As of this writing, the popular votes in the divisive 2020 presidential election are 72,136,589 for Biden and 68, 649,947 for Trump. Twenty-four hours after the polls closed and with no winner of the electoral votes declared, Biden assured the American people that “there will be no blue and red states when we win, just the United States of America;” he emphasized “united.” But what unites the 330,547,745 individuals who call themselves Americans?
The citizens of a Nation-State are held together by storytelling, by such grand narratives as we Americans are the people chosen to build a city on the hill that will show all humanity the glories of democracy; we new Americans, immigrants from the Old World, are no longer oppressed by lords and priests, are free through hard work to make fortunes and ourselves happy; we Americans are engaged in a cosmic struggle against the Evil Empires of fascism and communism to save freedom for all peoples.
We no longer have a single grand narrative that unites all Americans.
The Two Opposed Morality Plays
MSNBC, Fox News, and related Websites skillfully cater to and reinforce the opinions and prejudices of political junkies, seeking a fix of anger and righteousness. Such political junkies live in a safe bubble, where not one of their deeply held ideas and beliefs will ever be challenged by argument or facts. These faithful attend a political church of their own choosing and hear sermons that dramatize their opinions and prejudices that leave them feeling smarter than the yahoos in the other political church.
Both MSNBC and Fox News present a simplified morality play with different heroes, villains, and lessons. In both plays, only two sides exist, Left and Right, Democrat and Republican; beyond the pale are pacifists and anarchists. The two major East coast newspapers have narrowed their political perspective to Left versus Right. The New York Times ensures diversity by lining up hardcore conservatives Bret Stevens and Ross Douthat against staunch liberals Paul Krugman and Nick Kristof. At the Washington Post, only the names change, George Will versus Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin opposite Dana Milbank. The wisdom of Mark Twain will never appear in newsprint or be heard on air: “Nothing could be worse for a country than this. To lodge all power in one party and keep it there, is to insure bad government, and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals.
A person who is pro-union and anti-abortion does not exist in the world of MSNBC or Fox News. One of my neighbors immigrated illegally from Mexico seven years ago, and through hard work now owns a successful restaurant; as a result, he opposes welfare and the bureaucratic rules of the local and federal government. Despite his immigrant background, he could never appear on MSNBC since he opposes the Nanny State, nor could he be on Fox News because he once was an undocumented worker.
In the two morality plays, conflict must be permanent, for if the Left and Right reached an accord on fundamental political and cultural issues the game would be over, viewers would disappear, advertising money would dry up, and MSNBC and Fox News would be history. During the 2016 presidential election, Leslie Moonves, the CEO of CBS, enjoyed the ad money Trump and his competitors brought to the network: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” A villain sells more ads than a hero. President Trump makes more money for MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post than for National Review and the Weekly Standard, with Fox News the outlier, profiting from selling Trump as a hero.
The Pew Research Center found that ad sales on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News increased by 62% from 2012 to 2017. Stories about welfare moms, fake homeless, wasted federal money on disaster relief, the huge salaries of CEOs, corporate malfeasance, and the narrow mindedness of politicians kept viewers coming back, advertising money flowing in, and profits soaring. Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, revealed the YouTube strategy for increasing revenue: “If I’m YouTube and I want you to watch more, I’m always going [to use algorithms] to steer you toward Crazytown.”
Both morality plays focus on personalities, such as the character strengths and flaws of Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, rather than on such big issues that the Democrat and Republican parties agree on: deregulation of the financial industry, the burgeoning budget deficit, the militarization of police, deindustrialization, and the endless wars in the Middle East.
Unlike Medieval morality plays that good Christians never tired of seeing, the modern morality plays of MSNBC and Fox News must increase the level of anger to keep their viewers returning; thus, incompetent bureaucrats and corrupt politicians morphed into authoritarians, demagogues, and dictators. The most scornful terms for opponents are “Nazi” and “fascist.” Roger Ailes, when Chairman and CEO of Fox News, declared that NPR executives “are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view.” Keith Olbermann, as the host of his popular MSNBC program, denounced President George W. Bush as a fascist: “If you believe in the seamless mutuality of government and big business, come out and say it. There is a dictionary definition, one word that describes that toxic blend. You‘re a fascist — get them to print you a T-shirt with ‘fascist’ on it.” MSNBC and Fox News appear to follow Godwin’s law, the Internet adage asserting that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
The morality play of MSNBC and the Left focuses on an imagined future where every individual is free to choose any lifestyle he or she desires unhindered by social pressure and law. Progressives claim that history is on their side: Kings, princes, and nobles no longer exist; oligarchs and patriarchs are being eliminated; the few remaining social fetters of Protestantism will disappear. “At the heart of freedom is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of life.” To ensure freedom for all, the LGBTQ community must be protected by law because the Right hopes to marginalize them again. Chronic illness, ignorance, and poverty preclude freedom; thus, every American has a right to health care, education, and employment. A woman owns her body and has an inherent right to abortion services. The founding principle of American is equality, now subverted by wealthy individuals and Corporate America. To restore the promise of America, the unjust influence of the economic elite must be countered by a more progressive tax system; otherwise, America is lost.
