The relative quiet on social media over the last month has been so loud that it’s still a shock.
Ever since Twitter cut off former President Donald Trump’s daily outlet of rage, there’s been a noticeable chilling of fractiousness in the country. Add to that a new president who is taking bold action on several long-ignored fronts and we find an America that is turning its back on constant confrontation and the politics of petty personalism.
The nation feels less electric and more stable. It’s as if someone finally pushed a button on a red-white-and-blue pressure valve to relieve pent-up anxiety, frustration, steam and worry. Instead of headlines bouncing from scandal to walls to swamps to personal attacks, governing is returning, warts and all, to elected officials who are trying, albeit imperfectly, to fix problems.
It kind of feels good to have adults in charge, doesn’t it? It’s refreshing to feel the return of the grind of government. Everything’s still not hunky dory with America’s political culture, but the crisp, refreshing scent of change to normalcy is in the air.
Regardless of your political party or whether you like or support Trump, you’ve got to admit that the country’s temperature has fallen. A month after the shock of a violent insurrectionist mob that tried to topple the U.S. Capitol, the country is harkening to being a more civil union of states in the heady days of Bush or Obama presidencies. Just look at the changes across society since Trump’s skulk away from Washington:
- News reporting, obsessed for more than four years by constant barrages of insults and pettiness emanating from the White House, is less brooding. Sure, there’s still conflict, but there’s been a return of civility and process over outrage and destruction.
- Anxiety among Americans fatigued by a coronavirus pandemic not taken seriously by the previous administration is ebbing as vaccinations are on the rise and there’s finally a real pathway toward full vaccination by the summer.
- Your social media feeds likely aren’t blowing up as much with negativity. Instead, they’ve become more of the community connectors they were intended to be.
None of this relatively swift flip means the undercurrents of our democracy are again strong. Things are still fragile, held together by Republicans and Democrats tenderly putting one foot in front of the other after four years of stalking, pounding and heavy marching.
In South Carolina, the Trump wing of the Republican Party continues to grip power. But something’s happening there, too.
First, there are fissures in the Trump wing as Gov. Henry McMaster is not-so-subtly being challenged on his leadership by Greenville businessman John Warren, who has set up a political action committee. Its first real political effort was to raise Cain about “liberal judges” in a return to the playbook of using political division and fear to garner support. Meanwhile, McMaster recently turned on his online political network to push a position to vaccinate seniors ahead of teachers in what seemed like obvious pandering to shore up part of his political base.
And second, not all Republicans are following the instructions of the GOP politburo in Columbia. You can see it in U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace’s comments after the Jan. 6 insurrection. You can see it in the vote to impeach Trump by U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, which garnered a censure by the state party. Both members of Congress are showing streaks of independence that put country over party.
At the Statehouse, Republicans are moving with renewed vigor to pass long-sought abortion bans and to get legislation that would allow the open carry of handguns. At a time when the country is starting to chill, they’re pressing advantages at home as a sleepy public isn’t paying much attention.
“I dare say among S.C. Republicans, the fear of Democrats is greater than the fear of the mob that showed up at the Capitol on Jan. 6,” observed Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson.
Perhaps what they’re really afraid of is that state Democrats might sometime get their mess together and become a real party of opposition as occurred in neighboring Georgia after 10 years of organizing, planning and working hard. We shall see.
Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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