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America’s divisions will never be masked Unlike Britain, the US will always be polarised

Mask mandates could split the States (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Mask mandates could split the States (Mark Makela/Getty Images)


August 13, 2021   4 mins

You might have thought that a global pandemic would produce a sense of unity in a nation state. In theory, there is little that is more unifying than the sense that a country is battling together to try to get through a crisis that is not of its own making.

This has largely been borne out across the world. For better or worse, countries such as Britain and France have been relatively united around their political leaders. Any perceived failures have largely been forgiven thanks to the sense that they were doing their best under difficult circumstances. There were even strange moments of forced unity: in the case of the UK, there was weekly applause for the NHS.

The only country in which this was not the case was the United States. From the start of the virus, the pandemic became as highly politicised as everything else. Aware that a roaring economy was one of the central pillars of his return to office, President Trump was unwilling from the start to respond drastically. He was, perhaps, the world’s most reluctant leader to concede to lockdowns or mask-wearing — and, as a consequence, both of these issues fell, like everything else, along entirely partisan lines.

Many who hated Trump became dedicated to mask-wearing precisely because the President was not. Single, double, or triple mask-wearing — even when engaged in an activity like jogging — suddenly became an even better way of displaying your political sympathies than wearing a “Biden-Harris” t-shirt.

Likewise, the rejection of mask-wearing and an opposition to lockdowns became the mark of a Republican with a strong Trumpist sensibility. During a visit to the States ahead of the election I was struck by how New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and other Democrat cities were filled with mask-wearing lockdown enthusiasts. Towns in Florida, by contrast, resembled party destinations in an especially frenetic holiday-season.

There was a feeling throughout all this that the cause resided in the White House. Once Trump was gone, so the argument went, so the obscene divisiveness of American politics would recede and there might at least be some unified narrative on Covid and the national response to it.

Unsurprisingly, this did not happen. Trump may be long gone, but the polarisation of America’s pandemic politics remains. Vaccine hesitancy, in particular, has become an issue that divides the Left and Right. For example, one poll carried out last month found that while 86% of Democrats had received at least one Covid jab, while only 45% of Republicans had — and while a mere 6% of Democrats said that they would most likely avoid being vaccinated an extraordinary 47% of Republicans said the same.

It isn’t quite analogous to compare this situation with Labour and Conservative voters in the UK; this is clearly more than a political dispute. But even if you transpose the Democrat-Republican vaccine divide on to the most divisive British counterpart argument of recent years —Brexit — the divide is less pronounced. A poll carried out by YouGov in April found that vaccine hesitancy in the UK saw only a five-point difference between people who had voted Remain and those who had voted Leave.

There are a range of possible explanations for this. The first is that the UK’s Brexit divisions have begun to heal, if not completely. People who voted Remain have, by and large, accepted the new reality and do not in large numbers believe that they can continue to overturn the 2016 vote.

In America, by contrast, more than half of Republican voters still believe that Trump won the last Presidential election and that the Democrats stole the vote. Around three in ten Republican voters believe that Trump will be reinstated as President this year. In other words, they believe the election was stolen, but that the facts are going to come out, forcing Biden to step aside.

And yet it is not only about politics. From the start of the pandemic, it was striking that reactions to the pandemic in America fell across a quasi-philosophical line. Most Americans have lived all their lives better acquainted with the concept of risk than their British and European counterparts. In part this is because of the absence of the European-style model of the welfare state. In Europe, life’s game of snakes and ladders exists in a much more sanitised form. But in the US, the reality is far more extreme.

The American Right’s suspicion of the state and state agencies remains more pronounced than it is on the European right. Ever since the British and European Right made their peace with the welfare state, there have been those who have wished to reduce the size of it, but no significant figure who has wished to abolish it. The same cannot be said for the US.

