Transpartisan Note #143
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
In his April 22nd N.Y. Times op-ed, forebodingly titled The G.O.P. Is Getting Even Worse, self-described “conservative columnist” David Brooks says “those of us who had hoped America would calm down when we no longer had Donald Trump spewing poison from the Oval Office have been sadly disabused”.
The far too common vicious verbal attacks and radicalized rhetoric from the Trumpian right, Brooks explains, disguises an apparent issue at the core of the matter:
“It’s as if the Trump base felt some security when their man was at the top, and that’s now gone. Maybe Trump was the restraining force.”
In his article, Brooks shares numbers to back this idea up. His first example, provided to the NYTimes, comes from pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson:
“When asked in late January if politics is more about ‘enacting good public policy’ or ‘ensuring the survival of the country as we know it,’ 51 percent of Trump Republicans said survival; only 19 percent said policy.”
He also shares the even more telling results of an Economist-YouGov poll which “asked Americans which statement is closest to their view”:
“‘It’s a big, beautiful world, mostly full of good people, and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to become isolated’ or ‘Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.’ Over 75 percent of Biden voters chose ‘a big, beautiful world.’ Two-thirds of Trump voters chose ‘our lives are threatened.’”
Adding “this level of catastrophism, nearly despair, has fed into an amped-up warrior mentality”. This is no silent, aggression-fueled anxiety exposed by pollsters:
“‘The decent know that they must become ruthless. They must become the stuff of nightmares,’ Jack Kerwick writes in the Trumpian magazine American Greatness. ‘The good man must spare not a moment to train, in both body and mind, to become the monster that he may need to become in order to slay the monsters that prey upon the vulnerable.’”
Unfortunately, this type of assessment from the radicalized right is far too common and predicates the ill-informed and emotional reactions they have to the societal and political change required for lasting solutions.
We at The Transpartisan Review believe that our Transpartisan Matrix can help sort out this overheated, media-emboldened, rhetorical combat displayed by the far right.
David Brooks is not so optimistic:
This is no longer just about Trump the man, it’s about how you are going to look at reality — as the muddle its always been, or as an apocalyptic hellscape. It’s about how you pursue change — through the conversation and compromise of politics, or through intimidations of macho display.
I can tell a story in which the Trumpians self-marginalize or exhaust themselves. Permanent catastrophism is hard. But apocalyptic pessimism has a tendency to deteriorate into nihilism, and people eventually turn to the strong man to salve the darkness and chaos inside themselves.
We operate on the belief that a system which incorporates more than the hyper-partisan left/right continuum, embracing instead a left/right, order/freedom, four quadrant Transpartisan Matrix, might help focus our energy on positive outcomes. Viewing events through the lens of this Matrix, we believe, offers an opportunity for the simmering anger taking place in widely divergent sectors of society to be harnessed to the possibility of discovering workable solutions to our societal and political issues. We see this Matrix as a more friendly, useable, and broader framework than relying solely on the left/right continuum to understand the natural, social-economic, and cultural forces shaping our daily political life and the unfolding national and global future.