The morality play of Fox News and the Right harks back to a golden era, a past sometimes imaged, where America embodied the traditional values of Protestantism, essentially middle-class life of the 1950s. Decent people, the majority then, adhered to family values. The men worked hard, prospered, and looked after their families; the women willingly sacrificed career ambitions for their children and their husbands’ careers. With the ascendency of liberal values, indecency, perversion, and moral corruption became normal; psychological and social disorders took over the Left. Scornful of normal, decent people, the Left is intent upon destroying tradition. All that the decent, normal people want is to reclaim America. The elites on the West and East coasts have isolated themselves in gated compounds and do not know what is really going on in the hinterland or with the declining middle class. To save the world, the elites would force a vegan diet on everyone and ignore that the good-paying jobs were shipped overseas, followed by a marked increase in midlife mortality of white non-Hispanic Americans, the result of deaths of despair caused by drug addiction, alcoholism, and suicide in a declining middle class. Abortion, a crime greater than slavery or the Holocaust, must again be prohibited by law; over 61 million medically induced abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade. America is exceedingly close to losing its founding principles. Freedom is to choose the good, not the license to do whatever one wants.
Both the Left and the Right describe themselves as good people, morally correct and politically astute, and the Other as bad people, morally bankrupt and hopelessly ignorant. Forty-two percent of Democrats view Republicans as “downright evil,” and the same exact percentage of Republicans think the same of Democrats. The warfare between the Left and the Right produced a paralyzed Congress, a blindness to reality, and kabuki political theater.
These two morality plays are irreconcilable; the devoted members of each play are bound together by unshakeable core beliefs and a collective hatred of the Other. The divided storytelling after the collapse of the Evil Empire of communism produced internecine warfare that portends a downward arc for America.
America is at war with itself
The Left and Right believe a presidential victory of the other side would have irreversible consequences. For the Left, reelection of Trump would rapidly advance the rise of fascism in the United States and mean a return to the oppression of immigrants, Blacks, women, gays, and lesbians. For the Right, the election of Biden would accelerate the expansion of socialism and would cause the destruction of what made America great. Such apocalyptic visions made the likelihood of violence after the election almost inevitable.
Violent political craziness has already surfaced. Federal and state authorities arrested thirteen men planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer before the presidential election in November. The group planned to take Governor Whitmer to a secure location in Wisconsin for a trail as a tyrant violating the U.S. Constitution by enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing to slow the spread of Covid-19. The right-wing extremists hoped to start a civil war leading to societal collapse.
In a video posted on Facebook, Dan Bongino, a popular right-wing commentator and radio host, ranted that Democrats were planning a coup against President Trump on election day; the video has been viewed 2.9 million times. Trump promotes such extreme rhetoric; he proclaimed at a rally in Virginia, “Biden will disarm law-abiding Americans. At the same time, they’ll have riots down your street.”
In the first Presidential Debate held on 29 September 2020, President Trump clearly stated that if he does not win the Electoral College in November, the upcoming election will be fraudulent and that he will have the Supreme Court decide, where he has the votes. So far, Trump has remained true to his speech; if he continues and secures the White House for himself through recounts and lawsuits, then November 2020 will be Bloody November. (See video.)
The police are militarized; the Proud Boys have AR-15s; unarmed progressives and liberals lobbied against assault weapons; a violent revolution is doomed to blood in the streets with the Right the victors.
Main image by MadamSaffa courtesy of Shutterstock.
 Joe Biden ‘confident’ in victory, speaks to unity as votes continue to be counted; U.S. and World Population Clock.
 Mark Twain, Autobiography, Vol. 1 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010), p. 315. Italics in the original.
 Tristan Harris, quoted by Kevin Roose, “The Making of a YouTube Radical,” New York Times, June 8, 2019.
 Godwin’s law, Wikipedia.
 Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, and David Hackett Souter, “Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania versus Casey” in Constitutional Law: 1995 Supplement, ed. Geoffrey R. Stone, et al. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1995), p. 955.
 Nathan P. Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason, Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates, & Electoral Contingencies.
 Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, “What We Know About the Alleged Plot to Kidnap Michigan’s Governor,” New York Times (Oct. 9, 2020).