The trench warfare nation

The term “50:50 nation” – meaning, one that is evenly divided along party lines – is sometimes applied to the US at the moment. Surely, in this fraught election season, this is far too centrist a name. The trench warfare nation, or the pyrrhic victory nation, perhaps. 50:50 implies everyone is near the centre. That may be true about the American population in general, but as the Washington Post discusses today, the arguments between the different sides of the political spectrum are bitter and personal.

There is great danger in too much attack politics. Every political system depends on a certain level of trust – the idea that we are all good chaps, and good chaps know what good chaps are expected to do and will never push things too far, in the words of Peter Hennessy. Without that, politics becomes a zero-sum game, popular respect disappears, and factional interests grow in importance until they overtake national interests.

As Orwell says in Notes on Nationalism:

For those who feel deeply about contemporary politics, certain topics have become so infected by considerations of prestige that a genuinely rational approach to them is almost impossible.

Are the politics of hate a permanent feature of American life, or just a reflection of the attitude to the current President?

(Thanks to Doug Masson for the pointer)