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writing for godot

There is no "Middle Ground:" It's Either the Second Civil War or Partition

Written by Steven Jonas   
Sunday, 04 November 2018 08:06

By Steven Jonas, M.D., M.P.H.

This nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation. S. Jonas, Aug. 7, 2018

(And right now, it's not looking too good.)


Trump is on a racist, xenophobic rampage that is over even his top past performances. For indeed, convincing every last one of his followers to come out and vote on Nov. 6, combined with as massive a voter suppression campaign as the Repubs. are capable of organizing (and for sure they are hard at it), is the only way that the Repubs. can retain control of the House of Representatives. And they might conceivably lose the Senate too. [See the Addendum below for what will likely happen were they to lose even just the House: a massive attack on multiple levels to prevent the 116th Congress from ever convening.]

Numbers of leading intellectual lights, like the academic historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, (one of whose specialties is the First Civil War), other academics, many mainstream political analysts, certain leading Democrats, the "Third Way" folks (translation: neoliberal, right-wing Democrats), and others, have responded to the Trumpist outpouring by saying that what is wrong with what he is saying is that he is "splitting the country apart." There actually is a political party (quite small, to be sure) the platform of which is built on the concept of "finding the "Middle Ground." It's called the "The Modern Whig Party." It will likely be as successful in "keeping the country together" as its predecessor was. At any rate, the collective response of the "Middlers" (as they might be called) is: "we have to bring the country together;" "the middle ground must be found;" "let's pull together, to reach the common shore." Well, that's a nice idea, but since the time that the first slave was landed in this country, there has been no "middle ground."

The institution of slavery was built into the Constitution. And as is well known it is one of the provisions that was put in to "protect" the slave states, the Electoral College, that led to Trump assuming the Presidency. The U.S. briefly became "one country," on paper at least, following the end of the Civil War. But when Reconstruction was brought to a sharp sudden end, by the Republican Party no less, the binary nature was opened up again. As I have written previously, except for the loss of the institution of chattel slavery, the South won the First Civil War. It achieved all of its other major goals, including the spread of the Doctrine of White Supremacy, which had been first invented by Portuguese slave traders in the 16thto justify slavery of Black Africans, across the whole of the country.

This doctrine was the basis for "Jim Crow" and the electoral dominance of the racist Southern Democrats until the Civil Rights movement took over the Democratic Party in the 1960s. As is well-known, the doctrine was then very quickly adopted for the Republicans by Pres. Nixon's creation of the "Southern Strategy" for the party (adopted after he saw the electoral success the openly racist George Wallace had in 1968). It has been continued by every Republican President since then, in a hooded, "dog whistle," way to be sure. Thus Trump has invented nothing new for the Republican Party. Being the ultimate outcome of what I have termed the "Rightward Imperative" for that party, he has simply taken the hood off.

Other major elements of modern Repub. policy have been with the party for a long time. One of its founding elements in the 1850s, as the Whigs broke up over the slavery issue, was the anti-Irish and German immigrants American Party, the "Know-Nothings," led in the mid-1850s by a former Whig President, Millard Fillmore. The Repubs. have been behind every anti-immigration law since that time, beginning with the "Chinese Exclusion Act" of 1883. So, Trump's xenophobia has been in the Repub. DNA since the beginning. Again, he is just more openly virulent about it than his predecessors (at least since Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge ran wild with the xenophobic ball in the 1920s). Further, very importantly, since Ronald Reagan first forged the connection between the Repubs. and the Religious Right during the 1980 campaign, that alliance has been central to Repub. electoral success as well. The totally amoral Trump has simply made it ever-stronger, and evermore public.

Repub. policy has also included voter suppression and more recently massive pro-Repub. Gerrymandering. (The campaign to take over State Houses and State legislatures in order to dominate redistricting in 2010, to facilitate systematic gerrymandering was started by the Koch Brothers-funded American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC, in 2007.) As a former leading Republican strategist, Paul Weyrich, famously once said: "They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. . . . As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

There is No Middle Ground

And so, what about that "Middle Ground," then, and the claim that what "we" need to do as a nation is "find it." Well, first of all, there is no "we" as a nation and never has been, since 1619. Sometimes the basic differences have been glossed over and certain advances in social policy have been made, under, as it happens, Democratic Administration like that of franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (before he tragically got swallowed up by the Viet Nam trap). But the modern "neoliberal" Democratic Party, founded by Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the 1980s, took the Democrats in a retrograde direction and eventually formed a functional duopoly with the Repubs., on economic, foreign, and criminal justice policy, among others. What can be called the "Bernie Sanders" wing of the party, with a policy set that I have called "The New Deal on Steroids," is trying to pull the party in a social democratic direction. Further there are actually a few Democratic Socialists, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, actually running for office.

