‘Something radical is required.’
This is one of, if not the best, pieces of writing i've seen which seeks to examine and articulate the extreme, ugly bi-partisanship which afflicts US politics, the disenchantment and disgust many "Leftist" *former* Democratic party voters supporters have either begun to or have felt about the Party establishment for some time.
It rings a particularly familiar note to many ex-Labour Party leftists in the U.K.
I currently work and reside in the U.K. I am a Dual National with dual citizenship due to my parents being a U.S. & U.K. (father and mother respectively) citizen. I hail from New Jersey.
A good writeup but a key issue is overlooked: the present political situation is as much, if not more, a class outcome as it is about the duopoly.
For example: the duopoly in politics exists for many reasons but principally because power in a "winner takes all" system is always going to aggregate into 2 camps.
But the problem isn't the duopoly per se - it is that direct linkage to government is the overwhelming driver of wealth. The wealthiest counties in the United States are no longer New York, San Francisco and the like - it is the counties in and around Washington DC. Politicians used to go into government to serve - now they clearly go into government to become rich (or richer). The demographic drivers of the Democrat party are no longer the working class - they are the PMCs - the professional, managerial class furthermore aggregated by Twitter and other social media into literally comically synchronized speech.
So yes, the demonization of the other side - it isn't just Democrats demonizing Trump supporters; the same exists for a number of groups in the Democrat coalition by red staters - is a desired outcome if a ruling class wants to ensure its failed policies and incompetence don't lead to their being removed from the reins of power and money.
And thus while I fully agree with your proposition of civic engagement in the interests of improving the lot of the 90% - what is unclear to me is how this can occur given the political entrenchment in the leadership of the American political class overall, plus the entrenchment within the Federal (and to varying degrees, state) government bureaucracies, plus the entrenchment within the entire upper class from doctors to lawyers to CEOs to consultants.
From my personal view: the ongoing existence of the oozing wound that is American health care is the most obvious sign that leadership in this country has failed, and worse, failed for the most egregiously selfish and fiduciarily incompetent reasons.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
From Matthew chapter 5 (sermon on the mount), KJV
This, of course, is what Dr King knew and I am glad you know it as well.
Of course this society is dysfunctional, however, the current arrangement suits those in charge just fine.
So what do you propose to do about it?
Pointing out establishment cynicism is like quoting Bible verses to an armed robber. They don't care, unless you have a way to make them stop.
Well done, Cara! Personally, I think we only think we have become civilized. In truth we are merely a nation of tribes. In the political arena we have two major tribes with other ancillary tribes. You do an excellent job of showing what we need from a philosophical perspective. Agape is fine concept which as you've discovered tends to extend only to the members of your tribe, not to anyone else. As someone who's never been a tribal member, I struggle with that. I really struggle with what our politics have become. Tribe R proposes something and Tribe D will automatically respond with you suck! Transpose the R and the D and the sentence still works. The response is never well this is something that we should do can we work out the best way to do it? Or, this is a bad idea and we absolutely don't want to do it.
How did we get to this point? I think it is a form of cop out. It's how we avoid thinking. I imagine some knuckle dragger saying Republican good; Democrat bad (once again, reverse Ds and Rs and the sentence still works). This might be OK except for something that started happening a number of decades ago. There was a time when, if you won a squeaker, you didn't try to push your full agenda because you (a) knew that a lot of your constituents didn't agree with you and (b) knew that you needed to represent all of your constituents. But the next thing you knew, the winning tribe pushed their total agenda even if, as in the case of Shrub, they didn't really win. Robert Heinlein had a great response for this sort of thing in his great Libertarian screed The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He proposed that all laws required a 2/3 majority to be passed, arguing that if you passed a law with only 50.1% of the vote, that meant that 49.9% of the citizens didn't want it. He also proposed that you could repeal a law with only 33% in favor of repeal arguing for the same 2/3rds requirement, effectively codifying my line that democracy isn't about right and wrong, it's about what we all agree to.
