Fighting the wrong enemy

Jim Geraghty of National Review Online explores a key factor driving much of today’s political debate.

Today’s Republicans and Democrats see completely different worlds with completely different problems. When discussing the threat of Islamist terror, conservatives and liberals can often seem to describe completely separate realities. The conservative sees a religion with a billion followers who actively condone or tacitly accept the horrific violence of the most intolerant among them, hiding behind empty platitudes like “Islam means peace” when called on their inaction. The liberal sees a history of Western aggression against the Muslim world — the Crusades, the Iraq War, ongoing drone strikes — and Western societies that treat every Muslim as a second-class citizen and a born suspect. He believes that this Western atmosphere of contempt and seething resentment practically pushes young, impressionable Muslims into the arms of jihadist recruiters.

It is just about impossible to design an effective counterterrorism policy that incorporates both of these worldviews.

Today a lot of political arguments amount to “the real problem is those people.” The student mob at Middlebury didn’t hope Charles Murray could be persuaded by their arguments to renounce The Bell Curve; it wanted him banned from campus. Even entire groups of people are sometimes written off as hopeless in the same way, simply for electing the wrong leaders; a writer at The New Republic recently called for “blue states and cities to effectively abandon the American national enterprise,” dismissing the rest of the country as “crazy, deadbeat in-laws.”

Since January, some substantial number of Democrats have concluded that the single biggest problem facing the country is President Trump himself. They believe he is a Russian agent, a fool, ignorant, racist, prone to fanciful and bizarre beliefs, insane, selfish, and/or greedy — in other words, the Worst Person in the World. Many of them will never accept him as the legitimate president of the United States, because of Hillary Clinton’s win in the popular vote, the unanswered questions about Russian efforts to influence the election, and their sheer distaste for him.

This refusal to accept the result of the 2016 election manifests itself every day in Washington.

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