Now comes one hell of a hangover. Our nation has been on a 180-proof Trump Vodka bender over the past year, leaving inhibitions obliterated, dark passions unleashed, and smashed furniture and emptied bottles strewn about the floor. Things have been said and done that ought not to be said and done, and they will not be forgotten. President-elect Donald Trump is calling for “America to bind the wounds of division,” which is the right thing to say. But he ran and won as the upraised finger from “the deplorables” to “the elites”—as a backlash from white, rural America against multicultural liberals, immigrants, and the Republican establishment. The deep alienation that Trump supporters have felt for eight years—the sense that they were scorned strangers in their own country—has been trucked over to blue America and delivered to Hispanics, Muslims, blacks, and college-educated women. Only “the thinnest of threads” still holds the nation together, says veteran pollster Frank Luntz, who was astonished by the raw rancor he saw in his diverse focus groups. “We’re one thread from everything being cut.”
For healing to occur, our Balkanized country would need our warring tribes to talk to each other, understand each other’s perspectives, see each other’s humanity. Not much chance of that. Every faction has its own media now, where partisans can be “affirmed, not informed,” as Luntz puts it. No one need be troubled by different ideas and views. Geographically, we’ve sorted ourselves into communities of like-minded people, so we can avoid close, personal contact with people we don’t trust or like. Our nation is more polarized than at any time in recent history. It will soon be led by a president of volatile temperament, uncertain principles, and a long history of seeking to crush his critics. Where does that take us over the next four years? On a leap into the unknown.