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Has America lost the ability to self-correct?

Good question, raised here by DCBlogger, and in a conversation this evening.

In 2000, 2004, 2006, even 2008 I'd have said "No, of course not." But maybe eight years is a long time to be wrong. Especially when you've got severe* election fraud in 2000 (FL), 2004 (OH), and 2008 (TX D caucuses), and neither party does a thing about it, except to fund more of the same kind of voting machines that enable more fraud. Theft, democracy can survive. That happens all the time, through recorded history! But normalizing the theft is another matter. Democracy cannot survive indifference. And yet, both parties are indifferent. What to do?

NOTE And by severe, I mean "what we know about."

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basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

as long as media dominates our national discourse. Because of cable television, everything has been reduced to the political. We don't hear about climate change from climatologists but through a debate between Lawrence O'Donnell and Ann Coulter. Most Americans know nothing about what actual scientists have to say on the subject. So, they line up behind the pundits that they like best and climate change becomes nothing but a political football.

And until the above changes (and I have no particular hope that it will), we will not be able to self-correct in a big way. Even if a brilliantly liberal and effective candidate wins the WH in 2012, they will be hamstrung by the right - regardless of what level of ill-regard the right is held in at the time.

Truth has no intrinsic value in our society and that is change that began with the Reagan campaign.

Submitted by Hugh on

My thesis is that we have elites that can't govern and can't reform. They are completely given over to looting. And by elites, I mean those in media, academia, government, politics, finance, and industry. For me, out of control, unreformable elites are the very definition of a pre-revolutionary state. I have written elsewhere many times about the myth that it can't happen here. This is deeply ironic that revolution is alien to a nation born in revolution. But then perpetuating such myths serves the purposes of our elites and their looting.

Our history tells a different story. We have experienced pre-revolutionary periods on average every 30 to 40 years from Jackson and the bank crises of the 1830s to Lincoln and the Civil War to the Gilded Age, the beginning of the labor movement, Teddy Roosevelt, and trustbusting, to FDR and the Great Depression, to Johnson and Nixon, civil rights, Vietnam, and Watergate, to Bush/Obama and the housing bubble, meltdown, and bailouts.

In the past, there have always been leaders and movements that have arisen to deal with these critical periods in our history. This time around there is nothing and no one on the horizon. The two parties are completely corrupt and completely corporatist. Standard distinctions between left and right really don't apply anymore. But even if you accept them, the right is batshit crazy and the left is by and large either co-opted and veal-penned or AWOL. Unless something changes, this will not end well.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I don't get why and how so many ordinary Americans can compartmentalize their feelings to such an extent. Human rights violations, murder done with our tax dollars, the young adult children of America made to carry it out, made to stay stuck in surreal war going through a revolving door to it countless unjust times ... 1 million human beings killed in our illegally waged war with our savage weapons, 4 million homeless ... soldiers wounded emotionally or physically, killed ... and it doesn't seem to upset most people in a sustained way. Political mass murderers walking around enjoying their celebrity with impunity. Are we more moral-less or simply stupid or so cynically burned out?

I mean much of America is obviously not thrilled about what is going on and the myth of Obama did strike into a national motherload of hope and decency for a leader to right the ship of state and end the war on empathy. And sadly the REAL Obama has sustained it, escalated it, while still talking the talk as if he is doing the opposite. And the Republicans have jumped the shark in terms of cruelty and insanity and MONSTER MENDACITY.

But most ordinary Americans prefer not thinking about the uncomfortable and unpleasant. And are more realistic than people like me, maybe. They recognize either how totally captured we are or are happier not beginning to know that.

There are 400 billionaires in America. 400 people are running the American show it would seem. We are at the mercy of benign or malicious oligarchs. Most don't seem all that benign imho.

And the people who are for torture confound me. American exceptionalism still manages to hypnotize.

the media titillates but doesn't communicate.

my country right or wrong still prevails. Team spirit ... cronyism. Gangsterism rules and becomes familiar and to stay low-informed and distracted keeps away altruism. Paladino in New York in his primary victory speech attacks the message on the Statue of Liberty. What kind of perverted patriotism is this? Beck attacks humanitarians. Obama gives everyone impunity except whistleblowers and peace advocates.

Commercialism overwhelms our youth. Instead of learning values, style not substance is the drumbeat.

