or a Maoist Chinese bureaucrat were about to be given the presidency, and I mean that without sarcasm. With these men I can feel no kinship, imagine no compromise, conceive of no rapport. I do not believe that my differences with these men are reconcilable in any way; there is no underlying unity to which to appeal.
Religious conservatives regularly label democratic candidates the Anti-Christ, this is meant to convey the utter unacceptability of their holding office. As I am not a Christian, I cannot make use of this metaphor, but I believe that my feelings toward these men, toward the three front-runners of the Republican primary – Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, are roughly equivalent to how Christians must view toward the men they label in this way.
Fortunately, the situation is not as grim as I have made it out to be. Primary races tend to bring out extreme views – the candidates have to appeal to their base to get the nomination, and the happy reality is that in all likelihood Obama will win a second term (Romney is unimpressive; Santorum’s religious conservatism will alienate moderates; and Gingrich is a disgusting man). But in another four years I may not be so lucky.
What I am afraid of is that there is a time coming when the ideological gap between liberals and conservatives will become so great that it inspires not just revulsion and anger, but violence. We are rapidly approaching the level of division that occurred in this country directly before the civil war, and all that we are missing is a key issue by which one side will impose its will upon the other. Health care, environmental restrictions, immigration reform, social issues: none of these are nearly inflammatory enough, they inspire hate but not the feeling of existential threat that prompts revolt.
As for a preemptory solution, there is only one: divide the country. Look up the Obama-McCain divide from the last election and follow it roughly; I am not an expert in political science, demography, or economics so I won’t get any more specific than that, but there is simply no reason why I should have to coexist with these people – after all, they are not my countrymen.