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Dear Democrats: Congratulations, you have officially retaken the House and put an end to one-party rule in Washington. As our Russian friends like to say, Thanks, God. Not that the Russians care. Vladimir Putin and his army of Internet trolls know something you probably don’t: It will be just as easy to manipulate you as it was your fanatical, right-wing compatriots. Actually, easier, since right-wingers don’t think they’re smarter than progressives, just more American. You think you’re smarter, better, kinder, more urbane, on the right side of history. Blah, blah, blah. I have no idea if that’s true. Who cares? The only thing that matters right now is that you—it’s amazing it’s come to this—are the bulwark, the Great Wall, defending the holy citadel of Western Civilization (are we still allowed to call it that?) against the barbarians at the gate. True, the barbarians already occupy the White House and the Senate. But their viability is in doubt. The end of this story has yet to be written. There is still time!

Your enemy is not the G.O.P. I mean, technically, yes, it is. But not really. The real enemy is your inner partisan: that fire-breathing zealot who thinks the mullahs and Antifa are just misunderstood, and Mitch McConnell is Joseph Goebbels.

If you can’t distinguish between Mitch McConnell and Joseph Goebbels, if you’re the kind of progressive who thinks free speech is violence, or whiteness is a crime—there are a lot of you out there—the Kremlin social-media mavens have you in their sights. You’re the fruit that hangs low.

It’s not just the insidious threat of pro-Bernie Sanders memes cooked up in a St. Petersburg basement, or Moscow’s fondness for Jill Stein, or the post-election spike in shady, Resistance-ish Twitter accounts like @RogueNASA and @RoguePOTUSStaff. It’s the vulnerability in the way the Democratic partisan thinks, which is not that different from the way the Republican partisan thinks, which is not really thinking. It’s speaking in tongues. It’s faith. The progressive pines for elected representatives one can fall in love with, as if all politicians were not focus-grouped escorts. The partisan can’t stomach this tension—one of the reasons, presumably, we’ve heard so little about Beto O’Rourke’s father-in-law being a very rich real-estate developer. (To the true progressive, money is “filthy lucre,” and Beto can’t be filthy—Beto is . . . Beto.) The partisan—ranty, feverish, fully cocooned—craves simplicity. The partisan, in the end, is not really left or right, but needy, in search of a cartoon god that can impose order—a moral calculus—on one’s life. This person is simultaneously dangerous and in danger.

It’s important, at this juncture, to distinguish between the partisan and the ideologue. In this country, there used to be a species of human known as the ideologue, one who believed deeply in certain principles (for example, the benevolent power of the re-distributive state, or the moral superiority of free markets). Of course, these people still exist, but their proposals (mostly) feel stale, better suited to the old order—when liberals were champions of free speech and conservatives still trafficked in ideas, when capitalism and democracy were assumed to coexist in harmony, when we weren’t so in love with our gadgets, with the hyper-positivism and small-minded concreteness and practicality of the new technology.

The ideologues, alas, have been eclipsed by the partisans, who retain vaguely ideological beliefs, but who are less principled than combative. (Sidenote to all my Bernie Bro bros out there: The happy talk you lapped up way, way back in the faraway land of early 2016, about free college and living wages, was some good old-fashioned ideology. You thought it sounded fresh, because you were born in the 1990s—and because it lacked the partisan guile of the Clintonistas, who would never allow something so quaint as an ideological commitment to get in the way of winning. Hasta la vista, Bernie!) Bottom line: The partisan loves the fight! The partisan craves the Manichaean clash of good and evil. The partisan, naturally, would object to this, but the partisan is basically an idiot.

Our president, who resides in a subterranean alt-reality in which no one is expected to believe in anything except the president, perfectly embodies this transmogrification. He doesn’t have beliefs so much as suspicions, feelings, flare-ups. None of these quasi-thoughts possesses the depth of a conviction; all of them feel weirdly primal. That his worldview, in so far as there is one, is probably the least Republican of any Republican president ever has done little to stanch the partisan bloodletting. Just the opposite. There are reasons for this: Freud’s narcissism of minor differences, for one. (As the substantive space between left and right has narrowed, the need to differentiate ourselves has jumped.) And, on the left, the gradual substitution of the old economic determinism with a new identity politics. And, on the right, the repugnant and wholly predictable response to this identity politics with a counter-identitarianism. And, on the left, the near-hysterical response to this counter-identitarianism. And so on.

We are now free-falling down an infinite regress of minor earthquakes that will lead, one imagines, to a major one. A paradigm shift. It often feels as if we are swimming through the second act of a Chekhov play, in which we all pretend that things are more or less the way they’ve always been, but secretly know that very soon they will not be. This is almost inevitable.

Unless the Democrats—you, my friends, my fellow Americans—start to adult like you’ve never adulted. Think. Lead. Dispense with the decidedly 20th-century notion that you’re morally and intellectually superior to those with whom you disagree. You’re not. You’re just a little less corrupt. You still retain some vestige of a conscience, and not because you believe in Medicare for all, which you used to call, when you were being more honest, socialized medicine. You’re the better party, for now, because you haven’t genuflected before the strongman, because you don’t make fun of people with disabilities, because you haven’t turned cruel and mean just yet. America is banking on you to transcend your inner partisan, to sidestep the social-media manipulations that will come your way, to forge a new politics. We should be leery of your posturing, but hopeful. We should not be surprised when you say many, many dumb things, but we should expect you to rise above your darker tendencies. We have no choice.

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