Tags: france | america | polarization | trump | politics

A Divided America Viewed From France

A Divided America Viewed From France
(Sergey Novikov/Dreamstime.com)

By Thursday, 30 August 2018 11:26 AM Current | Bio | Archive

A political conversation in a small quiet outdoor cafe in provincial France this weekend was unusual because the tone was nonpartisan. Those around the table with very different political affiliations were simply trying to understand how it was that the U.S. was so divided.

Distance from the homeland perhaps can give a better perspective on what is happening as being too close to the stream of insults, attacks, and counter attacks obscures the search for some form of truth.

To enrich and add clarity to the conversation, a New York Republican with a residence in the South of France shared copies of emails he received from a friend that presented a perspective on the division in the country that is new, and I must say, despite the calm tranquil atmosphere, very disturbing.

The friend is an educated, reasonable, sophisticated, successful and not previously disposed to extremism, female Donald Trump supporter.

When asked finally whether her support of the president has been impacted by the recent accusations against him if proven true or justified she answered in a way that reveals the depth and intensity of the divisions we have been witnessing.

Here is a paraphrase of what she said:

'I was a fundamentally middle of the road Republican. However I have come to see the polarization of political factions in the country as the responsibility of the grievous mistakes and harm to the country that came from Barack Obama and the institutions that were inspired by him and also his predecessors. These mistakes, willful or inadvertent, are because the government has been taken over by encrusted elitists who see their own interest above the national interest.'

'The very wrong direction the United States has taken justify the attacks that Trump has launched against his predecessor and presidential opponents. If the Liberals don’t like Donald Trump’s bad manners, meanness, and even think he’s in bad faith, these criticism are insignificant compared to the war that needs to be won, a war that was not started by us but by the likes of Obama.'

'This means that any Trump failings pale in comparison to the need to push back and undo the institutions and policies that Obama, Clinton, and the Bush presidents have introduced directly and surreptitiously into our country’s lifeblood. In fact Trump’s fast, decisive decision-making style, willingness to take unpopular positions, to say exactly what he thinks, confront and contradict his own cabinet secretaries and, in addition behavioral characteristics that may have gotten him into trouble in the past, all demonstrate a strength of character that best qualify him to reverse our country’s decline. Trump is really the only effective person to wage what is in fact a war to defeat the opponents of the national interest and their attempt to return to power.'

Without dramatizing or exaggerating this message, the disturbing idea is that even sophisticated educated Trump supporters who see his character as more resembling an unscrupulous construction promoter who breaks the law believe that these characteristics make him better prepared to roll back the harm that came from the previous administrations, and the elites that make up the government or as some would say the Deep State.

So the remedy can’t be simply a palliative.

The extent of the destruction of basic American values justifies the most virulent means that can be marshaled.

And in fact the one and only individual who posses the qualities to take on this task, is Donald Trump.

There is no other man or woman in our society, at least who has come forward to take on a leadership role, capable to taking on what has become a run away freight train.

Of course there are those who see Trump on the ropes.

As each day brings more bad news, they see him exposed to the risk of criminal indictment or impeachment.

But for the Trump supporters the bad news is simply a confirmation that Trump is the best man for the difficult job.

Fake facts, according to them, are any that are used as a means for the elites to preserve their hold over the Republic.

When facts are used in this way it does not matter if they are true, as Rudy Giuliani so forcefully stated last week.

Each new bad fake news is then as asset.

The followers of Donald Trump turn criticism of the president into a weapon.

But underlying this view of the world is the idea that the fight underway is a fight for America.

To understand the Trump defenders… it is finally becoming clear that Mr. Trump, his core supporters, and also the position of the woman friend quoted above, start out from the assumption that there we are in a war.

As sunlight dwindled on our small cafe and we went inside to escape the breeze coming in over the Luberon Mountains, it just so happened that a television program in France was broadcast explaining religion in civilization focused on the United States. According to historians the United States is the first example where religious ritual was transformed into an ideal that the nation is sacred, a nation where human rights, equality of opportunity, freedom of expression, and commitment that the rule of law is above the rule of man. The Washington Monument, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials were shown as examples of the rites and symbols of the ancient civilizations, a pyramid on an obelisk and Greek columns on the memorials, becoming a tribute not only to our Founders but to our unique almost ritual belief that the nation is above any political divisions.

This analysis represents what John McCain has left as his testament.

The big question.

Is this creed only a myth, akin to some ancient ritual?

We’ve had our fill of fake news, with some of us seeing the conventional press as the perpetrator, others seeing fake facts and not the media as the culprit.

However now we are experiencing this idea that we are embroiled in a war.

Is this a reality, justifying whatever means are necessary to win?

Or is our controversy now more profound than fake news?

Are we at war?

Or is this a fake war, designed to justify means to an end that in times of peace would not be tolerated?

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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A political conversation in a small quiet outdoor cafe in provincial France this weekend was unusual because the tone was nonpartisan.
france, america, polarization, trump, politics
Thursday, 30 August 2018 11:26 AM
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