The New American Civil War

civil war

by Chris Shugart

If our country were a marriage, there’d be a lot of people asking for a divorce right now. And we know how messy those can be. When irreconcilable differences go unresolved between spouses, one or both parties may seek to dissolve the marriage. On a national level, history has shown us that unresolved differences can lead to war. Which is a little bit like divorce.

In either case, this doesn’t necessarily imply a military conflict. There can be such a thing as a non-shooting “cold war” just as once existed between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. To be sure, there’s been no formal declaration of war between any political parties in this country. But when Congress passed the now infamous health care reform bill in 2010, it confirmed what I had suspected for some time: We were in a war of opposing ideologies and principles—two political sides with fundamentally different visions of America. Only the naive or those in denial can consider this an overstatement.

I’m not alone in my view. Two days after that Sunday of Infamy, author and radio host Dennis Prager stated, “I write the words ‘civil war’ with an ache in my heart. But we are in one.” About a week later, economist and political commentator Walter Williams implied the same when he wrote, “I believe we are nearing a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative.” Conservative author David Horowitz was way ahead of the curve when he said in 1996, “The Left is permanently at war with America.”

It’s been said that Democrats and Republicans basically want the same things, but have different ways of going about attaining them. While this may have once been true, it’s no longer the case. In President Obama’s own words, he seeks to fundamentally change America. To some, that’s considered progress. To others it’s an effort to nullify basic American values.

While it may be of some minor consolation that our conflict remains a cold war, it doesn’t make the division any easier to negotiate. Nevertheless, it’s the state of affairs in which we now find ourselves. We face a new reality that’s been years in the making: Americans divided by fundamental difference in values, goals, and vision. On one side you have those who favor a large proactive government that takes care of its citizens (and in some cases non-citizens). On the other side you have those who believe that Americans should manage their own affairs with a minimum of government interference.

Our deep divide is more than a difference in ideology. It’s also a difference of perception. It may indeed be true that there are two different Americas, as Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards once claimed. If nothing else, we don’t see the same America. It’s as if we’re all looking at the same piece of furniture, but while some see a table, others see a chair. Such a severe disparity in perception may never be reconciled.

The traditional American value system and the leftist value system are incompatible. How we got to this impasse is no longer relevant. Continuing discussions and rhetoric is only so much whistling in the dark. Understanding this new reality and deciding where we go from here must be our new focus. How we choose to address this conflict should be our paramount consideration. Ignoring reality in order to avoid ugly confrontations will only postpone the ugliness. Whatever the answer, whatever the outcome, we must assess our current situation in the context of this New American Civil War in which we are now faced.