I began my journalism career covering a civil war in Lebanon. I never thought I’d end my career covering a civil war in America.We may not be there yet, but if we don’t turn around now, we will surely get where we’re going — which was best described by Senator Jeff Flake on Monday: “Tribalism is ruining us. It is tearing our country apart. It is no way for sane adults to act.” ...
When I look at all the people today who are propelling their political careers and fattening their wallets by dividing us, I cannot help but wonder: Do these people go home at night to some offshore island where none of this matters? Do these people really think their kids aren’t going to pay for the venom they sell and spread? Don’t worry, I know the answer: They aren’t thinking and they aren’t going to stop it.What stops it? When a majority of Americans, who are still center-left and center-right, come together and vote only for lawmakers who have the courage to demand a stop to it — now, right now, not just when they’re leaving office or on their death beds.
David Brooks, another New York Times pundit, wrote a column a couple of days later that agreed with Friedman, though Brooks didn't use the Civil War metaphor.
While Friedman is recognizing how bad things are (and he’s not wrong on that), he’s still not clear that the real enemy is people with power and wealth who care about nothing but their own self interest.
I don't think that the "Civil War" metaphor is very helpful in getting us there. As I often proclaim in these blog postings, most people tend to act the way they think they are "expected" to act, and to see things in the way they are told they should see them. Wealth controls media, and the media is telling us that we are massively divided into warring tribes. But if we want to overcome the divisions that are crippling our society (something that both Friedman and The Daily KOS say they want), then postulating a "Civil War" in our society sends exactly the wrong message.
My specific suggestion is that we must organize at every political level to fashion a new national movement to achieve national goals that will have broad acceptance, and that will provide meaningful economic benefits to the 99%. I see the WPA as a model.
How many trees do we need to plant to combat global warming? Millions. That means jobs and a common purpose. How many solar panels should be installed wherever rooftops get sun? Millions. That means jobs and a common purpose. How many pre-kindergarten child care centers do we need to give every young child in our society a good start in life? How many drug outreach program do we need to undo the damage we see on the streets every day? How many new homes, price-restricted to be affordable to ordinary working families, must we construct? You get the idea! This is not, by any means, a total list. Millions and millions, and millions of good jobs. All such projects making clear our common purpose.
We need to redirect our political demands in a positive direction. If you don't mind me bringing up past mistakes, Hillary Clinton ran against the "deplorables," and Bernie Sanders ran on the idea of Medicare for All, and a free college education for our nation's youth. Bernie's idea was the better one, politically. Positive, not negative. But perhaps even Bernie didn't get it completely right. Bernie was advocating programs that the government should be providing to us. I say we need programs in which we ourselves will be engaged in doing what we know this nation needs to do. That's why I like the WPA model.
To pay for all this? Well, those three or four soldiers on the right, with their money flag, won't beat the majority if the majority actually begins demanding that our society make it possible for us, collectively, to achieve what we know we need to do. The selfish rich will have to disgorge. That is how they can contribute to the common project!
We can get on the right track by starting to work together, positively, to confront and overcome the challenges that will determine whether or not human civilization, and American democracy, will survive.