a must read from jeffrey goldberg, eidtor in Chief of the Atlantic

A Nation Coming Apart

by Jeffrey Goldberg

This dispiriting moment was the backdrop, and the impetus, for The Atlantic’s new special issue, what we have called “How to Stop a Civil War.” We don’t believe that conditions in the United States today resemble those of 1850s America. But we worry that the ties that bind us are fraying at alarming speed—we are becoming contemptuous of each other in ways that are both dire and possibly irreversible.

The 45th president of the United States is uniquely unfit for office and poses a multifaceted threat to our country’s democratic institutions. Yet he might not represent the most severe challenge facing our country
, these being:

The structural failures in our democratic system that allowed a grifter into the White House in the first place—this might be our gravest challenge. Or perhaps it is the tribalization of our politics, brought about by pathological levels of inequality, technological and demographic upheaval, and the tenacious persistence of racism. Or maybe it is that we as a people no longer seem to know who we are or what our common purpose is.

Goldberg reminds us that The Atlantic was meant to be the magazine of the American idea. “In November 1857, when our first issue was published, the American idea was besieged by the forces of slavery. The Atlantic, then as now, stood for American unity, but it also stood for the idea that America is by its nature both imperfect and ultimately perfectible. The untiring pursuit of a more perfect union is at the core of the American idea.”

Philip Waring:

For me the Trumpian period in our history, from Trump’s surprising 2016 election until now, does represent the greatest threat to our democracy that I for certain, and perhaps the entire country, has ever known. What’s happening in Trumpian Washington is making more and more of us question whether our Constitution, and in particular the separation of powers, so dear to our Founding Fathers, will survive intact.

Trump is on a tear to have the raw power of the executive replace what had always been the equal and separate powers of the legislature, judiciary and executive. And so far what were meant to be checks and balances, of the ones on the others, are on life support, and their very survival is in question.

You mention impeachment. Won’t this save us? Maybe. I haven’t lost all hope, and we will see, beginning today at the opeing of the House Impeachment hearings. Doesn’t this mean that the Constitution is at work, is working. as it was meant to?

Well so far Trump’s response has been to give the Democratic members of the House, in particular Adam Shiff and Nancy Pelosi, who are leading the Impeachment effort, the finger. Trump is laughing at Nancy and Adam, and hi Trump’s followers, the tens of millions who voted for him and the tens of thousands who attend his raucous and vulgar rallies are out there laughing right along with their President. The people who attend his rallies expect to be entertained, and Trump, always the entertainer, the performer, doesn’t disappoint them.

Donald Trump himself is without the inner make-up of mind and heart that makes up our humanness. He places the well-being of Trump himself, and the Trump family, before the well being of the country itself. The country? For Trump himself the country is like the lot from which the salesman sells used cars. Trump’s only interest is to move the cars, the cars being what we thought were the essential attributes of our democracy.

And then there are his boot- licking followers always most difficult for me to understand. Where did they come from, suddenly appearing as from nowhere in the hundreds and thousands at the news of his winning the presidency. Who would have ever guessed their presence in the country, in the State governments, not to mention their majority positions in the Senate and until 2018 in the House? That will be for future historians the great question of our time, why were we not strong enough prevent his and their entry into what seems now the ownership of the country

For Jeffrey Goldberg th is a dispiriting time. As he says the ties that have always bound us are fraying (if not breaking up) and we can even imagine another Civil War when as in any war actions rather than words are the primary agenda of both sides of the dispute resulting in mutual destruction.

The untiring pursuit of a more perfect union, which according to Jeffrey Goldberg is at the core of the American idea, is no longer on anyone’s mind let alone the minds of Trump and his cronies. A more perfect union, e pluribus umum, what’s that? Instead, now the players, probably now the players on both sides, actually on the many sides of the present polarization of the country, are out to have things their own way no matter what the cost to themselves and the country.

What’s most missing in Trump’s country? Well what’s missing are all those values that for most of our history have been essential, if not fully realized, to our union and coming together. What’s most missing is perhaps the very value that Trump himself is most without, decency.

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