Wednesday, June 14, 2023

June 11, 2023
How far we have strayed

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
    establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common
    defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty
    to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for
    the United States of America.        

What a quaint idea: domestic tranquility in a perfect union.  Instead we have division, agitation, resentment, suspicion and threats.  

A more apt description of our present state was set out in 1907 by Henry Adams: “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”[20]   Until recently, I would not have thought that to be a fair description, but now it fits, at least when applied to the Right.  The Left has contributed to  the polarization of our politics through controversial policies and attitudes.  Whatever their merit, the Right has used them in stirring up resentment of liberals, of elites (carefully selected), of government, of  “the system,”  descending into that systematic organization of hatreds.

A politics of hatred leads to insurrection and violence, as we discovered on January 6.   Leaders of the mob believed they were commencing a revolution, reflected in slogans like  “1776,”  or “Winter Palace,” the latter referring to the storming, in 1917,  of the seat of the provisional government of Russia by the Bolsheviks.[21]  

Political violence is encouraged by casual, irresponsible references to firearms, such as the assault-rifle pins worn by some Republicans or the proposal by Republican Representatives that the AR-15 be designated the national gun.[22]  

An irony of our present situation is that conservatives want control but have little in the way of a program, and that little largely is hidden, as it favors the wealthy.  Lacking a constructive agenda, they have substituted opposition, obstruction and inane “investigations” feeding fuel, however artificial, to the blaze of hatreds.  This is not a new development; as one recent author put it, referring to the Clinton years, “With a Democrat in the White House, congressional Republicans adopted a politics of destruction, concerned less with legislation than with investigation and obstruction.”[23]

Public knowledge and understanding of politics and government have declined, partly a result of the attacks on government, partly an educational failure.  This is a potentially fatal trend; a democracy requires informed citizens. It depends on voters operating with a common set of facts, but the  tribal attitude on the right, and the tendency to find conspiracies to explain events, have polluted the political atmosphere to the degree that a majority of Republicans believe, on no evidence, that Biden did not legitimately win the 2020 election.   

We must somehow find our way back.

20.  Henry Adams; Oxford Dictionary of Thenmatic Quotations, p.296
21.  The January 6th Report, pp. 512, 511
22. make-ar-15-the-national-gun/?sh=448db8006432
23. Hemmer, Partisans, p. 8 (2022)
24. evidence-of-election-fraud-but-most-still-think-2020-election-was-stolen-anyway-poll-finds/?sh=68fd965028ec

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Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day