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Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

#181: Apr. - Jun. 2022 (Non-Fiction)
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Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

Divided We Fall
Chapters 11 - 15
Please use this thread to discuss the above referenced chapters.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

Hope it's okay to skip ahead a little. In ch. 12-14, David French presents three scenarios in which various parts of the United States want to secede, including ch. 13—"Texit"—wherein the overturning of Roe vs. Wade causes a rift between liberals within the state and its red majority: As French puts it, "Angry islands of blue lived uncomfortably within immense seas of red."

I didn't care much for these chapters, but clearly French shows an almost prescient insight into some of the underlying currents dividing America. For one, as we've already discussed, it looks increasingly likely that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe vs. Wade. And, though the cause and effect of French's fictional scenarios are not quite the same, there is now a movement in Texas to secede from the union.

https://www.newsweek.com/texas-secede-u ... um-1717254

One of the reasons proclaimed by this minority in the Texas legislation is that President Joe Biden was "not legitimately elected"—giving credibility to President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Is this a case of art imitating life? How likely is it that Texas will actually try to actually secede from the union? The article points out that this is still very much a fringe movement in Texas.

It does seem that Trump's big lie is metastacizing into something very destructive in America. Hopefully, we will return to something approaching normality once Trump is gone from the scene.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

These chapters had elements of a "ripping good yarn," or a treatment for a screenplay. Does French have some novelist in him? The scenarios depict a very worrying future, of course.

Is he catastrophizing? I don't think so, which doesn't mean that anything as bad as what he forecasts will happen. But there isn't anything farfetched here. The last 6-7 years have seen one "inconceivable" after another fall by the wayside.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

It seems important to listen to what French, a true conservative, is telling us. I won't be able to decide for a while the full extent of my agreement/disagreement with him, but he's made me consider a different perspective--and in large part his entire book is about considering other perspectives, instead of rejecting as alien whatever our tribe has proscribed.

His points about pluralism are well taken (Chap. 15). We do need to value pluralism in the sense of different beliefs, traditions, and attitudes, not just race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. We need actually to support the expression of differences, even if we have strong disagreement. This support applies most directly to the First Amendment requirement that speech will have few restrictions that government can enforce. But in order to be a culture that values free speech, all of us need to get on board (French said); we have to stop acting as though crimes have been committed whenever someone expresses an idea we think is wrong, even when the intent was clearly constructive. Careers and lives have been ruined due to social prosecution of these speech crimes, and that has to stop. French says that the left, through academia but, increasingly, even through corporate policy, are mainly to blame.

For pluralism to thrive, we must "rediscover tolerance," the subject of Chap. 16. This gets us into certain tricky situations such as the Colorado cake-maker who refused to make a gay-themed wedding cake. French is staunch on this guy's right to to express his religious beliefs. (I sense that French, unlike some Christians, would also uphold the religious liberties of Islam and other faiths.)

French's belief is that pluralism translates into federalism and offers the only real way out of the angry standoff that threatens to break us apart. In the rest of the book, he tells us why good federalism is necessary and how it might work. But it's fair to say that he thinks our odds of successfully remaining unified while states are doing some of their own thing, are no greater than 50-50. The reason for some pessimism is that the two sides aren't willing to stop at forging solutions that suit a particular state. They want one political ideology for the whole nation; they want to dominate.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

DWill wrote: Mon Jul 11, 2022 10:16 pm It seems important to listen to what French, a true conservative, is telling us. I won't be able to decide for a while the full extent of my agreement/disagreement with him, but he's made me consider a different perspective--and in large part his entire book is about considering other perspectives, instead of rejecting as alien whatever our tribe has proscribed.
Excellent summary, DWill. My initial interest in reading Divided We Fall was to get a better understanding of conservative politics. But my real takeaway is perhaps a better understanding of why conservative Americans can feel disenfranchised by a culture war that usually favors liberal ideology. Hopefully I’m not quite so out of touch as I used to be.

Unfortunately, it seems that French is something of an outlier these days. We get a glimpse of this when we read Sohrab Ahmari’s piece “Against David French-ism”. Even since 2020, when French wrote this book, the battle lines between the left and the right (and the right and the far right) have become even more pronounced.

