By Cage Innoye
Che Guevara spoke of US activists living in the “belly of the beast”. And many people around the world do indeed see America as a “beast”, and certainly not as a friend. Today this beast is wounded by its mortgage fiasco. So let’s take a survey of the state of the beast’s belly.
First, let’s observe that the vast majority of Americans are waiting for Obama. They voted; they have done their part, now they are in wait mode. “Vote and Wait” is the American system of democracy. At one time decades ago, there was universal activism in the US, but today this has long since disappeared. The focus is now upon leaders, and after elections citizens pass back into their personal lives. Young people once the driving force of social movements now are relatively passive. The 60s were exceptional times, but then again so are these.
Simultaneously, there is unease about the President which comes from a lack of knowledge of the real Obama. His approval rating is good. But there is a lack of knowledge of Obama, and this is reinforced when, for example, Obama being from the far left of the Democratic Party chooses cabinet members, who are from the rightwing of the party, the Clinton team. These actions are confusing and unsettling. It appears the President is forming his identity on the job, contrarily, Reagan knew exactly what he was going to do and whom to appoint. Thus, we have this vague unease about how this all going to play out.
The next important feature of the present situation is the economic hardship suffered by most individuals today because of the financial crash. There is a marked decline of consumerism; it cannot be sustained on the personal level. The crisis is causing great anguish, but the bright side to the problem is that it is giving impetus to rethinking personal priorities in life. What’s really important? Hopefully, a new cluster of values will appear -- family, education, self growth, social activism, travel, spiritual development, creativity, diversity and more. Some are breaking out of the prison of materialism and self absorption; this is a good thing.
As for entertainment, there has been a decline in its revenue. Polythea, means many theatres, it is the present system of entertainment distraction and delusion. It is not clear whether the psychology of Polythea is declining though many are focusing now on their personal economic issues. In the 1930s Hollywood did quite well and performed a great service reducing social activism. So we shall see what happens today.
Another important factor, there’s been a significant shift in youth opinion recently. A Rasmussen poll showed among youth under 30, 37% supported capitalism, while 33% supported socialism, and 30% undecided! This is a virtual split and is unheard of in American culture. This is a very radical shift. What this means is youth are not suddenly going to join the Communist Party, common sense says that by “socialism” is meant a system of social concern and compassion, a restrained or modified capitalism, it would not lead you to conclude that youth want a classic socialist system of state ownership of business. The focus is now on universal healthcare, environmental regulation, unemployment assistance, anti-poverty programs. The young are breaking out of a narrow individualism. 30 somethings voted 49% for capitalism, 26% for socialism. Those older, the baby boomers, were overwhelming pro-capitalist. This survey suggests a future culture war over economics, individuality and social activism, with the dividing line being generational, and the 30 somethings as the middle ground.
Another important trend to note is the historic presidential election itself. The Republican Party is clearly in decline. Sections of the South voted for Obama. It had long been predicted that the South was the dominant and rising demographic region of the USA. But it seems this did not pan out -- liberal influence is being felt as migrants to the south from other regions bring their ideologies with them. Another fact, surveys of evangelical youth have shown an interesting shift of concern from traditional issues like abortion to those like poverty. The children of Republicans are shifting leftward, not necessarily to a left position but to at least a centrist one. All in all this brings a crisis to the Republicans.
McCain was never able to unite the party; he had no economic vision to pose against Obama. Today the Republicans have no political leader. McCain, Jidal, Steele, and Palin don’t appeal universally. This highlights the party’s fundamental structural problem.
The Republicans are a party of eclectic camps. It is called a “big tent” party, what this means is this organization houses a 6 ring circus. These include the corporate Republicans, the evangelical/values camp, the libertarians, the conservatives, the liberal Republicans, and another camp we will have to define as the blunt, out-and-out bigots. These 6 camps have greatly different views and programs. Logically speaking, they don’t even belong together in the same party. The big business camp could care less about the conservative camp of small business types; the liberal Republicans despise the evangelicals and so on. This party is actually a patchwork put together out of fear of the Democrats. But this cannot hold together unless it has one particular thing, a kind of super-personality.
The factional structure of the Republicans demands a special kind of individual. Charismatic is not the word, for this persona is beyond charisma-- which is a far too common a skill. The concept is more like “mirror”; each camp must see in this individual itself, and yet not see competing interests of other camps. This special personality has the power to suspend fear and argument, and thus pursue its own agenda. The German word for mirror is “spiegel”, we may call such a persona a “spiegeler”, one who is a mirror. Reagan was spiegeler; Barry Goldwater was not, he was too harsh and polarizing, though he had similar views with Reagan.
This kind of persona is very rare, you can only think of handful in history – Napoleon, Mussolini, maybe Churchill. We know them as great uniters though that unity is false or very temporary. Today the Republican have no such person available. So given the current ideological trends and the lack of a “spiegeler”, we can only see more decline for the Republicans.
It could be that a catastrophe befalls the Obama administration and the right gets back in, but history is not with it for the long run. The future is with the Democrats, let’s examine their core structure. They aren’t a party of camps with vastly differing paradigms. The Democrats are a party of “degree”, that is, they have the same ideology, what they differ on is “degree”. They agree on general goals -- end poverty, create diversity, world cooperation, environmental attention. But Democrats differ in assessment of the degree of a problem, priorities and strategies. And here is where the arguments occur.
So the issue is how much money and stress to put on job programs, housing assistance etc. When to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan is another flashpoint. These are issues of debate among Democrats; here is where the Democrats are going to conflict from here on out. If Obama is not successful with the economy then the party will split. If at some point neglected minorities and poor demand more jobs and aid, then conflict will erupt. If things go badly in the Mideast then there will protests against the party. Just as in the 60s, present day Democrats may well split. But we can not say at this point exactly how and when this might happen, but we do know that there are many problems to come given the economic and international situation.
One more point to make about the beast’s belly. There is not much more that Obama can do in regards to the economy. The money has been spent, there are no more funds. So largely for the administration it is a matter of waiting. Eventually, taxes must be raised to pay for the huge deficit and bonds. The Administration can press banks to loan out more cash and taxes can be raised on corporations, but the fundamental actions have been taken. There is not much else to do besides recrimination. So we shall see what will happen.
The right calls Obama a “socialist’ but there is no true movement to socialism in the USA. This is at most a state-directed capitalism, even that would be an exaggerated statement for it is more a temporary, emergency intervention. This is not true socialism as in a communist system or a European social democracy (where the state nationalizes whole industries such as steel, mining and auto). While the Republicans call Obama a socialist, this is actually a relative term. The present administration is fundamentally pro-capitalist.
Also consider that the liberal elite that funds and leads the Democratic Party are capitalists themselves, they are rich and do quite well by Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”.
So the idea that the liberals would have their investments and companies nationalized makes no sense. The American left is quite different than much of the world; here, they are very wealthy, and regularly engage in both behaviors of opulence and charity.
This completes a first report from the beast’s belly.