|It's all just sturm und drang, but who's telling the stories?|
The premise is simple - real wages have been stagnant since the 70s, the labor movement is dead and people work more hours for less remuneration than ever before, even as corporate profits are skyrocketing, the stock market is at all time highs and even the worst offenders, the financial behemoths, saved as private capitalist entities by massive infusions of public funds, are now, along with energy, pharmaceutical and other noted criminal actors on the corporate stage, are earning unprecedented profits and paying executive salaries way out of line with global standards.
So, in this environment where the middle and lower "classes" (a term that should NEVER have a viable application in a democratic nation under the rule of law) have suffered huge setbacks over the last fifty years, where even a basic college education leaves people drowning in debt they cannot hope to pay and the basic model of the "American Dream" is all but out of reach, you would rationally expect Americans to use the democratic tools available to them to change the system, wouldn't you? And yet, the system rolls on, unchallenged, unhampered, even as meager efforts to question the status quo like "Occupy Wall Street" whither and die for lack of sustained effort.
And then you look over at the so-called "Tea Party". They have all the same exposures to the virulent capitalism that we on the left have. They are often living paycheck-to-paycheck, only one bad event from homelessness. Unemployment is every bit as high in the Old South, if not higher, and every economic problem faced by a liberal in San Francisco is faced by a conservative in Tulsa. And yet, there is no concerted political effort to demand that government support and assist working people at least as much as wealthy people and corporations. And you cannot help but ask why.
So here's where we maybe go off the rails. When we ask WHY the American people aren't challenging their loss of political access, their loss of economic growth, their utter loss of economic security, we cannot help but acknowledge that there is an equal and opposite force arrayed against that goal. That force is movement conservatism, and if you observe that it is isn't rational for them to be willing to sacrifice their own aspirations in the name of political ideology, then, of course, you'd be right.
So that leads to the BIG question. Movement conservatives, more than anything else, more than socialists or redistribution or labor, hate liberals. They hate anything they can construe as being part of a "liberal" ideology. They actually seek, and actively WANT, violent conflict with American liberals. They are fully prepared to accept that a basic social democratic viewpoint is completely equivalent to some kind of subversive, destructive, seditious movement, something that needs to be snuffed out no matter what the cost. So if you take a step back and look at the larger picture, you again have to ask why? The idea of American democracy is I can do what I choose, and you can do what you choose, and as long as we stay out of each other's way, it's all to the good. So all this wondering leads to the real question - is this ideological conflict a completely false construct, created and built and stoked to divide Americans effectively into two blocs, essentially preventing them from coming together politically to force the government "of the people, by the people and for the people" to serve the actual people?
Now, to be honest, I don't think anybody was smart enough to think about this in the beginning. I think it started with Medicare, and led to abortion, and is all tied up in race. But at some point, probably during the Clinton administration, it's not unreasonable to think that some of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans, what we have come to call the 1%, came together and concluded that they could preserve their political hegemony for all time by making certain that Americans could not ever find common cause, that there could never be a critical mass of people standing together and demanding what they were promised. Then it was a simple matter of marketing, of defining ideologies and steering agendas, of testing words and labels for their power and appealing to the basic human tribal nature.
Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. The only way we can ever take back the kind of democratic freedoms pundits and politicians laughably claim we still enjoy is to build a large enough coalition to actually drive democratic change. Force them to come out of the shadows and take undemocratic action in response - martial law, detention, deadly force - or acquiesce to the demands of a unified America. Whether it was done intentionally or developed organically, this pernicious divide between "Right" and "Left" that has grown so bitter serves the wealthy and powerful who have corrupted our system of governance for their own gain like no other political tool in their toolbox. And until we can find a way to recognize our common ground and our common enemy, we will continue to fight over their scraps.