But the real thing ... if a young MLK had been in Obama's place ... what might have happened I wonder? But, yeah, the corporate oligarchy would never have let that happen. Right? Oprah gave her seal of approval. And many of us lemmings bought the con. Some still are.

And our representatives are boiled frogs. So saturated with corruption they are like fish in a fish tank asking "What water?" Chris Dodd once said on Frontline, just cuz we take all this lobby money from corporations doesn't mean that will influence our votes. It is actually on tape. Wow.... not that he believes it but I guess he thinks America is stupid enough to believe it. But even better. They are too apathetic to proactively care.

Has there been a tipping point to unchallenged fascism? Has the soft fascism concrete begun to harden so that no effective movement is possible any more?

When I see how successfully single payer medicare for all, the concept and wisdom of it was so effectively blocked from citizens becoming educated on its merits.... the sabotage of that education and choice. the blockage of its very name. That was so very sobering and disturbing and disheartening.

But the thwarted liberal hearted will not forget and have long memories and are getting the depth of the fight for the constitution. someone said in an article that Americans respect the government too much, and don't respect the constitution enough. Don't demand that the government honor the constitution. (I wish I could remember who wrote that. But an interesting point! I'll get back to you)

Almost 1 million homeland security employees in place, the tool is a hammer and anyone with critical thinking and anger at our government is the imminent nail ... how soon will they, we, be hunted as witches a/k/a terrorists ... enemies of the state? They say that comes upon a citizenry much faster than is expected.

Scott Peck says evil is laziness to the nth degree. It just might be.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and bigotry. They just called it hope. It was always about hating on the "other" - that's all he did. Just as the racists appeal to the idea that the white race is being demeaned and instill in their followers a sense of pride, so did Obama. it's the exact same transaction. It all depended upon demonizing first Hillary and then Palin.

To my mind, the people who fell for Obama are no different than the people who fall for David Duke or whatever idiotic tea party activist ranting on about racial minorities is currently making the news. They are the exact same people. If you supported Obama in the primary, you're no different than the people who listen to Limbaugh. He engaged in voter suppression, outright bigoted lies, and appeals to vanity.

Obama made people feel better about themselves by justifying their hatred of others. ususally only the right reduces themselves to that, but there seems to be no depth to which Obama is unwilling to sink.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

The power to change the United States rests where it has always rested: in the people, who are the government. I believe in the people of the United States, and their capacity to change this country for the better. I have nothing but hope for the future, and faith in my beloved country.

But I am rather young, and it is perhaps the nature of young people to be hopeful, even in dark times.

What I read on Corrente is proof enough that there's an alternative political current running strong throughout the country. What it needs is a jolt of... ambition. And a willingness to break as many rules as necessary.

Submitted by lambert on

Please post more often, seriously!

(It would be nice if aging boomers making bucket lists and younger people just coming up could get together. Not so sure how to do that!)

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

and i agree, the passion of youth is our only hope, so to speak. but if most corrente writers themselves lack "ambition" i've not seen it. our limits here are borne of the fact that we're a small blog run by and read by mostly poor(er) people who don't live in the Village nor want to.

is that the problem? should all good people give up whatever they're doing in life right now and devote themselves to 'saving america?' it's actually easier to operate in the Village then most people think, in my experience. it's sort of like a second rate NYC or LA. a small town of locals and a regular change in the class of well, i won't compare them to students but the town/gown construct is useful here. if one is a social operater, it's actually pretty easy to find a place (and job) in DC, regardless of one's politics (or ability, for that matter). what matters most to the technocrats and policymakers is playing The Game, and much of that rests of being socially active and, gawd help me, Popular in some in-crowd. decent people abhor such a system, which is why most of them don't do what i've described.

i think the real question we're asking here isn't about "America." i'm a poor black gay woman, i have no illusions about how awful this country usually is. as recently as the 20s, most americans thought the KKK was totally great and that women probably didn't need to vote and that gays should be killed when not oppressed. imperial war is nothing new to american, nor is genocide, and deep political corruption that results in policy that kills citizens. and anyway, don't we mostly agree here that nation-state means absolutely nothing to the billionaire overclass? those people pride themselves on not thinking like the Little People, with our fantasies of "democracy" and "patriotism." those are words used to manipulate the majority, just like religion.