Ultimately, political polarisation has become a way of life, one that is more than capable of surviving the rotation of Presidents. Indeed, as a phenomenon I suspect it will only become more pronounced. At the end of last month, the CDC advised all Americans, including people who are fully vaccinated, to once again wear masks in a number of scenarios. And this week, more than a dozen large US corporations, including Walmart, Google and United Airlines, announced that their workers would be expected to demonstrate that they have had the vaccine in order to work for them.

So off the American cultural divide goes again. America may have survived the worst of the pandemic — but the deep divisions which it has highlighted look increasingly irreparable.


Douglas Murray is an author and journalist.

DouglasKMurray

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

In South Africa the division is different – it is more a wealth division and not a political division. Mainly supporters of hard lockdowns are people who are either prosperous enough to weather the storm, or who continue to pull in a monthly salary – these people are necessarily selfish and do not have the self awareness to understand why their morals could be called into question.  That is not to say that all the comfortably off are pro hard lockdown.
Most of this lockdown group also clings to masks like holy grails, while many of the rest grudgingly wear them, wear them badly or not at all.  Many of them know there is no hard science supporting cloth masks, or might be sceptical because logic dictates that they don’t work.  Or they just need to get on with trying to put food on the table at the end of the day.
There is also a tendency in this lockdown group to be pro vaccine, but the anti vaccine group are quite a mix.  The traditional anti-vaxxers, mixed with those suspicious of the motivations of the West vaccinating Africans. Then there is a large informed and questioning group who are Covid vaccine hesitant – they read widely, do not sit slack jawed in front of corporate media, do not automatically believe governments, big tech, large organisations and clearly compromised scientists and businesses.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago

What’s hard for non-Americans to understand are the innumerable ways that governing authorities at the Fed, State, and local level have weilded arbitrary – at times, objectively illogical – power over citizens. My best friend’s daughter was threatened with arrest by local police for reading on a park bench on an empty high school campus duing lockdown because she was unmasked. Add that to the growing realization that information in regards to the pandemic has, at every stage, been carefully curated by the leftist monoculture in print, TV, and social media. Let’s not forget there’s a real possibility that the ultimate authority on all things Covid – Dr. Anthony Fauci – may have been operating from day one with an extraordinary conflict of interest. It makes the skepticism of people on the right seems less crazy. If everything else was a half-truth, why wouldn’t the efficacy or necessity of the vaccine also be? That’s not how I feel, but I can see how people could be seduced by the prospect.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Mikey Mike

It appears that there is Prussian streak within the American character; rules are to be obeyed without any room for common sense flexibility. Seafaring countries have to be flexible as the sea is always changing and the captain and officers of a ship need to predict and adapt to the change in order to prevent disaster.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I don’t know much about Prussians but I do know that the submissive streak in Americans is new. This continent is strewn with independent-minded people who live far away from the centers of political power precisely because they refuse to be told what to do. The more I witness the middling intellectual gifts of our ruling class at work, the more I empathize with hard-line Libertarians down in the hollers.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

What has been ignored are what are the medical conditions which increase death from the Covid virus- age over 80 years, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, genetic, lung capacity, cancer,, etc without which we cannot identify those at greatest risk? Next do the vaccines create herd immunity, how long are they effective, how quickly can the virus mutate and the lethality of the variants, do masks work, how are deaths being registered from Covid or with Covid, how many people have died due to Covid restrictions ( delayed hospital operations ) ?
The Covid virus has been spreading for 1.6 years at least and fundemental questions are being ignored let alone answered.
As there are so many unanswered questions it is very easy to politicise the debate down to pro or anti Trump.
If we look at WW2, the BBC and The British Government were pretty good at telling the truth, in particular the bad news; the various retreats, defeats, sinking of ships, plane losses, etc . The Government trusted the British people were sufficiently emotionally mature to handle the truth and not to panic. However, this is not the case, the Government has been slow in analysing the data, stating the uncertainties and trusting the British people to take emotionally mature decisions. Instead the Government stoked up fear with the Ferguson Report ( 500,000 deaths ) and this did not materialise and it lacked the ability to accurately analyse the data and report the results to the populace; all sorts of cynicism took root. Cynicism increase where some people benefit financially and others are harmed. If all salaries for SAGE scientists had been stopped during lockdown would they have supported it?

