May 22nd, 2024


A Tale of Two Americas

Josh Hammer

By Josh Hammer

Published June 12, 2020

What comes of a nation whose newspaper of record publicly caves to overwhelming pressure and repudiates an opinion piece written by a duly elected leading national legislator who boasts degrees from the nation's most famous educational institution, has undeniably relevant life experience on the subject and advances an argument supported by a majority of citizens? America is about to find out.

Last week, The New York Times, in perhaps the single most appalling bout of journalistic malpractice this century, reneged upon an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton about a dusty piece of federal legislation, the Insurrection Act of 1807, that President Donald Trump had discussed a couple days prior.

The headline read, "Send in the Troops." In arguing to restore law and order in America amidst a once-a-generation anarchic breakdown, Cotton — a double Harvard alum, former U.S. Court of Appeals law clerk and Bronze Star Army combat veteran — spoke for a sizable majority of his fellow American citizens, according to reputable opinion polling.

For the grievous sin of permitting a U.S. senator's informed, erudite opinion to grace its opinion page, hundreds of staffers of the Gray Lady threatened a "virtual walkout." The echo chamber that is left-wing Twitter went positively haywire, deeming The Times complicit in fomenting racial strife and/or outright bigotry.

In cowardly fashion, The Times publicly threw under the bus its own junior editor who had edited the piece before its editorial page editor "resigned" in disgrace. Again, all The Times did was publish a well-informed argument by a U.S. senator who spoke on behalf of a majority of Americans.

The yawning chasm between our bicoastal ruling class and the Americanists of the heartland has never been more starkly revealed.

For decades, The Times, historically liberal but not quite leftist, invariably published a modicum of right-leaning opinion with which its editorial board no doubt disagreed but that showcased editors' purported commitment to the proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Those days appear to be over: Now the frothing woke mob partisans appear to have a plenary veto over contrary opinion — no matter how popular that opinion or how credible its messenger. The mob is the sieve through which all opinion must be filtered.

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The Times is, of course, a private company and is not constitutionally required to publish a diversity of opinions. Still, this is hardly a blueprint for a healthy and well-functioning country. Grand paeans to lofty ideals notwithstanding, a nation ultimately cannot survive unless it inculcates and cultivates a similar overarching set of concrete traits, customs and shared historical experiences across the entirety of its citizenry.

Solidifying the mutual bonds of citizenship without which a free republic cannot endure is impossible when We the People not only do not consume the same media but also are precluded by powerful, self-appointed societal censors from even being aware of differing sentiments. I am proud to publish diverse perspectives at Newsweek, where I serve as opinion editor, but my experience is sadly an exception to the wider rule.

The fraying of America into two discordant, silently warring tribes underscores all the nationwide mayhem of the past two weeks. One tribe looks at the societal uproar and sees a decadeslong strive toward fuller equality and justice; the other tribe looks at the chaos and sees a ruinous and self-destructive breakdown of law and order.

But those in the former camp cannot plausibly claim to understand the grievances of the latter camp if their most prestigious arbiter of opinion refuses to consider the latter's median viewpoint to be within the window of tolerable opinions for polite society.

If the United States of America is to perdure without unraveling into two warring Divided States of America, we desperately need to recover our lost senses of civic unity and national purpose. Much of this can, and should, be done purely by private actors — think of casual human interactions like recreational league softball teams and book clubs. But there is a role for government policy here. Immigration policy must prioritize assimilation and cultural cohesion.

Education policy must prioritize fostering civic knowledge and virtue. Economic policy must prioritize an industrial policy and re-shored critical supply chains over the ethereal interests of globalization. Our political leaders must rally in unison around cherished shared symbols like the national flag.

The road back from the abyss will be arduous. But a unified American republic is worth fighting for. And it should not be too much to ask that our paper of record not repress U.S. senators who deign to speak on behalf of pro-rule of law national majorities.


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