Friday, December 21, 2012

The Tyranny of the (Shrinking) Minority: The Powerless in Search of Power

Any chance these people feel alienated and powerless?

At times like this, when elements in our society emerge into the light, there's an opportunity to see larger movements at play, to connect the dots, so to speak. Here are the groups I see as convergent:
  • White males, especially those who live in the South, the Great Plains, or the non-coastal West.
  • Suburban and exurban dwellers who have watched their expectations dwindle. In other words, blue-collar white workers including but not limited to men, who have seen their wages stagnate year after year.
  • Racists, whether they are self-aware or not.
  • Anybody living in rural sections of the country.
  • The non-educated or under-educated who have forgotten much of what used to unite us as a culture. By this I mean those who have forgotten our common history and cultural bonds.
  • The conservative base, which feels reality changing all around them.
  • Christian fundamentalists.
  • Rabid gun owners, as opposed to sensible gun owners.
And then there are events that are causative in this special convergence:
  • 9/11.
  • The reaction to 9/11 that primarily consisted of the new Dept. of Homeland Security giving funds to localities to beef up defenses, which often went to a military-style build-up of SWAT teams and the proliferation of armored personnel carriers, assault weapons, boatloads of pepper spray, concussion grenades, etc.
  • The creation of the right-wing echo chamber, including but not limited to religious and political talk radio, Fox News, and let's face it, to a certain extent CNBC and CNN.
  • The Obama election.
  • The panic over the (entirely imagined) Obama war on guns and ammo. 
  • The emergence of the Tea Party.
  • DADT ended, gay marriage increasingly accepted and welcomed into cultural mainstream.
  • Marijuana legalized for medicinal use in many states and for recreational use in two.
  • The Obama re-election.
  • A string of shootings culminating in the Newtown tragedy.
Watershed moment: Rick Santelli of CNBC on February 19, 2009, less than a month into the Obama administration:

CNBC is not out-of-the-mainstream and yet a stock-market commentator felt he could explode in anger at the Obama administration's efforts at providing stimulus for the economy and help for those sinking with the economy. It also shows that Obama's election was a catalyst for an explosion of incivility from the right.

We don't need to list everything that has happened since November 4th, 2008. You mostly know the story. So, where do we find ourselves now? What has converged, and what is the state of the nation?

We are a nation divided but, I hope, not as divergent as it might appear. What are the groups in our society, and what do they stand for?
  • The Democratic Party: a coalition of educated (often younger) whites, including Jews; blacks; Latinos; Asians (also more highly educated).
  • Independents: Many are disillusioned Democrats, even more are disillusioned Republicans, some of which find today's Republican Party as not conservative enough.
  • The Republican Party: a coalition of (a very few) moderates; a large number of conservatives (Tea Party and otherwise), composed largely of Southern and Plains-state whites, many of whom are Christian fundamentalists; tax haters; gun lovers; those deeply suspicious of government and international institutions, like the UN and the IMF; libertarians; racists, in the old sense, and the new sense, that whites see their world being subsumed by blacks, Latinos, Asians, and gays; old people; anti-intellectuals; science deniers, including climate-change deniers and creationists; and a whole host of people not clearly motivated by issues but nonetheless quite stirred up by the right-wing echo chamber.
  • Anarchists, Green Party, and activists: This segment runs from the well-intentioned environmentalist to tree-huggers to twenty-something believers in a host of causes to people not that interested in changing things so much as just breaking glass, burning trash cans, and messing stuff up whenever some shit is going on.
I see the Democrats, the Democrat leaners among independents, activists, Green Party -- minus the anarchists, of course -- as being able to work together for common societal goals. I put the numbers of this group at about 55 to 65 percent.

The Republican Party still contains a number of well-intentioned, reasonable people with a genuine libertarian bent and who like the idea of limited government, except when it comes to defense. Then there is the conservative core, the so-called base. All told, the Republicans, including the independent "leaners," come to about 45 percent tops. The conservative core, about 28 to 30 percent, is what I like to focus on.

I call this 28 percent the dead-enders, a phrase I picked up, I think, from Donald Rumsfeld, who was then referring to the Iraqis who didn't know their cause was defeated (turns out it wasn't). In any event, these people were first spotted when, after all the nonsense during the last four years of George W. Bush -- after Katrina, after Abu Ghraib, after trying to privatize Social Security, and after way too many had died or gotten blown up in Iraq -- still saw Bush in favorable terms. Long after Bush was discredited as the leader of the Free World, these people loved him, and they're with us to this day.

Unfortunately for us, they still have control in the House of Representatives, and it's likely they will be able, in what I can imagine as their "death throes," be able to tyrannize the rest of us through a series of actions:
  • Letting us fall off the fiscal (curb) cliff rather than allow one iota of tax increases.
  • Letting us slip back into recession amid a credit downgrade rather than surrender their "advantage" in the debt-ceiling negotiations.
  • Stubbornly refusing to allow any reform to our gun laws, either because their base loves guns or because they legitimately fear NRA retribution.
  • Continuing to support a foreign policy that prefers war and the threat of war to diplomacy or any conciliatory actions on the world stage.
  • Allowing our infrastructure to crumble rather than agree to anything that vaguely resembles stimulus.
  • Constantly attacking or attempting to dismantle any and all social safety net programs and so-called entitlements (earned benefits).

Doubt these people are Democrats.

To sum up, we have a tyranny of the minority brewing in the final years of the Obama presidency inspired and underwritten by the support of a shrinking group of dead-enders associated with the Republican Party and comprised of paranoid, bitter people who are, after all, clinging to their guns and religion. Obama had it right; his timing was just off. The disenfranchised whites of America hate government (if there's a D in the White House) and love guns and the death penalty while professing to be the party of God that protects life. Some pretty weird stuff.

One convergence that I see -- and find perplexing and alarming -- is the expansion of the police state, driven by Cheney-style politics, which include the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, illegal detention, loss of free-speech rights, the militarization of police forces, and violent reaction to peaceful protest, while at the same time gun-loving conservatives are going out on a guns-and-ammo buying spree, inspired by Barack Obama's (non-existent until recently) anti-gun campaign. A snake devouring its tail?

Do we stand a chance of fixing this, of getting past this? Time will tell.

Guns = freedom? Yeah, if you despise and distrust the government, or are trapped in 1784.

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