Ben Hekster
Ben Hekster
2 years ago

I’m in the United States (have been for the last 20 years) and can certainly attest to the polarization here. However I’m not from here originally and so I had been trying to keep in touch with things ‘back home’ (Netherlands) and in the rest of Europe. Let’s just say that it wasn’t obvious to me that the rest of the world was so distinctly *un*polarized: I’ve been reading about protests (e.g. UK, France, Germany) which seemed to suggest that there was a significant body of disagreement with the ‘official line’ outside of the US as well. Would anybody care to elucidate? Am I reading too much into it?

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hekster

In the UK objections to the lockdown and wearing of masks exists, but only in small numbers, and they are not supported by anyone of political significance. Although there is grumbling and complaints, the majority of the UK populace has accepted the necessity of the lockdowns, mask wearing and vaccination.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Yes, the reaction of the average citizen living in a bubble has been disappointing. They follow main stream media slavishly and still want to believe that their government, organisations and businesses are fair and always acting in the best interests of the citizens. And those that have access to wealth or salary or furlough, don’t seem to have the imagination to figure what lockdowns are doing to other people.

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago

I’ve never actually met “the average citizen”. We have people who wear masks because they are told to; we have people who avoid wearing masks as much as possible, whether or not they ae told to; we have people like me and the wife who wear masks and got vaccinated, because the probability that it will reduce exposure to serious covid outcomes is greater than the inconvenience of getting jabbed and of wearing a mask indoors and in crowded situations.

I am personally all in favo(u)r of large herds of churchgoers and gun rally attenders not getting jabbed and not wearing masks, exposing themselves to delta and other variants, and relying on evolution by natural selection to strengthen their impunity. Especially if it means fewer of them voting in National elections.

Their herding instinct means I can reliably avoid their breathing anywhere near me.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

You are going to be very shocked if these non-jabbers and mask refusniks turn out to be right!

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

I note you use the title Dr. I assume it is a poorly disguised attempt to assert your superiority and to give your sanctimony credibility it does not deserve. I avoid using my title “Professor” for this reason.
There are a lot of good reasons for not taking the vaccine, one of which is that the people who prothletize the vaccine seem to be deeply unpleasant individuals and who wants to be associated with them. To quote Mr M, who thought that sitting on your hands and doing nothing could be a revolutionary act
If I was your mindset I would no doubt hope that the vaccine did turn out to have serious long term side effects, especially if it means fewer people like you voting.
One thing I think it is safe to say is that, if vaccine does turn out to have long term side effects, most of those people who now condemn those that refuse the vaccine will claim to have been mislead by the Government and will be demanding compensation.
By the way, how is Brexit working for you?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Likewise, I avoid using my title of “Doctor” because I wouldn’t want to be associated with the likes of Dr Stephen Nightingale.

David Slade
David Slade
2 years ago

You’re an odd kind of Doctor – need to work on your bedside manner.

It would be nice if some pro lockdowners could address the enormous damage to lives; livelihoods;physical/mental health; the shameless use of children to shield the elderly;global poverty etc…

But nevermind, just continue with the self satisfied hubristic belief you can and should control a virus.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

Which bit of this are readers disliking. That someone is in favour of wearing a mask or that he thinks those who do not might die or that he does not mind if they do die?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

The last one I suspect 
. as the comment suggests that he is not a medical doctor 
 maybe just has a doctorate in something of little relevance
 or uses the title disingenuously just as a windup.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

The latter in my case.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Are you really Florence Nightingales Great Grandson?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Thanks for being such an excellent recruiting sergeant in the culture war against lockdown zealotry.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Who on earth can downvote Mike’s comment?? It is not judgemental, but factual.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

