There’s an old political adage, “the job of the opposition is to oppose.” Makes sense, and what would a democracy be without opposition? Kings, dictators, and military officers are not known for their patience with political dissent. But when the job of the opposition is to “remove, replace,” we have an altogether different situation.
Us vs. Them
When the opposition wants to change policy, it is doing its job, win, lose, or draw. But when the opposition wants to change the government and the people in it and become, in effect, a “power broker,” we have “a whole new ball game.” Then they become the “enemy,” not working together for a better place but against for a completely new place. Then the opposition becomes a revolutionary “movement;” in the true sense, they become “rebels,” against not only the state but the political culture itself. Normally, they go into hiding, but, in a democracy, they can remain both open and announced. Here, the institution itself either encourages or allows its own extinction, whether it knows it or not. In effect, the result is suicide, not murder. In a democracy, elections are supposed to change regimes, but conspiracies, apparently, cannot wait.
Page one of The Washington Post, every issue, asserts “democracy dies in darkness.” But who is shutting the lights?
Seeing the U.S. as a Bad Country
There are two levels on which the current political climate is revolutionary. The first is a growing and widespread cultural shift to view the nation in primarily, if not only, its worst side. The spectacle of removing visible symbols of the Confederacy only highlights this historical emphasis. While the tactic can, by definition, be only symbolic the symbol is sufficient to emphasize the point. There are an estimated 1,500 Confederate monuments and memorials in the U.S. distributed over 31 states. In addition, there are countless more schools, roads, libraries, historic sites, place-names, and other manifestations of the country’s most perilous moment.
Since 2015, there have been about 60 statues and monuments removed from locations in the south. Obviously, the job “to replace” or “remove” can never be finished. If only one, or even a handful, of these symbols remain, it will continue to haunt generations until there are no vestiges left, not one. This is probably impossible and, if possible, would require generations of committed “rebels” to finish. Would future generations remain committed to destroying remnants of a nineteenth century event?
The symbolic destruction of “things” also reverses the purpose of the Civil War, and the character of the country itself. “Reconstruction” began immediately after the war was over. After the surrender at Appomattox, Union troops began cheering. General Grant went out and stopped it, telling the men that “The Confederates are our countrymen now.” This corresponded also with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, where he told the country that the need was “malice toward none, with charity for all … to bind the nation’s wounds.” Todays “revisionists” know malice when they see it, with no room for charity.
Detractors against the USA never stop reminding us of slavery. Yet slavery was both a universal and historic reality, present in all or most countries and since Biblical times. Are they against the country or history? The first seven Presidents at one time owned slaves. Already, statues of George Washington are being removed from college campuses. “White supremacy” is now representative of American character, where one college promised “zero tolerance.” Dissenters remember the existence of slavery and lynchings that killed over 3,000 blacks. Others remember 720,000 white soldiers, blue and grey, whose deaths ended slavery. The phrase has taken on a universal quality, to include the whole world. One U.S. college has dropped the campus “Churchill Club.” Was Christ white? Is Christianity “white supremacy”?
The list of grievances knows no bounds, nor can it. The nature of all time periods, personalities, injustices, poverties, discriminations, inequalities, inequities and all sorts of behavior “oppressions” dominate popular assessments of the people and their character. “White Supremacy” condemns the Caucasian male, while the fruits of their labor (such as electricity, cars, houses) are used subconsciously, without complaint. Language is ideology, right out of Orwell. Is “supremacy” a description or an accusation (J’Accuse)?
Lonnie G. Bunch, the new CEO (“Secretary”) of the Smithsonian, the country’s revered cultural museum, has called America’s history “… all about white supremacy and racism.” That fairly well summarizes our new cultural “elite.” Apparently, the millions who flock to get inside have not been told the news (outsiders seem to like us more than even we do).
This is a cultural “war,” but it has recently been joined by a political one. The ascension of Donald J. Trump, by itself, has occasioned the second revolution against the “order.” The expression “by itself” does not indicate that Trump as an individual is singularly responsible, only that his presence alone has sparked a rebellion that challenges the nature of the political system in ways unprecedented. The opposition is not content with opposition; it has been, from the start, intent on removal. That’s revolution.
Space does not allow evidence, but just a casual review of both print and electronic media, even for an hour, is sufficient that what we have here is more than mere dissent. It has increasingly become a national obsession, sometimes a hysteria, against not the public policies, but the very psychological composition of the President of the United States. “Unfit” puts it mildly but is the “code-word” most often used. It’s almost as though Trump is on a couch and dozens of reporters swarm in, asking probing questions of his mental stability and all personal relationships, going back to childhood. Somewhere along the line he just had to “cheat,” on his taxes, wife, family, business, country … anything. Even when the President had a physical, they were disappointed that he was OK and wanted the doctor removed.
No mistake, the President is his own worst enemy, but the “blame ratio” is seldom 100 to 0 percent. The “revolt,” however, began well before the election and has only intensified. The intention is total, neutrals not invited, removal with or without cause, guilty until proven innocent. No Mueller Report, no “exoneration,” no “collusions,” no “meddles,” no dictators, no scandals, no firings, no leaks, no nothing is enough. It goes way deep, psychological.
A single confession from a prominent commentator (anonymous) will suffice: “ … once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedeviled by our preposterous president.” Perhaps I am not sufficiently “political,” but, when I awake, I first try to see if the bathroom is empty.
In a recent essay on an “insider” anti-Trump book, the reviewer noted that “The author is mostly interested in Trump’s psychology. He is adept at documenting the president’s lunacy.” Precisely!
In today’s America, unlike many times before, there are no great foreign or domestic issues at stake. No one is threatening war (unlike Franklin Roosevelt), no Great Depression (unlike Hoover), no great terror strike (unlike W) no recession (unlike Obama). The economy is actually great, but that is unwelcome news. Power, personality, and influence: those are what’s “at stake.”
But unlike the original, this war is “uncivil.” As the losing candidate herself confessed, “if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”
Trump may be impeached, but it won’t be over tariffs or the border.