It has been evident for the last ten years that the American political system is collapsing. Most informed and engaged citizens have concluded that it was primarily because one of the two major parties has finally devolved into pure partisanship and power-lust. Of course that party is the Republican Party. By any measure the GOP has abandoned even the pretense of working to serve the public good or follow the rules we have put in place as guardrails against our worst human instincts. The events in the North Carolina statehouse on yesterday are clear proof of that fact. Most of us can see that it was the two devastating losses to Barack Obama that drove Republicans to madness. They so desperately wanted to be back in power that they formally decided to resort to any means necessary to hold on to any power they had and to grab back any power it perceives it had lost. Thus the “take our country back” slogan as a salient right-wing campaign theme for the last ten years.
As so much of their governing in recent years has proven, Republicans have come to embrace and embody outright wickedness in American politics. For anyone who doubts that those charges stick, direct your gaze to our southern border. Immigrant families coming to the U.S. for asylum are instead being met by cruel ICE officers who tear parents and children apart and warehouse them all indefinitely in rancid subhuman conditions. A more graphic reflection of Republicans commitment to wickedness is difficult to find and impossible to deny.
But what is more alarming than what the Republicans are doing is that there is every indication that Democrats are going to let them get away with every bit of it. In the first half of 2019 we have seen that the true culprit in the collapse of our political system is not the wickedness of the Republicans- it is actually the weakness of the Democrats. Wickedness has been on open display in America many times throughout our history- taking root in some political party or mainstream movement. But at every turn it has run up against a tide of higher-minded and even more determined humanity that held it at bay before eventually beating it back. The party labels do not matter here- the governing principles do. And it is never difficult to identify the manifestations of right and wrong in governing – any more than it is difficult to distinguish between weakness and strength in combat. So when Confederate soldiers took up arms for the cause of maintaining the wickedness of slavery and the racial hierarchy it represented, it had to face the strength in numbers of Union soldiers taking up arms to reshape America as a post-slavery nation- even though racial egalitarianism was just a seed buried deep in the blood-soaked soil.
When the Gilded Age ushered in an era of toxic wealth disparity the uber-rich robber barons had to face the overwhelming force of civic minded political leaders who supported labor unions, sided with the working man and reshaped the government accordingly. The decades-long struggle to secure the dignity of work and establish a quality life for the everyday American was nowhere near as bloody as the Civil War but the battle was nearly as important in shaping the nation we live in today. Those battles took great strength and resolve to fight- the kind of strength and resolve that is nowhere in sight among Democratic Party leaders today.
Where would America be if the Union Army was too weak to suppress the wickedness of the Confederacy? Where would America be if progressive legislators had been too weak to step in and regulate the wicked business practices of the robber barons? Wickedness would have run amok and the things that we love about America today- or at least the aspirations of our national ideals- would never have taken shape. How do you uphold the ideals of civic equality and opportunity in a nation that stands on a foundation of racial subjugation and the unrelenting exploitation of the average working citizen? Those myths are difficult enough to sell under current conditions but they would not even be core American aspirations without the people who eagerly went to battle in service of them.
Who is standing in the way of the run-away corruption of the current president and the party that enables and empowers him? Who is ready to go to battle to keep him from taking all that we have and all that we are and converting everything into trinkets and toys for his enrichment and amusement? Whatever answer you arrive at I am confident that it is not Nancy Pelosi. And that is a problem because- like it or not- she is the highest ranking Democrat in American politics today. What is more chilling is that by the lay of the land it looks like she will be in that role for many cycles ahead. And that is exactly the opening that wickedness has been waiting for so it can gain a foothold for generations to come. That is more than long enough for the Republicans to reverse the seventy year trend toward cultural, political and economic inclusion- the trend that gave us President Barack Obama in the first place.
So how do we escape the American carnage the wicked GOP is cooking up? One thing most of us have learned by the time we reach adulthood is that people simply cannot give you what they do not have. None of the Democratic Congressional leadership has the strength or the vision that meets this dire moment in our nation’s history. And we have nowhere else to turn. Perhaps we should, for the first time in a long time, turn our attention to THAT key question: Why don’t we have anyplace else to turn? Why are we left with this horrible binary choice between wickedness and weakness? How did we wind up with only two viable political parties to choose from? And most important of all, why do we have to settle for that?
Obviously we are way too close to the most consequential (and frighteningly insecure) election in more than a century to start launching new political parties or propping up the small-time players. You know the usual suspects who have managed to get on the ballot every cycle and even screw up a few general elections along the way. But it is certainly not too early to prepare for what we must do after the final vote tally is posted on the 2020 election. Win or lose, Democratic voters have to be strategic and patient enough to realize that the two party system itself must be dismantled. When you are down to choosing between the party of wickedness and the party of weakness, it is time to break up the teams, re-align the players, and most important of all, rewrite some rules.
This two party system is a complete failure that results in nearly half of eligible voters being non-voters. It is a complete failure because a two party system is inherently a zero sum game that discourages compromise and cooperation- two of the cornerstones of a healthy and deliberative democratic republic. It is a complete failure because a two-party system is easier for foreign actors to manipulate and infiltrate to catastrophic affect. Ultimately, it is a complete failure because the two parties will invariably end up in a “definition by opposition” death spiral where major problems never get solved before they kill us all.
Because the party of wickedness is moving rapidly to consolidate power and silence the voices of millions, 2020 may be our last chance to stop them in the foreseeable future. If we want our nation to come out of this shameful episode we must violently reject the wicked, overwhelmingly elect the weak, and then break it all down so we can build it back up. If anybody has a better idea, I am all ears. Because one thing we all know is we cannot go on like this. If we do, the wicked will win and America will die.