Early Returns

No, Partisan Differences Won't Destroy America

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Never, forever.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

I recommend a series of posts at National Review on the topic of #NeverTrump after the election for two reasons. One is for the solid responses by David French and Jonah Goldberg on the role of conservative writers during a Republican presidency; as French argues, they aren't cheerleaders or defense attorneys. Quite right (and both French and Goldberg, along with others at National Review and a few other conservative outlets, have in fact held Trump to reasonable standards). The truth is partisan writers are going to give politicians from their own party the benefit of the doubt no matter how tough they try, and that's not the worst thing in the world -- as long as they recognize when reasonable doubt exists and when it just doesn't. 

The other reason is for Dennis Prager's argument for cheerleading as the proper duty of everyone who feels that "America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake." Of course, this kind of apocalyptic talk is a perfect justification for pretty much everything -- and to openly argue it, as many conservatives have for decades, is both a good clue not to take them seriously and, even worse, a good clue to what's wrong with the Republican Party. 

One need not believe in the old idea of an American ideological consensus to recognize that the actual policy differences between Democrats and Republicans fall far short of "an existential battle for preserving our nation." After all, practically no one actually treats fights over, say, whether health care will be a mixed system of subsidies and incentives or ... a different mixed system with a different set of subsidies and incentives as questions of whether the nation will survive.

That's not to make light of very serious policy differences over health care, or abortion, or civil rights, or the economy, or a host of other issues. It's just that pretending there's always been one United States and that one more Democratic presidency would have forever ended it is, well, rubbish (and, indeed, the way both parties have flipped and flopped over policies such as immigration and trade over just the last decade suggests that the ideological bright lines some claim to see are really not there). And the problem with Prager's argument is that if "civil war" and "existential" are knowing hype, then the conclusion that the situation calls for absolute loyalty to one's side regardless of who the current leaders might be collapses entirely.

It's important, however, to understand that some -- mostly, as Prager believes, Republicans, but perhaps some Democrats as well -- choose to pretend that's the case. And for everyone else to fight back against a view of politics that leaves little room for real democracy.

1. Mirya Holman and Emily Farris at the Monkey Cage on sheriffs and immigration law

2. Good Dave Hopkins item about special elections and 2018

3. Dan Drezner on what's going on at the State Department and why it's making a bad situation worse. 

4. Fred Kaplan on Donald Trump's Germany and NATO policy.

5. Wait -- it's going to be hard for Trump to find good people to work for him? Why, yes: A BuzzFeed team finds Republican professionals with absolutely no interest in filling the White House communications vacancy

6. And Gloria Borger at CNN on Trump's continued frustration with the job he finds himself holding. What's striking about this one is what's been striking about so many reported stories about this administration: the absolute willingness of Trump's friends, staff and presumably family to tell the most devastating stories about him to reporters. 

Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox. Click here to subscribe.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.