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I sometimes think of our Democracy as a simmering Civil War

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Tom Rinaldo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 11:27 AM
Original message
I sometimes think of our Democracy as a simmering Civil War
The same basic array of opposing forces and conflicting interests that periodically erupt into revolutions, counter revolutions, coups and civil wars in other societies around the world are present in democracies also. But in democracies they are diverted into generally non lethal channels with pressure valve releases points built in at crucial junctures to stop inherent tensions from reaching a full rolling boil.

I strongly approve of the concept. Though we all naturally care deeply about our self interests being defended, almost all of us want violence minimized in our personal lives also. Democracies like the one we live in are a way for us to pursue both of these ends in a world in which many have to choose one over the other.

But people everywhere are still essentially the same. Greed, lying, cheating, and the lust for power, that all is present in America just like it is in Russia, Mexico, Cuba, and Iran. Power in America is just as seductive as it is anywhere else, and the riches available to be gathered here exist on a scale few other nations can match. I think about all that sometimes when Congress is in session or when there's a Presidential campaign going on.

Our democracy is a human construct designed to mediate and accommodate powerful conflicting forces. It does not magically change human nature or make our opposing agendas disappear. Humans are social animals and we tend to seek others who have similar interests to our own. That's why we're here at the Democratic Underground, and that's what most of us hope to find in the Democratic Party. But of course there's another side too.

Our system of laws and judicial rulings is the game field we all play on. Rules for the most part stay fixed, but on rare occasions they can change. At a tipping point in American history women as a whole could no longer tolerate letting men be the only voters. Changing that took a whole lot more than just pointing out an injustice and hoping it would automatically be rectified. Women had to make the status quo untenable to continue.

Change is not a river that only runs in one direction. Game changers are sought after by both sides. Both sides will press a potential advantage as far as they can until there is an adequate counter force to stop them. Capital is on the march now in America. Rules that had seem fixed for decades have been changed to accommodate their side. An obvious example is the Supreme Court decision equating money with free speech.

The "rules of the game" at any given time are not all codified in the U.S. Constitution. Some times they exist as societal expectations and/or assumptions. That could be a prevailing attitude about the value of immigration, or the virtue of conservation, or on the role government should play in our society. A change in those "rules" can be game changers also.

Since LBJ's Great Society we have lived with assumed rules that acknowledge the importance of the economic safety net for America. There was never unanimity on that - there never is - but that was the prevailing rule. For decades we were moving also toward thinking of the availability of essential life preserving services as basic rights all Americans should be able to count on. That may never have reached the level of an expectation "rule" but the trend in that direction was clear. Not any more. Capital is on the march.

Now essential services that preserve life with dignity for Americans who for example "work hard and play be the rules" as Bill Clinton once put it, are no longer a firm societal commitment to uphold. Now they are judged by accountants to determine if our government can afford to provide them, and if so at what level, givencurrent projected incomes. And if they are seen as economically wanting the discussion turns next to how they should be trimmed.

That is a sea change. There is nothing to prevent us as a society from building a budget up from the foundation of that core commitment to seniors and others in dire need, calculating from that point what else our democracy can afford to spend money on and how revenues can be increased if needed to pay for other essential commitments as well. The wealth exists in this nation to do that without anyone having to suffer life threatening pain. It is only the determination to do so that is lacking. It is lacking because the American game board has been shifted to the advantage of concentrated Capital.

If greater political parity is not restored more Americans will keep falling into poverty and the Middle Class will further erode. People will start dying preventable deaths in numbers that will keep increasing until finally our democracy will be tested as to whether it can still keep inherent tensions below the threshold of a full rolling boil. It was tested for that before during the Great Depression, and our democracy passed the test that time. Whether it can do so again is uncertain.
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Tom Rinaldo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:07 PM
Response to Original message
1. Notice: No President was bashed or praised in the writing of the OP n/t
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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:08 PM
Response to Original message
2. That's because we are THIS CLOSE to a hot one
and I am being dead serious.

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Hawkowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. +1
When one side has been demonized (liberals) by the other for over 30 years and denied a viable public outlet to express their views, violence becomes an increasing likelihood. The right wing culture of hate and near monopoly of the media combined with the general ignorance of the American public has terrifying implications. At this point, I'm hoping for more of a breakup like the USSR instead of Yugoslavia.
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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:59 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. Both are possible at the same time
and that is terrifying. And of course when I mention this people go... you think it is glorious. Nope, having done refugee debriefing I know better. But the cold phase of the civil war started in 1996, ir not slightly earlier... we are primed and reedy.
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Tom Rinaldo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. I wonder about that also
I think we are way closer to that now than we ever were in the late 60's early 70's though a lot was happening on the streets then and there were militant leftists. There was no where near this much domestic economic pain back then to feed into wide spread militancy.

Nowadays so far the armed groups are all on the Right. That is an unstable situation - how long can they focus their anger at Government only? I think racist hate groups, though they spiked with the election of a black President, don't have time on their side. Younger Americans increasingly are not only race tolerent - they are moving closer to race blind as a way of judging people.

Anger at corporations has not yet fully jelled into a real movement on the left, or on the right.

I guess I can't see anything like a real civil war breaking out until sometime after the 2016 elections at the earliest. Though I think more civil unrest is almost certainly in the cards for the future here, I am not convinced that will lead to a civel war.
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nadinbrzezinski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 01:03 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. Civil wars take time to brew
the American Independence, yes that was a civil war, started to brew really, in the 1740s... if not slightly earlier, according to Nash and other historians.

The Civil War started to brew in the 1820s, had a dress rehearsal in bloody Kansas...

We have been at this sharpening of language etcetera starting in the 1990s... in a clear manner,

Having a Governor (Perry) call for secession... and the Minority leader call for the ammo box are just the latest verbal barbs that are leading to it. Personally I don't think we will make it to 2016 nor will it be blue vs gray. It will be a low to medium level intensity conflict... and in that sense you could say that bloody Kansas is a dress rehearsal again... (There is a low level conflict there over abortion)
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apnu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:25 PM
Response to Original message
5. We are in a civil war right now, but instead of bloody fighting, its cultural.
We have a cultural civil war on right now. Its being fought out in our politics and in the media. Its being fought between neighbors arguing over the fence. The real question is if it will spill over into a physical conflict. Given the way the South is heading right now, I do believe its possible to have another season of "session-itis" (old Civil War term for those who haven't heard it.)
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damntexdem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:26 PM
Response to Original message
6. Well, I think that it has heated a bit beyond simmer as of late.
It's just that neither party can agree on who's on which side, or even what the sides are, yet.
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Tom Rinaldo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 12:30 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has an interest in preserving stability
They also have an interest in clearing the field of opposition to their interests. It's a delicate dance for them to pull off without hitch.
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Tom Rinaldo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-14-11 01:50 PM
Response to Original message
10. Discussion here took a turn I didn't anticipate
When I started writing the OP I was thinking more about how functional democracies are designed to, in a sense, dissapate heat on an continuing basis so instead of periodic convulsions of violence when opposing forces fight for all the marbles, you end up with a pot that simmers but doesn't boil over.

That was what I meant about a simmering civil war; How an illusion of peace and sometimes almost harmony takes hold as election after election after happens without the losing side rioting on the streets, while traditional adversarys continue to clash just below the surface.

I wasn't thinking about the chances of an imminent civil war breaking out in America, just noting how one side (ours) was facing the potential of losing our shirts if things continued along the current path, and wondering what if anything will change that.

Could be I'm in denial too about where all this is heading in the not so distant future.
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