American politics is now as acrimonious as it has perhaps ever been. This may be puzzling to some as there are seemingly no longer any deep divisions within the polity. Most Americans, after all, are internationalists and free marketers of some kind, who disagree only within those parameters.
But there are deep and growing divisions. What is being played out now, acrimoniously, are the final implications of the agenda of the modernist movement, and of the liberalism it transformed in the 1960s, the final working out of ideas that were present from the beginning in the late 1700s but for a long time remained only half-recognized. This movement has made every political disagreement a dispute over fundamental beliefs, and indeed over the nature of reality: matters over which people will fight with particular ferocity.
Modernism in this sense is not the historical reality of modernization. It is an almost religious commitment to radical change, a fevered sense of the past as oppressive, a determination to move ruthlessly into the future no matter what the cost, an urge to shock traditional sensibilities. (Like all movements, I should note, modernism can be defined in a variety of ways, and not all self-conscious modernists espouse its entire agenda.)
It is inherently nihilistic, at its core nothing less than the systematic negation of every established belief and institution, the denial that any ultimate truth underlies culture, the often demonic conviction that destruction is the necessary preliminary to creation. It has touched deep and sinister springs in the human psyche: the love of negation and annihilation for their own sakes. Gratuitous, anarchical terrorism is in a sense modernism's ultimate expression.
Read the entire article on the Touchstone website.