The Country Concept

A high-brow politician might say, ‘we’re talking about what sort of country we want to be.’ I suspect most people don’t feel that engaged. It’s hard to believe a citizen can actually change something. But more: for most of us, surviving means just figuring out how things work and dealing with it. The claim we have some say in events isn’t just rhetorical nonsense – it’s really not the facts on our ground.

Still, let’s pay some attention to our wealthy legislators, with their heart-felt desires for the nation they choose. They have something to do with us. Policy does land on our doorsteps.

Our Big Divide – the twentieth century baggage that’s been unnecessary for decades but we’re likely to haul along for ages – is between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives.’ I think this is primarily a clash over faith in human nature. It sounds simple, but there is broad variation in the arguments and quite a range of topics. It feels like since, after all, it’s about distinctions in our natures, it raises instinctive hatreds we don’t understand and can’t articulate in any event. So a lot of these guys at the Capitol are just pretending to be about Country when they’re hopelessly about nothing but being Primate.

One divide seems clear enough: Republicans genuinely believe fear and suffering are the only motivators for good behavior. Their view holds, simply: we are all sluggards and worse; except for the threat of starvation we will happily sleep in our own stink and beg for handouts from, of course, Republicans.

Democrats, generally, see the jungle as a rough place to live. They agree people are more or less helpless, but they don’t view us as evil, and some of us are even their friends. So, the thinking goes, whatever we’ve managed to put together – together – we probably ought to share.

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