By the way, French, who is pro-life, wrote an interesting article in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade. You get a sense of where he stands with the title: Roe Is Reversed, and the Right Isn’t Ready

https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/r ... right-isnt

So while I’m encouraged to see a conservative who actually supports pluralism and tolerance, the right edge of the Overton window seems to be pushing David French’s opinions into irrelevance. He is a moderate in a world that is rapidly becoming more extremist.

Lately, I’m also wondering about originalism, the idea that the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding "at the time it was adopted". It seems to give a lot of wiggle room for the interpretation of various “unenumerated rights.” Something like abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution can be protected by one Supreme Court and taken away by another. And as DWill already mentioned in another thread, the 2nd Amendment can be seen as almost nonsensical in modern times. Our forefathers had no concept of modern military style weapons which can be purchased easily by almost anyone, thanks to lax gun regulations and (arguably) continued misinterpretation by the Supreme Court.

This last bit is a tangent, since I don't think David French discusses originalism in this book.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

My initial interest in reading Divided We Fall was to get a better understanding of conservative politics. But my real takeaway is perhaps a better understanding of why conservative Americans can feel disenfranchised by a culture war that usually favors liberal ideology. Hopefully I’m not quite so out of touch as I used to be.
Whenever I heard that left/liberalism was ascendant, I rolled my eyes because politically the right had made deeper inroads than the most liberal wing of the Democratic party had. But for French, the more important part is how the culture is trending, and the trend leads to political change. That's how we came to have wide acceptance (perhaps grudging) of homosexuality and gay marriage, even among Republicans. Another example might be pot: it seems that these days conservatives are as likely as liberals to favor legalization.

French talked about this opening up in terms of liberals succeeding in pushing their agenda, but was it really that? Or was it truly an arc-of-history thing, in which barriers of discrimination gradually fall?
Unfortunately, it seems that French is something of an outlier these days. We get a glimpse of this when we read Sohrab Ahmari’s piece “Against David French-ism”. Even since 2020, when French wrote this book, the battle lines between the left and the right (and the right and the far right) have become even more pronounced.
By the way, French, who is pro-life, wrote an interesting article in response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade. You get a sense of where he stands with the title: Roe Is Reversed, and the Right Isn’t Ready
Winner-take-all and might-makes-right have definitely increased. I had looked up what French might be thinking about the SC abortion decision. and came to that article. Part of me thinks he was a bit naive ever to have thought that militant anti-abortionists cared so much about loving these children who would now be born. French is a decent guy, so he was also shocked that the thrust of the new laws some states are passing are so punitive toward women. He apparently is dead certain that the Constitution offers no support for the right of abortion; the idea is anathema for him.
So while I’m encouraged to see a conservative who actually supports pluralism and tolerance, the right edge of the Overton window seems to be pushing David French’s opinions into irrelevance. He is a moderate in a world that is rapidly becoming more extremist.
Yes, a RINO for sure!
Lately, I’m also wondering about originalism, the idea that the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding "at the time it was adopted". It seems to give a lot of wiggle room for the interpretation of various “unenumerated rights.” Something like abortion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution can be protected by one Supreme Court and taken away by another. And as DWill already mentioned in another thread, the 2nd Amendment can be seen as almost nonsensical in modern times. Our forefathers had no concept of modern military style weapons which can be purchased easily by almost anyone, thanks to lax gun regulations and (arguably) continued misinterpretation by the Supreme Court.
A hint I get that French is originalist was his statement that we must follow the Second Amendment, and the entire Bill of Rights. That's a minimum for him that needs to be accepted by both sides. But, of course, the original intent of the 2nd Amendment is disputed; "originalism" is really just another opinion about what it means. I think originalism is one of the weaknesses of conservative philosophy. I was reading something from a historian, who said that even in the Founders' own time, the Founders disputed the meaning of what they had put into the Constitution. So how could a modern judge claim to know an original intent to stick to? Even simple common sense should tell us that the wise men who wrote the Constitution would not have believed that it would serve the country, exactly as written, for all time.

PS--the formatting of this post appears screwed up, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it!
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

DWill wrote: Tue Jul 19, 2022 1:06 pmPart of me thinks he was a bit naive ever to have thought that militant anti-abortionists cared so much about loving these children who would now be born. French is a decent guy, so he was also shocked that the thrust of the new laws some states are passing are so punitive toward women. He apparently is dead certain that the Constitution offers no support for the right of abortion; the idea is anathema for him.
Hi DWill, I think this quote is from you although you wrote it as a quote from someone else.

