Column: American Politics: Disagreeing to Agree

According to a Pew Research Center poll in 2010, nearly 123 million Americans (41 percent) believe the Rapture will happen before 2050. I bring this up because the first supermoon lunar eclipse in 30 years will happen on Sunday, September 27, 2015. If you’re reading this column after then, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t the end of the world. Also, if you’re reading this column before then, well, it’s also safe to assume the moon appearing weird to us in the night sky is more of a sign of our lack of perspective than anything else. (There won’t be an eclipse in Israel, for example.)

But doomsday predictions are easy. We all have a sense of our own mortality—we know it’ll all end—it’s just a matter of when. There’s something about it that resonates.

Mega-church Pastor John Hagee chimed this lunar eclipse as portending the end. Hagee’s name is familiar because he famously endorsed John McCain for president after even more famously calling the Holocaust part of god’s plan to relocate the Jewish people out of Europe, which forced McCain to reject the endorsement. He wrote a book called “Four Blood Moons” with the hilarious subtitle “Something is about to change.” So here we have two of the easiest claims to make: 1) The world is going to end 2) Something will change. This is the same guy who wrote a book called “The Beginning of the End” 20 years ago, also claiming things were “happening.” As they inevitably do.

A more recent study by Pew about doom and gloom found that 100 million Americans (31 percent) believe global warming is a real problem even though 71 percent of scientists hold that view. Yes, there are more Americans convinced the Rapture will commence before 2050 than feel global warming is a concern.

So more Americans embrace an arbitrary ending to the world that’s overdue by millennia than the threat of our coastal cities being submerged? The short answer: Yes.

But they’re kind of on the same page almost. Hagee says there are signs in nature pointing to our inevitable demise. So do scientists!

This is possibly the best metaphor for the current state of American politics. We like to fight over things we actually agree on. It’s like the Cola Wars: We argued vehemently over if Coke or Pepsi was better when we were actually agreeing that carbonated cola drinks are awesome. There’s a very large swath of the country that thinks the end is nigh—we just disagree on the details and the messengers and therefore the solution.

The Republicans have been trying to repeal and replace Obamacare with what is basically Obamacare with a different name. Americans nearly unanimously agree with universal background checks for gun ownership, yet it’s the Third Rail anyway. Everyone wants to fix the immigration system but we end up denouncing stupid xenophobic remarks by politicians instead. We all agree we don’t like the term socialism but tell pollsters we’d like wealth distribution, public works projects and social security.

Since we’re in primary season, we have a bunch of politicians who concur with each other on nearly every issue, having monthly “debates.” Carly Fiorina won the last one, her new supporters saying she lied the most convincingly, which is exactly what her detractors say about her. See? So much commonality—it boggles the mind!

Pope Francis came to town and the think pieces went like this: Lefties love the pope but are disappointed by his stance against women’s issues (abortion, contraception, female priests etc.) and righties love the pope but are disappointed by his stance on poverty issues and global warming. The pontiff inspires bipartisan love and disappointment—it’s a miracle!

Or it’s just how our politics seem to be going.