Is America about to break apart?

Perhaps this is the conservative backlash – the response to decades of the left rubbing the right’s nose in it. Perhaps it is inevitable that liberal overreach would be responded to by conservative overreach. Either way, the US is now moving into an uncertain and deeply destabilising era. At a time when the country needs to solve new problems both within and without, it has been invited instead to relitigate liberal rights which had been thought settled for half a century.

What makes it worse is that the institutions that used to unite the country now bitterly divide it. I have written here before about the strange way in which the American right has fallen out of love with the legislature, the intelligence services, even the top ranks of the military. But the American left has also joined this game. The Supreme Court is now their enemy. ‘To hell with the Supreme Court. We will defy them,’ the Democrat Congresswoman Maxine Waters told a rally last week.

It seems to me that you can have different opinions and still have a country. You can probably have some variation in state laws and still have a country. But if you effectively have different political institutions, then you no longer have a country – you have two political sides which both hope that whatever punches they land will knock out their opponents for good. It is an illusion that should have been dealt its own lethal blow last week, but has instead been injected with a whole new fusillade of energy.