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Reviews | Justice Alito is right about America’s deep division

I disagree with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s positions on political and legal issues. Or on ethics. He is expected to recuse himself from matters surrounding former President Donald Trump’s campaign. But he’s right about the divisions that exist in our nation today — and I wish more liberals and moderates in positions of power shared his views.

“One side or the other is going to win,” he told liberal filmmaker Lauren Windsor, who posed as a conservative activist and secretly recorded the conversation.

He added: “I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working – a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really cannot be compromised. So it’s not like you’re going to split the difference. The comments were first reported by Rolling Stone.

The current divide between liberals/Democrats/Blue states and conservatives/Republicans/Red states is deep and, as Alito says, in some ways intractable. The average voter in California does not have entirely different views than the average voter in Wyoming. But white Christian nationalists, anti-critical race theories, anti-transgender activists and Texas voters have views irreconcilable with those of New York leftists who believe that colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy are the foundations on which America was built.

We’re not just engaged in a “culture war” over whether people should read the New York Times 1619 Project or use the term “Latinx.” States run by Republicans make it very difficult to join a union or have an abortion. They deprive liberal elected officials of power and sometimes remove them from office. A person with views shared by many white born-again Christians (opposition to abortion and gender-affirming care, that blacks would be on average as well off as whites if they worked harder) would not will almost never be elected to a powerful position in the country. a blue state.

More importantly, key figures shaping Republican Party policy act as if conservatives are engaged in an existential war with the left. This includes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Justice Clarence Thomas, activist Christopher Rufo and Trump advisers Russ Vought and Stephen Miller. If Trump returns to the White House, he has made clear that his administration will treat federal workers, left-wing professors and students, and others conservatives don’t like, as enemies of the state.

I don’t want Democratic officials, the media, nonprofits, or other non-conservatives to take such drastic action as these Republicans. The Biden administration is not expected to list the groups it would target if the president wins a second term.

But I wish powerful institutions and individuals on the left and center would understand that the country is in the midst of a non-military civil war and act with the focus and purpose that such a conviction implies.

You could say a lot of people are worried about the prospect of a Trump victory in November. It’s true. But the problem is not just with Trump. Banning abortion in many states, weakening the Voting Rights Act, rolling back state criminal justice reforms, and enacting widespread restrictions on discussions of race in public schools and colleges all happened in the last three years while Trump held no office. Conservative activists and officials attack left-wing institutions and values ​​on a daily basis. They use every power at their disposal, from Republican-dominated courts to state legislatures to congressional hearings that led to the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

Alito’s framing, with the use of the term “side”, was spot on. There is a conservative side, much broader than Trump alone. And he seeks to win, not compromise. Abortion was already quite limited in red states in 2021. But conservatives pushed for it anyway. Roe v. Wade knocked down – and did.

In contrast, Democrats act as if they are fighting alone against Trump. In 2021, even as the Supreme Court became more radical, Biden not only took the weakest approach possible (appointing a commission to study the issue), but also basically ignored its findings. He bragged about the relatively ineffective gun control bill he passed with Republicans in Washington, ignoring how conservatives at the state level were weakening gun rights restrictions in a large part of the country.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) refuses to even hold hearings on the controversies surrounding Alito and Thomas.

Many news outlets, including some liberals, portray politics as Trump versus the Democrats in Washington, DC. They barely cover state politics, essentially ignoring where most of the political action takes place. The media still often evaluates the effectiveness of politicians based on their ability to work across party lines. But Republicans like Vought are achieving their goals without any support from liberals.

I can’t prove that prominent Democratic politicians and other prominent figures from the center and left have a different view than Alito. Perhaps, privately, they too recognize that the country is immersed in a deep conflict that one side must win. I suppose Biden supporters would say the president recognizes the deeper division, but thinks the best way to address it is for him to win re-election, in part by being more conciliatory.

Here’s why I’m skeptical of this view. Democrats in very blue areas, like Durbin, who don’t need to appeal to Republican voters, still aren’t acting with much urgency. They behave as if reaching an agreement with a conservative lawmaker was a huge achievement.

The media seems to be constantly surprised by the extremist actions of the Republican Party, such as re-nominating Trump for president. But it is not surprising that a political movement that believes it is engaged in a fight to the death remains behind a man who has shown both a deep commitment to the movement’s causes and a willingness to use any means necessary to win political battles.

There are two visions of advanced America. Liberals are willing to compromise on some issues, but the most powerful conservatives are not looking to meet halfway. The best way to lose a battle is to pretend nothing is being done – and that’s unfortunately what many prominent liberals and moderates are doing.