Is America Re-fighting the Revolutionary War?
We must not let right-wing Redcoat/Redhat terrorists — who have openly proclaimed their goal of Americans killing Americans in an ideological and racialized war — prevail at this critical time…
The human lifespan, generally, is around 80 years. Arnold Toynbee is said to have once commented (it may be apocryphal) that, “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.”
Because, of course, we remember the glories of the last battle, but quickly forget its horrors.
Every 80 years, it seems, America confronts a crisis in which we must again choose whether to remain a democratic republic, or to turn into a corrupt strongman oligarchy run by the richest men in America, along the lines of the old Confederacy or today’s Hungary or Russia.
We’re there again, now.
The Republican Party has now introduced over 300 pieces of legislation and passed dozens designed to make it more difficult for American citizens to participate in the process of selecting their representatives, the core function of a democratic republic.
They’ve also proposed or passed numerous laws criminalizing protest and dissent, primary American values laid out in the First Amendment, and written into law in several states a “get out of jail free” card for Republicans who use cars or trucks to kill protesters.
Today’s Republican Party has, through their actions, openly proclaimed that they do not believe in democracy or the core ideals on which this nation was founded:
“That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” and “that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
As we see with their support of Trump’s Big Lie and their votes for legislators who say they’ll overturn future elections when Republicans lose, they have a serious problem with that “consent of the governed” part of the Declaration of Independence.
And they’re pretty sketchy about that whole human “rights” thing, as well.
As Steve Bannon told his podcast listeners this Monday:
“Does anybody ever mention the FBI as being real assistance whatsoever except for marginal cases? No, they’ve turned into the American Gestapo. They have to be defunded. They say, oh, this is dangerous talk. No, it's not. … We are a threat to the American state.”
If it seems like America is re-fighting the Revolutionary War or the Civil War, that’s because there’s a sizeable group of right-wing Americans who say that’s exactly what they believe they’re doing.
In both of those past wars, one group of Americans believed in the ideal of democracy and a republic deriving its authority from the will and consent of its people. On the other side, there were people who believed that democracy was a dangerous experiment and a grave mistake.
During the Revolutionary War the anti-democracy folks were called Tories or Loyalists, because they were loyal to the British king and believed that the best form of government was a kingdom, and that letting average people participate in democratic governance would lead to disaster.
That was solidly a third, perhaps even half, of the people then living in North America: they were willing to fight and die to keep America part of the United Kingdom.
Those who opposed democracy on this continent and wanted to stay part of Great Britain had a lot of history on their side.
For most of the 7,000 years of recorded human history at that point, governments had been run either by kings who seized power through violence, or priestly theocrats who claimed that their authority to rule came from their God. (In most cases, regardless of who ended up on top, there was an unholy alliance between the two.)
The British United Kingdom was just the latest, in 1776, in a long series of kingdoms that ruled every part of Europe; the Greek experiment with democracy was 3000 years old at that time, and the Roman experiment with a republican form of government had failed almost 2000 years earlier.
There were a lot of reasons back then to think that a democratic republic would be a terrible mistake.
The main one was that it hadn’t worked in thousands of years, and the ancient Greek and Roman experiments were considered by many — most, actually — to have been failed experiments.
People believed so strongly either in the Loyalist necessity of a royal family, or the Founders’ hope of a people engaged in self-rule, that families were literally torn apart, brother killing brother, neighbors turning firearms against each other.
By the time of the Civil War, 80 years after the Revolutionary War, there was still a debate about whether democracy was anything more than some kind of liberal, airy-fairy idea that really didn’t work out all that well.
But this time, those Americans who took up arms against democracy were not fighting on behalf of a church or a king. They were fighting to support the morbidly rich, the oligarchs of the deep South.
As I lay out in detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy, between 1820 and 1860 the South underwent a radical consolidation of wealth and property.
The invention of the Cotton Gin and its adoption in the early 1820s allowed the few plantations wealthy enough to purchase one to effectively wipe out their smaller competitors and then, after bankrupting them, pick up their land for a song.
As a result, by 1860 virtually all of the most productive land, wealth, and political power of the South was consolidated in the hands of just a few thousand families.
They did not believe in democracy either; they declared war on America specifically to end democracy and establish a continent-wide oligarchy: rule by the rich in an oligarchic police state as the South had become.
The North won that war and democracy prevailed, but the idea of oligarchy survived and has been persistent throughout American history.
They rose again 80 years after the Civil War, when wealthy industrialists tried to hire Smedley Butler to kidnap or kill President Roosevelt and overthrow the New Deal.
