Can a di­vided Amer­ica sur­vive?

The na­tion is not im­mune to the virus that killed oth­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son

The United States is cur­rently the world’s old­est democ­racy. But Amer­ica is no more im­mune from col­lapse than were some of his­tory’s most sta­ble and im­pres­sive con­sen­sual gov­ern­ments. Fifth-cen­tury Athens, Repub­li­can Rome, Re­nais­sance Florence and Venice, and many of the elected gov­ern­ments of early 20th-cen­tury West­ern Euro­pean states even­tu­ally de­stroyed them­selves, went bank­rupt or were over­run by in­vaders.

The United States is di­vid­ing as rarely be­fore. Half the coun­try, mostly lib­eral Amer­ica, is con­cen­trated in 146 of the na­tion’s more than 3,000 coun­ties — in an area that col­lec­tively rep­re­sents less than 10 per­cent of the U.S. land mass. The other half, the con­ser­va­tive red states of the in­te­rior of Amer­ica, is ge­o­graph­i­cally, cul­tur­ally, eco­nom­i­cally, po­lit­i­cally and so­cially at odds with blue-state Amer­ica, which re­sides mostly on the two coasts.

The two Amer­i­cas watch dif­fer­ent news. They read very dif­fer­ent books, lis­ten to dif­fer­ent mu­sic and watch dif­fer­ent

tele­vi­sion shows. In­creas­ingly, they now live lives ac­cord­ing to two widely dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions.

Barack Obama was elected pres­i­dent af­ter com­pil­ing the most left-wing vot­ing record in the U.S. Se­nate. His an­ti­dote, Don­ald Trump, was elected largely on the premise that tra­di­tional Repub­li­cans were hardly con­ser­va­tive.

Red Amer­ica and Blue Amer­ica are spi­ral­ing into di­vi­sions ap­proach­ing those of 1860, or of the ni­hilis­tic hippie-straight di­vide of 1968.

Cur­rently, some 27 per­cent of all Cal­i­for­ni­ans were not born in the United States. More than 40 mil­lion for­eign-born im­mi­grants cur­rently re­side in the United States — the high­est num­ber in the na­tion’s his­tory.

Yet widely unchecked im­mi­gra­tion comes at a time when the coun­try has lost con­fi­dence in its prior suc­cess­ful ad­her­ence to melt­ing-pot as­sim­i­la­tion and in­te­gra­tion. The ul­ti­mate re­sult is a frag­ment­ing of so­ci­ety into tribal cliques that vie for power, ca­reers and in­flu­ence on the ba­sis of eth­nic sol­i­dar­ity rather than shared Amer­i­can­ness.

His­tory is not very kind to mul­ti­cul­tural chaos — as op­posed to a mul­tira­cial so­ci­ety united by a sin­gle na­tional cul­ture. The fates of Rwanda, Iraq and the for­mer Yu­goslavia should re­mind us of our present dis­as­trous tra­jec­tory.

Ei­ther the United States will re­turn to a shared sin­gle lan­guage and al­le­giance to a com­mon and sin­gu­lar cul­ture, or it will even­tu­ally de­scend into clan­nish vi­o­lence.

Does the unique Amer­i­can idea of fed­er­al­ism still work, with state rights and laws sub­or­di­nate to fed­eral law? We fought a Civil War that cost more than 600,000 lives in part to up­hold the idea that in­di­vid­ual states could not over­ride the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Yet sanc­tu­ary cities de­clare that they can freely nul­lify fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law. The Cal­i­for­nia Se­nate passed a bill ear­lier this month that would pro­hibit the state from con­tract­ing with any firms that work on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s wall at the bor­der with Mex­ico.

States such as Cal­i­for­nia vow that they will ig­nore Wash­ing­ton and work di­rectly with for­eign na­tions to pro­mote their own poli­cies on global warm­ing. Read care­fully what some prom­i­nent Cal­i­for­ni­ans are say­ing about the fed­eral gov­ern­ment: It is not much dif­fer­ent from what in­flu­en­tial Con­fed­er­ate South Carolini­ans boasted about in 1860 on the eve of se­ces­sion.

The na­tional debt has al­most dou­bled over the last eight years and, at nearly $20 tril­lion, is un­sus­tain­able.

