In 1945, Hugh MacLennan wrote a novel set in Montreal whose title came to sum up the relationship between the English and the French in Canada: Two Solitudes. They live in the same nation, sometimes in the same town, sometimes share the same workspace. But they inhabit different psychologies. In 2008, David Warren, a columnist with The Ottawa Citizen, argued that the concept has headed south:This excerpt echos much of what I've written here over the last several years. I attribute the "Two Solitudes" to the differing principles explored by Thomas Sowell in his book A Conflict of Visions, which I wrote about at length in What We Got Here is...Failure to Communicate - two basically irreconcilable fundamentally opposed worldviews in conflict. The "American idea"? I wrote about that in That Sumbitch ain't been BORN!
In the United States, especially in the present election, we get glimpses of two political solitudes that have been created not by any plausible socio-economic division within society, nor by any deep division between different ethnic tribes, but tautologically by the notion of "two solitudes" itself. The nation is divided, roughly half-and-half, between people who instinctively resent the Nanny State, and those who instinctively long for its ministrations.John Edwards, yesterday's coming man, had an oft retailed stump speech about "the two Americas," a Disraelian portrait of Dickensian gloom conjured in the mawkish drool of a Depression-era sob-sister: one America was a wasteland of shuttered mills and shivering "coatless girls," while in the other America Dick Cheney and his Halliburton fat cats were sitting 'round the pool swigging crude straight from the well and toasting their war profits all day long. Edwards was right about the "two Americas," but not about the division: in one America, those who subscribe to the ruling ideology can access a world of tenured security lubricated by government and without creating a dime of wealth for the overall economy; in the other America, millions of people go to work every day to try to support their families and build up businesses and improve themselves, and the harder they work the more they're penalized to support the government class in its privileges. Traditionally, he who paid the piper called the tune. But not anymore. Flownover Country pays the piper, very generously, in salaries, benefits, pensions, and perks. But Conformicrat America calls the tune, the same unending single-note dirge. David Warren regards these as "two basically irreconcilable views of reality": "Only in America are they so equally balanced. Elsewhere in the west, the true believers in the Nanny State have long since prevailed."
Increasingly, America's divide is about the nature of the state itself -- about the American idea. And in that case why go on sharing the same real estate? As someone once said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The Flownover Country's champion ought, in theory, to be the Republican Party. But, even in less fractious times, this is a loveless marriage. Much of the GOP establishment is either seduced by the Conformicrats, or terrified by them, to the point where they insist on allowing he liberals to set the parameters of the debate -- on health care, immigration, education, Social Security -- and then wonder why elections are always fought on the Democrats' terms. If you let the left make the rules, the right winds up being represented by the likes of Bob Dole and John McCain, decent old sticks who know how to give dignified concession speeches. If you want to prevent Big Government driving America off a cliff, it's insufficient.
The Conformicrats need Flownover Country to fund them. It's less clear why Flownover Country needs the Conformicrats -- and a house divided against itself cannot stand without the guy who keeps up the mortgage payments.
Steyn indicates here that the solution is to stop paying the mortgage, at least until we can seize control of the checkbook back - and the only way to do that is to stop direct-depositing into the joint account. Currently the Congress is making Kabuki-theater of "budget cuts" that anyone with any familiarity with Washington knows aren't going to happen. But the possibility that they might frightens the almighty hell out of the Conformicrats on both sides of the aisle. Nothing else explains the visceral hatred for the Tea Party movement - it's a bone-deep fear of losing that tenured security and its generous salaries, benefits, pensions, and perks.
I predict that the 2012 election season will be the ugliest, dirtiest, nastiest thing anyone living has ever seen.