New York Times Real Sad That We Can’t Make Nice With MAGA Thugs Who Want To Destroy Us
This week, Nate Cohn at the New York Times suggested that violent rightwing extremism and the demonstrated authoritarian bent within the GOP aren't exclusively to blame for the fall of American democracy. No, the true problem is that Democrats don't want to Netflix and chill with unhinged conspiracy theorists.
The country is increasingly split into camps that don't just disagree on policy and politics — they see the other as alien, immoral, a threat. Such political sectarianism is now on the march.
Eric Boehlert pointed out how Cohn "could only find examples of rightwing behavior that threatens our democracy, yet he insisted Both Sides were to blame." This is a common rightwing talking point. Sensible MSNBC-ready Republicans try to elevate themselves from the Marjorie Taylor Greenes while acknowledging bad GOP behavior, but they make sure to blame Democrats as well. Liberals are the Devils whispering in their ears, but as Lucifer himself once said, “We never make any of them do anything."
Republican Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska made similar arguments in his 2018 book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal, so from the jump, Cohn is regurgitating conservative rhetoric that buries the larger problem rather than appraising it.
The first image we see in Cohn's piece after the headline, "Why Political Sectarianism Is a Growing Threat to American Democracy," is a photo of MAGA supporters confronting Joe Biden supporters outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center as ballots were still being counted after the election. One of President Lost Cause's supporters is wearing a “Not Today Satan" shirt. We're presumably supposed to wonder why these fellow Americans are so angry with each other. The election's over. They should go home to their families or their cats or their cat families.
However, almost everyone who voted for Biden wanted to move on, to heal. When the election was called on November 7, political scientist and author Ian Bremmer tweeted: “Now is the time for every Biden supporter to reach out to one person who voted for Trump. Empathize with them. Tell them you know how they feel (you do, from 2016). Come up with one issue you can agree on."
Democrat Pete Buttigieg shared similar sentiments: "If someone you love and care about voted the other way, today might be a good day to reach out. Not to talk politics, but to talk about things that will remind them (and yourself) why you love and care about them."
The one-term loser's supporters spat in our faces. They didn't congratulate us however insincerely. Instead, they embraced a Big Lie and rejected both democracy and reality. Biden supporters didn't want to show up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center that day. They probably had better things to do, but a sitting president had refused to concede an election he lost.
Cohn acknowledges MAGA's "efforts to subvert the peaceful transition of power," but laments that “the two political parties see the other as an enemy." What, pray tell, is the option when one political party (the Republicans) actively demonizes another (the Democrats, for those paying attention) and refuses to even accept their victories as legitimate?
It's an outlook that makes compromise impossible and encourages elected officials to violate norms in pursuit of an agenda or an electoral victory. It turns debates over changing voting laws into existential showdowns. And it undermines the willingness of the loser to accept defeat — an essential requirement of a democracy.
Yes, it is awful that REPUBLICANS keep doing these things. This paragraph reads as if dictated by Mitch McConnell. Republicans attempting to disenfranchise minority voters is literally an existential showdown. Black people aren't behaving like melodramatic teenagers over white supremacists' efforts to disenfranchise us. Baseless accusations of voter fraud aren't policy differences. This was cruel slander.
Whether religious or political, sectarianism is about two hostile identity groups who not only clash over policy and ideology, but see the other side as alien and immoral. It's the antagonistic feelings between the groups, more than differences over ideas, that drive sectarian conflict.
This is blatant whitewashing. White supremacists stormed the Capitol, some of whom were carrying the Confederate flag, and Cohn still can't describe the “two hostile identity groups" as angry white people and minorities who just want to exist. This “sectarian conflict" isn't a result of liberals and conservatives disagreeing over marginal tax rates. Many white liberals and moderates desperately wish that was the sole source of debate, so they could enjoy holiday gatherings again. But white conservatives realized decades ago that cultural resentment and outright bigotry could more effectively get out the vote than trickle-down economics.
The Irish are the more relevant example. I'm not an expert, but I would sure think English colonization of Ireland… https://t.co/dgQah7lrpF— Nate Cohn (@Nate Cohn)1618837852.0
Defending his article on Twitter, Cohn accused Democrats of feeling that “Republicans are an immoral, alien enemy." A self-described “very liberal" white guy agreed with Cohn and claimed Democrats believed Republicans were “evil and subhuman," which proved Cohn's point about sectarian hostility. This is what Malcolm X described as the oppressors' guilt complex. They feel as if you're calling them "evil and subhuman" if you just accurately describe their actions! This is why Republicans get up in their feels when their voter suppression laws are described as “Jim Crow 2.0."
Cohn infantilizes the modern GOP, suggesting they are simply acting out because they are in the minority. But Republicans are just as brutal to us when they're in power. Cohn also can't offer examples of Democrats embracing violence or authoritarianism in reaction to the past four years. Democrats nominated Joe Biden for president, and Republicans still refused to accept the election results.
We don't “hate" Republicans just because we recognize their demonstrated behavior. The “sectarian hostilities" might seem more blatant now to white liberals and moderates, including Cohn, but they've existed since America's founding. The white majority enslaved and later segregated people they considered “immoral, alien, and subhuman." Now marginalized groups can vocalize their complaints more loudly, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist previously, even during the so-called “good old days."
The New York Times might've published The 1619 Project, but I wonder if everyone who works there bothered to read it.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."