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I disagree with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s views on policy and legal issues. Or on ethical issues. He should recuse himself from cases related to former President Donald Trump’s campaign. But he is right about the divisions in our country today — and I wish more liberals and moderates in powerful positions shared his view.

“One side or the other is going to win,” he told liberal filmmaker Lauren Windsor, who posed as a conservative activist and secretly recorded the conversation.

He added: “I don’t know. I mean, there may be a way to work together – a way to live together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences of opinion on fundamental things that you really can’t compromise on. You really can’t compromise on that. So it’s not like you can settle the differences.” The comments were first reported by Rolling Stone.

Today’s divide between liberals/Democrats/blue states and conservatives/Republicans/red states is deep and, as Alito says, in some ways unbridgeable. The average voter in California does not hold entirely different views than the average voter in Wyoming. But white Christian nationalists, racial critiques, anti-transgender activists, and voters in Texas hold views that are incompatible with those of the New York left, who believe that colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy are the foundations on which America was built.

Not only are we in a “culture war” over whether people should read the New York Times’ 1619 Project or use the term “Latinx.” Republican states make it very difficult to join a union or get an abortion. They strip liberal elected officials of power and sometimes even remove them from office. A person with views shared by many white born-again Christians (opposing abortion and gender-affirming health care, holding that black people would, on average, be as well off as white people if they worked harder) is almost never elected to influential office in a Republican state.

Most importantly, key figures shaping Republican Party policy are acting as if conservatives are fighting an existential war with the left. They include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Justice Clarence Thomas, activist Christopher Rufo, and Trump advisers Russ Vought and Stephen Miller. If Trump returns to the White House, he has made clear that his administration would treat federal employees, left-wing college professors and students, and others who displease conservatives as enemies of the state.

I don’t want to see Democratic officials, news outlets, nonprofits, or other nonconservatives taking such radical measures as these Republicans. The Biden administration should not list groups it would target if the president wins a second term.

But I wish powerful institutions and individuals on the left and center would understand that the country is in the midst of a civil war and act with the focus and determination that such a conviction entails.

You could say that many people are concerned about the prospect of a Trump victory in November. That’s true. But the problem isn’t just Trump. The banning of abortion in many states, the weakening of the Voting Rights Act, the rolling back of state criminal justice reforms, and the passage of sweeping restrictions on the discussion of race in public schools and universities – all of this happened in the last three years while Trump was out of office. Conservative activists and officials attack left-wing institutions and values ​​on a daily basis, using every power at their disposal, from Republican-dominated courts to state legislatures to the congressional hearings that led to the resignations of the presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

Alito’s wording with the use of the term “side” was spot on. There is a conservative side that is much broader than just Trump alone. And it wants to win, not compromise. Abortion was already quite restricted in red states in 2021. But conservatives still pushed for Roe v. Wade overturned – and this happened.

In contrast, Democrats are behaving as if they were fighting Trump alone. In 2021, as the Supreme Court grew more radical, Biden not only took the weakest approach possible (he convened a commission to study the issue) but also basically ignored its findings. He boasted about the relatively toothless gun control law he passed with Republicans in Washington, while ignoring how conservatives at the state level were weakening restrictions on gun rights across much of the country.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) refuses to hold any hearings on the Alito-Thomas controversies.

Many news organizations, including some liberal ones, frame politics as Trump versus the Democrats in Washington. They barely cover politics at the state level and basically ignore where much of the political action is happening. The media still often judges the effectiveness of politicians based on their ability to work across party lines. But Republicans like Vought are achieving their goals without any support from liberals.

I can’t prove that prominent Democratic politicians and other prominent figures on the center and the left have a different perspective than Alito. Perhaps they too recognize in private that the country is in a deep conflict that one side must win. I suppose Biden’s supporters would argue that the president recognizes the deeper divide but thinks the best way to overcome it is to win reelection, including by appearing more conciliatory.

That’s why I’m skeptical of that view. Democrats in very conservative districts like Durbin, who don’t have to woo Republican voters, still don’t act with much urgency. They act as if reaching an agreement with a conservative congressman is a major accomplishment.

The media always seems surprised by the extremist actions of the Republican Party, such as renominating Trump for president. But it is not surprising that a political movement that believes it is in a life-or-death struggle continues to rally behind a man who has demonstrated both a deep commitment to the movement’s causes and a willingness to use any means necessary to win political battles.

There are two visions of America. Liberals are willing to compromise on some issues, but the most powerful conservatives are not looking for a middle ground. The best way to lose a fight is to pretend it isn’t happening – and unfortunately, many prominent liberals and moderates are doing just that.

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