It has, it seems to me, to come down to two evils - power and ideology. Only people who seek power are crazy enough to get into politics and it seems that our tribes also have an ideology that they push. I'd like to remind everybody that millions upon millions of people died in the last century because two contending ideologies - Fascism and Communism. I keep hearing the late, great Frank Zappa in the back of my head:
It can't happen here,
I'm telling you my dear,
It can't happen here
We have a structural problem in the system and no apparent interest in changing it. It is pretty clear to me that the South won Civil War despite the historical claims to the contrary. We are not a "union" of united states. Before, during and since that war we are the divided states of America. Thanks to the 10th Amendment, we are a confederation rather than a federal union--a confederation layered with republican representative government. Direct democracy too feared by every politician and party. Even in the one election where as a national people votes are cast, it falls to an electoral college to keep the confederate model strong. (I wish Lincoln had let the South go.)
As a strong advocate for agape and the commonweal, I realize that the best we can do under this flawed variant of democracy is take individual responsibility for kindness and compassion. As rightly pointed out by the author, we owe the world light. Sometimes as a people we tend toward being light in the darkness. Of late, we seem obsessed with darkness, fear and hate.
Cara MariAnna may take inspiration from a fellow journalist, Thucydides, who reported on the Peloponnesian War about 24 centuries ago:
“In peace and prosperity, states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes …
“Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.
“In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.”
“Parties become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion”. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another”. Geo. Washington, Farewell to the Nation.
Washington understood what America could become if “a wise people” did not do their duty to discourage and restrain the over-zealous development of political parties.
The period when no party divisions existed in United States (1816-1826) is known as Era of Good Feelings.
Quite a long narrative, Cara. I think I understand your semi-defense of Trump as the lesser evil than Crazy Joe B., but evil is still evil. As I keep telling my Trump supporting cousin, who would you prefer robbing your bank, John Dillinger or Willie Sutton? They'll both empty the bank vault.
You're so right about friend and family animosities and conflict over politics the past few decades, but even worse these past six and a half years. But as long as the voting public keep the R's & D's in power, society as a whole will deteriorate at a faster pace than it is already. Imperial America is on a dangerous precipice, and one false move or miscalculation and the "Doomsday Clock" of the atomic scientists strikes twelve, which may cause the curtain to close on planet Earth for the foreseeable future.
But yes, as a Green, I actually have some very good friends who voted for Trump and I prefer them over the faux "progressive" Democrats I know and devotees of Obama and Biden, two compulsive liars.
But, to each their own.
A well meaning article, but it's more distraction.
The Democratic Party finally sold its soul with Bill Clinton and the "Third Way." Basically they got sick of the Republicans having all the big cash donors and pitched whatever scraps of scruples that were left. Better to hide behind identity politics, than associate with labor. Especially since so much of the industry had moved to places labor didn't have any rights anyway.
The banks run this country and all they really need politicians for, is to run up the public debt required to back all that private wealth.
I remember George H.W. Bush railing against government spending and arguing for the line item veto. Then in the election of 92, Ross Perot comments that everyone plays the markets, but "The real money is in bonds." That was when the light bulb went off in my head.
If you really want to understand how this country works, you just have to remember Deep Throat; "Follow the money."
Government, as executive and regulatory function, is analogous to the nervous system, while money and banking serve as blood and the circulation system of society. We have evolved to the point of recognizing government works best as a public utility, but are not yet to the point of realizing the same principle applies to banking. When the medium enabling markets is privately held, we are all tenant farmers to the banks.
Safe to say, they are masters of distraction. Yet that doesn't change the reality, so it's simply a matter of time.
As for the line item veto, it would never pass congress, because it would give the executive total say over the budgeting process. One way to make it work would be to break the bills into all their various items, have each legislator assign a percentage value to each, then re-assemble them in order of preference. Then the president draws the line. "The buck stops here." This would leave the actual budgeting to the congress, but with the president directly responsible for the levels of debt.
That would seriously tighten up the process, but the banks would hate it.
Otherwise, when the Federal government finally reaches the point it can no longer pay off the bonds, you will be seeing Warren Buffett trading a few billion of his for Yellowstone Park and a couple thousand miles of I-70, to install tolls. When they do it to third world countries, it's called "disaster capitalism." When they do it to poor people, it's called "predatory lending." This is the reality they are trying to hide. The Ancients devised debt jubilees three thousand years ago, as circuit breakers to the feedback loop of compound interest and here we are stuck in the same doom loop and all the nitwits talk about is Trump and Biden. Wake up.
