Let me be clear up front: I hope my prediction at the end of this article is wrong. I hope that what I’m seeing as I survey the state of the country somehow takes a turn for the better so that we as a nation, to the extent we still are one “one people,” can avoid the grisly fate that will be ours if we stay the course we’re currently charting.
As I see it, two relatively recent events spell deep, potential trouble for the integrity of the country:
On July 12, a critical mass of Democratic state legislators in Texas walked out of the statehouse, breaking quorum and preventing the Republican-controlled legislature from passing electoral reforms.
On June 24, while a Republican legislator tried to advocate for her amendment, which would keep men out of women’s sports, Democratic state legislators in Ohio shouted and banged on their desks so loudly and disruptively that she couldn’t finish her floor speech. (You can watch this one below.)
It’s really tempting and easy to dunk on these Democrats and call them childish, roll your eyes at them, and/or make egghead comments like Senator Cruz did about the Texas Democrats’ hypocrisy: They needed to show I.D. to fly to D.C. to engage in a media stunt, but they fled Texas in opposition to requiring people to do the same to be able to vote—zing! But, as per usual, conservatives are missing the forest for the trees. They prefer to be seen and heard as clever (for whom, I wonder?) rather than take the time to comprehend the stakes of the moment. They do not know what time it is.
Yes, the Democrats in both cases acted contemptibly buffoonish. No doubt. But this is neither garden-variety snowflakery nor mere political theater. In reality, the Democrats’ ridiculousness masks a deeper principle of action, one that portends deep trouble for the country if left unnamed, unresisted, and, eventually, undefeated.
So, what is it that these events signal?
The death of dialogue.
These two events are examples of the breakdown of our faith in reason as a universally accessible ground for debate and deliberation about common action aimed at securing the common good. As human beings, we are unique because we possess the power of speech. This is perhaps the key ability of ours that distinguishes us from the rest nature. Unlike all other creatures, Man is able to govern himself because he can speak; his speech is how he publicly makes known what is just and unjust and, critically, what is to be done about it. We are governed by laws which are, in a very basic sense, nothing more than dried ink on sheets of paper. And yet, they’re also more than that; in a sense, our speech is given actual power, made “real,” and our words are put into action when we pass a law.
The Democrats—in fleeing the state or banging on their desks and screeching rather than forthrightly challenging Republicans’ electoral-reform or gender-realism measures in the legislative process—have abandoned our political process’s commitment to persuasion, which is grounded in speech. But this breakdown has been happening for some time now; these two events are just particularly stark examples of it.
What happens when speech fails?
The only thing that can: violence. If we can’t talk through our disagreements, our divisions will harden, sharpen, and then be given explosive, unpleasant expression. If we refuse to talk, we’ll fight. That’s just reality; consider your relationships with your own siblings if you don’t believe me.
In the interim, what we’ve been seeing for the past several years will intensify. Having rejected reason and speech—powers common to all human beings by their nature—as providing a way for minds to meet to deliberate about how to solve problems so that we can live together as best we can in light of objective truth, the only thing left to do is make appeals to identity and mobilize relativistic interests into voting blocs, all grounded in the will. And the only way to “solve” the problems generated by clashing, group-based interests—which are incommensurable precisely because they’re grounded not in reason (which creates a bridge between opposed parties) but will (which doesn’t)—is to eliminate the other side so that there are simply no longer any more impossible-to-solve disagreements.
All of this is simply the logical endpoint of the extreme Lefts’ anti-intellectualism and demagogic appeals to group privilege, fueled by government-backed patronage, to secure the levers of power. They do the equivalent of fleeing debate and screaming and banging on tables all the time (in substance, if not in form) when they cancel people, censor ideas they don’t like, and reject speech and dialogue out of hand not just because they foment “violence” but because words are violence. These two events are just in-your-face examples of that.
Unfortunately, the “cold civil war” just might be heating up. Let’s pray it’s not.