America’s New and Unstable Political System

Back in March, Tom Engelhardt posted this question: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

He argued the emerging political system in the US has five primary characteristics.

  1. 1% Elections
  2. Privatization of the State
  3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency
  4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government
  5. The Demobilization of the American People

Each of this characteristics represents a risk to the democratic process and state.  As part of his conclusion, Engelhardt observed:

In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

In the twilight of American empire, something very worrying is happening indeed.  The old system fell apart, the new one arose in an ad-hoc fashion, improvised fashion.  The problem, from where I stand, is that this new system is incredibly unstable.

Over the years, the US has had several iterations of governance and politics, called the various party systems, i.e. the First Party System and so on.  The New Deal Party system was forged in the 1930s and (depending on who you ask) lasted until the late 1960s or the early 1990s.  The New Deal Party System was incredibly powerful and stable for man years; I personally date its demise to the 1994 mid-terms when Republicans re-took control of Congress.  However, rather than a new system arising, we’ve been stuck in a long, grinding, and unproductive period of gridlock.

Some of the problem is that the US’s political architecture is inherently resistant to change – the US Constitutional government has so many veto points that change of any sort is a Herculean effort.  Republicans have too much invested in actively sabotaging government to seek any form of governance that might be productive and are left with nothing but obstruction.  Democratic politicians, by contrast, are in the odd position of fighting to maintain the advances achieved by the New Deal and Great Society programs.  The result is a bizarre inversion by which the party which seeks reform ends up defending the status quo while the conservative party has embraced irredentism and conservative identity politics.  Today’s Republicans are a radical, destructive force trying to roll back 100 years of policy.  We’re not living with anything like politics as usual or governance as usual.

The emerging political system is one of stumbling crisis to crisis with little or no governing philosophy or theory behind it, economic disequilibrium, and a growing and unhappy struggling populace.

At the end of the day, the American populace is unlikely to stay demobilized, which means they will be unlikely to accept the delegitimatization of the President and Congress and will demand the state be returned to the public.  Sustaining the emerging system requires economic disparity and inequality, and the continued valorization of the 1% and given that many of them seem to be grade A morons and buffoons, I fail to see how that happens.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on August 5, 2015 - 12:34 pm

    Definitely the Tea-GOP insistence on tearing up settled law and policy is a relatively new feature of our politics. Opposition to Roe v. Wade is one thing, but now they are demanding an end to the social safety net – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, minimum wages, SNAP (food stamps) and unemployment insurance. There’s a radical push to eliminate our public lands and national forests in the West. And a thinly-veiled attack on our public education system by the 1 Percent, trying to return us to the days when only the children of the wealthy could get a good education. There’s more. So many of the achievements that made the American middle class and shared prosperity are at risk of being undone.

    • #2 by Richard Warnick on August 6, 2015 - 7:32 am

      I should have mentioned the Tea-GOP attack on our right to vote.

      Bernie Sanders: The Fight for Voting Rights Is Our Fight Today

      The Voting Rights Act passed Congress with broad bipartisan support 50 years ago. Now one major political party is promoting voter suppression laws.

      • #3 by Larry Bergan on August 7, 2015 - 1:18 pm

        Sanders is right on, but there was some very good news coming out of Texas one day before the 50th anniversary.

        Then, as we went to break, huge news came in from the very conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal striking down the Texas GOP’s polling place Photo ID restriction law. The opinion confirms most of a lower court judge’s previously ruling finding the restriction to be in strict violation of the Voting Rights Act as well as the U.S. Constitution.

        Sorry ALEC and, by extension, the Koch bro’s.

  2. #4 by Richard Warnick on August 7, 2015 - 8:55 am

    Last night, Jon Stewart closed out his run on “The Daily Show” by saying:

    The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.

    • #5 by brewski on August 7, 2015 - 6:23 pm

      I was listening to an NPR story on Stewart. They said he had very few female writers and staffers and those that did didn’t last long and said he was tough on women.

      Ohhh the bullshit and hypocrisy.

      • #6 by Larry Bergan on August 7, 2015 - 9:42 pm

        brewski I’m not sure why you insist on commenting on Glenden’s posts. I don’t like being in the middle here.

        I totally support Glenden deleting both these comments, and if he does, be warned that I will never release another one of your comments on his posts.

        If you’re not invited to the party… Don’t come. Donald Trump wasn’t invited to the Koch bro’s semi-annual party and he knew enough not to show up. You should learn from that.

        • #7 by brewski on August 7, 2015 - 11:16 pm

          The title of this site includes:
          “Utah’s Favorite Public Square for Loud Political Debate”

          “Debate” does not mean censor.

          I continue to comment on his banal posts to show what an Authoritarian censor he is. If you agree with him then you are too.

          You both always have the option of just not reading my posts. If you see my name, and you don’t want to read it, then don’t.

          But to actively delete and censor anyone else takes a pro-active active of Authoritarianism and Censorship.

