August 15, 2016

How we got into this mess

Sam Smith

As we struggle with the issue of which one of a pair of most distrusted presidential candidates in American history will be elected in a few months, it is interesting that so few have raised another question: why did we end up like this?

Here are a few matters to consider:

Election by personality rather than by party:  While it’s always been a mixture, this election has been stunning in the way that major issues defining the huge differences between the Republican and Democratic parties have been ignored in a favor of a maniacal emphasis on the character, mental state and other personality aspects of the two leading candidates. This has been happening for a long time – started by television which dramatically altered the nature of politics – but  we have not seen anything as extreme as this. Even Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan had issues that were considered worth debating.

Turning politicians into just another advertised product –even absent the sort of cautions we get on pharmaceutical commercials – eliminates the need for facts, sound arguments, actual history, and so forth. The candidates become just another two dimensional fantasy to purchase.

In the process, an element formerly of vast importance in political choices – the actual role of candidates in their community, district or state becomes ignored.

Education’s race to the bottom:  The increasing view of education as a form of basic training for corporate employment has decimated the attention schools used to give to matters such as history, civics, community values and ethical matters. Voters are not only ignorant as a result, but they give far less importance to such considerations.

The false model of the corporation – Politics, like the rest of our society, has become seconded as just another tool of corporate America, which has convinced us that its culture is ideal for all of us. This one of the things that lets Trump get away with what he does. In fact, running the government like a corporation would be (or is) disastrous since it destroys such values as cooperation, empathy, the responsibility of leaders to citizens, and an goal far beyond high profits for a few.

There is more to be sure, but – aided by a media that doesn’t even bother to cover such things – these changes are hardly seen.

The First American Republic probably died in the 1980s and we have been living with its remains and replacements ever since, absent recognition of what’s happened.

Trump and Clinton should thus come as no surprise and until we understand what’s has really happened and do something about it, it’s just going to get worse.

Which is why the Sanders movement is perhaps the most hopeful thing to have happened to America in the past three decades and why it should not stop regardless of what happens in November. There is no doubt that a Clinton presidency would be the best battlefield to  conduct our reconstruction but it also true that the battle needs to begin again the day after the election.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is unlikely that the US will progress because of progressives. That tradition requires a clear goal like the elimination of slavery in the national territories, the end of corruption in politics, an 8 hour day, the women's vote, civil rights. In order to progress in this era, past battles have to be re-won like the TR progressive victory over corruption. This would restore Congress as first among co-equal branches, and empower an educated electorate over the entrenched oligarchy in the Court and the Executive which has toppled Congress. Sanders expanded the scope of what is permitted to be said within the plutocratic rules. Trump also. But Sanders is not a progressive leader because he lacks a legislative plan to change the rules,the sine qua non. The critical precedent is FDR's court packing plan, much maligned because so profoundly effective. Trump is not a progressive but rather a Taft conservative. The Sanders movement is like the group of party goers in Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, unable to find a way out of the door when the party is over. The Sanders Movement is so adapted to the new corruption that it is unaware that there is a constitution or a Congress designed to function on behalf of progress. Defending the constitution is rejected by most progressives, who would rather seek to amend it, as if the Court is the supreme branch around which the electorate must tiptoe. Who the US now is, if it looked in the mirror, has always been ably described by Fidel Castro.