One understandable reason for a downvote might be the use of the phrase “the necessity of lockdowns” which I believe is still reasonably contestable.
However, downvoting a Comment without stating why is “just not cricket”.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Sadly there has been a lot of down voting without comment that seems intentional. Wonder if management cares?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I think the bit that causes the downing of thumbs is “accepts the necessity”. It is more “will not publicly contest”.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Not sure… I think “accept the necessity” is correct, and is quite different from “will not publicly contest. The latter may or may not mask as they could forget. For the former masking is necessary.
Not to mention the evangelical mask wearers.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I’m fascinated that this comment has a net -4 thumbs as it is entirely factual and correct.
For the benefit of slowcoaches like me, could someone who downvoted indicate evidence that

  • large UK numbers object to masks and lockdowns;
  • people of political significance do in fact agree; and that
  • only a minority has accepted the case for vaccines etc.

Personally I upvote comments that I think make a point well, even if I don’t agree with it; I downvote those that merely parrot tribal nonsense, or are gormless or incoherent. I don’t downvote those that are factually correct but that I wish were not, as seems to be happening here…

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

The downvotes to Mike’s post show how many unthinking trigger-happy readers there are on these forums, downvoting anything that goes remotely against their sensibilities.
I wonder why such people bother reading anything at all, given that they seemingly only want to read what they already believe.
They would be much happier simply recording the sound of their own voices and playing it back to themselves on repeat.

yp54797wxn
yp54797wxn
2 years ago

Many people are addicted to rage.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I agree but this is wearing very thin.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Nonsense. Whilst there is little vaccine hesitancy, there are a great many people who know that lockdowns and masks are pointless and cause more damage than they offset. As before Brexit, however, they are the people with no voice because Labour no longer represents the working class.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

Are there?
I am in England on holiday and the number of mask wearers far exceeds the number of maskless people, despite not being compulsory.
It depends very much on where you are and I suspect it fluctuates during the day, but it is clear that a lot of people (including, to my astonishment, some children) must like the masks or think they are important (which may equate to the same thing).

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

Very interesting comment. But I think it is more subtle than that. People will, when asked, support lockdown and mask wearing. But the evidence of real life is that they go out, gather in groups, and don’t wear masks unless harangued to. Which suggests as in other matters that though much of the population does not wish to be conspicuous by going against the “official” view, it still is capable of making up its own mind and doing as it likes.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I think the skepticism of the official narrative and objection to masks and lockdown is far more widespread in the UK than the coverage (or rather lack thereof) of the protest rallies, and the opinion polls, would suggest.
A proxy measure of the discontent is the numbers of households, since March 2020, who have ceased to buy a TV license (and to be legal they can’t be watching any “live” TV especially not the BBC from whom catchup TV is also forbidden to the unlicensed). That number exceeds 500,000, tripling the number of unlicensed households compared to pre-pandemic.
Given the heavy intimidation tactics used by TV Licensing, that the unlicensed have increased by 2% of households represents maybe 10 times as many who are skeptical of the official narrative. I suspect that without the heavy collusion of the mainstream media, the official narrative would crumble rapidly in under flood of ridicule.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

The scale of the resistance has been covered up by the media who simply do not report on it.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Hekster

No, you’re not reading too much in to it, but you’re perhaps misunderstanding it’s nature. It’s not developed here as much as in the States, mainly because of the reasons Douglas has outlined, ie, a hugely immanent welfare state.

What’s not being recognised, however, is the inherent, ineradicable flaw in leftist theology — the idea of “inevitable progress”. The left — which has full spectrum dominence in every area of life, at least in WESTERN Europe — assumes its own triumph and takes itself to be the end of history. It doesn’t occur to them that history doesn’t have a direction, that it’s not going anywhere particularly and that moral decisions have to be made anew every day; if THEY want it, it must be right, since THEY are the standard of good.

