Christopher Caldwell, in Claremont Review, discusses today’s divided America.
In the days leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, the streets in one wealthy corner of northwest Washington, D.C., were draped with flags almost from one end to the other. They recalled Monetâ€™s painting of the Rue Montorgueil that hangs in the MusÃ©e dâ€™Orsay, or the oils that the American impressionist Childe Hassam painted of street parades towards the end of World War I. These, however, were not national flags but the rainbow-striped banners of the gay rights movement. They were directed, in embitterment rather than celebration, at an audience of one: Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the vice president-elect. Pence had done two things to offend the flag-wavers. As Indiana governor in the days after gay marriage became law in 2015, he had signed a bill defending freedom of religion. Worse, after November 8 he had rented a house on nearby Tennyson Street for the presidential transition. Now up and down his street the yard signs jostled, some reading â€œI Stand With Planned Parenthood,â€ others â€œThis Neighborhood Respects Women.â€ Particularly popular was a peacock-blue sign reading â€œHate Has No Home Hereâ€ and â€œEl odio no tiene hogar aquÃ,â€ which must be Spanish for â€œStay out of our neighborhood, Hoosier.â€
Regrettable though it may be that political passions would lead a whole neighborhood to act inhospitably, it is only human. It was a bitter contest, after all. Trumpâ€™s win was a shock. What is more worrisome is the estrangement of ruling-class neighborhoods like this one from the part of the country that voted for Trump, their near-unanimous incomprehension of, and contempt for, the democracy movement that just said â€œEnough!â€ to the politics of recent decades. In an election that Democrats lost at virtually every level, the capital city gave Hillary Clinton 93% of its votes, and Trump 4%. All the countryâ€™s grand, modern, and cultured places followed suit. Penceâ€™s neighbors seemed to assume he did not realize there was any such thing as homosexuality or abortion or the Spanish language. Merely alerting him that such things existed might therefore be a satisfying way to wound him. And why not wound him? It was impossible that Trump and Pence could be legitimate occupants of the White House because it was impossible to believe that 60 million people would vote for such boobs.
A robust enthusiasm for American democracy is unlikely to survive where such sentiments prevail.
A must read.