Peering at the fault lines
"If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I'm not your president. You have that president today."
Notice the cheers.
I know it's not fashionable to say this, but it must be said: the fault lines in American politics are as deep as ever and despite our common economic victimization at the hands of the elites, it's going to be very, very unlikely that the entire 99% will rise up against the rest. It's just not who we are. And the particular fault line Romney is tapping in that speech is about to open up as the anti-war movement joins the Wall Street protests. I'm not against that --- to me it's all part of the same thing --- I'm just pointing out that the fault line still exists and that we shouldn't lull ourselves into the same delusions that the Tea Party had when it convinced itself that it was already speaking for everyone in the nation. This stuff goes way deeper than people want to believe. We've been fighting along these lines from the beginning.
I think Nancy Pelosi said it well (from an interview with Amanpour that will air tomorrow)
AMANPOUR: I just want to get your reaction to some comments by Eric Cantor today. He said, quote: "I'm increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities around the country." And he said: "Believe it or not, some in this town haveactually condoned the pitting of Americans against other Americans."
PELOSI: I didn't hear him say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol. And he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them. But let's not get down to that.
AMANPOUR: But do you think it's pitting Americans against Americans?
PELOSI: Well, that's the American system. It's the democratic system. We don't all agree. We'd have a king if we were all of one mind. We don't. We have different views. And the part of the democracy of our country is the expression that people give -- and the constitution guarantees that.
I'm going to guess that my view of this will not be popular among some of you who truly want to believe that the OWS movement is going to sweep the country without any substantial opposition from average Americans. I hope that's right. But history suggests that it won't happen that way. It's going to be a fight. And possibly a big one.
And that's ok. Change happens in a democracy because over time people are persuaded to do it; it doesn't happen instantaneously through some blinding common vision. And our democracy is structured to be particularly subject to Manichean clashes. So the way you make lasting change is to argue it out, loudly --- and eventually bring a majority along to demand the changes that are necessary.
But remember, the forces that are arrayed on the other side will bring everything they have to bear to stop that from happening. They will do what they always do, which is open up all those political and tribal faultlines --- whether we like it or not. And those faultlines are as real to Americans as their empty bank accounts. To many they are far more meaningful in fact.
And keep in mind that this isn't really a partisan thing, although it tends to end up more or less breaking down on partisan lines a good part of the time. This is about tribal identity not political parties and tribal identity is one of the human species' most powerful and potent motivators. It never pays to underestimate just how deeply these differences go.