The Corner


Red and Blue (and Very Tense)

Arguing about the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett outside the Supreme Court on October 12, 2020 (Erin Scott / Reuters)

On the homepage today, I write about David French’s new book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. In a podcast some weeks ago, I asked him, “Do you mean ‘secession threat’ in a hyperbolic way? Or are you serious?” His answer, in essence, was “Both.” The threat is not imminent, he said. But neither is it to be ignored.

In recent days, I have felt that the world is conspiring to promote David’s book (a superb and important one).

On December 10, Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show, “I actually think that we’re trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking, ‘What in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?’”

The next day, the Supreme Court decided against a lawsuit filed by Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, which sought to affect the results of the presidential election. Reacting to the decision, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West, issued a statement. It read, in part,

This decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the future of our constitutional republic. Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.

I pause for a couple of interesting stats. Donald Trump received more votes in California than he did in Texas; Joe Biden received more votes in Texas than he did in New York.

David French — formerly of National Review, now with The Dispatch — is in an interesting boat. He is far from alone in this boat.

For the first time in my life, I’m a man without a party. I have no “tribe.” And I must confess that it has opened my eyes. I see things differently than I used to, and I understand the perspective of my political opponents better than I did before.

He is in an excellent position to write about America’s inflamed divide. His life has prepared him for the job. He is a product of “red” America who even now lives in “the heart of Trump country,” as he says. He has also journeyed deep into “blue” America.

In my piece today, I say,

French is a man of strong opinions, and strong convictions, and they are conservative ones. He argues for his positions in column after column, essay after essay. Mainly, however, he is on Team America. If I were a politician, engaging in politician’s rhetoric, I would say, “He is neither red nor blue but red, white, and blue.” Above all, French wants the “frame” to hold — the frame being the Declaration, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and maybe apple pie (plus basketball, David’s No. 1 sport).

I then tell a story — a personal story — which I’d like to retell here. I will paste:

Many years ago, I accompanied a congressional delegation to a troubled country, where elections were being held — elections that needed monitoring. There were two main parties in the country, and the parties were neck and neck. Some businessmen from America were along on the trip, and they favored one party over the other (for good reasons).

When the results came in, we were all at a dinner, where a little American flag was placed next to each plate — a little flag on a stick. One of the businessmen exulted, “We won! We won!” A congressional staffer said, “What do you mean ‘we’?” He then took his little flag and waved it, saying, “This is my ‘we.’”

I have never forgotten that: “This is my ‘we.’” The staffer probably favored a side himself — the same side that the businessmen, and I, favored. Mainly, however, he wanted the process to work. He wanted the democratic process to prevail. And, of course, he was representing the United States.

There is much more to say, and I say a fair amount of it in this piece. Again, here. David is right: Secession is not imminent, thank heaven, but it is not to be ignored. David looks at this problem with very clear eyes, and a keen mind, and a great heart.

While I’m at it, let me recommend a piece by Tim Alberta, of Politico (formerly of National Review). I podcasted with Tim last week (here). The piece is “20 Americans Who Explain the 2020 Election.” And the subheading: “We have very little in common except our fear of each other.” Arresting, and alarming.


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