Because of their cultural dominence, a huge number of people go along with them, but an increasing number are not buying it. That number has not reached a critical mass, but it’s worrying to the left that it exists at all. When critical mass IS reached, societies tend to change very radically and very fast. What disturbs the left about America is that they do not have the total dominence there they do in Europe. In effect, America is still what it was during the rise of fascism — the great arsenal of democracy. The only difference is that the weapons it manufactures are ideas rather than guns. Ideas are heavily suppressed in Europe, and a salami-slicing approach has been quietly in use to destroy free speech.

As more people come to understand this, the danger to the left increases. Nobody in power in Europe seriously believes covid is an existential threat, but it’s an extremely useful tool for public suppression, and suppression is always the atavistic reaction of the left to any questioning of them.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Very good points. Culturally Americans are far more sensitive to government overreach, it’s baked into the DNA of their constitution for a start, not to mention wild west pioneerism and state localisation over federalism. Europeans do not have that same cultural context and many have become dependent on government overreach, or consider it essential and benign, thanks to generations of the welfare state, and do not question it as overtly. ‘the government should…..’ or ‘the government is to blame for my……’ are sentences you will hear much more here than in America at large.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

The backlash against the left is just beginning anew. The pendulum seems to have swung a bit too far with the Covid pandemic fear factor disguising issues. The “anti-Woke” are becoming a force as they discover what seems to be insane ideology or overreach. The mid-terms should tell a story. The liberals have a lot to be proud about – more gay tolerance is an example, but pushing too far creates reactions that get unpleasant.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

I am not sure that this description of the left fits into any political division in the UK. Labour broke from socialism a longtime ago and lost the last election heavily from a misguided attempt to flag it up. There is no real opposition to free enterprise. The debate seems to be between those who believe the “deserving” should be rewarded, ie themselves and those who believe those less equipped to look after themselves should be supported, irrespective of the effort they make to look after themselves. Two rather different views of entitlement.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

That’s very confused. The idea that the US is free of modern leftist ideas and Europe is dominated by them is way off the mark. Nationalists are on the rise throughout Europe and the continent has changed in even 5 years, so much that the EU is likely to oppose the next wave of refugees. The far left barely exist as a political force.

Modern woke leftism is largely a US philosophy transmitted to Europe. And given the grip of US cultural power the philosophy is more powerful in English speaking countries and where English is a dominant second language. Where that’s not true, ie France there’s plenty of resistance.

As for the freedom in the US, the far right blogger Nick Fuentes recently lost both his platform and had €500k disappear from his account because of his ideology. Taken by the State.

In reality both China and the US have similar type control of the internet, different in degree but not in kind. In the US the private tech oligarchs claim to be independent of government, which isn’t the same as being independent of the Democratic Party, which so happens to be the government.

(And might be the permanent government given the demographics).

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

It’s a bit like the deep polarisation America went through a hundred years ago, in the run-up to and over the course of thirteen years of Prohibition. During Prohibition, the “drys” were seen as old, Village America, balking against the “wets”, the new beer- and wine-drinking immigrants pouring into the cities from Continental Europe. In truth, a long-established Temperance and religious movement in America had always been militating against the Demon drink. But things came to a head during WW1, with antagonisms against the German-owned breweries and patriotic fervour to turn the crops to food production only. Well, both “drys” and “wets” were spread across both main political parties. In the end, common sense prevailed. Prohibition was done away with by amendment in 1933, but too late to stave off organised crime. I suppose the political battle today in America is between “transformed America” and “Future America”. Whatever that is! But will common sense prevail? Might one think that today’s Drys are the Dems? And the Wets the Republicans?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Just another reason why I cannot conceive of the Democrats as liberals. They aren’t liberal.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

You interpretation of Prohibition is right out of the ‘Liberal Fairy Tail Book’ and nothing at all to do with this covid response thing.

“You might have thought that a global pandemic would produce a sense of unity in a nation state.”.