          This is the problem of the Left. They want to control what other people think and what other people say. I have been dealing with people like you my whole life. Your hypocrisy about liberalism is sickening. You are anti-tolerance, anti-debate, anti-speech, anti-choice, anti-liberty.

          Glenden’s deleting of my posts is a constant reminder to you what liberalism is all about. It is about control.

          • #8 by Larry Bergan on August 8, 2015 - 12:54 pm

            If Glenden doesn’t want a moth in his living room, that’s his choice. I support that.

            I’ve been pulling your nefarious comments out of the spam for over a year. If that makes me anti-tolerant, anti-debate, anti-speech, anti-choice and anti-liberty, I’ll just have to live with that. :(

          • #9 by Richard Warnick on August 8, 2015 - 1:37 pm

            There are authoritarians on both the right and the left. Let’s ignore them and be as loud as we wanna be in the public square.

          • #10 by brewski on August 8, 2015 - 2:38 pm

            This isn’t Glenden’s living room. This is a “public square”.

            I agree with Richard, let’s ignore Glenden.

          • #11 by Glenden Brown on August 8, 2015 - 5:16 pm

            brewski – I’ve said this before – if your comments add to the discussion I have no problem with them even when I disagree. But if you’re just trolling? I have no problem deleting them.

          • #12 by brewski on August 8, 2015 - 6:31 pm

            I have made numerous comments which included factual citations, quotes from your own sources, and reasoned logic. You delete those too.

            But you still miss the point. The point of debate is to not have one of the participants be able to judge what constitutes trolling and what is a worthy contribution. You might as well allow one team in a sporting event also be the referees.

            Your comfort with the principle of you being a participant and also being the censor is entirely the point by itself. You see no problem with your control and your Authority.

            If you want to convince me of your ideas and of your credibility, then do so with the power of your evidence, your argument, and your behavior.

            If you don’t like what I say, then ignore them. If you choose to continue to delete them, then you will continue to successfully prove my point over and over.

  3. #13 by Richard Warnick on August 8, 2015 - 1:55 pm

    On Thursday night, Faux News Channel tried to walk back their previous support of Tea-GOP right-wing extremism.

    Donald Trump, who isn’t going to win the nomination but has a toxic effect on the party as long as he’s in the race, was treated to a brutal inquisition.

    …[and] the candidates who Republican elites would most like to see get traction were given much easier questions than the candidates Republican elites would prefer pack up and go away.

    Fox News Had Its Own GOP Debate Agenda: Narrow Down The Field

    Here’s the fun part: other than his support for single-payer health care, how did Trump differ at the Faux News debate from the other Tea-GOP candidates in policy terms? OK, he wants a wall on the Mexican border instead of a fence, but seriously what’s the difference here?

  4. #14 by Richard Warnick on August 8, 2015 - 2:30 pm

    It wasn’t all about Trump on Thursday night.

    Christie Lied about 9/11 to Try to Shut Down Paul’s Opposition to Dragnet Spying

    Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush got in some outright lies too.

    • #15 by Larry Bergan on August 9, 2015 - 12:09 pm

      Cruz told a big whopper too. Maybe he’s too young to know or never listens to anything anti-Reagan, but he brought up one of the biggest lies of the last century like it was fact. He said the Iran hostages were released because Reagan was sworn in to the presidency.

      In fact, they made a weapons deal with Iran, and also made Iran hold the hostages until Reagan was sworn in to hurt Jimmy Carter’s chance at a second term. It was the first shot off the bow for the hyper-media hyped presidency of “The Gipper”.

      • #16 by Richard Warnick on August 9, 2015 - 12:14 pm

        It’s now known that Reagan cut a secret deal with Iran. But today’s Tea-GOP only wants to attack Iran, not make deals.

        The other night on MSNBC Michele Bachmann, speaking in a matter-of-fact tone of voice, told Chris Matthews the “only way to prevent war” was to “take out the nuclear equipment” in Iran. She said it so sweetly, for a few seconds I thought she meant send trucks to remove it. But no, she was actually advocating dropping nuclear weapons on Iran (they are never honest about that part) as if it was the most logical thing to do… “to prevent war.”

        This is completely insane, yet she talks about it as if the USA would be justified in doing this. And she said it on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

  5. #17 by Glenden Brown on August 9, 2015 - 9:03 am

    brewski – I’m fascinated by the fact that your response to being told it’s not okay to act like a shit flinging howler monkey is to believe you are being oppressed or censored. I, also, am amused by the fact that you believe some grand point is being made.

    I tolerated your trolling for a long time. No more. If your comments are germane, if they advance the discussion, they get to stay. If not? they get deleted.

    Just as I’m free to not read your comments, you’re free to not read mine or to respond. If you think my posts are banal, don’t waste your time.

    At one point in time, you were stimulating, interesting, intelligent. I haven’t seen an intelligent comment from you in a great many years. If you were to be your old self, I would welcome that. I rarely agreed with what you had to say, but you were interesting and intelligent. I’d welcome the return of that version of brewski.

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