Don’t get it twisted: America has always been split. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Since we first declared war on King George, in 1775, this nation has been separated by massive ideological chasms. The only people pretending that Donald Trump created our divisions are those who’ve enjoyed enough privilege to ignore our divisions.
Ask a Native American person how long our country has been divided and they’ll go back to the founding fathers. The same goes for just about every other person who isn’t a straight, white male.
In fact, if Donald Trump understands any one thing, it’s exactly how divided America is. It’s why he dances around condemning white nationalism, refuses to overtly reject support from Nazis, and baits the rural poor with language that’s rooted in separatism. But he also has the potential to unite us, by pushing us past a tipping point and going “beyond the pale.” By taking things so far that even his base rejects him en masse.
It could be the eventual result of the ever-widening empathy gap created by Trump’s presidency. But it’ll come much quicker from Trump’s most alienating quality. A trait which might finally drive away the rural white farmers, ranchers, and laborers who made him president in 2016: Authoritarianism.
The tweet above is tempting to treat as completely null and void, due to its source. Bernie Sanders couldn’t be positioned on a further outpost across the ideological divide from Trump, and creating fear around a political enemy’s agenda is pretty standard operating procedure for 2018. But Sanders also seems to understand that calling the president an “authoritarian” is like asking your best friend to drop a shitty partner — you can do it once, but only once. He was in the House of Representatives post 9/11 — when presidential power was rapidly and aggressively expanded under George W. Bush in order to fast track the Iraq war. The loosening of interrogation standards by the president clearly subverted the Geneva Conventions, almost unapologetically. And yet it’s Donald Trump that Bernie Sanders called an authoritarian. Consider that, for a moment.
The Sanders condemnation over Trump’s meddling in the Florida vote recount (which Cornell professor and expert on authoritarian regimes, Tom Pepinsky, called, “incalculably bad for American democracy”) pales in comparison to a far bigger bombshell that dropped this week. Fox News — oft accused by the left of being Trump’s private propaganda network — not only filed a Friend of the Court brief to support rivals CNN and Jim Acosta in their battle against the president over the revocation of Acosta’s White House Hard Pass, they took it to the mattresses. Fox News President Jay Wallace issued this statement:
Fox News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized. While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the president and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.
This is the news organization that Trump quotes often, cites constantly, and (reportedly) demands others in his circle rely on for information. And their leader just went in on the president. That’s a seismic shift and a miscalculation that Trump and his team didn’t seem to have accounted for. He’s gotten away with truly harmful boorishness, dangerous fear-mongering, and an absolutely startling inability to achieve his promised agenda items. But this was a bridge too far.
The message is clear: In America (even Fox New’s America) — where freedom is emblazoned on our currency and written into our anthem — authoritarianism will not ride. And so today, when judge Timothy J Allen, a Trump appointee, rules on CNN’s suit, he will see that it’s been cosigned by CNN’s fiercest rival. That’s a big deal.