The virus would have unified – it was the Response which divided. Every bit of evidence about lockdown shows it does no good, but vast harm. Just take Sweden/EU, USA/UK. Worldometers, click on any column to get it arranged by they category.

Deaths/million, USA 1910, UK (extreme lockdown) 1916. Sweden 1438, Spain 1763, Belarus (no lockdown) 379, Ukraine 1279
California 64,175, Florida, 39,934, New York 53,539, North Dakota 1542, South Dakota (no lockdown) 2050

But the lockdowns first Took citizens Rights, and ‘Live Free Or Die’ as General Stark said, is the way of a free people.

Second, Globally at least 30 Trillion $ harm is done from insane Central Bank money printing so healthy people can be imprisoned, and not work, wile getting wages. This means pensions are destroyed – interest is kept zero and inflation 6% so everyone’s savings are melting away under the stealth tax of inflation to pay this insane spending. Bond market destroyed, equity markets inflated to insane levels – global depression almost inevitable. Over a million third and developing world children dead from reduced Western economic activity predicted by UN.

Third, a year, and even more, education lost to vast numbers of children. EVERY study shows poor students never catch up from school lost – they are condemned to a life of reduced income.

Fourth Great many people had health issues not diagnosed, and so face vastly premature deaths.

Fifth. Mental health, drug and alcohol dependence, business lost, deaths of despair vastly increased over next decades

Sixth, seventh, eighth, and on and on…..

This is the division. The Governments decided to destroy the citizens and nation and global economy for no reason, and not everyone would go along – just the sheep out banging pots Thursday nights and the other true believers…

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Thank goodness for America. We don’t know why there appears to be this difference on political lines. I prefer to take the view that there are still some sensible people in the world who refuse to take an experimental treatment that has not gone through the normally accepted testing requirements. Douglas seems to have joined the sheep.

Brad Mountz
Brad Mountz
2 years ago

It is more than just political rivalry beteeen Trumpist and the Left, though that is a natural dividing point given the differences in how people see the future of America. There is also a philosophical position that the fanaticism around pro vaccination is filed with lies and coercion for the purpose of gaining control over its population. “Follow the science” feels like a euphemism for “your papers, please.” Couple that with the environment of censoring by mainstream and social media for most any non progressive issue, and a blantant withholding of alternative information on COVID treatment, many Americans are concerned our government is becoming more like China than other westernized forms of government. It may seem a wild position for some Americans to take, but history is a great teacher of how hard it is to gain freedom, but how easy it is to lose it. Americans can be a selfish people, polarized by our status and self image, constrained by the average citizen never having traveled more than 300 miles from home and certainly not having a journeyman’s knowledge of international points of view.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago
Reply to  Brad Mountz

The black community is the statistically largest group of vaccine refuseniks — but it’s difficult to believe that they doing this because of excessive loyalty to Donald Trump. And among the educated — nearly all of whom have traveled “more than three hundred miles from home”, and many of whom are not unacquainted with “international points of view”, it is those with a doctorate who are most likely unwilling to volunteer for the current great experiment … Above all, your characterization of Americans as a “selfish people” is just lame. And we are so not “polarized by our status and self-image” (whatever that means) but we do self-sort between those who remember why this nation was constituted — as a voluntary association as opposed to a geopolitical relict — and those others who envision a government to act in loco parentis in the fond hope of trading liberty for safety.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Liz Walsh

least unwilling is “1.4%” of the doctorate population.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
2 years ago

I recall a friend of mine in college during the Nixon years remarking that he’d never seen the country so polarized. This is a recurring theme. In a country as huge, clamorous and diverse as the U.S., its inhabitants relish being at odds with one another.

A S
A S
2 years ago

I am an Asian immigrant and feel entirely American rather than a citizen of my birth country. I have to say this because it’s entirely true but is also a stereotypical preface favored by my compatriots.

