What is the biggest fear of American liberals? That Trump is an authoritarian who will move the country in the direction of a white Christian dictatorship. What is the biggest fear of American conservatives? That the Democratic Party wants to move the country in the direction of a thought dictatorship, in which nobody who expresses the wrong opinions can get a job or otherwise live a decent life. Ross Douthat:
A striking thing about the current moment is that if you switch back and forth between reading conservatives and liberals, you see mirror-image anxieties about authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which each side believes are developing across the partisan divide.
I think these mutual fears define the politics of our time.
Millions of Americans live in fear that the police will harass, beat or shoot them; the police live in fear that "bad guys" will kill them.
Millions of American women live in fear that men will harass, assault or rape them; millions of American men live in fear that women will accuse them of harassment, assault or rape.
Gay Americans fear their newly-won rights will be taken away by conservative Christians; conservative Christians fear the Democrats will close all the churches that don't endorse gay rights.
Many Americans fear that protesters and self-proclaimed anarchists will burn down our cities; the protesters fear that the government will jail or kill them.
You can argue, if you want, that these fears are unbalanced, that the fears of the disempowered are more justified than those of straight white men. But the cold reality is that all of our fears, justified or not, are driving our politics away from dialogue and toward apocalyptic partisanship. It does not matter in the least whether you think somebody's else's fear is stupid; that fear is the reality you have to deal with, and if you respond to it with scorn it will only get worse.
I hope that this election will help to ease up on the fear, but I worry that it won't. I worry that nothing will change, and our politics will go from bad to worse, until we can somehow reassure Americans that half the country doesn't want to destroy them.