En­ti­tle­ment spend­ing rose even as new taxes in­creased. The have-nots claim the haves make far too much money; the haves re­tort that they pay most of the in­come taxes while nearly half the coun­try pays noth­ing.

Most Amer­i­cans agree that the present lev­els of bor­row­ing and spend­ing can­not con­tinue. But many be­lieve that the tough medicine to cure the dis­ease of chronic an­nual deficits and mount­ing debt is un­ac­cept­able.

Amer­ica’s in­fra­struc­ture and mil­i­tary are vastly un­der­funded, even though some vot­ers want more sub­si­dies for them­selves and, ap­par­ently, oth­ers to pay for them.

Amer­ica’s once-pre-em­i­nent col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties are fa­tally com­pro­mised. Uni­ver­si­ties charge far too much, re­sist re­form, ex­pect ex­emp­tion from ac­count­abil­ity, and as­sume their stu­dents must take on huge amounts of debt. Yet cam­puses can’t guar­an­tee that their grad­u­ates are com­pe­tently ed­u­cated or that they will find jobs.

Il­lib­eral at­tempts to end free speech, to sanc­tion racial and gen­der seg­re­ga­tion, and to at­tack rather than ar­gue with op­po­nents are dis­guised by eu­phemisms such as “safe spa­ces,” “trig­ger warn­ings” and var­i­ous -isms and -olo­gies.

Be­hind the guise of cam­pus ac­tivism and non-ne­go­tiable de­mands is the real­ity that too many stu­dents sim­ply are un­pre­pared to do their as­signed work and seek ex­emp­tion through protests in lieu of hard study­ing.

Amer­ica barely sur­vived the Civil War of 1861-65, the Great De­pres­sion of 1929-39, and the ri­ot­ing and protests of the 1960s. But to­day’s grow­ing di­vides are ad­di­tion­ally su­per­charged by in­stant In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tions, 24/7 cable news, par­ti­san me­dia and the den­i­gra­tion of Amer­ica’s past tra­di­tions.

All Amer­i­cans need to take a deep breath, step back and rein in their anger — and find more ways to con­nect rather than di­vide them­selves.

They should as­sume their op­po­nents are not all sin­ners, and that their sup­port­ers are not all saints.

Things are bad now. But our own his­tory sug­gests that if we are not care­ful, they can get even worse. deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral’s memo to the pres­i­dent — that got him fired in the first place.

Mr. Comey may have also stum­bled over the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments to get ap­proval for the pub­li­ca­tion of his memos which, af­ter all, was his ex­pressed in­tent for writ­ing them in the first place. The memos are, in Wash­ing­ton­speak, “mem­cons” of his of­fi­cial (and one-on-one) pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent.

The re­quire­ment for pre­pub­li­ca­tion re­view and ap­proval is a lifetime obli­ga­tion for all gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees and of­fi­cials with high-se­cu­rity clear­ances. The re­quire­ment comes from the agree­ments we sign as a con­di­tion to have ac­cess to those types and kinds of in­for­ma­tion.

Next, and as an orig­i­nal “clas­si­fi­ca­tion au­thor­ity,” Mr. Comey also had the obli­ga­tion to clas­sify the memos — or at least have them re­viewed for clas­si­fi­ca­tion — in ac­cor­dance with the spe­cific cri­te­ria in Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der 12526.

What could pos­si­bly be his ex­pla­na­tion, rea­son or mo­tive for not clas­si­fy­ing them? How about be­cause his in­ten­tion all along was to see them in The New York Times?

So, should the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral and the Of­fice of Pro­fes­sional Re­spon­si­bil­ity be look­ing into for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Comey’s con­duct? For sure.

Fi­nally, what could pos­si­bly have been Mr. Comey’s “real” mo­ti­va­tions for do­ing what he did? Let me spec­u­late:

• A $10 mil­lion book deal?

• A run for the Se­nate?

• A run for pres­i­dent?

• All of the above?

In the mean­time, it was Pres­i­dent Trump him­self who most ac­cu­rately de­scribed Jim Comey as a “showboater.” In fact, how could the pres­i­dent ever have trusted Mr. Comey? He clearly did not and could never trust Mr. Comey — and fired him be­cause of it.


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