I was a guest in a house divided last weekend—a house riven by (what else in America 2018?) the politics before a set of midterm elections.
My hosts live in Bethesda, Md., in a lovely, roomy house in a leafy Washington suburb that they built to raise their four amazingly bright children. The couple is amiable, caring—a great American family.
But they just don’t see politics through the same lens this year, and it makes for interesting political discussion.
Both Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford grew up in this Washington suburb and many of my hosts’ friends knew both. The friends have very different views.
After both Ford and Kavanaugh had given their testimony to a congressional committee, all were asking which to believe, the searing sexual assault charges of Dr. Ford or the angry denial of (then Judge) Kavanaugh.
The lady of the house and I agreed that both believed they were telling the truth. But the man in the house felt that Kavanaugh would make an excellent Supreme Court member.
You couldn’t say blithely that that was how the fight began. Because there was no fight, no yelling, not even any outrage, just the quiet disagreement that happens in every thoughtful home.
It wasn’t even isolated to the confirmation fight going on in the Senate. They disagreed about many of the political trends of our times. Let’s take a look.
He thinks that President Donald Trump is right to pursue a trade war with China and many others, pointing out that China will have more than a billion people. The Chinese will overtake the United States economically in the long run if we don’t contain their economy now, he believes.
When I interjected that the U.S. probably would be better off building strong relationships with the rest of the world to help us restrain China, instead of fighting everybody, my point didn’t seem to prevail.
But her successful law practice is based primarily on clients in the Middle East, places like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc. Her worldview is that the best interest of the U. S. is served by international cooperation.
His view is that the Supreme Court is going outside the Constitution in many of its rulings. He thinks the affirmative action decisions are discriminatory. He would argue that the Constitution does not speak to immigration and that we need secure borders above all.
She didn’t explicitly speak to those kinds of issues, but it was clear that her general outlook is more inclusive.
When I mentioned that we should make accommodations for the dreamers, those young people brought here as children who now might be deported, I think she nodded agreement. I got the distinct impression he believed they are here illegally and should be deported.
They do agree on many things: Neither is opposed to same-sex marriage or abortion, for example. Their two daughters and twin sons attend public schools, not the trendy private schools that thrive in Bethesda and many other Washington-area neighborhoods.
(A clear difference: He plays excellent golf, she works out in a well-equipped home gym. For the record, he and I played as partners in a golf tournament; I dragged him down to a last-place finish.)
In a sane political world, this is what America would look like: quiet but firmly held opinions, informed and accurate political information, caring parents, tolerance for each other.
Many other homes are somewhat like this one. But America does not reflect it when the politics break out in the public arena. That America is snarling mad, so divided that a crowd at a Trump rally breaks into a disgraceful “Lock Her Up” chant when an opposition senator’s name is mentioned.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is right when he says “someone is going to be assassinated” if this keeps up. He points out that when a thousand people hear vile politics, one unbalanced person can be driven to fatal extremes.
From now until Election Day less than a month away, this fiery partisanship is not going to end. Trump thrives on it, and his most rabid supporters do, too.
The president, enthralled by his power, has proudly made himself the issue, believing he is stronger than the congressional candidates and their home districts.
Polling suggests that is a losing strategy, that the president is overstating his own popularity and believing his brand of politics will overwhelm Democratic candidates, incumbents included. We shall see.
In the home I visited last weekend, disagreement does not devolve into bitterness. Instead, there is respect. In the country we all live in, disagreement has devolved into hatred. That’s dangerous.