My hope is that people will see through the fog if their attention is focused on money and the fact that 70% of us don't have it. This is the poverty of the 70%. It ain't middle class living when you need your next check to pay your rent or electric bill.
I live in a 70% Trump-voter county in Georgia, near Atlanta. I'm a leftist, and I was duped into voting for Biden- something I deeply regret.
I agree that most people's defenses are lowered when they are treated with kindness. They're also more likely to listen when we admit when we were wrong.
Since most of us are overworked, our time to mend old relationships and make new ones is limited. So we must focus our efforts where the potential returns are highest. What does this mean?
It means getting off our phones. It means dropping arguments on Twitter, because the majority of the 70% are NOT ON TWITTER. It means talking to strangers. An easy "in" for leftists is the billions of dollars spent on Ukraine. Or the billions of dollars spent bailing out banks. Talk to the person in line next to you at the grocery store! Any chance you have to talk to a stranger about the plight of the 70%, take it!
We need NOT spend time on the small minority of Americans who take yearly vacations, or the small minority of Americans who have retirement savings, or the small minority of Americans whose world isn't destroyed by an unexpected crisis.
We've been divided so we don't recognize class. Class means money, and we CAN unite the 70% if we focus on who's got money and who doesn't.
Wow, tour de force. This author’s writing style is similar to Patrick Lawrence: at first I thought it was him.
Arrogance is the left’s undoing.
Reality refuses to comport with their learned policies and prescriptions. They have wrought failure through their arrogance; they abandoned time honoured wisdom and hard learned lessons. They declare history over so why bother with cultural inheritance, in fact the past is beset with hatred and ignorance that must be overcome.
They project their failure on us the unwashed. This is what the social sciences have brought us to and they scapegoat the hoard’s ignorance for that failure. It couldn’t be them, because that would invalidate their education. Invalidate them. So they look at us and say a-ha, that’s the problem, these uneducated blue-collar slobs in middle America. Then to their great delight, the bloviating orange man appears on the horizon to confirm that they are correct.
Our author is wrong, humans are irredeemable. Our best and brightest are the most comfortable for this rise of hatred,. War is our magnum opus and our fate, this is the lesson of history. Don’t despair. You practice love within your circle and that will suffice. It will have to suffice. The American leviathan will continue on its murderous way. There’s nothing you can do.
Cara's essay reminds me a bit of Caitlin Johnstone. She has her posts where she holds nothing back, but she tempers her strong language with pieces that reflect her contemplative and spiritual practice. The latter comes through compassionately in this piece. Clearly articulated--a world deserving contemplation.
This was very long - too long if I may say. Who has time to read such pieces?
I could have written every word of the first half of this myself. That is exactly how I felt watching the whole mess unravel. Indifferent is exactly how I feel about Trump. By far the worst thing about Trump is the completely unhinged response to him, not exclusively, but most importantly by the press. The reflexive anti-Trumpism of the press has done SO much damage that we are only just beginning to see. It was stupid reflexive anti-Trumpism that made Covid partisan. The press would go out of their way to highlight and emphasize the most dire predictions and failures while they could be blamed on Trump and then bent over backwards to defend anything Biden did. And since both sides are wholly owned subsidiaries of Pfizer the only solution that was ever on the menu was mandated vaccines, as opposed to improving ventilation of public places. I could go on about this for a while but, they did an excellent job undermining science in general. I have seen a HUGE increase in climate change skepticism purely because' they ;lied about covid, they'll lie about anything.'
Basically, I admire your optimism and I'm happy to push towards anything looking like a solution, but I honestly do not see anything but chaos and decline in the future.
Holy cow, well done! I couldn't stop reading this. You've described the dawn of the Age of Aghastitude extremely well; I especially appreciate your perspective as a former Dem w/o the residual ideological lenses coloring your vision. Here in the North Bay, CA media & civic ecosystem it really did seem a form of mass hysteria was breaking out. Happy to stand with all my fellow peeps and grateful to you for writing this.