CONNECTIONS: Everything has changed; has anyone noticed? – theberkshireedge.com
What is happening today, both inside Congress and out, is not benign. It is a fight for our country and our form of government, not a debate over policy.
About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.
In her new book, Fiona Hill tells us Russia’s recent past is our future. She prophesizes that America is following the same path that created Putin’s Russia. Could that be?
Would you rather be sick or well; poor or rich? Would you prefer the bridge collapse beneath you or hold? Easy quiz, because the answers are obvious. That being the case, what are the Republicans doing?
Why would the Republican Party want the population unprotected against COVID, the bridge beyond repair, and the country in default? Why would they want our country dumber, sicker, poorer? Sadly, the answer to that question is just as obvious.
They are problem solving. They are not solving the country’s problems; they are solving their own. They are attempting to regain and remain in power. In a democracy, those who want power must have the support of the majority. Only 29 percent of registered voters are Republicans — that’s the problem. The Republicans must figure out how to regain and remain in power without a majority. There is a tried-and-true method, a plan to accomplish it. They didn’t invent it, but the Republicans are excellent at following the plan.
Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and dividing the country around silly trumped-up issues are the methods of every wannabe powermonger. Those who seek power are inactive in day-to-day governance, but active in building dissatisfaction, creating chaos, and fomenting violence. There is a name for the study of this plan: agnotology.
Agnotology is the study of “deliberate, culturally-induced ignorance or doubt to sell a product or win favor particularly through the publication of inaccurate or misleading data.” The name was coined in 1995 by Stanford University professor Robert N. Proctor, who was explaining the tobacco industry’s advertising campaign to manufacture doubt about the adverse health effects of smoking. The study was named 26 years ago, but the plan itself is much older.
The lack of action creates gridlock in government. The lack of logic creates intellectual chaos, and the reshaping of the laws form the basis for quashing the majority vote. The lies form the basis for the violence. When dissatisfaction, fear, and anger grow great enough, those desirous of ruling step forward and say, “The other party cannot govern; we alone can fix it. Only we can restore order.” Game, set, match.
If that is what the Republicans are doing, what in the world are the Democrats doing? To paraphrase Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, “The Democrats never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
During the last week in September, they missed an opportunity that may be their last. Sadly, they brought a knife to a gun fight; that is, they were fighting the wrong battle against the wrong enemy with the wrong weapon. This is a fight for our country and our form of government, not a debate over policy.
This in no way denigrates what Biden is trying to do. He knows the best way to defuse the anger and snuff out conspiracy theories is to put America to work. Work is the great normalizer. First, the Democrats had to pass the legislation.
The Democrats had no choice; they had to stand together against an assault on America and hold the line. They had to demonstrate they could govern by doing it — voting as a block for every measure. They had to deliver every time — big infrastructure, little infrastructure, voter protection — every time.
The Democrats were debating policy and each other because they still believed the center would hold. Someday some historian might name the last week in September as the week we lost America. The week, to quote Charles Fair, “[The democrats] snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory.”
If that is true, and the Democrats lose — like the unvaccinated dying of COVID, the uninformed awaking in an oligarchy or autocracy — they will regret their every decision.
The press cannot catch up. They keep reporting “as if.” As if shame were still possible. As if the old newscast paradigm still worked. As if there were still two equal parties, ultimately protecting and defending our system of government, just squabbling about policy. As if creating fair and balanced news simply meant handing the mic back and forth from one party to the other.
Conflict attracts viewers, sparks debate and interest. They depend upon those two equally strong and opposing parties to make reporting simple. Create conflict using a particular reporting style if all else fails. But what if that old method does not reflect what is going on?
The media has no idea what to do if old the paradigm doesn’t work. Therefore, the bulwark against the power-hungry and the corrupt, the bulwark imagined by our forefathers — a free press — is crumbling.
What of us?
Are we the stewards of democracy? Do we still defend the rules and the rule of law? Have we lost the capacity to enforce the law? Have we lost the capacity to distinguish between the real McCoy and real malarky? Have we lost the ability to reason logically?
In the last election, our leaders said it was up to us, the voters. More people turned out and voted than ever before in American history. They say we voted for the progressive agenda. Really? Perhaps we voted for sanity and democracy.
OK, we did that, but the opposition kept coming. So, what do we do next? Someone said this conflict will be solved in the streets, like a second Civil War. If so, who will constitute the two armies? On January 6, we met those willing to fight in the streets on one side. Who will fight on the other side?
Recently, Steve Bannon told NBC, “If you’re going to take over the administrative state and deconstruct it, then you have to have shock troops prepared to take it over immediately with fire and brimstone.” Who will quell the shock troops?
Perhaps Hill, a Soviet Studies scholar and former member of the Trump administration, is correct. Perhaps she has just the educational and experiential background to see the parallels.
So what of us? Are we immobilized, still believing this country is what it always was at a moment when everything has changed?
Receive daily updates in your inbox