The American Impasse

Here we are, rolling to the end of another year, about to elect another President.  Very likely the Democratic nominee will be elected, and yet barring divine intervention we’ll be stuck with a Republican majority in the House.  (Right now it appears the Senate could go either way.) So there is still obstruction ahead as far as the eye can see.

Our basic problem, as I see it, boils down to this: There’s a portion of the American population that is prepared, intellectually and emotionally, for the United States to adjust to the 21st century. This portion accepts the U.S. as a multicultural and multi-ethnic nation. It understands the U.S. is one nation among many on this planet, and that our future security and prosperity require friendship and co-operation among nations, for our mutual benefit. It sees government as a means to carry forward the will of we, the people; to secure the rights of citizens; and to be sure that everybody gets a “square deal,” as Theodore Roosevelt promised about 112 years ago.

And then there’s the portion that wants to crawl inside a 1950s-era Disney movie about America and patriotism and never come out. You remember those. In that world, nearly everybody was white. Men were in charge and women were happy to let them be in charge. The few blacks were poor but cheerfully docile, and Native Americans were remote characters who dutifully fell out of trees whenever a white man shot a rifle. You’d think they would have learned to stay out of trees.

There also are a lot of people in neither of those portions. I think a big chunk of the electorate probably knows that Donald Trump is ridiculous and really don’t want to bomb Iran, but they tacitly accept much of the “wisdom” of the Right because that’s all they ever hear — taxes must always be cut, government spending is always bad, and all Middle Easterners are dangerous. They probably don’t accept progressivism, but it’s also the case that it’s probably never been explained to them.

So here we are, this big, strong, wealthy and allegedly dominant nation, and we can’t so much as fix our own bridges. We’re stuck between moving forward as a modern representative democracy or morphing into some kind of authoritarian state run by a cabal of mega-billionaires. If the latter vision wins, the (white) masses will be placated by visions of Fess Parker and his spunky militia protecting the homestead against scary foreign things. Everybody else will be disenfranchised.

A couple of weeks ago,  Rebecca Traister wrote that we’re all suffering through the death throes of while male power.

This moment, this election, these years represent the death throes of exclusive white male power in the United States. That the snarling fury and violence are contemporary does not make them less real than the terrors of previous periods; it makes them more real, at least to those of us living through them. And the presidential-primary contest, while absurdist and theatrical, is reflecting very real fury and violence in the non-electoral world: the burning of crosses and black churches, the execution of black men by police, the resistance of male soldiers to women in elite combat positions, a white man with a history of violence against women himself a “warrior for the babies” after killing people at a Planned Parenthood clinic, and a younger white man killing nine black churchgoers with the explanation “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country.”

The political contest just projects these panicked resentments on a bigger, more official screen. The public spectacle of this presidential election, and the two that have preceded it, are inextricably linked to the racialized and gendered anger and violence we see around us. Recall that Trump’s rise in politics began with his attacks on Barack Obama as foreign, as Muslim, as other. And that the tea party whence Ted Cruz springs has concerned itself mostly — official protestations about economic priorities to the contrary — with shutting down reproductive-health options for women. That is, when they are not trying to shut down the political ambitions of Hillary Clinton at any cost (see Trey Gowdy’s wild-eyed, profligate, and fruitless Benghazi investigation).

Increasingly, Republican voters want just one thing: revenge. Read what Frank Lutz says about pro-Trump focus groups:

I spent three hours in a deep dialogue focus group with 29 Trump supporters. The phenomenon of “The Donald” is rooted in a psyche far deeper and more consequential than next November’s presidential election. His support denotes an abiding distrust in — and disrespect for — the governing elite. These individuals do not like being told by Washington or Wall Street what is best for them, do not like the direction America is headed in, and disdain President Barack Obama and his (perceived) circle of self-righteous, tone-deaf governing partisans.

Trump voters are not just angry — they want revenge.

Mr Trump has adroitly filled the vacuum of vitriol, establishing himself as the bold, brash, take-no-prisoners megaphone for the frustrated masses. They see him as the antidote to all that Mr Obama has made wrong with America. So to understand why millions love Mr Trump so much, you have to take a step back and listen to why they hate Mr Obama so much.

Here, my Trump voter focus group was particularly illuminating. Some still believe the president is not Christian. Many believe he does not love America. And just about all of them think he does not reflect the values the country was built upon. Indeed, within this growing faction, Mr Trump has license to say just about anything. As we have seen repeatedly, the more outrageous the accusation, the more receptive the ear.

Mr Trump delights in unleashing harsh attacks on Jeb Bush, the Republican establishment and the “mainstream media”. His childlike joy in ridiculing his critics is tantamount to healing balm for the millions who have felt silenced, ignored and even scorned by the governing and media elite for so long. Is it any wonder that his declaration of war against “political correctness” is his most potent and predictable applause line?

