Sam Smith – With the GOP race for president led by three of the most bizarre, unreliable and incompetent candidates of modern times, with the probable new GOP House Speaker virtually admitting that the longest congressional investigation in history (re Benghazi) was really just a scheme to get at Hillary Clinton, and with other House members going after one of the most respectable institutions in American history – the century old Planned Parenthood – there is ample new support for a theory I have suggested for a number of years. Namely that the Republican Party is in a state of disintegration and, as with some similar cultural events, has turned to political, religious and cultural evangelical extremism to prolong its life and deny its collapse. My story below from 2012 addresses this further.
But one thing I didn’t discuss is that while this has opened up a considerable opportunity for the Democrats, they have been in an extraordinary weak position to take advantage of it. For over thirty years, Democrats frightened by the rise of Reagan and other phenomena have been deserting the very policies that gave them an upper hand for half a century marked by the New Deal and Great Society. Fostered by groups like the Democratic Leadership Council and their offspring such as the Clintons and Obama, the party has not only turned its back on its own triumphs but have not replaced them with anything worth getting excited about.
This is the great redemptive service of Bernie Sanders, the irony being that it is has taken a socialist to help the Democrats rediscover who they are. The danger, however, is that this discovery is not widespread enough and is so late that the future may offer little but chaotic madness. But whatever happens to Sanders, the Democrats should at least commit themselves to becoming a party with a decent plan again, and one that is based on the needs and interests of the bulk of Americans. The Clinton driven Republican Lite alternative has failed miserably and has left the party in an extraordinarily weak position at the very moment they should be on the verge of triumph.
Sam Smith, 2012 – The departure of two Ricks and Michelle Bachmann, the collapse of Gingrich, as well as governors Scott, Walker, LePage, Kasich and Perry all having approval ratings below 45%, suggests that the Tea Party was somewhat overrated by the corporate media. It also gives me courage to suggest a theory that has been bouncing about in my mind, namely that the unprecedented craziness of the Republican Party leadership has been a reflection of pathology rather than of politics and that what we have witnessed has been the last rites of those trying futilely to return America to a place that they thought, mistakenly, once was and which will never be.
Real politicians, for example, don’t go out and deliberately alienate a demographic as large as women. That’s pure masochism. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University notes: “In recent elections, voter turnout rates for women have equaled or exceeded voter turnout rates for men. Women, who constitute more than half the population, have cast between four and seven million more votes than men in recent elections. In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion [of] female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of male adults who voted.”
There simply aren’t enough old white guys to compensate for the anger being created by the GOP among women.
And consider a few of the other constituencies that prominent Republicans have insulted:
9/11 responders, AARP members, Americorps members, bicyclists, black men, children with pre-existing health conditions, college graduates, college students, consumers, cops, disabled people, disaster victims, ethnically mixed couples, gays, home owners, ill people who need medical marijuana, immigrants and their children, journalists, latinos, Methodists, minimum wage workers, residents of DC and Puerto Rico, scientists, Social Security recipients, state workers, and unemployed workers.
What may well have happened is what sometimes occurs when a longstanding culture finds itself facing near fatal attack.
For example, during a solar eclipse on January 1, 1889, an American Indian named Wovoka claimed to have had a dream in which all his fellow native Americans were taken into the sky as the Earth opened up and swallowed all the whites upon it. The earth then returned to its natural state as a land where native Americans could live in peace.
According to Wovoka, to make this dream real, his native Americans were to follow these instructions: “When you get home you must begin a dance and continue for five days. Dance for four successive nights, and on the last night continue dancing until the morning of the fifth day, when all must bathe in the river and then return to their homes. You must all do this in the same way. . . I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat.”
The ghost dance culture would sweep across the tribes of western America as the dancers were losing their last hold on their beloved lands.
There are other examples:
– As military supplies poured into the Pacific Islands during World War II, local peoples reacted to the sudden change by developing “cargo cults” that offered magical explanations for the flow of imports. When the war ended, members of the cults built imitation landing strips and aircraft to attempt to recreate the former reality and restart the influx of goods.
– The early 20th century Maji Maji rebellion in Africa was spurred by a medium who offered medicine he claimed would turn German colonials’ bullets into water.
– And sometimes the bad times produce not just the strange but the disastrous, as with the rise of Nazism.
Typically, such strange phenomena are a reaction to events that have overwhelmed many and led them to seek solace in a simplistic and seemingly comfortably symbolic solution.
Nazism, for example, didn’t spring up as just an arbitrary evil virus. It fed on:
– Unhappiness in the wake of World War I, a war whose mass killings help set a new low value on human life.
– The collapse of conventional liberal and conservative politics that bears uncomfortable similarities to what we are now experiencing.
– The gross mismanagement of the economy and of such key worker concerns as wages, inflation, pensions, layoffs, and rising property taxes. There were also bankruptcies, negative trade balance, major decline in national production, and a large national debt rise compensated for by foreign investment. In other words, a version of what America and its workers are experiencing today.
– The use of negative campaigning, a contribution to modern politics by Joseph Goebbels. The Nazi campaigns argued what was wrong with their opponents and ignored stating their own policies. Sound at all familiar?
– The collapse of the country’s self image, falling from world leadership in education, industry, science, and literacy.
Like Ghost Cult dancers in the 19th century, World War II Pacific Islanders wondering where their cargo was, Africans beset by German colonialists, and Germans beset by economic and cultural decline, Americans today face an extraordinary assemblage of change, discouragement, challenges and uncertainties.
Add together climate change, the erosion of democracy, the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, the decline of America’s position in the world, rapid changes in both technology and social values, and the collapse of conventional conservative and liberal politics and we’re lucky to have a reaction no stranger than that of the Tea Party movement.