Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Low-Grade Civil War Continues

Frequent readers of this blog will note that I have two long-standing theories of American politics. One is that we are in America's Brezhnev years, and the other is that America has been engaged since the 1990s in a low grade civil war. 

I am beginning to think that Trump was a sign that we have gone beyond our Brezhnev years of stagnation into full-on imperial collapse. However, the low-grade civil war hypothesis remains stronger than ever.

The crux of this conflict is that conservatives do not recognize the legitimacy of the Democratic Party. They never accepted Bill Clinton's presidency and used his personal life to force an impeachment. They treated Barack Obama like a pretender, denying his citizenship and refusing to even hold hearings on one of his Supreme Court nominees. Now Trump and his Republican enablers have refused to accept the results of the election and have cast doubt on the democratic process. 

Even if they fail to overturn a democratic election, this is part of the larger plan to delegitimize the Biden administration even before it takes office. Republicans know they are in the minority, so it is their strategy to push their extreme agenda when they get power, and using all their time without power preventing the opposition from doing anything. Packing the courts is essential in this. 

At base, the pandemic has proven that conservatives would literally rather die than do something a liberal in power wanted them to do. (Jonathan Metzl's excellent Dying of Whiteness already established this.) They think the country is rightfully theirs, hence the Tea Party rallying cry of "take our country back" and saying "Make America Great Again" when a Black man was in the Oval Office. They understand themselves as the "real America," and any move to protect Real America, no matter how undemocratic, is thus ultimately justified. It's not that they think they won a majority of the vote, it's that they think they won the majority of the votes of Real Americans. To them, those are the only votes that count. (Hence all the talk of "legal ballots.") When Sarah Palin talked about "real Americans" while John McCain tried to quiet the people who attacked Obama's heritage, we were seeing the tides irrevocably turn.

If there was any Democrat whose election might have symbolically broken this cycle, it's Joe Biden. He's an old white guy very much steeped in traditional masculinity. He is politically moderate from a small rural state. He is an establishment guy who has put himself in opposition to progressives in his party. The fact that even this man is considered to be as illegitimate as the Clintons (representatives of "the sixties") and Barack Obama (representative of less white America) shows that conservatives have fully absorbed the notion that ANY Democrat and anyone to the left of Reagan is a threat to the existence of the country.

Perhaps because of Biden's nature the attack on his legitimacy is a last ditch attempt by Republicans to maintain the narrative in the face of someone who so obviously doesn't fit it. While that might be the case, it's more likely that we have a two party system where one party does not believe in democracy. I am not sure how much longer we can have this situation and still have a democracy and union. It's either secession, authoritarianism, or revolution. You know which one I think is best. Anyone who says you get more moderate with age is full of shit.

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