29 July 2011

American Presidential Elections

The other day I saw this post on Balloon Juice Weimar on the Potomac and I had a light-bulb-above-my-head moment.

In the post, Tom Levenson was suggesting that there are a few parallels between the events that ended up sweeping Hitler to power and what is taking place now in Washington. But he was careful not to take the historical analogy too far.

I, on the other hand, would like to suggest that we can gleefully take the analogy as far as we like, as the parallels between those two contextual setups are astounding.

Under normal circumstances, in capitalism, political arrangements are largely in line with the interests and expectations of business classes. This is not because lobbyist "buy" political influence. That is the obvious tip of the iceberg. It is because "power"in capitalism is rooted in economic power and if that power is challenged or disrupted, social and political (including the military) institutions would be unable to survive.

So, all the actors in the system work towards maintaining the status quo and make sure that business classes are never more than marginally or temporarily challenged. In other words, business classes do not have to intervene actively to preserve their interest. It is in the interest of most major players to do so. This way, the reproduction of the status quo becomes a neutral process, as most members in that society believes in the axiomatic value of "free markets," "rationality of the marketplace," "the efficiency of private enterprises," "the importance of freeing businesses to create wealth and jobs," and "the greatness of that society because of the status quo."

But there is an exception to that rule. If that society undergoes a highly traumatic event which reveals its less than great nature, these axiomatic truths will be questioned quite vocally and the existing consensus will be in jeopardy. By traumatic event, I mean something like loosing a war.

The first thing that is needed is to adjust the existing consensus discourse in order to explain this terrible situation. The first modern attempt to do this was the dolchstosslegende or "stab-in-the-back" legend. Accordingly, Germany did not lose WWI because it was fighting a colonial land-grab war against established colonial powers, it lost because it was hampered by the traitorous betrayal of its internal enemies.

That is the Jews.

From that point onward every state used that blueprint. I suggested this article before and I urge my nonexistent readership to read it this time. It explains how MacArthur loosing the Korean War could shift the blame to Truman administration and its supporters.
Douglas MacArthur now became the martyred Siegfried, stabbed in the back by weaklings at home who were for some reason afraid of victory. It was the fault of these “whimpering,” “soft,” “cowardly,” “lavender” “appeasers,” so unnatural they were willing to “murder” American boys to cover up their own misjudgments.
The same thing happened when the Vietnam war lost and the country began to question the existing consensus under Nixon. As Rick Perlstein documented in Nixonland, Nixon's answer was to launch an effective campaign about effete lefties and communists who shamelessly cheered for the enemy because they wanted America to fail.

This became the revival platform that the conservatives used successfully against Jimmy Carter. They destroyed him and hampered his legislative agenda. They got Reagan elected using the same platform and anointed this pre-Alzheimer patient who could not tell Bolivia from Brasil as the economic and social genius of our time. And no one said a word.

The great innovation of Nixon's dolchstosslegende was the dog whistles it inserted into the political discourse. Because communists and effete lefties are non-existent entities in the US, the Southern Strategy proved their existence by focusing on the beneficiary of their action, the African Americans. That made Hanoi Jane a spokesperson for blacks in America. Any progressive legislative effort was clearly Marxist because it aimed to help those "lazy and inferior blacks."

This is a great strategy as it exploits existing prejudices and it works for a while. But it has a problem. It fatally undermines the existing consensus about what makes that society great. The more effete lefties are accused of running the show the more disaffected people will doubt the legitimacy of the axioms that preserve the current order. After all, if the beneficiaries of the system are lazy blacks helped by unstoppable commies how could it be a great system. Maybe, like Vietnamese villages that needed to be destroyed in order to be saved, the system had to be destroyed to be saved.

The Tea party and its all consuming rage is the first indication that the existing consensus is no longer sufficient to reproduce the system. This is a problem because coincidentally America is unable to provide jobs or even a distant hope for jobs to a substantial portion of its society. That further erodes the axiomatic elements about that society. It is also incapable of providing a temporary social security net. All it does is to say that the system is being used by blacks to pay no taxes and to get all the economic benefits without ever working.

That does two things: You hate the system for allowing that and you hate blacks for manipulating it. Guess which one is easier to focus on?

It was the same problem within the Weimar Republic. People forget that Hitler was a joke for a long time and nobody thought that he could get elected. But their dolchstosslegende, the one that blames Jews, was equally successful and when hyper inflation and large unemployment struck, within a very short span Hitler became the only viable candidate who could preserve the system.

Remember Alfried Krupp's testimony about why the business class backed him at the time:
"The economy needed a steady or growing development. Because of the rivalries between the many political parties in Germany and the general disorder there was no opportunity for prosperity. ... We thought that Hitler would give us such a healthy environment. Indeed he did do that. ... We Krupps never cared much about [political] ideas. We only wanted a system that worked well and allowed us to work unhindered. Politics is not our business."
In other words, it means that there comes a time when the existing consensus (which normally preserves and reproduces the system and the axiomatic truths about it) is no longer sufficient, business classes might find themselves with a dilemma: do they do nothing and hope that it sorts itself out or do they back, like Krupp, a strong conservative leader who could "run trains on time" and reasserts the current consensus through other means? If that leader has pathological problems, well, nobody is perfect.

In that sense, after 30 years of very successful Southern Strategy, Barack Obama getting elected POTUS is like a Jew having been elected as Chancellor of Germany in 1929.

So what does that mean? If Obama was a white person, business classes would rally behind him, not just by giving him huge sums (they are doing that) but by shifting the media discourse from its current "he said, he said" and "both sides are doing it" focus. It is after all corporate media and it would be very easy to do.

But they are not doing it. My guess is they realized that it is too late for that shift and the teahadists are evangelicals are quite immune to media discourse. If Boehner is unable to rein in freshmen congresspeople within a party so devoted to an authoritarian respect for the Leader that it would make Fuhrerprinzip pale in comparison, you can safely predict that business classes are no longer able to reproduce the consensus discourse.

My guesses for the future:

Obama will continue its efforts to dismantle the safety net brought in by the New Deal hoping that it would appease the radical electorate. He will succeed in those efforts but will fail to appease the teahadists and evangelicals.

Michelle Bachmann will win the GOP primaries and become the GOP candidate. The media will turn on her when that happens but every new attack will strengthen her position in the eyes of her supporters.

And because the other side will be so sickened by what happened to the social security net, they will simply not vote in great numbers.

Hail President Bachmann.

In fact, even if someone else becomes the GOP candidate, I am betting that they will unseat Obama despite his huge war chest and very conservative policies. The new Republican president -maybe a Jeb Bush-Bachmann ticket- will implement Bachmann's vision of America.

That evangelical Christian and Galtian vision will be very painful and costly for middle classes and the poor and who ever is not Christian and conservative but it will be fine for business classes.

Just like Hitler was.

No comments:

Post a Comment