My view is that abortion gained such high political traction on the right only because the left used SCOTUS to get around their inability to legislate a right to abortion. And that inability was purely due to the corrupt filibuster requirement for a 60% majority to change the law. Without the undemocratic filibuster, the Senate would have passed abortion rights into law.

The political traction against Roe is about the imposition of a rule that is resented. It is primarily about power, not morality. There is a tiny minority with extreme moral views against abortion who found traction for their views in the popular red resentment against autocratic blue central power.

The punitive emotion is about State's Rights. Abortion is the new Slavery, and the punitive legislation is the new Jim Crow.

I think it is very clear there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. Roe involved pure manipulation to construct a desired result that has no basis in the original document. That manipulation naturally produced fury among those who did not share the policy objective of enabling abortion on demand.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

Robert Tulip wrote: Tue Jul 19, 2022 4:05 pm
Hi DWill, I think this quote is from you although you wrote it as a quote from someone else.
Yes, the quote was mine. For some reason I couldn't get the formatting to behave.
My view is that abortion gained such high political traction on the right only because the left used SCOTUS to get around their inability to legislate a right to abortion. And that inability was purely due to the corrupt filibuster requirement for a 60% majority to change the law. Without the undemocratic filibuster, the Senate would have passed abortion rights into law.
Is it true that the left used the Supreme Court to establish a right to abortion? The case arose in Texas, and a Texas court upheld the right of McCorvey (aka Roe) to have the abortion. Dallas District Attorney Wade appealed the decision to the SC, which agreed to take the case. and decided in favor of the woman. I'm not aware that before that time any attempt had been made to legislate a right to abortion. Was abortion rights a particular area of left/liberal activism before that time? I don't know.
The political traction against Roe is about the imposition of a rule that is resented. It is primarily about power, not morality. There is a tiny minority with extreme moral views against abortion who found traction for their views in the popular red resentment against autocratic blue central power.
I think the anti-Roe movement indeed began as a moral issue, in the minds of all of these activists. 1973 was a time not enough like our own polarized era for the beef to have been about what we now refer to as the Red/Blue divide.
The punitive emotion is about State's Rights. Abortion is the new Slavery, and the punitive legislation is the new Jim Crow.
I don't see it that way. State rights was a cover for slavery before the Civil war. Primarily, the anti-abortion faction wants abortion gone. Yes, states can now decide they can ban it, but it's also a goal to make it illegal everywhere, denying state rights to continue the practice. Mike Pence jumped on a national ban instantly after the SC decision.
I think it is very clear there is no right to abortion in the Constitution. Roe involved pure manipulation to construct a desired result that has no basis in the original document. That manipulation naturally produced fury among those who did not share the policy objective of enabling abortion on demand.
It was argued, and I think still can be argued, that the right to privacy confers a right for a woman to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term. But the right was limited, not of the on-demand sort. Roe was the needed compromise, and it's a terrible shame that it's gone.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

PS--the formatting of this post appears screwed up, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it!
I took the liberty of fixing the formatting, DWill. Hopefully I didn't mess up!
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

DWill wrote:It was argued, and I think still can be argued, that the right to privacy confers a right for a woman to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term. But the right was limited, not of the on-demand sort. Roe was the needed compromise, and it's a terrible shame that it's gone.
Apparently even Ruth Ginsberg thought Roe v. Wade was the "wrong case" to settle abortion issue. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/ ... -roe-wade/)

But otherwise I agree the absence of Roe v. Wade represents a dark day in America. Even without constitutional grounding, the end result of that 1973 court case was a reasonable compromise between the two sides. According to Forbes, a majority of Americans still support abortion if it's early enough in the pregnancy and in cases of rape or incest.