But let's briefly look at the major issues which divide most Democrats (as the party slowly moves away from its neo-liberal base), as well as those to the left of the Democratic Party, e.g., the "Greens," the Social Democrats, the Communist Party of the United States, the Revolutionary Communist Party and its "Refuse Fascism" movement, and the Socialist Workers Party, from virtually all Repubs. (not necessarily in order of importance):

1. Voting Rights. One either wants to expand them, as broadly as possible, and then protect them when they are established, or constrict them as narrowly as possible.

2. Congressional and state legislative districts. One either wants to have them as fairly set by "reasonable" shape (as "reasonable" has been defined by, say, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court) or one wants to have them drawn in forms to benefit the Republican Party that might embarrass even Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who initiated the fine art of political map drawing that is named after him, in the early 19thcentury.

3. Civil Rights. One either wants to expand and fully protect them, or does not.

4. Abortion Rights. Either one wants to criminalize the religious and non-religious beliefs of other than Religious-Rightists as to when life begins, or one does not.

5. LGBTQ rights. Either one wants to criminalize the religious and non-religious beliefs of other than Religious Rightists as to sexual identity and rights pursuant to such identities, or one does not.

6. Either one wants to allow enterprises operating in the public square and supported in part by public services to discriminate against certain person by personal, "religiously" based choice, or one does not.

7. Either one believes that the process of Climate Change has been established on firm scientific grounds, that man-made emissions ae a major contributor to it, and that major policies and programs have to be undertaken NOW in order to avoid the catastrophic outcomes that are being predicted with scientific certainty, or one does not.

8. There are many other policy areas on which there is no "middle ground," such as: the role of science in policy making; environmental protection vs. unfettered industrial expansion;" and "health care is a basic human right," or it is not.

9. One believes in "gun control" of one sort or another or one takes the NRA position on the matter.

10. One believes that workers have rights, and their unions do too, or one doesn't.

11. Finally (for now), there is the matter of how the Constitution itself is approached. For example, consider how Trump approaches the Constitution. In my "New Introduction" to my column on Trumpite Governance I pointed out that Trump would really like to become a Constitutional Dictator, most especially one who could retain most (but not all) of the Constitutional forms, on paper that is. But also, one who could by-pass ones he didn't like. Trump has claimed that by Executive Order he could repeal the interpretation of the 14thAmendment to the Constitutionupheld by the Supreme Court on multiple occasions since that time, that as well as applying to the freed slaves after the Civil War, it has also applied to immigrants' children who were born here.

But Trump claims that it doesn't. He also claims that he has "legal scholars" to back him up. (The Times article, above, cites one retired law professor.) And indeed (without referring to any of Trump's "legal scholars"), using the "original intent" argument that the Right likes so much, one could argue that since the original intent of the amendment was meant to apply to slaves, it is inappropriate to expand its coverage to the children of immigrants. (Of course the Right likes "original intent" except when they don't, as in gun control, see Scalia's "Heller," which completely ignores the "well-regulated militia" clause as well as every other previous Supreme Court decision on the 2nd, which held that it does not grant unlimited, unregulated "gun rights.")

This is a superb example of just the kind of fascist power Trump wants to arrogate to himself. One of the primary characteristics of fascism is that there is no higher-law, constitutional authority, to which a chief executive is subject. And let us remember, that is how he ran his companies: without rules other than the ones he made up on the fly. They had no boards of directors and he had a relatively tiny staff, for which he made all the decisions, apparently major and minor.

And so, where will this go?

If the Democrats a) have truly left their neo-liberal form (and that may very well not be the case) and b) somehow manage to take over the national government as well as a significant number of state governments on 2020, they may be able to hold the nation together for a time. But since a major element of the economic ruling class is so tied up with the Repubs. and with continuing the economic and social policies that so far have furthered its continued dominance of the nation, it is highly unlikely that that kind of leadership would be able to hold on for too long.

I do think that a Second Civil War (as predicted in my 1996 book "The 15% Solution") or Partition, either before or after it, is coming, folks. A discussion of those historical possibilities will be taken up in future columns.


Addendum to my column of Oct. 28, 2018: If the Repubs. lose the House, much less also the Senate, they will launch every weapon they have, from use of the Congressional rules to filing numerous law-suits with a judiciary which they have loaded with far-Rightist judges, nominated by the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation. Their goal would be to prevent the 116th Congress from ever convening. For they know, were it to convene, what would happen with Mass Investigation, even on just the House side. Many of us around the country would be celebrating, although probably not until next Thanksgiving, Trump's and the Trumpite's cooked goose.


This column was previously published at: your social media marketing partner


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0 # MotherIoan 2018-11-23 14:26
I have seen the deep divisions in this country as far back as the second Bush administration- -and even earlier. I have seen the increasing shrillness and hateful postings from right-wingers increase since 2006 (when I got my first computer. These people are not interested in either civilized dialogue or fair, open elections (the 2016 election and the 2018 midterms are the most recent cases in point, especially the "elections" in Florida and Georgia being the most egregious examples).

I wish I could say otherwise but I see civil war in this country's future. The original issues that caused the first civil war have never been truly addressed.

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