However. After thirty years, I have a few stark observations about American culture and people that they themselves seem strangely oblivious to and mostly quite proud of. One is that people of all walks have a generalized underlying unhinged aggressive anxiety about all sorts of things – the proclivity is to breakdown and initiate World War III for every molehill encountered during the course of daily life. The other is that Americans are the most cliquey and segregated people in every possible aspect – religion, ethnicity, color, hobby, profession, choice of wall color 
 Where I grew up, people of all sorts could be and were friends. But not in America. You better fall in some highly restrictive homogenized category and these are the people you will socialize with almost exclusively. These two tendencies ensure that any counter opinions, countering persons or anything that doesn’t fall in a closely and claustrophobically defined comfort zone, are going to be viewed as fearsome enemies challenging your safe space.

So yes, right wingers scared of the Government are like this. Left wingers afraid of right wingers are like this. The police are like this. The people afraid of the police are like this. They are all consummately threatened by each other and are resolutely threatening and combative toward each other.

All human beings have a tendency to the above behaviors. Americans just take it to another exhausting level. Moreover, they have no clue they are like this. Perfect recipe for 1000 year social jihad.

Last edited 2 years ago by A S
Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  A S

V insightful.

A S
A S
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

There is a great movie called Angels’ share, set in Scotland, in which a handful of friends plot to steal some expensive wine and at some point one of them accidentally knocks over and breaks one of the stolen bottles. The others are mad at him but after that scene he is apparently forgiven and at the end of the movie gets his share of the loot and the incident isn’t revisited. Something like that is utterly alien in American culture where the tendency is to hit the nuclear option for any social transgression – you never know when and for what reason you may irrevocably offend or upset someone for the most seemingly minor opinion or joke. The type of thing that one typically expects from the type of backward place I come from where people can go bananas over subjects like religion or politics. I always remember that movie when I think of how different friendship is in America.

Last edited 2 years ago by A S
Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
2 years ago

Douglas, I love your articles and look forward to them. But I need to point out a couple of things:
1. The political divide here in the US started during the Obama administration — well before Trump. If anything, Trump was an effect of that divide. I’ll admit he may have exacerbated it, but the divide was what got him elected in 2016.
2. ”Towns in Florida, by contrast, resembled party destinations in an especially frenetic holiday-season.”
Well, sort of. If you’ve been to Florida recently (I have) and looked at property prices, you’ll note they have skyrocketed. Yes, there’s a surge all over the US, but the increases are nothing like I saw in South Florida (think: the corridor from Palm Beach down to Fort Lauderdale). I asked a few estate agents down there what all the fuss was about. Know what their answer was?
All those well-behaved and masked-up New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut types upped sticks and bought property in Florida. They can work from home now, and they decided they’d rather call Florida home.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

We’re running into the challenging question of if the vaccine doesn’t lead to herd immunity, or if the vaccine itself acts as a catalyst for new versions, then how should we proceed?
The vaccine clearly seems to reduce mortality rates (deaths/cases) but if Covid continues to spread despite the vaccinating, then the vaccine’s value is as a self-protection, and less of a benefit as a societal good.
In other words, where vaccines foster herd immunity, then it is best that the maximum number of people have the vaccine to protect the unvaccinated and limit the outbreak, which is a strong reason for compelled vaccination a la MMR etc.
However, if there is limited herd immunity – just a prophylactic effect – then the vaccine becomes a personal choice – self-protect or not.
And in this case, if the vaccine is only able to help for certain variants, then for non-vulnerable groups there could be an argument that catching Covid and recovering and so getting a broader natural immunity might be preferable to a narrow immunity to some variants, potentially with a need for ongoing jabs as variants crop up. Unfortunately, we don’t currently know if natural immunity is better or worse than vaccine immunity to support or refute this possibility.
Currently we have to hope for herd immunity effects – otherwise Australia and New Zealand will never be able to open up – and mutuality would say take the vaccines (which are really Trump’s vaccines since he instigated the accelerated development).
Without this it’s difficult to justify compelling someone to do something for their own benefit alone – their choice. And like a lot of cod therapies – homeopathy, chinese or alternative medicine, veganism – where there is no harm to anyone else, you let the individual make their choice.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

My thinking exactly.