This of course begs the question — what, exactly, has President Obama “made wrong with America”?  Other than being POTUS while black? Do they even know?

The fact that they hate “political correctness” above all things tells me that nothing matters to them more than the freedom to be openly bigoted without being stigmatized for it.

Tom Gogola writes that America really wasn’t ready for a black president.

If hope and change were the Obama buzzwords in 2009, the lesson of 2015 is that a bunch of overstimulated, hopelessly right-wing pseudo statesmen haven’t changed, grown up, dropped the sub rosa race-bait narrative—even as Obama delivered on his fair share of what he promised way back when.

Don’t ask me why Obama’s race is still an issue; ask Lou Dobbs. The immigrant-bashing news anchor blabbed to the Fox masses about how Obama only became president because he played the “race card,” a curiously timed outburst given that Dobbs made it just two weeks ago.

See the rock-solid belief in the minds of true bigots — black people get things handed to them they don’t deserve, at the expense of white people. They even somehow get elected POTUS when they don’t deserve it.

The Trump supporters feel their “values” are being threatened. And, of course, we know what those values are. They value maintaining social and cultural dominance as a birthright. They deserve to dominate because they are white. Being male and overtly Christian also count.

I could go on. Of course,there’s always been a disconnect between the ideal America and the “real” America. We see ourselves as the “good guys” who stand for freedom and compassion. And, y’know, every now and then, we have been. But there’s also always been bigotry and discrimination, sometimes to the point of violence. We’re a nation of mutts uneasily tied together by a Constitution that we all honor, even if we disagree over what it means.  And right now I have no idea where we are heading.

See also: Nate Cohn, Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat; Nancy LeTourneau, Republicans Want Revenge and A World View in Its Death Throes.

19 thoughts on “The American Impasse

  1. Mr. Luntz, IIRC, is one of those responsible for the midset of the Trump voters. I saw a Betsy McCaughey editorial on how Democrats are ruining Asian students’ chances yesterday, too. The machine is still grinding it out.

  2. If the U.S. refuses to grow up and join the 21st Century, it isn’t 7th-Century-loving ISIS we’d have to worry about; it’s all the other nations of the industrialized world. Economically, we probably would become a wholly-owned subsidiary of China, with the attendant unliveable environment but maybe (if there’s any upside) a lot less gun violence. (Of course, along with the 2nd Amendment, the others all would disappear as well.) Politically, we probably would find ourselves involved in recurrent border skirmishes with a superior Mexico and a far superior Canada. (Adios, Texas! You wanted to secede! And we can say Adieu to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well.) Then, because we flat refuse to stop crapping up the climate, Europe would come down on us like a ton of bricks.

    I guess, short version, 2016 is going to be an interesting year. In the old-Chinese-proverb sense.

  3. The biggest issue is that our government, Federal and in my case, state, doesn’t reflect the wishes of the people. More people vote for Democrats than republicans across the board. Gerrymandering in the House and the nature of the Senate with two from each state, ensures that a minority viewpoint can control, or at least stall, the wishes of the people. We, quite simply, don’t have a functioning democracy. It would take a Constitutional Convention to address all that needs to be addressed (like Wyoming having the same representation as California????), but our penchant for admiring our constitution and founding fathers as if they were gods having handed down Holy Writ, I can only see a change via revolution, or civil war.

  4. After decades of being told by everyone, especially those of us left of center, that the GOP keeps taking their money and their votes, promises a lot, but delivers next to nothing – at least, on a national scale – it took Donald tRUMP – ostensibly, one of their own: now – for it to register with the rabid base.

    And now that tRUMP has made them open their eyes, they despise the GOP establishment.
    And this makes it more imperative that the GOP win the Presidency and the Congress in ’16, because tRump has, for all intents and purposes, torn the GOP establishment from their best foot-soldiers: the Evangelical Christians. They HAVE to win in 2016, while their now very tenuous coalition may still last long enough to get past November. And then, with the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial branches, they can do whatever they want to take America to whatever political decade/century they want. Victory, and only victory, will calm the racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and the religiously intolerant.
    This, of course, presumes that tRUMP, if he loses, won’t run as a 3rd Party candidate – just to stick it to the GOP!

    If they lose, look for the GOP as we know – and came to fear and loathe – it, to re-form. It will have to, at the very least, give more lip-service to reality and inclusion.
    I know maha will disagree with me, but I think this may become an opportunity for an influential and (at least semi) permanent 3rd Party – a very conservative, overly religious, and extermely bigoted one – kind of like some of the Neo-Fascist parties in Europe.

    The GOP will depend on the vote suppression already in place. And look for all sorts of dirty tricks and intimidation in those areas and states that they feel they can get away with it.
    This time, the party of ratfucker really is cornered. And, there’s little that’s more desperate and dangerous, than a cornered ratfucker!

