American Political Challenges in the 1950s and Now

August 9, 2022

The Communist Party was banned by law in the United States in 1954, not because of the type of social constructions its adherents supported, but rather because of the seditious and undemocratic world that communist movements aimed to create, a condition that left no room for political parties beyond the dictatorial one in control and forevermore to retain power. This revolutionary mutation was contrived in Russia by Lenin and replaced the utopia imagined initially by Karl Marx. Because of Lenin’s tweak, many of the assumptions underlying communism were also compromised.

Similarly, Trumpism has jettisoned many of the hallmarks of conservative ideology and become fixated instead on doing whatever it takes to get the reins of power and retain them in perpetuity by whatever means one can. If successful, this would not be just a reactionary move to restore America to some romanticized past greatness. Quite the contrary. Classes on American civics constantly talk about layered checks and balances, dividing powers between states and the federal government, also among three separate but equal branches of government, and thirdly between the private and public sectors. That’s the theoretical construct. But the empirical proof that theory worked to an extent as might have been intended lies in the nearly equal shared time that Republicans and Democrats have been president. Since Lincoln came to office and through the end of Biden’s current term, there has been a Republican president for 76 years, and a Democrat president for 68 years. Over the 112 years starting with Woodrow Wilson, the score favors the Democrats 60 years against¬† 52 for Republicans. More than any other constraint, that back-and-forth power shift of the presidency has preserved democracy in America.

All this would not justify a conversation about banning the Republican Party, but there’s more. Today marks the 48th anniversary of former President Nixon’s resignation. The scandal that came to be known as Watergate was far more pervasive and long-lasting than the simple effort to bug Democratic Party headquarters in Washington. Watergate was strike one against American democracy. Nixon believed in American greatness but was prepared to go outside the rule of law to use the power and protection of his office to stay in power, and there but for the existence of White House tapes, he certainly would have succeeded. The Nixon legacy includes some good policies, but it also seeded and watered the xenophobic and racist underbelly of his party.

Republican leaders after Nixon accepted his torch and discretely spoke in language that resonated with that base, but it took Donald Trump to recognize what a powerful force it could be, and under him, the Leninist ideological twist of making a revolutionary seizure of all power — and all the chaos that such must entail —¬† became the raison detre of government. A Supreme Court whose intended authority lay in being politically neutral was re-engineered to be extremely partisan and therein lost its ultimate authority, which is credibility among the people. Other bastions of a healthy democracy like the press, the FBI, the CDC, scientists, leaders of the Democratic Party and anyone supporting the political opposition were likewise discredited or worse.

Strike two against the Republican Party was the false claim of fraud in the 2020 presidential election and the seditious actions whipping up national hysteria that climaxed in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The lies have continued to this day. The fuse between Watergate and these more recent events was over a half century long. That’s long enough to dispel any hope that this cult lurching America away from its democratic roots might be a passing phase that would self-correct as new generations come of age and new challenges and priorities emerge. As in baseball, the likelier consequence after strike three, if there is one, will be that democracy will be out. To use other sporting cliches it would be game, set, match and checkmate, too.

If one finds the above deductions hyperbolic or unconvincing, here’s a another tablet against which to judge the acceptability of the direction that the Republican Party seemingly wants to take America. The originalist lawyers justifying controversial rulings of what behaviors are and are not acceptable in America take a pick-and-choose historical approach that often cites sections of the 1787 Constitution. That document is a technocratic blueprint for U.S. government, but a 52-word preamble lays out the intended objectives and purpose. The Republican Party vision of America should be judged against those goals, which represent the truly organic section of the whole Constitution. Here’s what the founders and ratifiers of the Constitution sought: 1) continuing refinement toward “a more perfect union”; 2) a just society; 3) domestic peace, which is hardly possible if the nation is perpetually polarized; 4) common defense against foreign foes; 5) better welfare for all; and 6) and the blessings of liberty, not just for Americans alive in 1787 but for all future generations. It’s hard to square this final point with open hostility toward the challenge of climate change that threats not just America but all civilization.

Copyright 2022, Larry Greenberg. All rights reserved. No secondary distribution without express permission.

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