Jenn Usher
Jenn Usher
2 years ago

There has developed in the United States a near total dichotomy between the left and the right, which basically are the only real choices available here. In my state, as a Libertarian, I cannot even vote to help select the candidate for office of either of the two major parties and that is the only meaningful vote in the primaries. Legislators vote on major legislation almost entirely along party lines and proposed amendments to that legislation by the minority are routinely rejected by the majority of the day.
One indication of the depth of the gap between left and right is a very recent poll by Fox News, which reveals that 59% of Democrats approve of Socialism, while only 8% of Republicans approve of it.
This gap has become enshrined with masking. Masking started with liberal virtue signaling and wearing of the mask has now hardened into an article of faith on the part of those who embrace government and accept – if not welcome – its control over our lives. Not completely unlike wearing an armband or a party pin in your lapel.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jenn Usher
chuckpezeshki
chuckpezeshki
2 years ago

The real problem here is the essentially institutionalized two-party system, coupled with what is called the “spoils system” with federal bureaucracies. Politics in the US, because of the very set-up, is dichotomous in nature, because you can’t really win any political power unless you are an R or a D. Contrast this to the requisite coalition building of smaller parties in most of the European countries.
This dichotomous characteristic wasn’t great before the exacerbations of the income gap AND the Internet, that has somewhat eliminated geography as an organizing factor. But now it’s full-on. And it’s in The Maths. This piece explains how. https://empathy.guru/2020/11/07/how-did-we-get-so-polarized-memetic-power-law-dynamics/

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Perhaps even more important than the mask is the image of a DNA molecule being manipulated by messengerRNA vaccines.
Some fearful folks conjure up terrible notions of genetic robots being implanted by the nanny state or big brother, in their jeans. . . or rather, their genes.
Thus, the centuries-old image of a hacked snake (Revolutionary era) with caption “Don’t tread on me!” morphs into . . .
a hacked DNA double helix with a caption “Don’t mess with my genes”

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago

“ People who voted Remain have, by and large, accepted the new reality and do not in large numbers believe that they can continue to overturn the 2016 vote.”

Well hurrah for that. It’s only 5+ years since the vote, and we have actually left the EU.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

I disagree with the headline posited, because I do not believe the USA will be united much longer. And while I hope for a peaceful dissolution, I fear a Civil War. Americans are so divided that they no longer have respectful disagreements, they want the other side dead. Sadly, I am part of this division, and I simply do not want to be a citizen of a country where I do not share the most basic values with my fellow citizens.
With respect to masks/vaccines, there is–and has been–no honesty in the debate, ever. The best phrase I ever heard about this was from here “the inconceivable became the inevitable,” meaning, starting with a fake Lancet paper claiming the sky is falling, the goal of getting people very afraid was put forth. It worked, more or less. No one in the West believed that the powers that be–longing for a huge crisis so they could tell people what to do–would be able to simply issue emergency orders (that will never go away) and dictate all forms of behaviour. But then it started, and half the US, maybe half of the West, lined up, begging the govt. to tell them what to do, regardless of the science.

Full disclosure: I’m fully vaccinated and hope for a booster shot in the fall/winter. BUT I do not believe that anyone should be forced to get an experimental vaccine.
Back to my original point: lock and load!

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

As an addendum to my comments above, let me add Exhibit A–the comments by “Dr. Steven Nightingale,” seemingly a fellow American and a doctor (maybe a doctor, like Dr. Jilly Biden–lol), who openly wishes his fellow citizens dead. I had not read his comment before my post, but for those non-Americans out there–and I write this from Europe–whatever you think about the division in America, multiply it by 100 to 1000x and you’ll start to get close.

Ft. Sumpter will happen soon!