They were furious that they were being taxed at a 91% rate on income over $3 million a year (in today’s money) and that the money was being used to provide jobs, food, housing and other supports for working class and elderly people.
But Butler stopped the plot and Roosevelt continued with the New Deal, building the largest and most vibrant middle class the world had ever seen. Now, 80 years after FDR ended the Republican Great Depression, they are back.
This is what the Republican party today represents:
*Rule by the rich and ignoring “the consent of the governed.”
*The suppression of dissent and the oppression of minorities, replacing the ballot box with the iron fist of a police state run of, by, and for the wealthy few.
And they’re pushing us in that direction really hard and really fast:
*A political network run by a group of right-wing billionaires and their colleagues has a larger budget and more employees than the entire Republican Party.
*A family of billionaire oligarchs from Australia crank democracy-skeptical propaganda into the American political bloodstream nearly every day on Fox “News,” in The New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal.
*Voices openly denigrating democracy and promoting hate and intolerance — the hallmarks of oligarchy and fascism — are on local radio and television in every American city every single day, and dominate the Internet.
*The single largest number of threats and murders by terrorists in America are today — and have been for the past 19 years — committed by white-supremacist right-wingers who hate and fear the idea of a pluralistic, democratic society.
Tragically, for the fourth time in our history — at the end of the fourth 80-year period between the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Republican Great Depression, and today — Americans who believe in democracy again find themselves having to defend our form of government against a well-armed and well-funded minority of Americans who don’t believe in democracy.
Several of these hard-right groups have openly declared their intention to start a second American Civil War.
They’re promoting lies and conspiracy theories that have led to Americans killing each other in the name of white supremacy and rule by the rich.
From David Koresh in 1993 to Tim McVeigh in 1995 to the men Trump inspired this week to shoot at the FBI in Cincinnati and the Capitol building in DC, they have all thought that destroying the American government would produce white rule.
It would return America, in their minds, to a mythical past when things were in order, when minorities and women “knew their place,” and only white men were in charge.
As we saw in last night‘s Wyoming primary, these dupes declare their loyalty to an orange-dyed, sexually assaulting, fraud-convicted, white-supremacist real estate grifter and traitor from New York; they get their news from an Australian oligarch’s family that Australia’s former Prime Minister characterized as a “cancer on Australian democracy”; they have embraced an ideology of male supremacist and racially pure Christian nationalism championed by Hitler’s Nazis in the 1930s.
They even adorn themselves in red and wear funny hats like the British loyalists did in revolutionary times.
Today’s Biden presidency represents America’s fourth, and hopefully final chance to resolve another of these eighty-year cycles, this one finally proving that democracy is not merely an idealistic fantasy.
We fought the British in 1776, fought the racist Confederates in 1860, fought the Republican great depression and the attempt to overthrow FDR in the 1930s and 40s, and today we are again facing the forces of fascism in America supported by the morbidly rich.
If Biden’s administration and the Democrats in Congress can keep the American economy on track and rebuild the civil society that 40 years of Reaganism has so devastated, American democracy — and, indeed, democracy around the world — may well endure and even grow.
But fascists across the world and Republicans here in America are doing everything they can to keep that from happening. Their strategy includes encouraging Americans to hate and distrust government agencies like the FBI, sabotaging faith in our election systems, and amplifying racial and religious hate and terror across multiple social media platforms.
When pro-democracy voices within their ranks, like Rusty Bowers and Liz Cheney, dare speak or act on behalf of American democracy, the majority of the Republican Party and the media that serves it viciously attacks them.
They are what’s left of the best hope of the Republican Party.
And the success or failure of people like Liz Cheney — who last night made it clear she puts democracy above a wannabe tyrant and his partisan hacks — are going to be a big factor in determining the future of America.
Ominously, Cheney’s experience shows that dissent is no longer allowed in the GOP; authoritarianism has prevailed and oligarchy has completely seized the movement.
Can it recover, and go back to just being the party that supports rich people and big corporations but does once again believe in democracy, and honors the will of the people when they speak in an election?
The question is still open.
“These,” as Thomas Paine (a fervent believer in democracy) wrote, “are the times that try men’s souls.”
Long before the actual Revolutionary War conflict broke out, Paine wrote:
“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered…”
We must not let the right-wing Redcoat/Redhat terrorists — who have openly proclaimed their goal of Americans killing Americans in an ideological and racialized war — prevail at this critical hinge-point in the world’s history.