    Make sure each of you do what you can to help GOTV. And get as many people as you can, to do so.
    This time – or, at least again – this is the most important election of our lives!
    This is no time to join the liberal “Purity Police,” because any of the 3 Democratic candidates is a million times better than the best GOP one.

    We may not stop Oligarchy(Oil-igarchy?)/Plutocracy/Fascism right after the next election – but, we can slow it down. Possibly, a lot. The younger Americans are more liberal, and may hold the key to keeping our Democratic politicians little tootsies to the fire, for more and more progressive change.
    A GOP-controlled government, will put Olgarchy/Plutocracy/Fascism, in over-drive and steroids.

    Ok, enough word-turds for New Year’s Eve.


  5. Pingback: Campus Question – December 31, 2015 | BPI Campus

  6. “black people get things handed to them they don’t deserve, at the expense of white people”

    That’s the Trumpsters in a nutshell. I had a discussion with a couple of them last weekend, I was astounded at how willfully ignorant they were. The big take-away for me was that they do not understand what Islam is, they think “Muslim” is a race of people, Obama has to be a Muslim because of his name, I was astonished! I could go on but why? Happy new year Maha and all the mahaheads!

  7. Happy New Year, all. May it begin with hope, continue with prosperity, and end with another Democrat on the way to the White House.

  8. Great article as always, Maha. As desperate as the situation is, it helps to think that bits and pieces of it can be brought to light.

    So, Happy New Year to all!

    Thanks for the Lucinda Williams, Onclepere.

    I wonder what this young fellow will be doing in a few more years.

  9. And right now I have no idea where we are heading.

    I do. There are cycles, and therefore parallels, in American history. Have talked about this a number of times, it’s well explained (and predicted) in The Fourth Turning, which appeared in the 1990s.

    I expect polarization and conflict between the two factions to intensify. I don’t know which of: Trump or Hillary will win, but it will likely come down to these two contenders. If Hillary wins, expect an Obama-like tenure – some bits of progress against a backdrop of yet more rightward drift. If Trump wins, expect an accelerated push toward full blown fascism.

    Eventually there will be an enormous crisis – on the order of the Civil War or a Great Depression or both that will test and define what this country is about and whether it will continue and in what form. It’s not clear what the resolution will be, or how exactly we will get to this crisis, but it will expose the tensions that have been building for decades and which can no longer be avoided, in much the way that the shots at Fort Sumter put an end to the nervous and tenuous peace that preceded the first Civil War.

  10. Wow Goat that dude is amazing, quite a talent, I’m gonna go and burn all my guitars now!

  11. Yeah, Uncle, that’s how I feel too. But, let’s not do that just yet, they help us appreciate what he is doing. Besides, liquidating my guitar collection is part of my retirement plan.

    I am glad that you like this stuff, I admire your broad taste in music.

  12. Moonbat,
    Is there any lighter side?
    It’s the first day of the new year, for FSM’s sake!

    I mean, usually, I’m the ‘doom-‘n-gloom’ one around here, so you’re treading on my turf! 😉

    But sadly, I pretty much agree.
    A house divided, while not being able to stand, also can’t stand the occupants on the othe side!

  13. Gulag, as one of my spiritual teachers put it, if you live long enough you get to see it all. From the glorious, heady days of the 1960s to… this.

    Knowledge is power, and if you can find ideas that explain what’s going on around you, that’s a big step up from being lost and confused. And if you can use these ideas to figure out how to survive and thrive, all the better. Look to young people who may not have the big picture, but they at least are tuned into what’s coming down right now, and are nimble enough to adapt.

    After spending years around right wing idiots – who, I was amazed could even find the bathroom – I realized that the slogan I needed to adopt is “visionaries thrive”. Having a map is a gigantic advantage over those that don’t.

    Whether it’s doom and gloom is irrelevant. If you find yourself in prison, you need to accept that circumstance and find a way out. Humans are adaptation machines – we might be depressed about something for awhile (or conversely, elated about something for awhile) but that normally doesn’t last.

  14. I have heard this many times. The republiscum are truly the scum of the Earth. I would like to hear what we can do about it. Any one have any proposals? Anyone?

  15. Uncle(Dad?), I don’t know if you play acoustic guitar in addition to electric, but, if you haven’t tried using a really thick pick, give it a whirl. It makes a huge difference. Gypsy jazz players use really thick guitar picks. The most popular are by Michael Wegen, hand made in Belgium. But they cost $25 a piece. Dunlap makes a pretty nice one that can be used on electric guitars. Once you see how the “speed bevel” is made you can make your own out of Delrin. The best pick I have made so far, is over a quarter of an inch thick.

    The other thing that gives gypsy jazz it’s distinctive sound is the way they use the pick, which is different from the way rock players and bluegrass players use it. It’s takes about a year to get used to it. (q.v. “gypsy picking”)

    Sorry, I need to “curb my enthusiasm.”

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