The Dangerous Strands Of US Political Culture

Starting with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, I began noticing something. That year, people like Rush Limbaugh screamed from the airwaves, “This is the most important election of our lifetime!” In every election since then, both sides have repeated this same mantra. You’d think the electorate would have figured this fear-mongering out by now, but they haven’t.

In this article, I make a different argument. Instead of it being the most important election of our lifetime, I think this is the most dangerous election since 1968. Why do I say that?

In the 1968 election, the country was split over the Vietnam War. There was a big hubbub at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Internationally, the Soviets put down a rebellion in Prague and there was political unrest in Mexico. Generally, it was a time of world upheaval. Nixon won, and the war in Vietnam continued.

To win, Richard Nixon implemented the “Southern Strategy.” He figured out that an electoral majority of southerners were pissed-off enough about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act to switch parties from the Democratic “Solid South” to the Party of Lincoln. They’ve been there ever since.

Although the Republican Party vehemently denies it, they still rely on the “Southern Strategy” to win the presidency.

1980 was another pivotal year. It was the year that Reaganism ascended. Reagan was able to cobble together what is arguably the strangest political coalition in American history. The Reagan coalition of neo-conservatives, libertarians, big business, and Christian conservatives still exists, although we are seeing it break apart. The four “legs” of this disparate coalition united on one issue: low taxes/less government, and not much else.

American Christians had been non-political since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, but asserted themselves politically after 1980 with such movements as the Moral Majority. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held their convention in Dallas TX that year. The “inerrancy-of-the-Bible” radicals took over the SBC, and purged moderates from their fold.

Since then, the Republicans (or if you prefer to use the term “conservatives”) have incrementally gotten more radical. For example, Obamacare is vilified by Republicans today, even though it was initially proposed by Republicans in the 1990s and was first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

The last two election cycles have shown the Republicans to be a leaderless movement whose candidates were simply trying to “out-conservative” one another. Still, so-called “moderate” Republicans won the last two nominations. The current idea is something along the lines of, “Nominating moderates has not won the presidency, so we may as well nominate a real conservative!”

After the Romney loss, Republican movers and shakers held a series of meetings and issued a “post-mortem” report on why they lost the election. It basically said the election loss was due to three factors: demographics, demographics, and demographics. In short, the party is too old, white, Christian, and male.

Several demographic factors are working against Republicans at the same time:

– More blacks are moving south. The 2010 census said more blacks moved south than at any time since the Civil War.

– There are fewer Christians. The Pew poll on American religiosity, has documented this steady decline for a couple of decades.

– Older people die and the younger people are more liberal.

– More Hispanics are moving to Texas, Florida, and other southern states. Between the Hispanics and Blacks, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Texas are no longer reliable Republican strongholds.

The rank and file panned the ‘post-mortem” findings immediately, and it has been flushed down the memory hole of the Republican movement.

That brings us to the end of 2015 and what can only be described as a strange nomination process thus far on the Republican side. I realize that early polls are unreliable, but one cannot deny that something is changing.

That is why it is so dangerous.

Noam Chomsky said recently in a Democracy NOW! interview that the Republicans had ceased being a political party and are now a radical insurgency. Sure, Trump is saying some outlandish things, but they all are. There is not much difference in what any of them are saying.

I have been following pollster Nate Silver for 8 years now. It is rare that I disagree with him. He says Trump cannot win a general election. That may be true, but it misses the point.

Trump may lose in the general election, but “Trumpism” will survive. That is precisely what makes it so dangerous. You have a hard-core group of Republicans who are blind followers of the anti-establishment Republican candidates. They have been propagandized since 1968. That is at least two generations who have steadily become more radical.

Republicans, since 1980, have practiced what I call the “Baptist” approach to party politics. The SBC, like all mainline Christian denominations has lost membership. Unlike most Christian sects, they are more likely to shun you than to roll out the welcome mat. Their doctrine says that you must believe in “X, Y, and Z,” or you are not a Baptist. They’ll kick you out. It has made them a smaller but more pure denomination. They are also louder because the pews are filled with “true believers.”

The Republicans have taken the same approach. How many pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-gay marriage Republican do you know? Those RINOs (Republican in Name Only) have long-since been purged. This “Baptist” approach makes it easier to win a gerrymandered House district, but next to impossible to win a national presidential election.

So the Republicans are in a dilemma. The establishment Republicans know the demographics are changing; the hard-core radicals do not (or are in denial).  The Republicans cannot win the presidency by “going more conservative.” It is a statistical improbability.

There is where the danger lies. What happens when this radicalized minority loses in November 2016? It is anyone’s guess. My prediction is massive civil unrest, much of which will be violent. A large percentage of conservatives will come to the conclusion that they are the “real” Americans and will take up arms in the form of right-wing terrorism.

Media hype causes us to lose perspective sometimes, but since September 11 2001, right-wing, home-grown terrorism has killed far more Americans than Muslim terrorism. Which one gets the most headlines?

I believe we are at a “tipping point” where just enough of the formerly dominant ethnic group (white Christians) have become radicalized, and they are losing their 400-year grip on power. Losing the 2016 election, to either a woman or a democratic-socialist, will spark civil unrest in ways we have not seen since the late 1960s.

On the other hand, if the Republicans win, we can rest assured that some Muslim country will attacked by America (again).

That brings us to the Democrats….

Bernie Sanders might, I stress the word “might,” keep us out of war. However, his political beliefs are so far to the left, that the multinational corporations will most assuredly not allow him to be president. Would it surprise anyone if he were assassinated? Let me be the first to say, as a vegetarian pacifist who opposes violence in all forms, I hope I am wrong.

Hillary Clinton is a pathological liar; pure and simple. If she becomes president, she will have to prove that she can kill brown-eyed people as easily as male presidents have. She will likely be more ruthless than any president since the Vietnam War.

So let’s summarize the danger:

If Republicans win, we will likely be in a war in the Muslim world.

If Republicans lose, there will be violent civil unrest and war.

If Bernie is allowed to be elected, we’ll have violent civil unrest.

There is still another possibility. Hillary could win the nomination and choose Bernie as her running mate. In that event, Bernie could talk some sense in her during a foreign policy crises.

Do you see why I think this is such a dangerous election? Again, Nate Silver may be right to say that Donald Trump cannot win, but that won’t stop the violence ahead.

Again, I hope I am wrong.

So what can non-violent activists do?

As always, there are two options:

  1. stay in the US and non-violently resist
  2. move

Those have always been the options.

If one chooses to stay, one has to ask, “Does the non-violence movement have the balls to tell Hillary Clinton ‘No War?’” Some have said, with good reason, that the election of Barak Obama de-fanged the peace movement. Hillary is a neo-con who is more prone to use violence than Barak.

The other option is leaving the country. During the Vietnam War, plenty of draft-age men fled to Canada. The activist writer Morris Berman figured out that America was incapable of change and moved to Mexico 7 or 8 years ago. I will note that Berman did not rule out violent overthrow of the Empire when I asked him point-blank a couple of years ago. He is certainly not my role-model. There are places one could go to escape being part of the Empire. Of course, one would likely be on the receiving end of the Empire’s wrath. I teach English-as-a-Second-Language professionally, so moving would obviously be easier for me than for others.

Both options are honorable. I guess it is a matter of “which side are you on?”