observations and opinion
Three terrible forces, three virtual tribes, lurk and endanger the world in 2014. Two live outside America. One lives within. It is that third, American tribe, which poses the greatest risk not only to the United States, but to other established and aspiring democracies.
Two worrisome external dangers are Islamic fascism and Putinism. The former seems dormant, but those of us living safely in Fortress North America forget what that ideology is doing to generations growing up elsewhere, especially in the Middle East. The latter force, Putinism, put on a great TV show just a couple of months ago (Sochi), has been stage-managing the Syrian state counter-offensive and has now launched a unique reality TV program within the Ukraine. Vlad is wearing the immunity idol, at present.
Facing a dangerous world, one hopes for a reaction from the U.S.A. which falls somewhere safely between the Bush-Cheney approach (bomb anyone in the vicinity of anyone we think is a bad guy, so long as our pals can make a buck at it) and the Obama doctrine (shrug and talk about organic produce). But we will wait in vain, methinks, for much of a response because America has been knocked senseless and money-less by a third, invisible force. This force, this tribe, I call “the New Red Menace.”
The New Red Menace is a domestic movement within the U.S.A. It is not an ethnic, religious or nationalist unit in the traditional sense (although it has powerful ethnic, religious and nationalist attributes). The New Red Menace is the loose, invasive and potent ideology espoused by the modern Republican Party. It operates to empower the powerful and to advantage the advantaged, by pouring into the American mainstream a phony, “family-based” ideology which, married to money and party militants, has been destroying not only good government but even good dialogue about government. It is a scourge.
It is important for those of us living outside of the U.S.A. to recognize what the New Red Menace is and what it has done to the land of the free and the home of the brave. What it has done is to make America less free, less brave and less powerful.
The New Red Menace has these traits:
The distinguishing feature of the New Red Menace is a kind of jubilant ignorance: hostility to knowledge and expertise, stoking and milking the dark impulses and feeble prejudices, eroding the advance of even basic intellectual concepts, aggressively and deliberately dumbing-down the thoughts and conversations of millions of American voters. It has its own Orwellian Newspeak of words that cannot be said and ideas that cannot be believed. You knew it had won when someone as patrician, rich and sensible as George Bush the Elder (H.W.) suddenly became anti-choice back in the 1980s. They claimed Reagan before that, of course.
And then there was Bush the Younger – W – whose affable, dopey demeanor embodied and legitimized the rise of the New Red Menace. Here was a man happy to be incurious, uninformed, mistaken, pugilistic, pleasant and omnipotent. A helluva mix. Whether genuine or not, W’s persona was the perfect Trojan Horse to help the New Red Menace steal the 2000 vote and then glibly exploit 9/11 to win the 2004 election. And when in 2008, the adults had to take over and manage the overwhelming economic crisis cooked-up by Red Menace governance, W was the fall guy for everybody: liberals and the left hate him for everything he did up to 2008 and the Menacers hate him for everything he did in the last six months of his administration). Today, George W. Bush is the Lee Harvey Oswald of modern American politics: whether he pulled the trigger or not, you can’t help but blame him, all the while doubting such a person could really pull off the crime of the century all by himself.
I think I may have just offended all 17 members of the George W. Bush Fan Club. Sorry folks.
Having hatched “the Tea Party” to organize and energize the lowest-browed of its membership in 2010, the New Red Menace has completed its capture of the Republican Party and dragged the quality of political debate and analysis backwards to a point of primitivism probably unseen since before Teddy Roosevelt. The desperate state of things can be seen in the giddiness which erupted about Chris Christie, who sounded like a guy that might not be totally terrified of the extreme right, and more recently about Jeb Bush (whose very conservative and bland comments are insufficiently stupid and mean for the GOP base. Jeb looks destined to be the Bill Bradley of the Republican Party now). Hell, it seems difficult even for Democrats not to be total weasels nowadays. They can’t even say the word “stimulus”, despite having saved the world economy with a little of it five years ago.
People who really love America, within and without, despair at the rapid descent of the Red Curtain down the middle of U.S. society. Barack Obama decried it in his thrilling 2004 keynote address to the Democratic Party; he even briefly made people believed the great divide could be bridged. But even if he was sincere about resisting it, the President seems to lack the skills to spark a counter-movement. The forces arrayed against his policies, whose interests align with a dumb, shrinking voter base, have been extremely successful since the 2010 election.
The situation is dire, not only for frustrated Democrats like the President, but also for Republicans who aren’t ignorant, regressive slobs willing to trade their votes for the pleasure of having their worst prejudices stroked. Who could imagine even Republicans in a state like Wisconsin, entertaining a party platform that includes the right to secede from the Union? Not long ago, that would have been a joke. It is still a joke, but it is going to be voted on at the GOP state convention shortly.
The New Red Menace has taken over one side of the street and its snipers aim at anyone in the middle of the road. The Democrats have retreated to their own side and gird for another assault. Like Sarajevo in the civil war, the street people once walked together has become a shooting gallery. Forgive the imagery, but it suits the scene. What we have seen is that the New Red Menace knows how to win and the other guys – the good guys – often find a way to lose. There has to be another answer. America, indeed the whole world, needs one.
(Note in response to reader comment: no, the piece doesn’t allege that a vast conspiracy exists. It says that a particular ideology is cultivated and then exploited, by many people for their own advantage and gain. There’s a difference, I think. Thanks)