Now that Roe v. Wade has been struck down, we are seeing the backlash that perhaps Ruth Ginsberg feared. Many states are fast at work to ban abortion outright—with no exceptions for incest or rape or if the mother's life is in danger. In their eagerness to pander to extremist constituencies, some lawmakers are even considering travel bans to prevent pregnant women from crossing state lines for abortions. As David French says, a movement animated by rage and fear isn’t ready to embrace life and love. I hope that a future Supreme Court will reinstate abortion as fundamental liberty protected by the Constitution.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

The impact of the new state- freedom to pass draconian abortion laws was demonstrated almost instantly, with the horrifying case of the raped, pregnant 10-year-old. David Von Drehel, whose columns appear in the Washington Post, as usual made astute commentary on the situation: now Republicans will be stuck with the consequences of allowing the most radical of the right-to-life movement set their agenda. We'll see other cases of suffering publicized, too, whereas examples cannot illustrate the supposed benefits of the new forced-birth laws.

But political comeuppance for Republicans will be little consolation to the women whose "pursuit of happiness" has been so drastically curtailed.

Three cheers for the woman carrying the sign reading, "MANDATORY VASECTOMIES. CONCEPTION BEGINS AT EJACULATION."
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

The astonishing results out of Kansas show that there are a lot of people on the pro-choice side who really care, and that people on the pro-life side may not be as concerned as it was thought. It has been predicted for decades that the end of Roe would be a big problem for the Republican Party. Now we shall see.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

There are going to be numerous challenges to various draconian laws some states are trying to pass. In what might be seen as poetic justice, some of the challenges are taking the form of religious freedom. As it turns out, there are other theological views on when life begins. Some Jewish faiths, for example, believe the woman's life is important too!

Also, as DWIll mentioned, there are already horrific examples of women who can't find medical treatment related to ectopic pregnancies and such. I can see a day, probably soon, when the Supreme Court is going to have to weigh in on abortion again.

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/ ... hs-say-yes
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

Harry Marks wrote: Wed Aug 03, 2022 4:17 pm The astonishing results out of Kansas show that there are a lot of people on the pro-choice side who really care, and that people on the pro-life side may not be as concerned as it was thought. It has been predicted for decades that the end of Roe would be a big problem for the Republican Party. Now we shall see.
It remains my view, watching from a distance, that the main conservative concern about Roe v Wade was about centralising power through the judiciary, not about abortion as such. The pro-life extremists will have initial victories which will rapidly be wound back at state level in the face of popular backlash.
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

After just reading this amazing new article in the New Yorker about the total Gilead subversion of democracy by the autocratic dictatorship in Ohio, I see the situation is worse than I realized. For example their legislation to provide equal rights for Nazi teaching in schools showed a shocking indifference to democratic values and human rights. Their flouting of the law to destroy democracy has reached an extreme level.

Republicans don't want democracy, they want dictatorship. It looks like they are building up to go to war against state governments that prevent their takeover. This raises another civil war scenario - if Democrats are elected in a state with a lot of rabid right wing extremists, Republicans could mount a local military coup, requiring federal intervention to reinstall democracy. Trump's response to Jan 6 signals this destruction of the US Constitution as quite plausible.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022 ... -democracy
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

Wow great article. I was aware of most of this as I live on the other side of town from Jean Schmidt. I've watched David Pepper's videos, etc. One revealing detail that was omitted was one of the redistricting plans rejected by the state supreme court was resubmitted right at the deadline, effectively saying "Here's your revised redistricting plan with zero changes and two middle fingers to go along with it!" Imagine your state being in this condition - we cannot vote our way out of it, a massive turnout won't change the outcome. One possible lever for change could be major corporations - they are telling Indiana and other states "Since you are passing laws like that, we will not increase employment in your state."

I expect the example of Ohio will go against what I gather is the thrust of French's solution - let the various states sort out different scenarios and compete. However, to the contrary as David Pepper's book indicates, states have now become Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call from Behind the Lines.
Mr. Tulip wrote:...I see the situation is worse than I realized.
I thought a few of your earlier comments were naive, but you are onto it now...
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Re: Divided We Fall - Chapters 11 - 15

In this environment, "free speech" isn't about dialogue. It's about transmitting truth to the unenlightened. It's an exercise of power. For angry activists, speech is a sword. Censorship and shame campaigns are a shield. Activists wield the sword to slice and dice opponents. and wield the shield to protect themselves from the pain of disagreement, or - heaven forbid - the wrenching pain of being exposed as wrong or misguided. The goal is domination, not discussion, and certainly not coexistence.

Chapter 11 p. 116
Well said, but not exactly a news flash...
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