No room for centrists
In a post-Trump world
Wistful columnists like Tom Friedman simply miss the point when they describe the U.S. ideologically as a “center-left, center-right” country.
In so doing, they downplay the transformative presidency of Donald J. Trump. The Right’s firm grip on power is )the culmination of a long process begun in state houses decades ago. And continues unabated with each new piece of local legislation that disenfranchises all but white Christian populists (i.e., racists). Not even Biden’s victory can restore the nation to the arc of the Lincoln-Roosevelt-Kennedy-Johnson liberal axis.
But we can act on what we have learned. Many of us have suspected all along that the U.S. Constitution is a flawed document whose shortcomings grow exponentially with each passing crisis.
It affirms some freedoms in a way that undermines the very democracy it was designed to protect. It has enabled a collusionary environment that has ceded real power to monied interests, the One Percenters, while maintaining the illusion of independent branches of government. It’s odd constructs have opened the electoral process to manipulation, disenfranchising whole classes of voters (by race, by region, by party, by belief).
We have a Congress, enfeebled by its addiction to donor money, that is incapable of adhering to the unspoken social contract (bipartisanship and consensus) that all these years has brought us back from the brink of dysfunction.
And of course my greatest disappointment, as a retired journalism professor, is the defanging of the Fourth Estate’s watchdog role through concentration of ownership, the emergence of social media lunatics and the waning literacy of media consumers. The slow pulse of information, competently delivered, has succumbed to the noise generated by media celebrities more interested in narrative than fact.
What we never understood is that our system could be gamed by an anti-establishmentarian with a transcending personal agenda. What Donald Trump never understood was that he was the opportunity that America’s long-suffering nationalists had been waiting for since being demobilized in the 1930’s by the Great Depression and World War II.
Do not blame Donald. His authoritarian roots emanate from a ruthlessly run family business. He has no philosophy. No ideology. No loyalties. He only knows black and white and green - what’s good for him and what’s bad for him. Those were the values that he brought into the White House. The national interest meant being true to himself. This may be illness; but it is equally bad habit and ignorance.
Trump was not clever enough to free himself from the Conservative cabal best defined by Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy (see below). They did not support going to war against Germany and hated Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal. Those “revolutionaries” worked within the system, starting with Nixon, to liberate our fiat currency from the gold standard and establish debt as a global tool to control wealth and governance. Then came Reagan to undo the social compact - to reinstate the concentration of wealth at the top. Clinton aided and abetted through globalization and exporting American jobs overseas, hollowing out the middle class. Followed by the Bush-Cheney money-making war machine.
The cycle could only be broken by an informed electorate, and Obama’s historic election alerted them that a power shift was underway. So GOP minions stonewalled the Obama presidency, forcing him to resort to Executive Orders - not an effective way to govern in a democracy.
Trump’s ambition for power was fueled by the fact that despite his high public profile in New York, he could not gain acceptance into the upper social echelons. Trump astutely saw that media celebrity was as good an entre as any other path...and so the casinos, beauty pageants, the naming game, and a hit TV show that projected the image of competency he sorely needed. Trump confused living a public life with public service. Obama made the mistake of pillorying him publicly, and his thirst for vengeance catapulted him into the presidency.
So the issue now facing the nation is not returning to the survival mode represented by consensus governance. We must decide whether the Blue-Red divisions are permanent and irreconcilable.
In the centrist vision, a Constitutional Convention could be a way forward, but hardly likely for a system with ingrained inequities. We need a fresh start. Let’s de-federalize, re-establish state sovereignty, and return to our roots in the Articles of Confederation. From that starting point, like-minded bluish states can combine to create a new constitution that better reflects the secular values of liberalism. The remaining Red States can reincarnate the Confederacy in a new Christian guise - except for the Republic of Texas.
Moderate centrists like Joseph Manchin (D-W.Va) can only blind President Biden to the urgency by activating his instinct for bipartisanship. Progressives have two years to get the President on board and make a last ditch effort to restore a truly liberal America:
revamp the judiciary,
reform police practices,
gag the lobbyists,
ban money from influencing our political processes and decisions,
provide health care for all,
eliminate poverty and homelessness,
reverse state impediments to voting,
bring our troops and bombs home,
and unshackle the world from our sanctions.
From childhood through most of my adult life, America stood for fairness and justice. If we cannot quickly reclaim those liberal values, then expect the boot of America Firsters to be at your neck soon and forever.
Never thought my swan song would coin the refrain that Divided we stand; united we fall.
OBJECTIVISM (per Wikipedia)
Objectivism's main tenets are that reality exists independently of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception (see direct and indirect realism), that one can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (see rational egoism), that the only social systemconsistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rightsembodied in laissez-fairecapitalism, and that the role of art in human life is to transform humans' metaphysical ideas by selective reproduction of reality into a physical form—a work of art—that one can comprehend and to which one can respond emotionally.
Academic philosophers have mostly ignored or rejected Rand's philosophy.Nonetheless, Objectivism has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives. The Objectivist movement, which Rand founded, attempts to spread her ideas to the public and in academic settings.