to me the real question is: what is to be done about a parasitic elite with nukes and control of TV? the nukes i worry less about; i think even the elites of today aren't so excited to use them widely. but they've done a damn good job with TV. apparently, people can't force themselves to turn it off (and increasingly can't force themselves not to read polemical internet sites). once upon a time, early in the age of visual media, they had to ban the use of subliminal messaging in ads... because they worked too well and the government feared corporations would take over by their use. oh, wait...

anyway, i think "america" may be an obsolete construct in a "global economy." when criminals like Cheney and Prince have fantasy land escape nations to run to when the going gets tough here, it's pretty hard to do all the right things that would correct a traditional democracy. the way we constructed democracy here was really dependent on things like public education and a relatively free (if mostly white, straight and xtian) middle class who not only believed, but actually accomplished the dream of (minor but meaningful) upward mobility. in a "global economy" like today, those are two things the elite no longer must sustain to be elite. there are billions of people on this planet and any number of them at all times are willing to be enforcers for the elite and/or slaves in the production of what makes them rich. modern technology means the elite no longer have to rely on (which is to say, live in) stable constructs like "american democracy" to achieve great wealth and control.

it's very painful to watch the middle class in america be destroyed. i was a member for many years, the hope of several generations of working people in my family who sacrificed a lot to be here, or succeed here. sometimes i feel guilt about not clinging to the happier side of consumerism for their sake. still, i mostly perceive things to be out of my control and probably so since i was a child. which is to say the true "turning point" for american democracy came before i was politically active. that may be a cop out, but i sort of see the nixon thingee as the uber-precursor to what went wrong here. not putting that whole crew in jail came back to bite america on its collective ass, literally even (cheney, rummy).

correction, if it comes, will be far more broadly based this time around. let's set aside the possibility that we'll destroy the planet (and soon) for the sake of argument. "change" is actually happening all over the world right now, positive change in which brown people and women and religious minorities are allowed (in other countries) to shape the political landscape. i look at nations like cuba, argentina, brazil, south africa, thailand... let's not forget that a lot of the ideas we progressive mourn as impossible here in america are actually getting tried in other places. our mexican and canadian neighbors will likely have more to say about the future of the american political landscape them most americans, in the sense that they seem to still function as citizens while we're mostly puppets going thru the motions.

personally, i think america is too large and should break up into smaller polities. but that's not going to happen. but "self correction" is a tough option for most addicts, and that is what america has become. a nation of addicts enslaved to a pipeline they convinced themselves they can't live without, and were helped along that path by corporate pushers. happy pills and illegal drugs, TV and video games, HFCS... we don't call these things evil for no reason. real evil "works," and we're all living in the proof of that.

so basically: no. but that doesn't mean nations like Finland won't go on towards a bright future. all empires die; it's merely our turn. take heart in the fact that your expat grandchildren will be valuable commodities abroad. much like cultured, educated Greeks were fashionable slaves to own in ancient Rome, or the Russian ex-nobility driving taxis and taking in needlework in interwar Paris. teach your grandkids at least two foreign languages and an appreciation of the culture of a rising state like China or Brazil.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

that our economic model *must* crash and burn, because of the way it was designed. hyperconsumerism isn't sustainable, period. it took a long time to perceive the truth of that, but we are right now at that point.

a nation built upon the fantasy of endless and only upward growth based on the consumptive practices of a majority was always bound to crash completely, sooner or later.

Submitted by gob on

and no longer even try to operate within limits of sustainability. Maybe they see the whole thing crashing down in their lifetimes, and are just grabbing in the hope of having enough to sit it out in a fortified palace somewhere in Switzerland. Or maybe they don't think even that clearly.

Their political arm, which helps them run everything, has become a wholly-owned subsidiary. The influence runs only one way now, money swallows up everything.

Overreach kills. See the history of any previous empire.

Submitted by Elliott Lake on

and without the funding to emigrate. But someone has to stay behind and guard the gate; someone who knows the truth has to survive. I've thought of this as a crumbling empire for over a decade, it will be interesting to see what comes after the crash.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

(not saying you are, just being polemical)

"interesting" is the important part of a famous Chinese curse.

"what comes after" will mean things like the torture, imprisonment, and death of middle class american progressives and working class people in general. violent, ugly deaths, in a lot of cases.

such is the inevitable judgment of history, for all liberal and well meaning citizens in a collapsing imperium. i won't bore you with the list of examples, we'll be on it soon enough.