(The title is ironic)
Just as Donald Trump, now that he is going down to a well-earned resounding defeat, talks about being “unshackled,” so now that Your Intrepid Reporter is convicted of violating a restraining order taken out against him by his own wife, and of trespassing numerous times against Fred Meyer, a grocery chain whose large store is across the street from his home, and is prohibited, in the terms of his probation from serving more time in county jail, from entering Starbucks, Peets Coffee, and even talking to his next-door neighbor, he can rest assured that what he says in this post will not be taken seriously by anyone.
So. What does a historical perspective have to tell us about the present-day situation? After all, historians are (possibly incorrectly) famously persuaded that their labors in the record of the past offer some gleam of understanding of the present. I was impressed by a 1996 tribute to the life work of a favorite historian of my own, Arnold J. Toynbee (o, by the way, “Hellenic” means here “the civilization which conquered the ancient Mediterranean world,” so you could substitute “Roman Empire” for it):
Toynbee’s dissatisfaction with Greek humanism was at the core of his critique of the modern West, which he viewed as a depressing revival of Hellenic secularism and a repudiation of Christianity, for him the essence of Western civilization. Toynbee maintained that since the Renaissance the West has revived the very practice that ruined Hellenism — the deification of the state. Modern nationalism, he insisted, is the modern form of city-state or empire worship; if it is not eradicated, the modern West will suffer the same fate as Hellenism.
— which point of view certainly rings resonantly with the shredding of the Constitution to which we are subjected in this place and day. We allow the President tyrannically to kill his political antagonists, without demur; we allow the federal government to surveil our location, communication, and most intimate acts, without thinking. Indeed, the very concept of resisting government surveillance is, as Orwell predicted, hard for us to articulate. Our government is divine in our eyes.
But enough of viewing with alarm: you’ve heard it all before. What is happening before our eyes in the Election of 2016 is, I submit, the beginning of a non-partisan era, on account of a sweeping aside of the Republican Party, with all thinking people voting Democratic. Of course, as usual, I have a certain distance from the literal meaning here. The same thinking people who brought us the Vietnam War are bringing us the second Clinton Administration, with its hypocritical assurance that all the good and great agree upon the surrender of autonomy to the wealthy corporations. Not to mention its constant harping on the necessity for force in our foreign policy, beginning with bombing Syria. Hell, bombing every one who might possibly disagree with global American hegemony.
We have had a one-party state before in the history of the United States, during the 1930s under the (you might say) Second Roosevelt Administration; but I think we might get a better sense of the political collapse to which we are witness today by recalling the Era of Good Feeling, the one-party state which followed the end of the unsuccessful War of 1812. The Federalist Party was so discredited by its failure to cope with the growing population of independent farmers in the Western territories, that it was inactive for a couple of Administrations on the national scene.
[Supporting historical example from ex-CIA analyst Paul Pillar: If (Your Intrepid Reporter assumes “when”) Hillary Clinton is victorious next month, she will be the first non-incumbent Democrat to win an election to succeed another Democrat since James Buchanan won in 1856. Buchanan also was the last previous president to have been secretary of state.]
It is possible, mind you, that my historical analysis is not the most insightful; but the main point is, we are witnessing the advent of a one-party national state, where (in the present instance) the Democrats are the consensus choice of all responsible people. That was true in 1815, that there was only one really national party, and not in 1936; it is true today.
And we are in that dangerous position with a full-blown deification of the national government. Mind you, now Big Brother (well, perhaps it’s more like Big Sister) is watching you: Peace is War; Ignorance is Strength. I forget the third one, but it’s not that important. A one-party state in a situation where the government is unconstrained by either a respect for legal limit, nor by any effective political opposition. Another, more recent period, is the post-Civil War Gilded Age.
That’s what I see happening.
Well, you might say, it’s only for one election; the Republicans can come back right away. And it is true, you know, the future can surprise even the well-informed. Nonetheless, the Democratic Party dominance is based on demography: the minorities — itself a misnomer now — are truly repulsed by the Republicans, and the progressives (the young) have nowhere else to go. It’s not as if the Republicans, after Trump, can claim to have changed their spots. They’re the party of Deplorables, are they not?
Corporate rule and endless war, if your don’t like them, are firmly in the saddle (as has been the case for as long as I can remember). We have gotten used to calling the status quo peace and prosperity. What I see before us is enormous corruption.