Friday, February 16, 2018

A HOUSE DIVIDED


         

    " Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every house divided against itself will not stand and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."
(Matthew 12:25) and quoted by Abraham Lincoln June 16, 1858  in Springfield, Illinois referring to the divisions among the states of the Union.



            American cultural polarity, fueled by social media and a lack of civic education, results in ideological tribalization of both Political parties, threatening our democracy.  We will not be the first to fail becoming indifferent to the people's needs, the corrupting influence of wealth and power falling to a smaller percentage of the elites.  Of these things, revolutions are born, autocracies arise and freedom vanishes, often overnight.

            Throughout history, democracies have failed: Greece, Rome, and now throughout Eastern Europe, Hungary, Turkey and Russia. But not yet here at home, because our institutions are still strong.  But that is not a guarantee.

            Totalitarian governments rise upon economic and cultural fears, and a leader arises appealing to reptilian human instincts of humans.  History abounds with such personages--Hitler, Stalin, Peron, Chavez, Castro, and in America, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace and Donald Trump, demagogues all.

            Trump preyed upon tribal fears of displacement, unemployment, and racism (loss of turf).  In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy used paranoiac fear of Communism as his entrée to power, his hubris finally imploding, people realizing how loathsome his scapegoating and character assassination, "Have you no decency, sir? At long last?" cried legal icon Joseph Welch, pounding the final nail in McCarthy's coffin at nationally televised hearings, captivating the nation.  His colleagues, and President Eisenhower, previously cowed by McCarthy’s blatant demagoguery during the “Communist under every rock” witch-hunt, finally censured McCarthy.

            Trump says, "other" people are enemies who will steal our jobs.  We trial lawyers learn in seminars called "The Reptile," to evoke primeval self-preservation instincts in juries in order to achieve stellar verdicts based upon the theory that those serving do not actually care about the victim, but instead about how negligence by defendants endanger "the community" (themselves).   Trump masterfully evoked these fears.  He understood his audience better than any of the other Republican candidates.  He appealed to the emotion of self-preservation, galvanizing his base through apocalyptic imaging.

            Republicans and Democrats have ignored their constituents.   Neither party had the foresight to plan for exponentially expanding global, political and technological revolution.  Both parties shared in the creation of Trumpenstein. The left calls Trump "Hitler," and the right accuse Democrats as abetting immigrants "overrunning the country," stealing jobs from "real Americans."  This fantastical notion, exacerbated by Fox news propaganda provokes an intellectually dishonest, Orwellian newspeak, threatening institutions our country has enjoyed for 242 years.  Social media played an enormous role in this civic catastrophe.  People believe unsourced, false stories on Facebook more than from respected journals whose editors check facts before publishing.  The Russians used legal social media platforms to nefariously meddle with our elections.

            Trump's anti-immigrant policies stem from his concern that the base of voters supporting him (now about 35%) are repulsed by his abandonment of their tribal interests, (their jobs), no longer viable despite his promises.

            Now, our house divided, threatens our institutions more than at any time since the Civil War. This has happened many times.   Roosevelt tried a power grab to pack the Supreme Court, and the Senate, for a  almost year rejected a qualified Supreme Court justice (Merrick Garland)  to manipulate the weight of the institution.  Now, President Trump denigrates the Justice Department and the FBI to sever pending investigations of himself and his sycophantic brood.  These are vital institutions whose dedicated civil servants labor to protect our democracy.

            Democrats and Republicans are more tribal than ever.  Discourse and accommodation are as distant as the dark side of the moon, presenting an enormous threat to our democracy.  Even if Trump is removed from office, the reasons which got him there still remain.  Identity politics instead of ideas prevail, fatally dangerous to any democracy.

            During early human history, tribal cohesiveness arose to ensure the success of one tribe over the other, their primary success derived from war.  Negotiation to avoid war really arose after the dawn of civilized societies and did not really become prevalent until the 19th century. Until then, war was the primary solution to differences among tribes (represented by nation states).

            Humans, anthropologist Lawrence Keeley argues, that our ancestors were universally war-like, studying the bloodthirsty tribes of South America where 60 percent of the males died in combat to ensure dominance.  Some psychologists argue that many hunter-gatherer tribes were not consumed with war, and that the war-like turf protectoral tendencies of humans arose with the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Trump seems a troglodytic avatar of those times, his concept of "winning," not including any bones for the other side.   He has conducted his wars on many fields of battle including profligate litigation, carrying it into the White House to the detriment of all Americans and even other countries.  He combines most of the bad tendencies of any leader, dominating the news cycle and the body politic with his singularly repugnant intolerance and not very thinly veiled racism.
            But resistance to Trump has energized a previously apathetic public and in 2018, there may be a new congress. The issues relating to the disparity of wealth in our new gilded age has not disappeared and will not until government institutes policies that ensure a level playing field.  This cannot be accomplished without tolerant dialog between adversaries.





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