Monday August 14, 2017
The political violence in Charlottesville yesterday was as predictable as it was futile. One person was killed and dozens badly injured, marking a new low in the political and cultural wars that are as heated as any time since in America since the 1960s.
This relentless politicization of American culture has eroded goodwill and inflamed the worst impulses in society. Antifa and the alt-right may represent simple-minded expressions of hatred and fear, but both groups are animated entirely by politics: the perception that others can impose their will on us politically. The only lasting solution to political violence is to make politics matter less.
We’ve allowed politics to invade every aspect of American life, from religion and family life to sex and sexuality, from bathrooms to ball fields to the workplace. But what has it gotten us besides identity politics on steroids? The “personal is political” is hardly the rallying cry of a free and confident nation. Even as we enjoy historically unparalleled material prosperity, we are dispirited by the 2016 election hangover and looking for scapegoats to explain the American malaise.
It’s easy to decry Antifa and its violent leftwing rhetoric. It’s easy to decry the alt-Right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists. It’s more important to understand them as exemplars of a new political age. Progressives demanded permanent revolution; conservatives responded by becoming permanent reactionaries. And the media bias (overwhelmingly anti-right) makes things worse: one “side” becomes convinced of its moral superiority, while the other becomes convinced the fix is in.
We suspect, without knowing, that a Hillary voter is just a step or two removed from a bandanna-clad Antifa, while a Mitt Romney voter is but a few degrees removed from an alt-Right nationalist marching in the streets. This may seem farcical, but the political society promoted by Clinton and Romney encourages it. Everyone must take a side, and live with the excesses.